As online news writers, headlines are one of the most important parts of our job. If our team don’t write engaging interesting headlines, there is a very real risk that the content they go on to write under that headline will never be read.
Inevitably this dilemma has lead to an ongoing quest within the content marketing world to create ‘The Perfect Headline’ – that one magic formula that will ensure the article is read and shared for all eternity. But is there really such a thing as a single Perfect Headline? We think not and here’s why.
The Perfect Headline is entirely dependent on the audience viewing it, and the audience depends on the publication. Online news appears everywhere from the multinational news organisations’ websites to individual businesses and blogs. Readers do not interact in the same way with all of these publications and publishers cannot expect them to respond in the same way to headlines they read on each.
The Financial Times and Buzzfeed couldn’t be much further apart in audience demographics. Let’s look at their individual approaches when it comes to creating their own perfect headlines …
The Financial Times
The Financial Times has to be one of the most fact-focused publications in the world. Given the sensitive nature of the financial topics it covers, the FT has to stick to straight forward headlines that get the message across and leave no room for misinterpretation.
Headlines on the front page average out at about nine words and they all put the focus on getting the most amount of information into the lowest word count.
Compare this with Buzzfeed, and it’s obvious that the FT puts a much greater emphasis on clarity and delivery of information.
Buzzfeed on the other hand, has something of a ‘style over substance’ approach to headlines. The website began life as the ultimate click-bait content site and their headlines still reflect this. Interestingly, however, the site has managed to develop from its origins of a site with a great formula for delivery but very little original content, to a site that manages to generate some really interesting points of view that are in fact amplified by its unique approach to content delivery.
Headlines are an essential part of this. Compared to the FT, Buzzfeed headlines are unsurprisingly longer, averaging out at 12 words each. They are nearly all list-based, and they tend to include an adjective or two, inviting the user to feel something by clicking the headline and reading the article.This use of adjectives means that the space for facts is reduced, but that’s fine as Buzzfeed’s audience isn’t necessarily looking for facts, they’re after entertainment that suits their mood. It’s emotive marketing at its most concise.
We picked the Financial Times and Buzzfeed for this quick blog because they couldn’t be more different in terms of how they connect with their readership. The lesson is just as applicable for industry news and onsite blogs: To write the Perfect Headline, get to know your audience and tailor your headlines to suit your readers’ approach to online news.