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The Elements of a Good Headline

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Headlines make or break the reach of your digital stories. Without a headline that promises something specific, readers will be confused and disinterested and the story will not get in front of many …

Headlines make or break the reach of your digital stories. Without a headline that promises something specific, readers will be confused and disinterested and the story will not get in front of many people. In this session, we'll discuss how to write headlines that people will click and share.

Published in: News & Politics, Education

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  • 1. The Elements ofa Good HeadlineJune 2013
  • 2. 2Previously on #NPRKnight• Web metrics and audience behavior.
  • 3. 3Why are headlinesso important?
  • 4. 4Why are headlines so important?• The headline is the universal representationof your story – it travels everywhere.• The headline will be copied and pasted, e-mailed, tweeted, shared on Facebook andread aloud.• If the headline’s good, your story has thepotential to get in front of a lot of people.
  • 5. 5How do you writea goodheadline?
  • 6. 6Don’t pullthe CleverLeverRule No. 1
  • 7. 7Think about your headline first• Whenever possible, come up with yourheadline before you create your web story.• If you come up with a good headlinebeforehand, you will be obligated to create agood web story.• When you go to news meetings, talk aboutthe stories you’re working on in terms of whatthe web headline will be.
  • 8. 8Make it promise somethingspecific• Your headline is a promise to people aboutthe content you’re creating.• In the most specific way possible, what’sthe story you’re telling?• Avoid vagueness, avoid the Clever Lever.• Make sure the story lives up to the promise.
  • 9. 9How a CoupleRespondsto Aurora Shooting
  • 10. 10How a CoupleRespondsto Aurora Shooting
  • 11. 11Kansas: Then and Now
  • 12. 12The New York Times:Gawker:
  • 13. 13Blog:The Atlantic:Source: faithistorment.com
  • 14. 14Blogger:The Atlantic:Source: faithistorment.com
  • 15. 15Blogger:The Atlantic:Source: faithistorment.comRemember,don’t pullthe CleverLever!
  • 16. 16Consider an explanatoryheadline“When remotelypossible turn newsinto explanation.”--Nick Denton,Gawker MediaIf your storyis explainingsomething, consider:How…What…Everything youneed to knowabout…Why…
  • 17. 17How a $190M Project Could BringThousands of Jobs to Kansas CityConsider an explanatoryheadline
  • 18. 18Make it digestible• The headline should focus on one specificelement … and nothing more.• It should be easy to understand at a glance.
  • 19. 19Make it digestible• The headline should focus on one specificelement … and nothing more.• It should be easy to understand at a glance.
  • 20. 20Be conversational whenappropriate• Don’t be afraid to talk directly to the webaudience, using “you” in a headline.• You’re writing for people so a headline thatlooks familiar to their own language will bemore appealing.
  • 21. 21Be conversational whenappropriate• Don’t be afraid to talk directly to the webaudience, using “you” in a headline.• You’re writing for people so a headline thatlooks familiar to their own language will bemore appealing.
  • 22. 22Be conversational whenappropriate• Don’t be afraid to talk directly to the webaudience, using “you” in a headline.• You’re writing for people so a headline thatlooks familiar to their own language will bemore appealing.
  • 23. 23Open up a blank documentThis document will serve as an areato brainstorm your headline.
  • 24. 24Write, 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 thebest.• Say your headlines out loud.
  • 25. 25Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate• Work with someone else on every headlineyou write.• Try to build it into your workflow for postingto the web.• Create an online environment where staffcan share ideas.• Don’t be afraid to change your headlineafter it’s published.
  • 26. 26Ask yourself some questions• If you saw this headline on Facebook andTwitter, would you feel compelled to click andshare it?• Does your headline promise somethingspecific, important and interesting?• Is your headline easily digestible?• Does your headline speak directly to the digitaluser?• Is your headline accurate?
  • 27. 27Let’s makea headline
  • 28. 28Let’s make a headlineWhy can’t this Florida man wreck his $7.6 millionmansion?
  • 29. 29Let’s make a headline
  • 30. 30Let’s make a headlineDo you think UC’s new logo looks likea flushing toilet?Here’s why people hate UC’s newlogo
  • 31. 31Headline writers to watch• The Gawker sites(Gawker.com, Gizmodo.com, DeadSpin.com)• TheAtlanticWire.com• Quartz (qz.com)• Forbes• The Two-Way (npr.org)
  • 32. 32#NPRKnight assignment1. Pick two stories.1. Write 5-10 different headlines for each.2. E-mail your headlines todseditorial@npr.org. Include your stationname in the subject line.
  • 33. 33#NPRKnight assignmentE-mail your headlines todseditorial@npr.org.
  • 34. 34Questions?eathas@npr.org