On social web, headlines makes all the difference

“The reality is that in the world of newsfeeds and streams, titles matter more than ever before. The best content in the world will fall flat without a great title. Nothing illustrates it better than this recent Target article.” — Nick O’Neill.

Nick pointed out that after The New York Times published, How Companies Learn Your Secrets, Forbes.com ran an article titled How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did. The Forbes article got 12,902 likes and more than 680,000 page views. The New York Times article got about 60 likes and shares.

I agree with Nick – Facebook and Twitter have reduced our attention spans to such a degree that if the headline doesn’t catch your eye when flowing through the stream, there is very little chance people are going to pay attention. And that is one of the reasons why I spend quite a bit of my time on headlines and making them inviting enough for the readers. Of course, these creative headlines do have to match the content – otherwise what you are doing is cheating the readers and that is never a good idea.


  1. Rochelle Spencer says:

    February 27th, 2012 at 9:57 pm Reply

    I’ll share this with my students. Titles matter.

  2. eideard says:

    February 25th, 2012 at 6:34 am Reply

    I’m so dull. I read it at the TIMES Online.

  3. PXLated (@PXLated) says:

    February 20th, 2012 at 6:20 am Reply

    I’m not sure it has to do with short attention spans, it’s more that we have such a large flow of information that we need to quickly “filter” the bland or less interesting and find the needles in the haystack. A shiny needle stands out more.

    1. Om Malik says:

      February 20th, 2012 at 8:52 pm Reply

      Indeed indeed …. Pxlated thanks for the comment.

  4. Nick O'Neill says:

    February 19th, 2012 at 9:58 pm Reply

    Thanks for taking the time to write this Om. I am adamant about the importance of titles and agree you should avoid crossing the line where you are misleading readers. Anyways … hope all is well!

    1. Om Malik says:

      February 20th, 2012 at 8:51 pm Reply


      Thanks for the post and the comment. I am glad to bring this up as a topic.

  5. Kirsten Lambertsen (@MsPseudolus) says:

    February 19th, 2012 at 8:20 pm Reply

    While NYT’s headline may be more “dignified,” it seems to me to that Forbes just did it better. Oldskool or digital age, writing a great headline has always been an art.

    Forbes’s headline is more specific, more immediate, more urgent, and more memorable. College journalism professors will be using this example for years to come.

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