3 Successful Headline Secrets from NY Times

new york times 9-4-10 home page How to Get  Readers to Spend Serious Time with Your Core Content

Be brief. Be complete. Be Enticing.

Headlines have always been important in print publications. They are even more important online.

They grab readers’ attention and lure them into reading entire articles.  If you have lots of great headlines, avid readers will linger much longer with your content.

Solutions for Short Attention Spans

Today’s readers have short attention spans. That’s exponentially true for your online visitors. You have seconds to grab them before they move on.  You need to show why they should care enough to continue reading. Otherwise, your content marketing efforts will fall short.

Easier said than done, you might think. Fortunately, a quick scan of this morning’s online edition of the New York Times illustrates the 3 secrets that you can apply to your online headlines.

Here’s a Random Headline Selection from the September 5 Issue of the New York Times Online

  • Democrats Plan Political Triage to Retain House
  • Craigslist Blocks Access to ‘Adult Services’ Pages
  • World Trade Center Complex Rising Quickly
  • Why Don’t Doubles Fans Watch Live Doubles?
  • After Bargains of Recession, Air Fares Soar
  • City’s Efforts Fail to Dent Obesity

Here are 3 Successful Headline Secrets We Can Learn from Them:

  1. Be brief. No headline is longer than 7 words and 50 characters. That’s less than 40% of a Tweet.
  2. Be complete. Each headline tells a short, but full story. You know exactly what’ll you get if you read the entire article. No guessing required.
  3. Be enticing. Each headline makes us want to read more. If the subject is important to us, we feel compelled to continue. Even when it’s not a hot topic for us, the best headlines often intrigue us enough to keep going.

My own headlines don’t always pass the New York Times brief, complete, and enticing benchmark. But, I think I nailed it today in 7 words and 43 characters with exactly the right amount of compelling content to entice you all the way to this sentence.

How’d I do?

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  1. Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Great points here, I always give clients the same advice, be brief and be enticing, you want to reel in the reader immediately with your title.

  2. Newt Barrett
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Nick. It’s hard to be brief and brilliant at the same time.