Fjp style guide-headlines


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Thinking Through the Headline

We try to teach each other here at the FJP and our latest learnings look at writing headlines and titles on Tumblr.

While Tumblr specific, I hope this document can also help others who are teaching or trying to learn how to write headlines and titles more generally. - Michael Cervieri

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Fjp style guide-headlines

  1. 1. Tumbling Style Guide: HeadlinesThe purpose of this document is to review FJP Tumblrposts and, in particular, the titles and headlines we’re usingwith them.What I’ve found as I’ve gone through a fairly large samplesize is that sometimes we’re good, sometimes we’re badand other times we’re downright frightful.Examples that follow aren’t meant to pick on any particularperson. They are mistakes we all make and examplesused are chosen from the last 60 - 80 posts at the FutureJournalism Project.That said, Jihii is lucky since she was traveling during themajority of the time that the posts were collected. I’m notquite as lucky since I post the most. – Michael Michael Cervieri @the_FJP @bMunch May 2012
  2. 2. Your Posts Need Awesome SauceThe majority of people who brush up against your Tumblrposts see them in their dashboards. Brushing up is fine butyou want them to actually read and view them, and thenact upon them, ie, share, comment, remix, etc.To do so you need Awesome Sauce. For the purposes ofthis document, your ingredients are words. In particularheadlines/titles.Remember, your posts on Tumblr appear in a stream ofcontent. The words and images you choose, and how theyare presented are your sole means to get readers andviewers to pause and take a second look at your post.Without that initial pause, you never achieve actualengagement. It goes without saying that the actual postneeds to be awesome in itself for get people to act upon it.So, what follows are 35 examples of our good, bad andugly headlines and titles. Via ThinkGeek
  3. 3. Post Type: PhotoWhen using Photo Posts we typically lead our text with aheadline in bold.Here, I was a little bit cryptic.While CNN is a known brand that will pull a viewer into thecontent if they happen to be interested by CNN, theheadline itself isn’t too helpful.What I was trying to get at: We live in an age where youcan literally download the last 12 years of CNN transcripts.You could never do that before. Thus: Things You Can DoThat You Never Used To.What I wanted to write but didn’t have the stones to:Download 12 Years of CNN Monotony.Those words might not be quite right but it would havegiven the viewer a better sense of why they should spendtime on the post.
  4. 4. Post Type: LinkWhat I was going for: A little wordplay on booing and givingthe boot.Does it work? Meh, not bad but could be better.
  5. 5. Post Type: LinkA little clunky but I’m trying to do two things: indicate thatGoogle and the NSA have a relationship, and play off thenews that Obama had just come out in support of marriageequality by using words from the famous Alfred Douglaspoem.Could have played it straight, so to speak.
  6. 6. Post Type: LinkHere I did play it straight. The headline tells us exactlywhat the post is about.Boring, but it works.
  7. 7. Post Type: VideoLike photos, we use a bolded headline to accompany ourvideo posts. Generally, it should tell the viewer what’sabout to follow. Here, I play with an old Bell telephone tagline, “Reach out and touch someone.”How it works: The video and post is about how CarnegieMellon is created touch surfaces out of everything.How it doesn’t work: If you’re not over 35 or so you haveno idea what the reference is.How it works, part ii: Even if you miss the advertisingreference there’s still the “touch” reference.Alternative: Play it straight with something along the linesof: “Researchers Turn Every Surface into a TouchInterface”.
  8. 8. Post Type: LinkSometimes playing it straight and letting the absurdity ofthe news speak for itself is the best thing to do.
  9. 9. Post Type: PhotoThis one is very cryptic. Even the text beneath the headlinesays that we’re about to get cryptic.But, if the topic is cryptic then your writing has to beespecially clear.Here’s the thing: The image doesn’t make much sense andthen the title “Them, not that or there...” confuses.Here, and simply, “Bing and the Social Search Engine”,would be a good title.And, while I’ve cut off the post in this screenshot, wealmost always conclude an image post with a descriptionof what that image actually is. We do it by writing “Image”in bold, then describing it, and then linking to its source, ifany. Eg.,Image: Screenshot of x, y, z. Via So and So.If we’ve taken/made the image you don’t need thatattribution.
  10. 10. Post Type: ImageSimple and to the point.
  11. 11. Post Type: ImageA few things are going on here. Let’s start with the title.There isn’t really one.Instead, what’s currently there isn’t a title, it’s an attributionfor the blockquote that should come after a title.Suggested titles: Burning the Digital Oil; Long DaysJourney into Night; etc.So now let’s get into the actual content. We learn that thisJoe Weisenthal character works a lot. But who is he, whodoes he work for and what does he do?Unless you’re a regular reader of Business Insider or anNYC media junkie you’d have no idea.So two things are missing here: a title and then 2-3sentences that contextualizes the quote that comes fromthe Times’ article.
  12. 12. Post Type: ImageTitle’s three words, the content is one word.This actually took me a little while to figure out because theTime cover is so provocative.So I played it as straight as I could knowing that the imagecarries all sorts of triggers.Sometimes the best thing to do is just get out of the way.
  13. 13. Post Type: ImageAgain, playing it straight and just telling the viewer what,exactly, he or she is looking at.
  14. 14. Post Type: LinkAgain, playing it straight while also letting the viewer knowthat there’s a call to action. That is, there’s a newschallenge going on and people can apply.Remember user behavior on Tumblr.People scan their dashboards and pause on that which isinteresting. This could be an image, or in cases like this,just a title. You need to catch them with something clear.The pause is the first behavior you’re trying to influence.Actually having someone read what you’ve posted is thesecond so make sure you jump right into the subject withyour lede.
  15. 15. Post Type: ImageFun photo but the headline doesn’t work.Here’s why: Huh is most known as the CEO of theCheezburger network so if you’re going to align him withan organization, it would be that one.Circa is a startup so you would/could contextualize whoHuh is with that after the headline, say either in the lede,eg., “Ben Huh, CEO of the Cheezburger network and nowhead of Circa, a startup that does XYZ...”, or afterwardsAlternative headlines: You Can’t Handle the Truth;Cheezburgers, Kittehs and the Truth, etc.
  16. 16. Post Type: ImageLike the Time magazine cover above, I’m letting the imagespeak for itself.The link to the Daily News article that’s referencedunderneath it begins immediately with a description of whatthis image is so that the viewer ‘gets it’ immediately.
  17. 17. Post Type (top): ImageNot much to say about this one. I use the screenshot of theFox Nation headline speak for itself.Post Type (bottom): VideoI strike out on this one. The video shows the speed atwhich a search for Obama appears on Twitter.However, I don’t indicate this at all with a title. Nor do Iexplicitly tell people what they’ll get if they choose to watchthe video. So my bad on both accounts.The post ends up relying on people proactively choosing toselect the video to get any understanding of what the postis trying to accomplish.Verdict: Fail.
  18. 18. Post Type: ImageI think this works. Often images will have a title embeddedin it that you can simply repeat.
  19. 19. Post Type: VideoAnother fail on my part.I don’t let the viewer know what “Tumblr Storyboard”actually is or why they might want to watch the video.If I want to keep this title I need text explaining that Tumblrlaunched Storyboard.If I want to keep it brief, the title should read: “TumblrLaunches Storyboard”.
  20. 20. Post Type: ImageI went with “Suit Yourself” because when I came acrossthis image it actually took me a few moments to figure outwhat the headline in the image was actually trying to say.This title then is to spell it out so the viewer gets itimmediately.
  21. 21. Post Type: ImageAs mentioned in the “Daughters are Precious” post above,sometimes the image itself has your title. No need torecreate the wheel.
  22. 22. Post Type: AudioDoesn’t work because the language indicates an attitudethat’s tough to attribute.“Here Goes Nothing”: Is that supposed to reflect ourthrowing caution to the wind in a haphazard post, or is it areflection of what’s going on with Microsoft and Barnes &Noble?What would work is if you simply removed “Here GoesNothing” and left it with “Microsoft, Barnes & Noble MakeNew Entrance into the e-Reader Market.”Alternatives: Throwing Caution to the Wind: Microsoft andBarnes & Noble Re-enter e-Reader Market; Try, Try Again:Microsoft and Barnes & Noble Re-enter e-Reader Market;Take Two, or Make That Three: Microsoft and Barnes &Noble Re-enter e-Reader Market; etc.
  23. 23. Post Type: ImageSince the image is peculiar -- ie, you look at it, you seebooks, you see that it’s outside, you have no idea what orwhere it is -- I hit that directly with the headline by givingreaders notice that this is in Colombia, it has something todo with libraries and it takes place in a Park.
  24. 24. Post Type: ImageThe image here is purely illustrative and if you saw it byitself you’d have no idea that the story is that Vogue’sinternational editors came together in a pact to promotehealthier body images.So the headline tells the reader that that’s what they’reabout to get into.
  25. 25. Post Type: ImageThe title’s purpose here is to place the memorial image in alocation (Mexico) and with a context (journalists murdered).
  26. 26. Post Type: QuoteOur attribution style for Quote posts is to indicate who theperson is that either spoke or wrote what we quote.The style is: Full name, title or publication. The source’stitle with a link back to the source.For example:Chuck Wendig, author and game designer, Terrible Minds.Thinking the Wrong Thing About E-Book Pricing.From there you can follow up with your comments aboutthe quote.
  27. 27. Post Type: TextPeter keeps it simple, neat and clean.
  28. 28. Post Type: TextSo Jihii and I sitting across from each other and we can’tdecide whether this one’s good or bad.I asked if it was a reference to Don’t Cry For Me,Argentina. She says no. Instead, it name checks a Tumblrcalled Don’t Censor Me India.Let’s call it good (enough) and move on.
  29. 29. Post Type: ImageToo wordy.How about simply: Faster Than the Speed of Sound.Then, in your lede, be very clear that the two organizationsare collaborating to speed produce a radio program.
  30. 30. Post Type: ImageThe image and the title are incongruous. That is, a man isfiring into the air while the title references women.
  31. 31. Post Type: ImageAs mentioned previously, you can the text from the imageand using it as the title.Besides, the person who created the sign already did theheavy thinking. No need to try to rethink it.
  32. 32. Post Type: ImageSince we’re looking at an infographic, we don’t need theword in the title.
  33. 33. Post Type: ImageTitle’s fine but “Drawing by Violet Newman, age 7,Brooklyn” should come at the end of the post in our typicalformat which runs like so:Image: Drawing by Violet Newman, age 7, Brooklyn. Viathe New York Times.
  34. 34. Post Type: ImageDull/uninformative. While the image says “TED RadioHour,” I’d duplicate it in the headline as: “TED Radio HourDebuts on NPR Today.”Still dull but gives a little extra bit of information.
  35. 35. Post Type: ImageWordy.The image gives you your title: “Freedom of Anonymity.”If you left it at that, the lede gets us immediately into whatthe post is about.Alternatively, “Gawker Goes Anonymous”; “Duck,Anonymous Comments Return to Gawker”; etc.
  36. 36. Post Type: ImageWho are Benji and Matt and why should we care?The subject is Top 5 News. The headline should reflectwhat Top 5 News is trying to do, eg, Rethinking the NewsFeed.So, your title could be “Rethinking the News Feed”, or“Guardian Editor Rethinks the News Feed”, etc.
  37. 37. Post Type: ImageStraight and to the point.The reader knows what they’re about to get into.Bonus points for the image.
  38. 38. .end(); Michael Cervieri @the_FJP @bMunch May 2012