Saturday, April 15, 2006

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?"


At 1:26 AM, April 15, 2006, Anonymous Philip said...

Seems to me focusing on the play stories get from aggregators is a distraction. News outlets are more than content providers; they are content organizers and prioritizers. If a newspaper's Web site is an engaging distillation of the news, consumers will prefer it to Creative headlines are part of what sets a site apart.


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