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Mandate Media: Digital Strategy for People Changing the World
Our Blog for Tips, Tricks, and News: Politics + Technology

Headlines are Critical Content

You've written a stunning bit of content for your website/blog. It's great stuff, and you want people to read it. It'll drive 'em to action, make 'em give money, whatever.

What's the most important thing you can do now? Write a great headline.

And by "great," I do not mean cute, funny, "punny," or anything resembling the headlines you might find in your daily newspaper.

Instead, the headline ought to be workmanlike and solid - short, sweet, and descriptive of the content. Why?

Because - unlike in the print world - a headline on the web often appears without its content. A headline might appear in Google as a search result link. It might appear in a blog feed as a syndicated headline-link. It might appear in a person's bookmark/favorite (where they put it three months ago.)

Potomac Action is an otherwise-great blog about progressive politics in Maryland, but a recent headline was this:

Let Them Eat Cake

Now, anybody looking at just that headline is liable to just skip on by. Of course, if you clicked, you'd find the first sentence reads like this:

Ehrlich cuts health care for children of immigrants

Sure, it's not nearly as much fun - but it sure does catch your attention, doesn't it?

Note to newspaper copy editors: This is a massive problem for you as you transition your newsprint online - cutesy headlines just won't cut it online. Either write web-edition headlines - or start writing meaningful headlines for the print edition, too.

As for the rest of you, don't take your lead from the daily paper. They've got it wrong most of the time.