When Clever Headlines Don't Work

Sometimes a cute little twist or anecdote works in a story, sometimes it doesn't. Especially on the Internet.

Example, we have a pretty important story from one of our partners. It basically details that the "robo-signing" activities causing so much controversy in the mortgage sector these days have actually been around for a long time in the consumer credit sector. Good point to make, given the foreclosure litigation hay being made already.

But the story leads with an anecdote about one "robo-signer" complaining about his pen. The headline plays off that with a mention of writer's cramp. It takes a little while for the story to get to the meat: That robo-signing may be more widespread than you think.

You can get away with that in a newspaper, where a story gets laid out with supplemental heads, visible paragraphs and other verbiage. On the Internet, where stories often get rolled to places where only the headline shows, maybe a one-graph lead-in if you're lucky, a cute headline or lead that doesn't immediately convey the gist of a story often fails.

That was the case here. With the original headline, the story was getting so-so traffic. When we overrode the headline with something a little more straight forward, it became one of our most popular.

Different platforms, different practices.