Sunday, April 09, 2006

Does Google encourage boring headlines, and if so, does it make any difference?

From today's NYT article on how search engine optimization affects online style.
Some news sites offer two headlines. One headline, often on the first Web page, is clever, meant to attract human readers. Then, one click to a second Web page, a more quotidian, factual headline appears with the article itself. The popular BBC News Web site does this routinely on longer articles.

Nic Newman, head of product development and technology at BBC News Interactive, pointed to a few examples from last Wednesday. The first headline a human reader sees: "Unsafe sex: Has Jacob Zuma's rape trial hit South Africa's war on AIDS?" One click down: "Zuma testimony sparks HIV fear." Another headline meant to lure the human reader: "Tulsa star: The life and career of much-loved 1960's singer." One click down: "Obituary: Gene Pitney."
Judging from the examples of clever headlines for humans, perhaps headline wit is overrated. Or maybe the problem is just with the Beeb's definition of clever.

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