Why A Headline Is Key To Making Serious Digital Content Shareable

lego computer cooleydude flickr

” credit=”Coleydude / Flickr Creative Commons

Every local digital content producer is clamoring to get your attention. Traditional media organizations are fighting trendy sites (that often don’t provide much useful info) for your clicks, shares, likes and comments. Lets face it, it’s hard.

But there’s a continued and increased number of organizations that are training old-school journalists to think more like those trendy sites to get their content in front of a larger, more diverse audience. It’s all about making stories — serious and fun — shareable.

My smarty-pants peers at NPR Digital Services reached out to public radio member station digital editors to prove serious journalism can be just as shareable as a listicle about adorable animals.

They looked at 809 stories that have gone through NPR’s Local Stories Project (of which my station, Boise State Public Radio, is part of). Here’s part of what they found:

Stations are creating as many fun stories as serious stories: Of the 809 stories, 53 percent were serious and 47 percent were fun.

Serious stories were just as shareable as fun stories: The percentage of people who liked, shared, or commented was the same for both serious and fun stories – about 1 percent of those who saw the posts interacted with them. In the Local Stories Project, we’ve found that any post over 0.7 percent leads to dozens or hundreds of likes, shares, and comments. – Eric Athas & Theresa Gorman, NPR Digital Services

Making stories sharable doesn’t happen by accident. It’s something that takes a lot of time, practice, experimentation and maybe a few flops.

My advice to digital editors and reporters is to spend more time crafting a solid headline. That’s the window into your post. That’s the thing that will be shared across social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. And it’s the make-it-or-break-it element of your story that will either convince someone to read it or ignore it.

Find someone in your newsroom who can riff with you on headlines. Write 20 of them until it highlights just the right amount of intrigue, a key fact, and a promise of what will be delivered in the story.

Here’s an awesome guide from NPR Digital Services on how to think of headlines. And here’s another great headline resource from NPR’s Matt Thompson.