Cyberjournalist has a letter from a reader today who says that in the age of RSS, headline writing has become more important.
I agree...and even go a wee bit further. I think there's a growing need for expertise in all types of ultra-short writing. Certainly news organizations will look for writers who can create headlines to pull in RSS users. But advertisers will too. If text ads, paid links, etc. continue to grow, then the guy who can write a three-word phrase that generates a click is of value.
If you're looking for a guide to how to write headlines for the online world, look no further than Money.CNN. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I was a producer at CNNfn.com, which merged its operations with the online offerings of Money magazine to become Money.CNN.) No one does a better job of writing the pithy phrases that get users to click through to the story. The headlines are clear, not cryptic. They are conversational and inviting. Here's a sample from today:
Google's best not enough
Reverse shoplifting: Artists drop while they shop
What Greenspan didn't know
Franchises of the future
Demystifying hedge funds
Each of these headlines (average length of 4.4 words) is informative (telling you the subject of the story -- Google, artists, Greenspan, etc.) Each headline also "opens" a conversation without closing it. For example, a headline that says "Google sales and profit rise, but less than hoped; Shares fall" tells the reader everything he needs. It makes it too easy to not click through. More importantly, the CNN.Money headlines are lively. They feel more like television than print, and that's exactly how a Web headline needs to feel.