Google rears some ugly heads
If you haven't had a chance to check out the New York Times story on optimizing headlines and stories for Google yet, give it a shot. The theory is that as search-engine bots troll the Web, they're more likely to pick up on a story if it contains the right key words in the head or lead.
A few media outlets have tweaked their procedures to try to nab more readers.
About a year ago, The Sacramento Bee changed online section titles. "Real Estate" became "Homes," "Scene" turned into "Lifestyle," and dining information found in newsprint under "Taste," is online under "Taste/Food."And BBC News' Web site tries to put more engaging headlines on its main page while leaving the nuts-and-bolts hed for the click-through.
There's been some grumbling about this, as can be expected: Headlines are supposed to be creative and work off the other elements in a package.
But that's how we draw readers into a story in print. On the Web, it will be different. Better understanding -- and exploitation -- of search engines will simply have to be a part of that.
The trick here is being able to use the Web tools for Web readers and the print tools for print readers -- so that we can engage as many readers as possible in both media.
"My first thought is that reporters and editors have a job to do and they shouldn't worry about what Google's or Yahoo's software thinks of their work," said Michael Schudson, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, who is a visiting faculty member at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
"But my second thought is that newspaper headlines and the presentation of stories in print are in a sense marketing devices to bring readers to your story," Mr. Schudson added. "Why not use a new marketing device appropriate to the age of the Internet and the search engine?"