A fantastic discussion on Wired.com, I think they nailed it: yes headlines matter immensely, in marketing, education, or other written content. Highlights:
“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,” says co-founder Peter Koechley. “The difference between a good headline and a bad headline can be just massive. It’s not a rounding error. When we test headlines we see 20% difference, 50% difference, 500% difference. A really excellent headline can make something go viral.”
“Subject lines matter a ton,” Rospars says. “As campaigns especially, but also organizations and brands more generally, become prolific content producers themselves, they’re paying much more attention… The key is to keep finding new ways to engage people with your content by being playful with the creative and ruthless with the testing.”
Whether it’s headlining material to come or a hook for interest, this is oftentimes the single chance to grab the audience for more. People are increasingly accustomed to saavy headlines, the bar is high… let’s not be boring.
- “I will be outspent,” “Some scary numbers,” and “Do this for Michelle.” (President Obama’s presidential campaign)
- “Who Gives A Crap – toilet paper that builds toilets,” “Ministry of Supply: The Future of Dress Shirts,” “Penny Arcade Sells Out,” “Oculus Rift: Step Into the Game,” and “To Be Or Not To Be: That Is The Adventure.” (crowdsourcing campaigns)
- “Move Over, Barbie — You’re Obsolete,” (an article at Upworthy, which promoted a construction kit to encourage young girls to become engineers. Upworthy is a news aggregator that makes editors write at least 25 different headlines for each post, then plugs top contenders into alternate versions of of its Facebook page and website to test which one elicits the maximum reaction.