Online Journalism

Bad Headline
MSNBC.com, Thurs., 3/30
"Bahrain tourist ferry carrying 150 sinks"
This is really vague and could either mean that the ferry sank or that it was carrying kitchen sinks.

Good Headline
NYTimes.com, Thurs., 3/30, Fashion & Style section
"Fitness: Upgrading the Road to Nowhere"
This was an article about a trend of workouts designed to be done while running on a treadmill. The headline is clever while still leaving the reader guessing.

Eyetracking Studies and Headline Writing

Class, welcome! You'll help shape the direction of this online discussion, meant to encourage your interaction on timely topics of importance. Since as a class we're heading into a discussion of headline writing on the Internet, I'd like to direct your attention to this article from the Poynter archives, which focuses on an eyetracking study of Internet readers--and the importance of headlines:

Then I'd like you to weigh in, posting links to one well-written and one less-adeptly written headline on a news Web site. With each link, briefly tell us why you liked or didn't like the headline.

I'll kick off the discussion:

* Less Adept Headline: "Senators Split on Immigration," home page headline on FoxNews.com on March 30, 2006; links to story with this better headline in the template: "Senators Take Sides on Illegal Immigration," at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,189620,00.html. The home page headline is vague, and the verb carries an unintended double meaning. The writer was clearly feeling restricted by the short headline count required.

* Strong Headline: "You Can Be Too Thin," on New York Newsday's home page on March 30, 2006. This home page blurb follows: "You've heard of This Old House - but This Skinny House? Horrified Staten Island residents are living next to two homes under construction that are just 15 feet wide, but twice as tall as most houses in the neighborhood." Here's the story link: http://www.nydailynews.com/front/story/404333p-342288c.html
The head turns a cliche (you can't be too thin) on its head, and pulls readers in with a strong visual image.