Headlines: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Class, please search professional news sites for a good and not-so-adept headline (based on our discussion this week), and explain why you think so in the Comment area below. Please be sure to give the full URL and headline for each. Include a sentence or two of constructive comments. Please be sure your criticism is tactful: Our class blog is online for the world to see. Please complete this before the start of class next Tuesday (Oct. 30). Thanks!


Allison said...

Bad Headline:
Seven Most Shocking Revelations about Gilberto Valle, NYPD’s Cannibal Cop

The Daily Beast

This headline is a clear example of sensationalism. Although it does grab the attention of the reader, using terms like "Cannibal Cop" appear to simplify and pander to lurid curiosity. As for SEO, though, I'm sure this would be effective.

Good Headline:
D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo tells interviewer he was sexually abused by Muhammad

Washington Post

This headline is strong in that it uses active voice, does not mislead, and contains several SEO-friendly words including "D.C. Sniper" and "Lee Boyd Malvo."

Jenny Kay Paulson said...
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Jenny Kay Paulson said...

Bad Headline:
A Fat, Mustachioed Orphan Finds a Home

The New York Times

This is a compelling headline, but not SEO-friendly. I would rarely, if ever, search for the terms "fat" or "mustachioed". Once I got to the New York Times website, the headline lured me to click on the story out of curiosity, but it would be hard to find otherwise. The headline is a bit misleading, but it works if you are going for clicks. If I had heard rumors of the story, and wanted to learn more, I would probably Google the word "walrus", so I would recommend changing "orphan" to "walrus". I think the fact that the walrus is identified as having a mustache in the headline is compelling enough for people to click on the story.

Good Headline:
Hurricane Sandy, Winter Storm, Hybrid Threatens New York, Delaware, Maine with Bad Weather"

Huffington Post

I found this headline by using the search terms "hurricane Sandy". This let me know the headline is SEO-friendly. It is full of words people are searching for today, and it is written in active voice. I would recommend adding a more compelling description than "bad weather" to get people to click on it.

VoyeurLawyer said...
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VoyeurLawyer said...

Good Headline – The New York Times
Stern to Step Down as N.B.A. Commissioner in ’14

This headline tells you everything except the “why.” The “why” is the reason to click through and read the story. SEO terms Stern and NBA are ones that will bring up this story.

Bad Headline – CNN
'First Latina princess' isn't Latina

If there wasn’t a picture next to this headline, it would be near impossible to tell what this means. When you click through, the story is titled “Disney producer 'misspoke': 'First Latina princess' isn't Latina.” This is a better headline, but it misses the mark for SEO. Disney has a new TV show called “Sofia the First” with a main character who is – big surprise – a princess. A producer mistakenly called her Latina during a press tour, but Disney is not ready to categorize her. In a search of Disney or new shows, this headline will not appear. Unless you just generically search “Latina.”

Soongy12 said...

Good Headline:

Poll shows widening racial gap in presidential contest

This headline by the Washington Post is simple and succinct. Race and politics are typically popular issues, especially during an election year and the headline has both the words "racial" and "presidential" in it. The article itself is reflective of the headline and readers get exactly the information they expect from the headline.

Bad headline:

Syria agrees to cease-fire, sort of

What makes this a poor headline by CNN is how colloquial it sounds and the lack of key-words. I was caught off-guard by the use of "sort of," which I think sounds pretty unprofessional, especially for a publication like CNN. I also think the headline could have used the term "Muslim holiday" since that is when the cease-fire will supposedly take place.

Julia said...
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Julia said...


US presidential candidates cool on warming

Al Jazeera English

This headline is for an article about how the issue of global warming has barely been discussed by either Presidential's candidates campaign. I am not convinced that an average reader would gather that information from the words chosen for the headline. The word "cool" has different meanings and could in this sentence mean they are "alright with it" or "they are toning it down" in the "cool it down" sense of the word.

I only think they could have used the names Obama and Romney, which are more SEO-friendly than US presidential candidates.


Planned Parenthood battles Texas in court over funding

Los Angeles Times

This headline has key words such as "Planned Parenthood," "Texas," "court" and "funding." It is clear what the topic of the article is and encourages the reader to click and read about the details on the case. Since women's right are a prevalent issue during this election, this will likely get a lot of clicks, especially from Texans.

Lucas High said...

The Bad:

Europe's Trouble With Jews

I found this headline -- Europe's Trouble with Jews -- on the homepage of the New York Time's website. The problem with the headline is the wording. The wording is vague and could mean any number of things. Are Jews causing trouble in Europe? Is the continent involved in some kind of diplomatic strife with Israel? Is the story about antisemitism in Europe? It's impossible to say from reading the headline. When you click the link to read the story, the expanded headline (The European Left and Its Trouble With Jews) is only marginally more informative.

The Good:

First-time marathon runner wins
the Marine Corps Marathon

"First-time marathon runner wins
the Marine Corps Marathon" is the headline on the front page of the Washington Post. It follows the classic headline format of "Subject, verb, object and in terms of of SEO, this headline works really well. Anyone searching online for information on the MCM will most likely search for "Marine Corps Marathon" and "win".

K. Nancoo-Russell said...

Good Headline:

Man charged with shooting at Humboldt Park building Chicago Tribune

This is an example of a good headline because it is specifically naming the place where the incident occurred. Someone searching for the information contained in this story would likely type in the words "Humboldt Park shooting." It is also very complete because it tells who, what, where, why. It does not indicate when, but that information is contained in the first paragraph.

Bad Headline:

Crucial test for an outpost of healthcare in South L.A.
Los Angeles Times

This is a bad headline because it tells nothing about what the story is about and is actually very confusing. The story is about how clinics are bracing for an increase in patients because of the healthcare reform, but none of those key search words - "clinics," "patients," "reform" - are present in the headline.

Jeremy B said...
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Jeremy B said...

The Good: Libya Warnings Were Plentiful, but Unspecific (New York Times)

This headline is extremely fair, and essentially sums up the story without giving away the specifics. Because of the explosive nature of the story, the fact that the headline is balanced and doesn't assign blame is even more important.

The Bad: Did Obama's speech play fast and loose with the facts? (Reuters)

This headline is misleading because it essentially implies that Obama's speech was factually inaccurate. But, in the lede, it says that "a fact check shows that most of his references were accurate." Though it adds: "But there were a few caveats." A more fair headline would be more neutral, something like "A Close Look at Obama's Speech."

WildeJessica said...

The Bad: 'Killer nanny,' stabbing two children to death, will be arraiged from hospital bed

This headline from the New York Daily News homepage is sensational without telling us who the "killer nanny" is and without telling us why she is in a hospital bed. But the worst part of the headline is that "arraiged" is spelled wrong. The headline on the article itself elaborates further, though it is still confusing and sensational. It might work if everyone knew about the story already, but I don't think that can be assumed.

The Good: UBS to Cut 10,000 Jobs in Major Overhaul

This headline on the New York Times homepage is in active voice and includes the name of the bank, what is going on--overhaul--and what is the result--cutting 10,000 jobs. My only criticism is that UBS is not defined as a Swiss bank in the headline, but someone searching for the story would probably search "UBS" and "overhaul."

ymshah09 said...

Good headline: Hurricane deductible could cost homeowners thousands
This headline at CNN is just 48 characters but still is informational enough to draw readers in. It is written in an active voice and most importantly is concise but stays true to the content of the story.

Bad headline: Obama Does It Better
This headline, although humorous, provides no real insight into what the article is actually about. It is incredibly vague and is written to get clicks. This is also poor for SEO.

Jason Ruiter said...

The Bad: Lolly Wolly Doodle's Brandi Temple Talks Facebook-Fueled, Real-Time Retail

What makes a bad headline isn't a bad joke, a cheesy pun, but a miscommunicated message. With that said, having 40 characters that doesn't hit the mark on at least one theme of the paper is pretty difficult. In this instance, however, it's the convoluted headline and the lack of name recognition that obfuscates the message, which appears to be something about Facebook business. The use of alliteration not once but THREE TIMES is really excessive in a space as concise as a headline. Not to mention the almost annoyingly frivolous phrase: Lolly Wolly Doodle's Brandi Temple dumped on three uses of alliteration. The mass of characters here could have been put to a much more didactic purpose if the author wasn't half as concerned as sounding clever and witty.

The good: In Baseball, It Pays to Be a Data Nerd

Good headlines, on the other hand, are easy to come by. I would think that making an effective headline would be common production--the real effort is an excellent headline and sometimes the idea may be to not overthink it, and avoid the tempting puns. The title says it all here. Assimilating two different genres, the uninitiated are intrigued by the world of both jocks and geeks as indicated by the title. Headlines like this are subtly cognizant of cultural differences without being too intrusive on the story. Their willingness to add a touch of cultural commentary give the headline the momentum that makes it excellent.

Sean Henderson said...
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Sean Henderson said...

Bad Headline: “Obama and Romney make young girl cry”

Yahoo News

This is a classic Yahoo News headline. These headlines are displayed on Yahoo.com’s home page, where people go to check their emails. They are designed to be attention grabbing and are generally accompanied by a catchy photograph and a very limited text synopsis. The problem with this particular headline – as with many Yahoo News headlines – is that it is misleading. The headline implies that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney literally made a little girl cry, when in reality the little girl cried because she was sick of hearing campaign ads. Not only was the headline misleading, but the story was not at all newsworthy. Yahoo News specializes in catchy headlines that get people to click on their stories and improve their site traffic statistics.

Good Headline: “Boeing Posts Better-Than-Expected Profits and Raises Forecast for a 3rd Time”

The New York Times

This headline works well because it is straightforward and to-the-point. Using the company name as the first word helps grab readers’ attention, and the headline encourages those who come across it to read further. SEO optimized terms such as ‘Boeing’ and ‘profits’ are used to help bring up the story on search engines, and those who come across the article will know at a glance what it is about.

Amber Larkins said...

Good Headline Cop Tasers 10-Year-Old on Playground


This headline tells you exactly what's in the story. It's catchy and there are no surprises. A cop really tased a kid on a playground. It was a stupid accident, but it really happened. Anyone who hears about this story and wants to search for it online could easily find it by searching for "cop tases kid", "cop tases 10-year-old" or any other variation that could be made on the headline. It's so simple!

Bad Headline Intersections: T and Rhode Island NW: The libations after the storm

The Washington Post

First of all, how many people know what libations are? The word is of a higher diction than most people are used to reading, and works terribly as a search term. Second of all, who cares? There were so many people who were affected by Sandy that a story about the fact that some people who expected to be were not is in very poor taste. As a headline, it's bad because of the word libation and because it talks about a specific intersection that is so local that only people living in that part of Washington who were participating in the "libations" would care about it. They would then search the story because they were in it. It's a verbose vapid headline that does nothing to mislead the reader, but would be hard to search for,and would probably be an expected disappointment to anyone who managed to find it.