Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The alleged demands of SEO started taking a toll on online news headline-crafting years ago, and now we see the bland results:

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.

Early this year, the print edition of The Washington Post had this great headline on a story about Conan O’Brien’s decision to quit rather than accept a later time slot: “Better never than late.” Online, it was changed to “Conan O’Brien won’t give up ‘Tonight Show’ time slot to make room for Jay Leno.”

I still question why such pun-filled blurb creativity needs to be sacrificed. I can’t believe that Google or any other content-crawler would penalize a page that’s otherwise chock-full of pertinent keywords, just because the headline doesn’t precisely jibe. In fact, I’d think that a unique hed would make an article link stand out from the surrounding vanilla descriptions. As in the above example: After scanning line after line of “Conan-Tonight-Leno-etc.”, wouldn’t the clever wordplay of “Better Never Than Late” lure more eyeballs, just out of curiosity? I’d like to think so.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 07/21/2010 08:10am
Category: Internet, Publishing
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