Any journalist will tell you that a good headline is one of the most important things to include in an article. The headline tells your readers what the article is about – just about everybody bases whether or not they are going to read an article based on those few bold words. The following are some of today’s headlines from a few local news websites and why I think they were successful or not.
Good Headline: Jury Finds Santa Barbara Woman Guilty of Stealing From Nuns – This headline was effective because it clearly states what the story is about, but leaves enough mystery for the reader to stay intrigued and want to keep reading. Unfortunately the article was not as interesting as the headline lead on, but the headline accomplished its mission: to intrigue me enough to make me keep reading!
Bad Headline: National Fraternity Tells Local Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon to Cease Operations During Rape Investigation – Although I find this story interesting and somewhat applicable to my own life, this headline does not succeed in encouraging me to keep reading the article. The headline says the most important information about the story and does not leave enough mystery or suspense to create a desire for me to keep reading. Perhaps a better headline would be “Local Fraternity Suspended During Rape Investigation” – although similar, the reader has to click on the article and read a little bit more to figure out the entire story.
Good Headline: Large Scale Meth Bust in SLO County – Maybe it is a personal interest thing, but every time I see an article about a drug bust I am always intrigued and tend to want to find out more about the story. This headline is short and sweet, but also leaves the reader wondering certain questions that can only be answered by reading the rest of the article; questions like where, exactly, the drug bust happened, who was involved, and what “large scale” actually means.
Bad Headline: Family of Ducks Close Lanes on Highway 101 – Despite the obvious “who cares” factor about this story (I mean, really, a family of ducks?), this is another headline that doesn’t leave much to be discovered by clicking through and reading the rest of the article. The article didn’t really include anything of substance, besides the fact that Southbound 101 was closed for a while. A better headline could be “Unusual Events Close Highway 101” – people would want to read the article to figure out what was “unusual” about the closure.
Good Headline: Local Bank Branch Robbed Twice in Same Week – This headline gives enough information to make it interesting, but not too much information that I don’t have to read the rest of the article. The headline makes me want to click the link and read the entire article because I have a lot of unanswered questions: which bank? have they caught the people responsible? when did it happen? what is being done about the robberies?
Bad Headline: Search for Suspect Continues – Unlike other headlines that I have pinpointed, this headline doesn’t give enough information. Although one would think that the mystery associated with the missing information from the article would cause me to want to know more, it was so open and indefinite that my eye just kind of skipped over the article. A little more information would probably cause me to be more interested. A headline like “Armed and Dangerous Drug Suspect Still at Large” would cause me to want to know where and when he was last seen, who he is, and what he is wanted for.