Make Your Headlines More Than Umbrella Drinks

Research from students around the world indicate they inhale headlines, but don't bother to read stories.Young readers skimmer from headline to headline, rarely clicking for more detail. They also expect news to come to them from friends on Facebook and tweets on Twitter. Older readers are more likely to click on stories, but they are increasingly headline hunters, too.

These findings, which are gleaned from research of young readers around the world, have huge implications for marketing communications to contemporary readers, says Neicole Crepeau, writing in her blog, Coherent Social Media. Here are her three key takeaways:

  • Getting content into inner circles — It’s not enough to have people Like your page. Marketers need to find ways to get many different individuals to share links actively on their personal pages.
  • Creating headlines that tell the story — Since readers aren’t going to click the link, the headline has to do critical work by itself: conveying the message, selling the brand, spreading the word.
  • Writing headlines and blurbs that earn the click — At the same time, the goal remains earning the click. Writing posts will become much more like writing ad copy. They must give users a compelling reason to open the content.

Research from world UNPLUGGED sums up the state of youthful reading habits:

‘140 characters of news is all I need’: The non-stop deluge of information coming via mobile phones and online means most students across the world have neither the time nor the interest to follow up on even quite important news stories — unless they are personally engaged. For daily news, students have become headline readers via their social networks who only learn more about a story when the details or updates are also served up via text or tweet or post.

'We no longer search for news, the news finds us': No matter where they live, the amount of information coming into students via their mobile phones or the Internet — via text message, on Facebook, Twitter, chat, Skype IM, QQ, email, etc. — is overwhelming; students are inundated 24/7. As a result, most students reported they rarely go prospecting for news at mainstream or legacy news sites. They inhale, almost unconsciously, the news that is served up on the sidebar of their email account, that is on friends’ Facebook walls, that comes through on Twitter.

What is ‘news’? Worldwide events AND friends’ everyday thoughts: In their daily behavior, most students around the world didn’t discriminate between news that say The New York Times, the BBC or Al Jazeera might cover and news that might only appear in a friend’s Facebook status update. ‘News’ meant ‘something that just happened’ — and students wanted to know what that was, whether it was globally momentous or only of personal interest.

No problem going without hard news: Because Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and their counterparts are increasingly the way students reported getting their news and information, students were cavalier about any need for traditional news outlets. Very few students mentioned any legacy or online news outlet by name — and those that were mentioned tended to be sports outlets referenced by American students.

The study producing these results involved students associated with a dozen universities on five continents unplugging from their computers and smart phones for 24 hours, then writing a narrative about their experience, including how they use media.

Information was gathered via a SurveyMonkey online survey. The information was compiled by researchers at the University of Maryland. An earlier version of the Unplugged survey occurred in early 2010 and involved some 200 students affiliated with the University of Maryland.