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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 23-Nov-07

 


Friday 23-November-07

Headline overkill

Headlines are arguably the most important parts of a newspaper, magazine or web article, and none more so than on the front page lead item.

 Headlines are designed not just to summarize in a few words the essence of the story--they also act as a persuasion mechanism, influencing you to continue reading. Open a page of a newspaper and all the headlines shout 'Read me! Read me!'. They thus need to appeal some or all of:

  • curiosity

  • basic fears, e.g. health and safety

  • greed and 'something for nothing'

  • achievement of personal goals

  • general interests, leisure activities and hobbies

  • general nosiness about other people (especially 'celebrities')

 Front page headlines also help sell papers on the news-stand, with significant sales generated by the interest and intrigue caused by the headline. The headlines may also be abstracted further to posters around the news stand, where even less words (typically two to five) are used to snag tired commuters hurrying home. This may be emphasized again as the sellers hawk their wares by shouting out these intriguing headlines.

The London Evening Standard is sold on the street on my daily walk from work to the station, and is a master of the use of shock words on their posters. Typical recent banners have included:

  • Traffic chaos

  • Late-night horror

  • Terror victim speaks

 There is thence a chain of amplification and exaggeration from events to story to headline to poster to cries of the seller. The only good news is that things are seldom as bad as they are reported.

 Knowing this, I mostly walk on by, but sometime the tension is too much and I succumb and buy a paper, just so I can 'read all about it'.


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