Writing headlines for web and mobile – Spring 15

Writing headlines for the web and mobile devices is different than writing them for print. You have two audiences online: readers and search engines.

For readers: Headlines should be simple, literal and direct. They must motivate readers to click.

For search engines: Search engines look for keywords. If a headline contains keywords that are also repeated in the text of the article, it will show up higher in search engines.

Suggestions for writing better online headlines:

1. Be descriptive – say clearly what the story is about

2. Use keywords

3. Use conversational language

4. Avoid puns that confuse or are unclear

5. Engage readers – your headline is just one in a zillion circulating on social media.

Love them or hate them, BuzzFeed and UpWorthy know how to do headlines.

Now give it a try. Rewrite the following newspaper headlines for the web.

Example 1:

Trading on Jersey’s Image (Star Ledger – 2/7/15)

Would your morning commute be a little better if you were drinking coffee from an official New Jersey Turnpike travel mug? Would paying tolls be a little less of a task if you could reach in to a genuine Garden State Parkway purse for a quarter to throw in the basket?

These products and more could hit the shelves and boardwalk souvenir shops if the New Jersey Turnpike Authority finds an agent who can get the right price for the use of the Parkway and Turnpike logos.SLturnpike

The authority, which dubbed those logos as “the most iconic of New Jersey images” wants them to join the Nike Swoosh and the Adidas stripes as marketable trademarks that companies will pay to slap on products. To do that, the authority is seeking a marketing gunslinger to make sure they and tollpayers don’t get taken for a ride from knock-off products.

The search for a licensing agent comes less than a year since authority officials filed a lawsuit against a Florida pizzeria to block them from using a sign they contend was similar to the Parkways’ green and yellow logo.

Attorney JoyAnn Kenny of Red Bank, who is defending the original owners of Jersey Boardwalk Pizza, said the suit is still pending, as is her motion to dismiss the case. Her defense is based on the Turnpike Authority’s adoption of national traffic sign standards, which she contends covers the Parkway and Turnpike logo signs.

Attorneys for the authority countered that the Parkway logo isn’t in the public domain, because it isn’t referred to in those standards, and isn’t considered a uniform traffic control sign that’s used through out the nation.

“I was surprised to hear the roadway is moving forward with its own licensing agreement,” Kenny said. “I don’t believe they could assert a copyright over their own logos.”

But this effort has nothing to do with that lawsuit or protecting the trademarked logos, said Thomas Feeney, an authority spokesman. Knockoff Parkway and Turnpike logo items exist now, from t-shirts and hats to a pair of cufflinks made from old Parkway tokens currently being offered on E-Bay. Authority officials already crackdown when they find them. A licensing agent would allow a business to keep making products, if they cut the authority in for a piece of the financial action.

“The Authority already has attorneys who do that. The primary job of the licensing agent would be to develop a program for licensing the logo for use on things like beach towels, tee-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.,” Feeney said.  “The idea grew out of (Former) Commissioner (Jim) Simpson’s directive to find additional sources of non-toll revenue.”

Example 2

New Reason Not To Drink (Asbury Park Press – 2/7/15)

The state Senate passed a bill Friday that eases the punishment for some motorists convicted of drunken driving but requires all first-time offenders to install an ignition interlock device in their cars.

The bill, which passed 29-4 and goes to the governor’s desk, would suspend the license of a first-time offender for 10 days and require the device to be installed at the person’s expense on one vehicle for three months, if the person’s blood alcohol concentration was between 0.08 and 0.10 percent. A person would only have his or her license reinstated upon showing proof of installation.APP

A first-time offender with a BAC between 0.10 and 0.15 percent would have his or her license suspended for 10 days and have the ignition interlock device for seven months to a year.

An ignition interlock device is a cellphone-sized gadget similar to a Breathalyzer that is hard-wired to the engine’s ignition system. If the person’s BAC exceeds 0.05 percent, the vehicle will not start.

Under current law, first-time offenders convicted of driving with a BAC between 0.08 and 0.10 percent have their licenses suspended for three months. Those with a BAC between 0.10 and 0.15 percent have their licenses suspended for seven months to a year.

The bill did not mention any changes to fines or jail time. Under current law, first-time offenders can be fined anywhere from $250 to $500, depending on BAC level, and can face up to 30 days in jail.

“Our goal with this bill is to create greater safety on the road,” said state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, a sponsor of the bill. “We know when we suspend licenses, people still get behind the wheel when they had too much to drink.”…(continued)

Example 3:

Nose for News (NY Post – 2/6/15)

Brian Williams came under siege Thursday for lying that enemy fire forced his chopper down in Iraq — with countless critics ridiculing his tall tale and calling for him to be booted as anchor of “NBC Nightly News.”

The $10 million-a-year star was back on the air Thursday night, a day after offering a bizarre mea culpa in which he said he had “conflated” his wartime memories and made “a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago.”Nosefornews

But Williams’ bobbing and weaving did little to stifle the growing controversy over his repeated lies about coming under enemy fire while covering the Iraq war in 2003.

Williams’ return to work capped a day of fast-moving developments for the Peacock Network:

  •  Sources said the mood inside NBC headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Center was “pure panic,” with legendary ex-anchor Tom Brokaw demanding that Williams, his “Nightly News” successor, get the boot. “Brokaw wants Williams’ head on a platter,” one source said.
  •  Williams became the butt of countless jokes for saying on Facebook, “I think the constant viewing of the video showing us inspecting the impact area — and the fog of memory over 12 years — made me conflate the two, and I apologize.” Internet memes quickly spread along with the humiliating Twitter hashtags #BrianWilliamsWarStories and #BrianWilliamsMisremembers.

Doctored photos showed him wading in the surf alongside Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines and eating pizza in Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper.”

  • Stars and Stripes, the unofficial newspaper of the Defense Department, followed up its exposé on Williams’ fabrications with a report alleging he “left out key details and made misleading claims” during his nationwide mea culpa. The paper said Williams’ “wording appeared to be another example of the anchor muddling the facts.”

On Jan. 29, Williams attended a Rangers game at Madison Square Garden with former soldier Tim Terpak, who he said helped protect him in the Iraqi desert. On Friday, “Nightly News” aired a segment on that reunion, in which Williams — for at least the third time — lied and said his aircraft was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG.

“The story actually started with a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG,” Williams said in the report.

“Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the US Army 3rd Infantry.”

It was not the first time Williams told the story. The first account of the incident took place on the “Nightly News” broadcast of March 26, 2003, which showed video of a damaged Chinook that Williams said was “almost blown out of the sky” while flying in formation ahead of him.

At the time, he said he was unaware of what had happened until after unexpectedly landing in the Iraqi desert.

But over the years, the story gradually morphed into a whopper of a lie. In a 2008 blog post, Williams wrote of the incident, “We came under fire by what appeared to be Iraqi farmers with RPGs and AK-47s.

“The Chinook helicopter flying in front of ours (from the 101st Airborne) took an RPG to the rear rotor, as all four of our low-flying Chinooks took fire,” he added.

And in 2013, almost 10 years to the day after the mission, Williams appeared on “Late Show with David Letterman,” where he embellished the tale to the point where his helicopter was also struck.


About Nick DiUlio

My name is Nick DiUlio, a freelance writer and editor from New Jersey. I have been passionate about the craft of writing since I was old enough to spell, and this love has led to a successful career in journalism and creative nonfiction. As a freelancer, I have covered a wide range of topics and personalities, as my published work has focused on everything from profiles of artists and important political figures to hard-news stories with both national and local appeal; from restaurant and beverage reviews to tips on fashion and finance; from health and wellness pieces to celebrity Q&A’s. My work has appeared in several local, regional and national publications—both in print and online—including Philadelphia Magazine, Slate.com, Miller-McCune, New Jersey Monthly, Eating Well, and Delaware Today. Additionally, I am the South Jersey Bureau Chief for New Jersey Monthly and an adjunct journalism professor at Rowan University. To be sure, the broadness of my body of work seems only to be matched by my boundless interest in almost every subject imaginable (except Warren Zevon). Check out some of my most recently published work here.
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18 Responses to Writing headlines for web and mobile – Spring 15

  1. Pingback: Week 4 | Southern Accents

  2. larkin73 says:

    The Turnpike; the new face of New Jersey
    Ignition Interlock Devices to cut down length of DUIs
    Embellishing or lying? Brian William’s ever-changing tale

  3. dadsona4 says:

    1st Article: Logos could Revamp Your Life

    2nd Article: Drinkers Run for Your Life!!!

    3rd Article: Brian Lyin’ (Liargate)

  4. sciara92 says:

    1. New Jersey Turnpike Fights to Place its Logo on Merchandise
    2. Potential Bill May Force New Punishment for DWI
    3. Lyin’ Brian: Brian Williams Booted as he Admits the Truth Regarding Chopper in Iraq

  5. alexacarini says:


  6. buzzcutSJ says:

    NJ Turnpike Finds Yet Another Source of Profit.

    A Bad Way to Blow-Start Your Day.

    William’s Whistle Finally Blown.

    • buzzcutSJ says:

      NJ Turnpike Finds Yet Another Source of Profit, All Throughout the Country.
      A Bad Way to Blow-Start Your Day, DUI Punishments Changing.
      Brian William’s Whistle Finally Blown With Public Apology.

  7. literallycan says:

    Exercise 1: Representing New Jersey in Style
    Exercise 2: Reasons to Think Before You Drink
    Exercise 3: Not-So Flyin’ Bryan Tells All

  8. Example 1: You Wouldn’t Eat Off the NJ Turnpike, But You Might Drink Coffee Out of It
    Example 2: Drunk Drivers Required to Install Vehicle-Locking Breathalyzer
    Example 3: One Nation Under Lies: Popular NBC Anchor Brian Williams Caught Lying to America

  9. bussma80 says:

    NJ to Use Turnpike Logo to Gain More Profit.

    Blow Till Your Engine Go’s. Breathalyzer to Be Installed in Cars of DWI First Time Offenders

    Fact of Fiction? Even Brian WIlliams Doesn’t Know

  10. Nick Kita says:

    Who doesn’t want an “I love the Turnpike” shirt?

    Refuse it and send that last drink BAC.

    A little lie never hurt.

  11. 1. Licensing the Logos of New Jersey Highways
    2. New Law to Diminish Drunk Driving in Pennsylvania
    3. War Reporter, Brian Williams, Caught Lying About Helicopter Struck Down

  12. goodsonc0 says:

    Parkway and Turnpike logos are the next Nike Swoosh and Adidas Stripes
    Ignition Interlock Device given to first time DUI offenders.
    The end for Brian Williams’ career?

  13. Bria Marie says:

    1. New Jersey Fights for a Highway Logo
    2.A Device that will put a stop to Drunk Drivers.
    3. Story Time with Lyin’ Brian

  14. Jersey’s Image Seeks Marketable Trademark and Fashion Trend.

    Ignition Interlock Laws in New Jersey

    Brian Williams Creates a Whopper of Lies.

  15. ryguy554 says:

    New Headlines:
    1: Fight for Image of New Jersey
    2: Mandatory Device could make drinking and driving a permanent no no
    3:Brian Williams latest mistake could be his last

  16. 1) NJ Parkway & Turnpike logos to be trademarked
    2) Drinking & Driving may have a breath of fresh air in NJ
    3) Brian Williams Black Hawked Down by NBC after lies surface

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