Revealed: Hidden Stashes of Headline Inspiration


Will Newman

The two most important parts of any copywriting you do — and it doesn't matter if it's long or short — are the headline and lead.

I don't care how good your lead is, if your headline stinks, nobody's going to read your wonderful lead.

If you've been involved with AWAI’s The Accelerated Program or Circle of Success Headlines Targeted Learning Program, you're learning secrets and strategies for writing strong, compelling headlines.

But even if you're not involved with these programs, I'm going to tell you about a “hidden stash” of headline inspiration … a hidden stash that's in plain sight.

To be honest, I only recently learned about these stashes. You see, this headline inspiration comes on websites I wouldn't visit until my Copy Chief, Sandy Franks, pointed me in their direction.

Until then, I avoided these websites. I felt they contained nothing of value.

Boy, was I wrong.

These are websites that run sensationalized news stories. Not my cup of tea. But while the content may or may not be worth reading, often the headlines are worth studying.

Your first hidden stash …

Let me show you an example of one of those headlines.

Joe Smith is Suing Obama, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and Probably You

(I changed the actual name in the headline to Joe Smith.)

Look at that headline. The first two phrases don't really grab attention very well. But the last part — “and probably you” sure got my attention. And made me want to read more.

And that's the first goal of a compelling headline. To grab attention and get the reader to read more.

Where did I find this headline? The Gawker website (gawker.com).

Gawker's tagline is “Today's gossip is tomorrow's news.” That's why I used to avoid this website. Gossip leaves me cold. But while on the site recently, I found some headlines that inspire my own headline writing.

Notice I said “some headlines.” And that's one of the secrets of using these hidden caches of inspiration. I'll tell you about that in a moment. But first, let me tell you the other places you can find headline inspiration.

A wealth of inspiration
If you dig …

Here are other sites similar to Gawker where you can glean inspiration for your headlines:

  • BuzzFeed (buzzfeed.com; tagline: a “social news and entertainment company”)
  • Upworthy (upworthy.com; tagline: “Things that matter”)
  • Digg (digg.com; tagline: “What the Internet is talking about”)
  • National Enquirer (nationalenquirer.com; tagline: “Hottest Celebrity Gossip & Entertainment News”)

I won't go into detail about these other sites. Maybe you've already visited them. But when you do go, enter with a new, sharpened eye.

You'll find many humdrum headlines there, headlines that don't do much to inspire. Don't worry.

Dig. Some of the sites, you'll have to look around a lot. But others, such as the National Enquirer site, compelling headlines will jump out at you. (In fact, marketing legend and copywriting extraordinary, Gary Halbert often talked about how sites such as National Enquirer are good places for headline fodder.)

How do you know when you've hit an inspirational headline? It stops you dead as you scan past the others. This is an effective headline. It stops you. It makes you want to read.

But when you go to these sites, the idea is not to steal actual headlines and insert appropriate words in them to match your copy. Instead, figure out why a particular headline caught your attention. Was it the words? The boldness? The newness?

In all likelihood, it's probably all three of these things. And use those qualities to inspire your next headline.

Well, Sandy has turned me from someone who avoided gossipy websites into someone who mines them for inspiration.

Let us know if you've been to these websites before and now look at them from a new perspective. Or if this is a new idea for you.

Tell us by commenting below.

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Published: July 26, 2016

9 Responses to “Revealed: Hidden Stashes of Headline Inspiration”

  1. Hi Will,

    I would never have looked to these sites for inspiration of any kind, headlines or otherwise. I would also never consider writing for them.
    My take is that these headlines appeal to those readers who are already attracted to gossip and who have an interest in celebrities.
    I'll have to take a look.

    Nora KingJuly 26, 2016 at 11:26 am

  2. Hi Will, I have been snooping around for headline inspiration for some time now. Probably since taking the COS Headline course early last year. But even before that I had subscribed to Upworthy. I enjoy their videos and articles. Their headlines and e-mail subject lines often grab me and don't let me go until I've taken the action they want me to take!

    Guest (Lee Nourse)July 26, 2016 at 2:13 pm

  3. This is beautiful indeed! Thanks Will, for sharing this. I also realized that the more I become aware of how I respond to certain news headlines, especially the sensational ones, gossip, scandal or anything on the improvement of the quality of life - investments, health, relationship and even sex: I've come to realize that our curiosity and needs tend to determine what we would scroll through or skip and discard. And so I've also been exploring these areas of human curiosity and needs to produce the " the never pass me by headlines"

    Once again thank you for this information.

    Regards!

    William

    Guest (William)July 26, 2016 at 4:12 pm

  4. Ah!!!
    Great information. I have taken a look at the websites and headlines. A great source for headlines. They attract your attention and you as a copywriter can get inspiration, words and knowledge from these headlines and can use the style in your letters or advertising. Thanks for your information.

    Guest (Mahesh Seelvi)July 27, 2016 at 2:40 am

  5. Will, Great article! You provided me with some very informative and interesting information. I would never have looked at those sites if you hadn’t mentioned them by name. I took a little time to review each site listed in your article and found that they do provide good examples on attention grabbing headlines.

    Thank you for the information and the time you take to educate others such as myself.

    WRLJuly 30, 2016 at 8:45 am

  6. These are all sites I would never have known existed had I not been reading your comments.I am brand new to AWAI and am trying to soak up everything. Thank you so much for yet another arrow for the direction I want to go.

    Guest (Chris)July 31, 2016 at 6:34 am

  7. Thanx Will

    I would have never known about finding good headlines from these websites. It's a good feeling to know that there's someone in your corner that is helping you along the way.

    Guest (steven lane)August 1, 2016 at 11:07 am


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