J's Notes

A post about a Washington Post column that mentions Lady Gaga but not Justin Beiber found via Kottke.org

Jul
19

Interesting column from Gene Weingarten about how the new newsroom is different than the old and, in particular, the impact it has on headlines:

The only really creative opportunity copy editors had was writing headlines, and they took it seriously. This gave the American press some brilliant and memorable moments, including this one, when the Senate failed to convict President Clinton: CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR; and this one, when a meteor missed Earth: KISS YOUR ASTEROID GOODBYE. There were also memorably wonderful flops, like the famous one on a food story about home canning: YOU CAN PUT PICKLES UP YOURSELF.

Newspapers still have headlines, of course, but they don’t seem to strive for greatness or to risk flopping anymore, because editors know that when the stories arrive on the Web, even the best headlines will be changed to something dull but utilitarian. That’s because, on the Web, headlines aren’t designed to catch readers’ eyes. They are designed for “search engine optimization,” meaning that readers who are looking for information about something will find the story, giving the newspaper a coveted “eyeball.” Putting well-known names in headlines is considered shrewd, even if creativity suffers.

Headlines now have to not only boost SEO but summarize the article well enough to capture the reader. Creative titles that don’t practically tell the whole story are passed over. For some this is a challenge to get even more creative with headlines (see Skywalkers In Korea Cross Han Solo), but 9 times out of 10 it just leads to laziness. (via Kottke)

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