The Psychology of Headline Writing

April 9, 2014 – 1:08 pm


Headlines You Won’t Believe Till You Read Them. And Then You Will Cry

I made a comment on Facebook yesterday describing my disbelief about the current format of headline writing

Am I weird (don’t answer that yet) in that I find the current trend of internet headlines eg: “You won’t believe what happened….This will make you cry etc yada yada yada” completely counter productive.

My first thought is manipulation and spammy. In fact making a headline I am LESS likely to click on, not more as they would hope???

Am I alone in ignoring these manipulative headlines?

So I wondered about what supports these ideas.

Headline writing is marketing and marketing is psychology.

Upworthy is one of the stars of the headline writing business and it isn’t a fluke that they have become so successful. They spend plenty of time and effort testing and measuring their headlines and content for the best results. (See this post from KISSmetrics) Right now, it seems that this current style of headline works the best.

I am certain that over time, people will become less interested and more immune to this style of writing and sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy will need to change also.

This blog post over at The Moz Blog : 5 Data Insights into the Headlines Readers Click has some great research and information such as

  • Explosion in content competing for readers’ attention: A Day in the Internet  shows that 2 million blog posts, 294 billion emails, and 864 thousand hours of video are created daily. Each day also brings 400 million tweets .
  • 80% of readers never make it past the headline: According to some sources, on average, eight out of 10 people will read headline copy , but only two out of 10 will read the rest.
  • Traffic can vary by as much as 500% based on the headline: According to Koechley, tests show that traffic to content at Upworthy can vary by as much as 500%  simply because of the headline. “The headline is our one chance to reach people who have a million other things that they’re thinking about, and who didn’t wake up in the morning wanting to care about feminism or climate change, or the policy details of the election,” he said.

Each of these bits of information show why so many article sites, some directly copying the style of writing (and headlines) of Upworthy and co, are being launched. Attach some ads to these articles and if you can generate some virality around them, money can me made.

We see similar changes over time with other styles of advertising, whether it be on TV, Radio, Print or the Internet. These mediums and their advertisers need to compel those who see their ads to take action. Whether that is by using the emotions of shock, laughter, happiness and sadness or other methods such as visual/audio styles, questioning techniques and props/actors.

So for today, this style of headline is the way, but who knows what we will be presented with in a year or two. Whatever it is, you can be certain that is has been well researched and measured to make sure they get the best bang for their buck.

2014 is the year of the…….?

January 8, 2014 – 3:57 pm

Tech wise, the world goes through inspired periods of innovation. However, 2013 wasn’t one of those periods.

3D televisions are a dud, music services popped up like daisies, it seemed like such a muddling period.

There were innovative products that were shown and introduced this year, but the strange thing was that they were based on technologies that weren’t new eg: The Oculus Rift

Apple bored us again with incremental refreshes (Thumbprint reader excluded), while Google had a number of blue sky ideas that you weren’t sure whether they were serious or not eg Project Loon.

The main product for me that really got people excited was a small TV gadget called the Chromecast, It plugs into the back of your TV and allows media to be played across your WIFI network through your TV. So far only a few services work, such as Netflix, Youtube, Google Play, but the concept is an awesome one. (Unfortunately not available in NZ)

The early signs of CES this year seem that 2014 will be a year of further consolidation. The improvement of earlier innovation into usable and clever devices that will have a real impact on users.

Smart watches made a ripple last year, Samsung making the loudest attempt. But it was still essentially an early stab at things, with updates needed to make it truly useful.

Advancements in battery life, data plans and mobile platforms in general make this maturing of the last few years of gadgets something that I am looking forward to.

CES is often the place you see pie in the sky ideas put forward as the future of tech. Many of these things never see the light of day. But I sense that this year some of the previous years goofy stuff will find it’s way (or the technology it is based on) into real products this year.

However, we may be still waiting for the wow moment of 2014 when this year ends.

What do you think we will see this year? Who will produce the must have product that we never thought we needed?

New Sites for July

July 2, 2013 – 12:09 am

We have plenty of sites being redesigned and converted to WordPress and lots of other interesting projects going on.

Here are some sites we have worked on over the last month or so.


Erosion of Privacy – How Much is Too Much

July 1, 2013 – 1:13 am

privacyThere have been plenty of recent stories of invasions of privacy, from website leaks, hacks and releasing of customer data, to privacy policies on websites that are encourage the sharing of more and more information.

What are we willing to give up, what is the price of your privacy.

Now that we have proof of Governments snooping on even it’s own citizens, this question is even more important.

I believe that Governments need access to certain information to help protect it’s citizens and am not really surprised to hear of the capability that is being used.

What does surprise me more (and it probably shouldn’t) is the abuse of power that these agencies appear to be using.

Having specific targets to go and find information about seems to be the right balance, rather than the blanket hoovering up of data that seems to be happening.

One of the latest outcomes is a letter from the US Senate to the Director of Intelligence James Clapper spelling out that having a “secret body of law” described as deliberate reinterpretations of terms used in the industry is unacceptable and summoning Clapper to provide more specific responses without these reinterpretations.

Whether they can bring themselves to do this remains to be seen, but each leak published by the Guardian and other media outlets will cause more and more embarrassment to the US government. Even now, they are having to have diplomatic talks with allies that they have alleged to have been spying on.

Clearly with this information now in the public domain, if agencies are lying to their bosses to hide this kind of activity, then how can we really know what is going on in our governments.

Trust that laws and processes are being followed have really been all that has kept things in line. A clear breach of this trust could be very problematic and as more revelations are disclosed, the further that trust is eroded. Would a change of government fix this? Not necessarily, as the people voted into office are not the ones who have been found out. Changes at the top of the agencies may be the only way forward.

So maybe the original question needs to be amended. Rather than “What is the price of our privacy?” should it be “What is the price on our safety?”


Trustwave Vulnerability Scan Scam

May 15, 2013 – 3:35 pm

This one is potentially a better attempt at a phishing scam than most.

Supposedly from TrustWave, it tells of a failed vulnerability scan on my network and to view the results online.

Visiting this site potentially loads Malware, or tries phishing techniques to get access to your systems.

One interesting aspect of this is it predicts IP ranges that will attempt to access your network, which makes me lean toward a malware attack.

This is an automated email message to prevent you that the scheduled TrustKeeper vulnerability scan of YOUR NETWORK SYSTEMS has completed and is not compliant.

IMPORTANT: During the scan, TrustKeeper Discovered several Unsecure systems. Trustwave strongly recommends you review these findings as your overall PCI DSS compliance status may be affected.

TrustKeeper generated a vulnerability scan report. You may view these results by accessing TrustKeeper at:

You will receive an e-mail confirmation when the scan completes and your results are available. Please note that this can take up to three days.

Note: If you monitor your network for activity, note that the TrustKeeper scan may originate from IP addresses in these ranges:

TrustKeeper is a certified remote assessment and compliance solution created by Trustwave and designed to help merchants meet the PCI DSS and achieve compliance with the associated programs of VisaŽ, MasterCardŽ, American ExpressŽ, DiscoverŽ, and other credit card associations. The TrustKeeper solution is an integrated easy-to-use tool that removes the challenge of navigating the complex PCI DSS requirements and provides a “one stop shop” for merchants to certify compliance.


This mail is sent by an automated message system and the reply will not be received. Thank you for using TrustKeeper.
This email was sent to:
This email was sent by: Trustwave
80 West Madison Street, Suite 1080, Chicago, IL, 60408, USA

We respect your right to privacy – view our policy

So a new attack method, using fear to cause people to click the link and open themselves up for the real attack.

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