An internal New York Times report paints a dire picture of digital strategy

An internal New York Times report paints a dire picture of digital strategy

The Times is too print-focused, says an internal report leaked to Buzzfeed. Reporters are evaluated on how often their stories get on page one, the online deadline is structured around the print deadline, and headlines are poorly search optimized.

I’m surprised by this. I thought the Times did a good job online.

Except for the headline SEO — I’ve noticed that myself.

Headline SEO doesn’t just make headlines more attractive to search engines. A well-SEO’d headline is better for readers.

Print readers have all sorts of clues as to what a story is about and how important it is. The print reader sees story placement, the amount of space the story occupies, sidebar headlines, subheads, take glance at the lede of the story, photos and breakheads — all of these things tell a print reader what the story is about before the reader actually dives in

Online, the headline is often all there is. The headline needs to tell the reader what the story is about, what to expect when they read it, and why they should read it — all in a half-dozen words or less.

For example, consider this powerful article about a 16-year-old who was put in prison after being put through hell in a series of homes where she was tortured and prostituted. The headline: What Is This Child Doing In Prison? That’s just a weak headline.

Writing online headlines is hard, and I wish I was better at it myself.

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