October 24, 2007

Catchy Headlines...to what end?

Newspapers have always drawn attention with outrageous headlines, but now that the news has migrated online it feels like the need to outdo others in coming up with an attention-getting catchphrase has taken priority over what used to matter...what the article is actually about.

Just this week, I clicked on a link in the Seattle Times that was titled Want to make money? Stand in line. Was the article about getting unemployment benefits? Was it about some other easy way to make money? Nope, it was actually about politics surrounding lobbyists that pay people to stand in line to save them a spot. This wasn't the first time that I had clicked on a headline that lead me to an article I was not prepared for. Most of the time, I think, wow, I'm glad I clicked that link because this is kind of interesting, but in any other frame of mind, would I have?

Maybe it's just a fault of the Seattle Times. Slashdot, digg, reddit, and others also employ crazy headlines, but they also have a sentence or more of tagline so you know what you're getting yourself into. And for most readers of Slashdot, just reading that bit is enough to churn out pages and pages of comments. I mean come on, what article can't be summed up in a sentence? Brevity is close to godliness.