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Make your library’s headlines better (without turning them into clickbait)

“Clickbait” From Oxford Language:

  1. (on the internet) content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.

I have an intense dislike of clickbait headlines. However, I do completely understand why they exist: standing out in the vast sea of content is extremely difficult, and these types of headlines can help catch the eye of scrolling users. The problem, of course, is that people can become apathetic or distrusting of them over time.  Myself, for instance.

From what I’ve seen, library headlines tend to be on the other end of the spectrum from clickbait. So far so, that they might be totally ignored; they often can be bland and uninteresting. Is there a happy medium to which libraries can aspire?

Yes. Definitely yes.

What makes an effective headline is the payoff. It’s writing in such a way that what the reader will get out of the content is immediately apparent.  Clickbait does this, also, but usually in a much more hyperbolic way.  Take these two headlines:

Amazing research database practically does the assignment for you

Research databases for your next term paper

It’s pretty easy to tell which is the clickbait version, right? Even though the first one could be classified as “clickbaity,” it does one thing well. It tells people what they will get from the thing being promoted. But the second one doesn’t do anything, except announcing the existence of something, as if anyone will care about it. Guaranteed: they won’t. Remember, you have to make them care. Try this on for size:

Jump start your next term paper with this

This not only has an implied benefit, but leaves the exact nature of the content vague, choosing instead to focus on the payoff and invite readers to read further…just like clickbait headlines do.  It’s the same idea, except you’re not trying to be the National Enquirer. It can still catch people’s attention, without immediately causing them to be cynical. What do you think?