9 Tactics to Sharpen Your Headlines. The NYT is Totally to Blame.

In May of this year I was lucky enough to participate in a conference in Copenhagen, Denmark that also featured one of the really smart folks over at the New York Times’s (NYT) T Brand Studios – Lauren Reddy, Director of Audience Development & Insights. While listening to her presentation this gem of a takeaway popped up.

I fumbled with my phone hoping to grab a photo of the slide. It’s not every day the NYT gives away their secret sauce to headline writing. Since then, I’ve used a few of them, and to my delight, they worked well at driving clicks.

So, without further ado, below are the nine tactics with examples to sharpen your headlines:


1. Highlight the tension

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2. Highlight the turning point

Their Lead Generation was Amazing. Until It Wasn’t.

3. Note the scale of the issue

A Generation of Marketers, Stuck in the 2000’s.

4. Address the reader directly

Before You Write Your Headline, Check this List from the NYT

5. Call out telling statistics

Ad Blockers a Factor as Display Network CTRs Drop to 0.16%

6. Use two sentence structure to tell story within headline

Native Advertising has a Terminology Problem. And It’s Not Pretty.

7. Surface voices from the story

“Open to the Idea,” Said the CEO of LinkedIn on Producing Original Video Programming

8. Assign blame

Content Marketing Just Isn’t Working Like It Used To. Google Ruined It.

9. Use specific and evocative language

SEOs Tremble at the Whim of an Algorithm Update

While this post is shorter than most, the takeaways are priceless. Give this a bookmark so that the next time you want to spice up your headlines you’ll have inspiration right at the tip of your mouse. If they’re good enough for the NYT than they’re definitely good enough for me.


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