Writing headlines for web and mobile – Spring 2016

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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20 Responses to Writing headlines for web and mobile – Spring 2016

  1. Pingback: Week 5 | Southern Accents

  2. Dino Arhontoulis says:

    Example 1 : New Jersey want’s to sell you it’s own merchandise
    Example 2 : New Jersey lawmakers put’s extra security into cars
    Example 3 : Brain Williams hurts his career for fame

  3. Example 1: New Jersey Turnpike puts copyright on its own logo
    Example 2: Lawmakers look to install ignition interlock device based on blood alcohol content
    Example 3: NBC news anchor shot down by RPG, then by the truth about war

  4. Christian says:

    1. NJTP Authority looks to market iconic images
    2. Higher stakes for first-time DUI offenders
    3. Truth Evades Nightly Newsman

  5. Olivia Fasano says:

    Story #1- NJ Merch to Trademark the Garden State
    Story #2- Over .05 and You Can’t Drive. The New Device To Put A Stop To Drunk Driving
    Story #3- Bryan Williams, Under Fire For a Good Story.

  6. conklinec says:

    1. A License to Merchandise New Jersey: Famous New Jersey Images to Hit Consumer Products?
    2. Asbury Park: Drive Drunk on The Rock, and Get Your Car Locked
    3.Williams’ Career is Under Fire, Not His Chopper

  7. 1. Fighting Over a Jersey Highway Logo
    2. Plan and Think Before You Drink
    3. Brian Williams To Recover From His Copter Nose Dive?

  8. Ex. 1)Why the New Jersey Turnpike wants its logo on your morning coffee
    Ex.2) New laws incorporating high tech breathalyzers to combat drunk driving
    Ex.3) #BrianWilliamMisremembers circles the web after his costs lies about combat in Iraq

  9. Drew says:

    example 1: New Jersey plans to make big bucks on Parkway and Turnpike logos
    example 2: Drunk drivers may have a built in breathalyzer in their car
    example 3: The story behind the #BrianWilliamsWarStories

  10. #1 New Jersey Turnpike Authority Attempts to Cashes in on Copyright Lawsuit
    #2 Don’t Breath Easy Too Soon About New DUI Reform, For It Might Be Into a Breathalyzer
    #3 Brian Williams, Clouded Iraq War Correspondent

  11. 1. New Jersey makes a new law!
    2.Drunk drivers attention getter! In Jersey
    3. Brian Williams a liar?

  12. Example 1: New Jersey Enthusiasts can show their love with its trademark merch
    Example 2: New Jersey creates a new way to check alcohol levels before you drive
    Example 3: Brian Williams shocks the nation with lies on war

  13. buzbys3 says:

    1: Buy Nj Turnpike mug to save yourself from being taken for a ride!
    2: New laws and a new device cuts fines and jail time for drunk drivers.
    3: Anchor Brian Williams defends reputation after conflating his Iraq War story.

  14. 1) New Jersey Trademark to Merchandise Logo
    2) New Remote Start for First-Time Drunk Drivers
    3) Tall Tales on the Nightly News

  15. vegeterinism says:

    1. Copyright Issues Regarding the NJ Turnpike Logo Delays Potential State Merchandise
    2. NJ Senate Passes Bill That Will Hopefully Prevent Citizens From Driving Drunk
    3. Iraqi Pilot Claims Brian Williams is a LIAR

  16. 1. Jersey’s Trademark Is About to be the Next Nike Swoosh
    2. You May Have To Use This Built-In Breathalyzer Before Starting Your Car
    3. Brian Williams Is Not Who You Think He Is

  17. 1. New Jersey Turnpike Merchandise May be Possible in the Future
    2. DUI First Time Offenders May Now Pay in More Ways Than Before
    3. NBC News Anchor, Brian Williams, Confused and Misconstrued

  18. Tyler Douris says:

    1.NJ Copyrighting It’s Own Logo

    2. Changes In NJ Drunk Driving Law

    3. Lyin’ Brian Williams

  19. Example 1: New Jersey Turnpike Plans for Specific Promotional Items
    Example 2: New Gadget Installed in Cars to Help Prevent Drunk Driving
    Example 3: “Pure Panic” Strikes NBC Studios when Brian Williams Returns to Nightly News

  20. Pingback: Week 5 | Southern Accents

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