Writing newspaper headlines is quite an art. At least that goes for the print versions of newspapers. As the reader holds the newspaper page and scans the headlines, what will pique the interest? Just look at some of the headlines in the Print version of the Montreal Gazette today:
- U-Turn On Park Ave.
- Climate hasn’t changed on tuition freeze
- NASA love triangle is out of this world
- Hypnosis is legally put to sleep
- Cuts cripple research
The headline writer’s skills are well in evidence here.
The question whether such headlines would work well online is rather academic for the Montreal Gazette since all articles are only available to subscribers for a brief time in a so-called ‘walled garden‘.
Other newspapers have decided their online versions should be available to all. They will live or die based on the traffic they attract. As c|net News.com points out, Newspapers search for Web headline magic.
This is the dilemma many newspapers and other print media find themselves in when posting articles online. Pithy, witty and provocative headlines–the pride of many an editor–are often useless and even counterproductive in getting the Web page ranked high in search engines.
Many visitors will be using search engines such as Google or Yahoo! to find items that interest them. Suddenly headlines take on a new importance. As well as appealing to human readers, they must be highly visible to search engines. This requires a whole new skill set.
One downside of the change is that some of the great, punchy classic headlines would never have performed well in this search-engine supported online newspaper world. It is a regrettable loss but that unfortunately sometimes happens with the march of progress.