What’s in a headline?


So you’ve produced the most wonderful piece of content, but no one is reading it.

Perhaps the problem is your headline.

Sure, there might be a number of other reasons too, but there’s evidence to suggest that the quality of your headline could be make or break.

A significant percentage of the time dedicated to a column should be spent on the headline alone – depending on who you listen to, that could range from 20% all the way up to even 80%.

The 50/50 rule of headlines states you should spend half the time on the headline alone, while the 80/20 rule of headlines suggests that only two out of every 10 people who read a piece of content will read beyond the headline.

It’s worth noting that in the pre-digital days, newspapers relied on sub-editors to come up with the headlines to fit in to their production.

Even now, the writers themselves don’t come up with the headlines more often than not.

Online, headlines are increasingly important, particularly as you fight for attention in the endless loop of 140 characters on Twitter, let alone on Google. Deputy Editor, Allison Fass, has put together a presentation that highlights 13 noticeable themes of outperforming headlines, based on analysis from 10 months worth of headlines on the site.

Here are our favourite three:

  • Immediacy – We want the best content now!
  • Wacky Numbers – Why go with 10 when you can have 11?
  • Real information hard to find elsewhere – If you’ve experienced something that very few others have, talk about it.

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