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Will Google news search kill the headline writer?


According to the New York Times, sub-editors are taming their more creative headline writing instincts and dazzling punnery and wit in order to appeal to search engines.

The search-engine "bots" that crawl the Web are increasingly influential, delivering 30 percent or more of the traffic on some newspaper, magazine or television news Web sites. And traffic means readers and advertisers, at a time when the mainstream media is desperately trying to make a living on the Web.

So news organizations large and small have begun experimenting with tweaking their Web sites for better search engine results. But software bots are not your ordinary readers: They are blazingly fast yet numbingly literal-minded. There are no algorithms for wit, irony, humor or stylish writing. The software is a logical, sequential, left-brain reader, while humans are often right brain.

In newspapers and magazines, for example, section titles and headlines are distilled nuggets of human brainwork, tapping context and culture. "Part of the craft of journalism for more than a century has been to think up clever titles and headlines, and Google comes along and says, 'The heck with that,' " observed Ed Canale, vice president for strategy and new media at The Sacramento Bee.

This story supports my growing conviction that "search is the media", now it appears that even editors of mainstream media are realising this and learning how to be SEO (search engine optimisation) specialists.

Very interesting, but also sad for those of us who love the craft of the headline writer? Maybe they can continue to show off their wordsmithery in sub-headlines and standfirsts (unless Google starts to penalise them for that?).

: : One of the things I have enjoyed learning about from the experience of being a blogger is the way that content travels across the networks that make up the blogosphere and the wider web.

Yesterday for instance, the post I wrote about myspace.com briefly appeared on the BBC Radio One news site. I didn't see it but for fifteen minutes or so a trickle of visitors arrived from there to see the views of my little brother.

Every now and again a topical issue and snappy headline snag a link for Open on memeorandum or seem to be what Newsnow readers are looking for - it's really cool when that happens.

Via Micropersuasion.

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» Is Headline Writing relevant anymore? from TheAlphaMarketer
In a posting by Antony Mayfield he comments on an article in the New York Times that talks about editors are having to learn how to write headlines for search engines rather than people. The various bots out there that... [Read More]


When you mention that you feel that "search is media" I would agree with you in the sense that it is part of the overall picture, and a key part of an SEO strategy.

But it takes a number of pieces put together that really makes drawing visitors to your site work.

You comments on headlines I totally agree with as in the online world, their main purpose isn't to draw visitors, but grab them once they get there.

It’s sad to note that some media feel this way, changing their habits to suit technology. Technology should be changing to suit us.

Headlines can still be creative in print..
So what if the web headlines become trivial.
It's free!

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