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The Elements of a Good Headline

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  • 1. The Elements ofa Good Headline April 2013
  • 2. Previously on #NPRKnight• Web metrics and audience behavior. 2
  • 3. Why are soheadlinesimportant? 3
  • 4. What are headlines so important?• The headline is the universal representation of your story – it travels everywhere.• The headline will be copied and pasted, e- mailed, tweeted, shared on Facebook and read aloud.• If the headline’s good, your story has the potential to get in front of a lot of people.• If it’s bad, not so much. 4
  • 5. What makes agoodheadline? 5
  • 6. What Makes a Good Headline?• It’s not clever.• It promises something specific.• It’s digestible.• It works out of context. 6
  • 7. How do you writea goodheadline? 7
  • 8. Think of your headline first• Whenever possible, come up with your headline before you create your web content.• Creating a strong, authoritative headline up front can improve reporting and writing.• If you come up with a great headline first, you will create an great web story.• When you go to news meetings, talk about the stories you’re working on in terms of what the web headline will be. 8
  • 9. Make it promise something• What’s the content you’re delivering to the audience?• If you promise people the most interesting thing you have, they should be compelled to read it.• Be specific. Don’t be vague. 9
  • 10. How a Couple Respondsto Aurora Shooting 10
  • 11. How a Couple Respondsto Aurora Shooting 11
  • 12. Make it promise something Kansas: Then and Now 12
  • 13. Make it promise something The New York Times: Gawker: 13
  • 14. Make it promise something Blog: The Atlantic: Source: faithistorment.com 14
  • 15. Make it promise something Blogger: The Atlantic: Source: faithistorment.com 15
  • 16. Give it the explainer test“When remotely possible turn news into explanation.” --Nick Denton• Rather than simply phrasing your headline as “This happened…” consider: “How this happened…” “What this means for…” “Everything you need to know about…” “Why this happened…” 16
  • 17. Give it the explainer test How a $190M Project Will Bring Thousands of Jobs to Kansas City 17
  • 18. Make it digestible• Don’t try to be clever! Avoid puns!• The headline should focus on one thing (the most important and interesting thing) and nothing more.• It should be easy to understand at a glance. Avoid 18
  • 19. Make it digestible• Don’t try to be clever! Avoid puns!• The headline should focus on one thing (the most important and interesting thing) and nothing more.• It should be easy to understand at a glance. Avoid 19
  • 20. Talk to the audience• Don’t be afraid to talk directly to the web audience, using “you” in a headline.• You’re writing for people so a headline that looks familiar to their own language will be more appealing. 20
  • 21. Talk to the audience• Don’t be afraid to talk directly to the web audience, using “you” in a headline.• You’re writing for people so a headline that looks familiar to their own language will be more appealing. 21
  • 22. Talk to the audience• Don’t be afraid to talk directly to the web audience, using “you” in a headline.• You’re writing for people so a headline that looks familiar to their own language will be more appealing. 22
  • 23. Open up a blank document• This document will serve as your area to brainstorm around your headline. 23
  • 24. Making a headline• Identify this: The most interesting element of the story.• Your headline will eventually come from that answer.• Remember: If you promise people the most interesting thing you have, they should be compelled to read it. 24
  • 25. Write, write, write, write, write• Write 10-25 different headlines.• Your first, second, third, fourth or fifth … might not be the best.• Challenge yourself to come up with the best.• Say your headlines out loud. 25
  • 26. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate• Work with someone else on every headline you write.• Try to build it into your workflow for posting to the web.• Create an online environment where staff can share ideas.• Don’t be afraid to change your headline after it’s published. 26
  • 27. Ask yourself some questions• If you saw this headline on Facebook and Twitter, would you feel compelled to click and share it?• Does your headline promise something specific, important and interesting?• Is your headline easily digestible?• Does your headline speak directly to the digital user?• Is your headline accurate? 27
  • 28. Let’s makea headline 28
  • 29. Let’s make a headlineWhy can’t this Florida man wreck his $7.6 millionmansion? 29
  • 30. Let’s make a headline 30
  • 31. Let’s make a headlineDo you think UC’s new logo looks likea flushing toilet?Here’s why people hate UC’s newlogo 31
  • 32. Headline writers to watch• The Gawker sites (Gawker.com, Gizmodo.com, DeadSpin.com)• TheAtlanticWire.com• Quartz (qz.com)• Forbes• The Two-Way (npr.org) 32
  • 33. #NPRKnight assignment1. Pick three stories.1. Write 5-10 different headlines for each.2. E-mail your headlines to dseditorial@npr.org. 33
  • 34. #NPRKnight assignmentE-mail your headlines todseditorial@npr.org. 34
  • 35. Questions?eathas@npr.org 35