How to write awesome Headlines (So People read your Stuff) by Tom Whitwell [Times Online]

Tom Whitwell who is the Assistant Editor of Online at The Times starts the session by giving us a wizz through print headlines over time. Despite print having been around for a long time, it wasn’t until 1966 that you could actually see headlines on the front page of the daily papers. Before that they would have been badly places and tiny. The headlines were still in a bad state in 1983 and although they were attempting to be funny, they didn’t convey anything.

Then, suddenly, with the birth of the internet headlines became more important as everything depends on the it. Headlines were separated from stories and hence their importance as without a good headline people won’t click through to read.

With headlines as a serious business, the internet meant that we can find out what is really working (with newspapers we don’t know who’s reading which articles). The writer has to write what will get the reader stop and read while ‘page scanning’.

On the web, we know: The difference between good headlines and bad…

A good headline is: Subtle; it’s working out what the story is, what your reader will respond to, and how to squeeze all the goodness into 68 characters.

Conciseness, to the point=specifics can contribute to a good headline and it should answer why the reader should read that story and not another.


Don’t try to be clever or funny

Play to your niche and don’t over simply or patronise in the headline.

Remember: Print and internet headlines require a different style…some just work in print and others just on the internet.

Right headline will also contribute to people finding it on the net (like SEO).

Quick wins:

Lists=force you to do research and explain your points properly

Quotes= Often the most interesting bit in the story

Numbers= Often the most interesting bit in the story

Names=Most likely who the story is about.


If story is interesting, tell it in the headline.

Write the headlines first. Really and ALWAYS.

If you think you have a great story, but can’t explain it in the headline=crap story. So work at it and do the research to back up. Don’t publish until you have a killer headline. If you get stuck a great trick is to read someone else the story and how they react will tell you what the headline should be.

And there Tom’s insightful presentation finishes with: ‘I’m done. Sorry for ranting.’

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2 Responses to “How to write awesome Headlines (So People read your Stuff) by Tom Whitwell [Times Online]”

  1. Blogs » Blog Archive » Comms Links 06/10/2008 Says:

    [...] How to write awesome headlines (so people read your stuff) [...]

  2. How to Write awesome headlines (so people read your stuff) — Jure Cuhalev Says:

    [...] How to write awesome Headlines (So People read your Stuff) by Tom Whitwell [Times Online] [...]

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