How To Write Awesome Headlines

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A session from BarCampLondon5 and SMCLondon08 about the history of headlines, and how to write headlines that people will want to click.

Transcript of How To Write Awesome Headlines

Writing headlines for fun and profit

Tom WhitwellAssistant Editor, OnlineThe Times

+ for your music gear geek needsHow to write awesome headlines. (So people read your stuff)

The first ever headline in The Times(January 1st, 1785)

They were rubbish at selling stories

Headlines smaller than body copy. Sure about that?

Really big stories got proper headlines

Rubbish at SEO: No mention of Jack the Ripper

1929: Real headlines

1945: Front page is only small ads

even when theres a really big story

1966: Far out! Headlines on the front

1967: Headlines get clever. The decline into decadence begins.

1983: Weak puns ahoy!

Magazine headlines: What? What does that even mean? Oh. OK.

2000: Yes, yes, very clever.

Then, suddenly, the internet.

1. Headlines were separated from stories

2. We found out what was really working

Headlines is serious business.

Newspapers dont know whos reading which articles.On the web, we know.The difference between a good headline and a weak headline isnt 5% or 10%, its 10x, 20x or more.

Yeah, but, its only the headline.

Yeah, but, its only the headline.

Yeah, but, its only the headline.

Its not easy. Britney Spears nude having sex on Viagra while playing Runescape will not get loads of clicks Its subtleIts working out what the story is, what your reader will respond to, and how to squeeze all the goodness into 68 charactersWhat makes people click?

Be specific. Why exactly should I read your story, not that other one?Tell the whole story in the headlineDont try to be cleverDont try to be funnyPlay to your niche. Dont over simplify or patronise in the headline.

What makes people click?

Quick wins: Lists = force you to do research and explain your points properlyQuotes = Often the most interesting bit in the storyNumbers = Often the most interesting bit in the storyNames = Most likely who the story is about

What makes people click?

Dont worry about being boring. If your story is boring, no amount of headline jazz will help. If your story is interesting, tell it in the headline. Write the headline first. Really. Always.Great story which you cant explain in the headline = crap story

What makes people click?

Work at it. Spend 20 minutes on the headline. Do research to get the words right. Dont publish until youve got a killer headline. Remember: 20x more traffic!If you get stuck, tell someone the story. The way they react will tell you what should be in the headline.

What makes people click?

Youre not actually writing the headline. Youre finding out what your story is really about.

What makes people click?

Im done. Sorry for ranting.