Undergraduate students at the Medill D.C. Bureau attended two labs on online headline writing from Mark Smith, editor for mobile Web at The Washington Post.
At the Post, Smith’s job is to implement a strategy to increase mobile web traffic. He said that the ratio of desktop to mobile web traffic to a news outlet’s website should not be one to one, particularly because mobile traffic is becoming more common.
Like with print headlines, online headlines should address the who, the how and the why, but beginning the headline with “here’s,” “meet,” “this” or “these” fills in the curiosity gap for the reader in a way that is effective digitally, Smith said.
That is not to say that the headlines should be clickbait. Being truthful is key to maintaining the integrity of a publication, and headlines should never deceive the reader, he said.
While good headlines catch a reader’s attention, the content should still be “a good piece of internet,” Smith said. It should be declarative, comprehensive, surprising and insightful to proliferate on social media.
“If you build it, they will come,” Smith said.