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This Boring Headline is Written for Google

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the always-a-price-to-pay dept.

317

prostoalex writes "The New York Times is running an article on how newspapers around the country find their Web sites more dependent on search engines than before. The unexpected effect? Witty double entendres, allusions and sarcastic remarks are rewritten into boring straight-to-the-point headlines that rank higher on search engines and news-specific search engines. From the article: '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."'"

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317 comments

Completely WRONG direction to take. (3, Insightful)

tinkertim (918832) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093809)

Used to be to start a fire you took two sticks of about the same size and .....

We don't do that anymore. Just like companies that hope to market their news agencies have got to stop depending on search engines to reel in traffic. The sites that attract visitors through searches and make revenue by serving ads are established and have consumed the available market share.

To be successful doing what they do, one of them has to go under right around the time you have something similar already seeding in search engines. Its quite a long waiting list folks.

If you want to reach a niche news market you need to hit people during rush hour in their cars with radio advertisements, or find another way of luring them to your site and when they arrive your titles had better not be crafted for Google.

Look at the explosion of over a million .eu domains, many of which are going to be those article-wiki type affiliate marketing sites and search engines are already crawling them. Sorry guys, but the days of putting up hundreds of pages of content and waiting for Google to do your marketing are gone.

Don't re-write the titles, take the hint that what you're doing just isn't working. Either change your marketing strategy or re-evaluate the fiscal sanity of continuing to publish.

Insanity is doing the same thing over, and over and over again yet expecting different results. The market is flooded - get creative in your advertising and MORE creative with your content and you may enjoy some success. Otherwise the sad fact is .. nobody is going to find you.

Go take a look at shitlance [scriptlance.com] and search for "need articles, need articles re-written, SEO content author". Trying to succeed doing what they're doing is like punching yourself in the nuts until you pass out.

Completely *wrong* direction, imho.

stfu amerinigger (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15093825)

nt

Re:Completely WRONG direction to take. (5, Insightful)

nacturation (646836) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093838)

It used to be that to get modded up you could read the article leisurely, understand what it's talking about, and then post your comment at any time... letting the merit of what you wrote stand on its own.

We don't do that anymore. These days, users become subscribers so that they can get first post and fool the moderators into thinking that what they wrote was insightful. Rather than discuss, as mentioned in the article, how a witty title that perhaps employs humor or puns is rewritten to something mundane so that a search engine can pick up on common keywords, people these days are engaging in what Linus Torvalds calls little more than a public wanking session trying to post comments more insightful than the rest.

Don't try for first post. Instead, take the hint that your posts just aren't really all that informative nor insightful and re-evaluate the sanity of continuing to post such drivel. Go take a look at comments like this [slashdot.org] and realize that trying to succeed with content like that is like punching moderators in the nuts trying to get excellent karma.
 

Re:Completely WRONG direction to take. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15093930)

It's spelled "humorously", oh Deep and Wise Mr. Philost [globalia.net] opher Sir.

Re:Completely WRONG direction to take. (3, Insightful)

tbo (35008) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093961)

It used to be that to get modded up you could read the article leisurely, understand what it's talking about, and then post your comment at any time... letting the merit of what you wrote stand on its own.

We don't do that anymore


Why the hell was this modded as a troll? Granted, nacturation hasn't been around that long (hah! I mock your six-digit user ID), but he does seem to have hit the nail on the head with the extra big hammer.

I know I've been guilty of replying to the first highly-modded comment, even though my reply had nothing to do with that comment, simply because that increased my visibility to moderators. I know I've been lazy as a moderator on occasion, and blown my mod points on the first half-decent posts I found when browsing "Oldest first". I have sinned myself, and so I know there is truth in what nacturation says.

I hit the karma cap many years ago, and they now no longer even display its numeric value, so I can hardly see the point in continuing with such foolishness. Still, the way slashdot is set up encourages such things. What's the point in posting a comment if nobody will read it? Since the number of readers depends on the comment's score, which depends on how appealing it is to moderators and how early it was posted, we get these types of abuses.

We'd probably be better off with a system where moderators were forced to browse at -1, newest first, and where early posts received a karma penalty unless they achieved a sufficiently high score in moderation. I don't see it happening, though.

Re:Completely WRONG direction to take. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15094085)

Maybe something like metamoderation, where you choose the story, and posts are automatically selected for you to mod up or down? You don't have to mod the chosen post and lose your modpoint (you can just click "next"), but you don't get to actively select which posts to moderate either.

Re:Completely WRONG direction to take. (3, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094116)

I think we'd be better off with a digg type system - anybody can upgrade or downgrade a comment. Comments have bigger or lower threshholds - -25 to +100 or something. Not every post downgraded should be consider crap, make browsing -4 and above default.

I like digg style moderation better, it's more spur of the moment - I can sit there and say "wow, that was a good comment" or "that was really stupid" and assign a plus or minus point without hassle and spontaneously, when I feel like it.

With /.'s system, everytime I have mod points, alway assigned to me when there are no decent article I like or don't feel like grading shit, I feel like a $8 an hour data entry clerk monkey or a middle school teach, trying to assign grades to the first f-ing posts I read to get it out of the way and not to "lose" my points.

Re:Completely WRONG direction to take. (2, Funny)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094112)

"people these days are engaging in what Linus Torvalds calls little more than a public wanking session trying to post comments more insightful than the rest."

Moderation: +1 Mentions Linus

Re:Completely WRONG direction to take. (1)

novus ordo (843883) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094186)

He [lkml.org] did add though "And don't get me wrong - I follow slashdot too, exactly because it's fun to see people argue. I'm not complaining ;]" Hey, if it adds a little glitter in our beige lives, I'm all for it. (now that's insightful)

Re:Completely WRONG direction to take. (1)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093880)

When I make a submission to Slashdot I find the least sensational headlines get published more often than my flamebait or flashy headlines. When blogging I make extremely long and descriptive headlines that use nearly full sentences and sometimes have witty double meanings or I relate two stories from seperate paragraphs in the same blog entry. The effect on google and technorati is undetermined.

Re:Completely WRONG direction to take. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15093968)

When blogging I make extremely long and descriptive headlines that use nearly full sentences and sometimes have witty double meanings or I relate two stories from seperate paragraphs in the same blog entry

Why do you feel the need to do this? Why do you feel the need to 'blog' at all? Do you not think the 1.5 million other people posting the exact same click-through-ad-links you are is insufficient?

Re:Completely WRONG direction to take. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15093980)

The effect on google and technorati is undetermined.

Really, who gives a fuck? It's only another fucking blog, after all.

Re:Completely WRONG direction to take. (2, Informative)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094045)

On the Internet, my blog can be read as quickly or as widely as any newspaper, all it takes is a few good links on well read websites. This is why it's relavent to the discussion. Without proper tagging or headlining, it's entirely possible for a professional organization to end up with next to no readerhip.

Re:Completely WRONG direction to take. (5, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093911)

Used to be to start a fire you took two sticks of about the same size and .....

then went looking for someone who actually knew how to start a fire, with two appropriately different sized sticks.

KFG

Re:Completely WRONG direction to take. (3, Funny)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093952)

Used to be to start a fire you took two sticks of about the same size and .....

then went looking for someone who actually knew how to start a fire, with two appropriately different sized sticks.

Surely the second part of his unfinished sentence was: "...and bang them together while shouting 'someone give me matches!'"

Re:Completely WRONG direction to take. (5, Interesting)

Ru55el (967148) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094132)

Alas I work for a company that SWEARS by Google. GoogleAds get twice my annual salary every month from us and it amounts to... lots of dead leads. A veteran journalist / PRO-writer I am employed to make sure I write all my articles and website pages according to the Google-friendly template drawn up for me by a manager whose home language isn't English. I get crapped on if I deviate from the Holy Template. Any suggestions we try and break the mold and develop relations with the press to obtain credible editorial are laughed at. Of course I am looking for something else but you know what? Every company I try out for asks me the same question: "You can do Google Ads?" It's like the pre-windoze days when all a secretary had to do to get a job was know WordPerfect 5.1 yeesh In closing I recall a discussion I had with a former editor of the Jerusalem Post. He told me that all his jouralists use Google to find leads and implied I was a fool for suggsting otherwise. Investigative reporters have become librarians.

Maybe I should apply to be a journalist (4, Funny)

jpopper (947183) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093810)

I'm boring, straight to the point, and can't be creative even if my life was on the line. Hire me!

God forbid... (5, Insightful)

severoon (536737) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094169)

...anyone should be able to read a headline and quickly get an idea of what the story's about. Much better to have some snarky news editor misleading us to get us to read their stupid story.

I, for one, welcome "boring, straightforward" news headlines. After all, it's news. Not commentary, not opinion. If I see a newspaper section marked "Scene" I'm not likely to know what it's about.

Re:God forbid... (1)

onebecoming (965642) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094207)

But then you'll know right away you're not the target audience of that particular newspaper. It may not be explicit, it may not be "squares keep away" (or whatever) in 100-pt. bold type, but isn't it just as efficient and simple? Otherwise, you'll waste time reading leads on the "scene" before you realize (1) you're just not interested and (2) they're not interested in you. (Assuming they're going for a niche, like L Magazine or the L.A. Weekly.)

Allusions and in-jokes in headlines do serve a purpose: to inform the reader, fast and dirty, for whom the article was written.

Maybe this ain't so bad (3, Insightful)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093813)

Personally, I can think of nothing that would improve newspapers more than getting rid of those idiotic puns often seen in headlines...

Re:Maybe this ain't so bad (2, Funny)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093823)

But Slashdot isn't a newspaper, is it?

Re:Maybe this ain't so bad (4, Insightful)

Shimdaddy (898354) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093827)

Idiotic puns? The English language is a beautiful one and not everything is about efficiency, speed and clarity. If it were, we'd all read dictionaries for fun and teach our children Lojban. I, for one, celebrate the wordplay practiced by newspapers and think it's intriguing.

Re:Maybe this ain't so bad (4, Insightful)

tuxedobob (582913) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093863)

90% of puns are bad.

100% of newspaper puns are bad.

I'd rather read Variances and Zoning Volume XIV.

Re:Maybe this ain't so bad (3, Informative)

onebecoming (965642) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093885)

I find the Economist's headlines, subheads, and captions often to be laugh-out-loud funny. The editors there seem to be fond of dry wit and black humo(u)r. I can't be alone in appreciating their work.

Re:Maybe this ain't so bad (2, Funny)

D H NG (779318) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093994)

A pun in headline [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Maybe this ain't so bad (1)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094037)

I like all good puns.
I like all newspaper puns.
Haiku is best though.

Re:Maybe this ain't so bad (2, Insightful)

onebecoming (965642) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093946)

Happily, in the past couple decades, I think we've seen the pendulum start swinging back towards the acceptance, even celebration, of literary style in journalism (no, you cheapshooting Slashbots, I'm not talking about Jayson Blair). For too long--if a relatively brief anomaly in the long history of news publication--readability and human interest were sacrificed to a false god of objectivity, while dryness of content, not wit, was considered the sole criterion of journalistic merit. You had your occasional Hunter Thompson, sure, but only on the fringe. Now, you see the Observer (while still bleeding money) and even frontpage stories in the Times adopting a more conversational, personal tone, and Anderson Cooper sobbing into the camera on live TV. All this perhaps in response to the mass popularity of blogs and other firsthand sources of information. It'll be interesting to see where this leads. Pardon my bloviation.

Re:Maybe this ain't so bad (1)

ClamIAm (926466) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094139)

The English language is a beautiful one and not everything is about efficiency, speed and clarity. If it were, we'd all read dictionaries for fun and teach our children Lojban.

There has to be a Perl joke here somewhere.

Amen to that! (0, Offtopic)

MacDork (560499) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093828)

I wish I had mod points right now.

Re:Maybe this ain't so bad (3, Insightful)

goldfita (953969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093833)

I agree. It becomes irritating. I just find it amusing that the content on the web is being written for machines instead of the people make the content worth billions of dollars. Content should be made for human consumption, not HAL. Hopefully the bots will get better to the point that it doesn't really matter.

Re:Maybe this ain't so bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15093859)

"Panda mating fails - veterinarian takes over"
 

Agreed (1)

vyvepe (809573) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093924)

More straightforward headlines are better anywyas. Creativity used for headlines is not used at the right place. The article content should be creative.

Re:Maybe this ain't so bad (2, Funny)

onebecoming (965642) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094021)

Oh, c'mon, lighten up! Who among us could resist headlines [newyorkmetro.com] like:
SOMOZA SLAIN BY BAZOOKA
(News, 1980)

HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR
(New York Post, 1982)

CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR
(Senate fails to convict Clinton; News, 1999)
...and my most recent favorite [gothamist.com] :
COPS MAKE BUTT-ER KNIFE CON SPREAD 'EM
(Post, natch)
On second thought, maybe you're right.

Re:Maybe this ain't so bad (2)

Scott Swezey (678347) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094025)

I know what you mean. I saw this on a popular news site earlier... Blue Ring Around Uranus [slashdot.org] I can only imagine where things went with that!

Re:Maybe this ain't so bad (3, Funny)

raoul666 (870362) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094126)

This just reminded me of a story a teacher of mine passed along, which he heard from someone on the staff at a respected big-city newspaper.

Brezhnev, leader of the USSR, had just died, and so the staff of the paper was gathered to write up an article about his life, politics, death, etc. etc. Obviously, this would be front page news. The article was written quickly and easily enough, but the editorial staff argued for over 6 hours straight over whether or not to run it with the headline "HEAD RED DEAD."

Sadly, they decided against it.

Re:Maybe this ain't so bad (4, Funny)

MartinB (51897) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094227)

A journalist friend of a friend once made up an entire story about a library in Essex having its book budget cut just so he could use the headline (altogether now...):

BOOK LACK IN ONGAR

While a student, working on the campus newspaper, some anarchists invaded the stage at the student theatre, the Bedlam. This let me write the priceless (to my 20 yo ears) headline:

BEDLAM ANARCHY CHAOS

This is a good thing (4, Informative)

matt21811 (830841) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093815)

Witty or sensational headlines don't just deceive search engines.
Human readers can get fooled just as easily. Heres an example:

I was doing research to show that Kryder's Law (a kind of super Moore's Law for hard disks that says bit densities have increased factor of 1000 in 10.5 years meaning a doubling every 13 months) is no longer being achieved by hard drive manufacturers. Instead I discovered that Kryders Law was just a creation of Wikipedia's overenthusiastic editors that misinterpreted a single Scientific American headline. Wikipedia editors accidentally invented the "law", and it isn't even correct.

You can read about it at my site here: http://www.mattscomputertrends.com/Kryder's.html [mattscomputertrends.com]

The search engines are dong us all a favor getting rid of this problem.

Re:Kryder's Law (2, Interesting)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093834)

Some formulation of the hard disk law has been around long before the SciAm article. It seems to me that some Wikipedia author remembered such a variation, went looking for "verifiability" found the SciAm article, slapped Kryder's name onto the "Law" and voila! Kryder's Law was born!

Re:Kryder's Law (2, Insightful)

matt21811 (830841) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093852)

"Some formulation of the hard disk law has been around long before the SciAm article"

Yes, and that law was called Moore's Law. I think the role of an encyclopedia is to document, not invent.

Re:This is a good thing (3, Insightful)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093864)

but did you change the wikipedia entry to reflect that? :-) Thanks for pointing it out, I'm headed there now. Mind if I link you on the talk page?

Re:This is a good thing (1)

matt21811 (830841) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093872)

Please go right ahead.
My criticism isnt of Wikipedia. Its of bad headlines that mislead.

Re:This is a good thing (1)

onebecoming (965642) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093972)

Dude, in the context of the article on a guy named Mark Kryder, "Kryder's Law" is not a bad headline. It's provocative, it pulls you in, it makes you ask "who's Kryder?" You can't blame Sci Am for the fact that a literalist Wikipedia editor (aren't they all?) misinterpreted a headline. This is especially true given the article's intended audience; I don't think people without enough critical thinking skills to parse a headline is part of Sci Am's target demographic.

I resent those relentless modernists, long past their expiration date, who believe that stale, beige verbiage is the key to objectivity and that the news media are therefore obligated to suck their content dry. Give me the juice, I say. Give me the sap. Cry on camera for me, engage me, and I shall reward you with my coin and readership. And I'll probably end up better informed.

Re:This is a good thing (2, Funny)

dsci (658278) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093909)

search engines are dong us all

Truer words were never spoken.

Wikipedia = left-brain machine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15093921)

Is it really a surprise to you that Wikipedia misinterpreted the headline? Your typical Wikipedia editor is no more human than a severely autistic searchbot. Humor, allusion, style, the subtle artistry of prose--it's all lost on those poor binary-thinking hypercompulsives.

Re:This is a good thing (5, Interesting)

David Hume (200499) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093955)

There may be two other factors involved such that the trend to write headlines in this way would remain even if there was no "Google / crawler" bias.

First, I think newspapers on the web have a far broader, and less knoweldgeable (or at least less "locally" knowledgeable) audience than their paper brethren. I know before the web I would read the LA Times (I'm in LA), the NY Times, and *maybe* the Washington Post. Now, I read newspapers from all over the U.S. and the U.S. and the world. In that setting puns, allusions, double entendres, sarcastic remarks, etc. don't work for me. I'm supposed to understand puns in headlines from the Pakistan Times? Sophisticated allusions from the Soweto Daily? I don't think so. Even headlines from Birmingham, Alabama that require I'm knowledgeable about "obvious" local knowledge? No. Just give me a "boring" headline that might catch my interest and that I can understand.

Second, I recently read that English is, or soon will be, the first language in the history of the world where more people speak it as a second language than speak it as their first language. This is expected to have an impact on the evolution of English. I think it will have an effect of "dumbing down" the language on the Net. The New York Times and Chicago Tribune headline writer is now thinking of his audience in Japan, Korea, etc.

Taste food? (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093816)

Why yes! I do taste food...

Re:Taste food? (1)

Carthag (643047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093894)

Inefficient! Intravenous is faster.

Content (5, Funny)

Dante Shamest (813622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093817)

If a site's content is good, people come regardless.

Slashdot's popularity is an anomaly though...

Tagging (1)

michaelnz (701047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093893)

May I suggest that everyone tag this story "thankgod"

Re:Content (1)

Sky Cry (872584) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094027)

Slashdot's content is the comments.

Re:Content (1)

slavemowgli (585321) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094066)

Slashdot is like McDonald's, in a way. Glitzy and shiny to lure you in, but when you take a bit, you find that the actual products's pretty lacking. Still, you come back for more, even though every time, you resolve not to.

It's a strange thing, and I'm not resistant to it, either (both with McDonald's and with Slashdot).

i think its the journalists (2, Interesting)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093824)

why on earth would you write an article about the style of headlines in Google's news aggregation? it really isn't like Google is creating its own summary by mashing all the aggregated news articles together. some reporter somewhere wrote that dry headline.

Creativity in Journalism? (0)

tuxedobob (582913) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093851)

I thought most journalists were already "creative" enough without needing to put miserable puns in their headlines.

(What the hell does one find in a "Scene" or "Lifestyle" section anyway?)

Re:Creativity in Journalism? (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093898)

(What the hell does one find in a "Scene" or "Lifestyle" section anyway?)

Slashvertisements.

KFG

Re:Creativity in Journalism? (4, Interesting)

prockcore (543967) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093918)

I thought most journalists were already "creative" enough without needing to put miserable puns in their headlines.

Copy editors write the headlines, not journalists. That explains why you get those kitshy headlines in the first place, it's their only creative outlet.

Re:Creativity in Journalism? (2, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093932)

Copy editors write the headlines

I've got a few of those among my family and friends.

One of them lost his job over "32 Scoot to Shoot with Plane Aflame."

I'm afraid I wasn't terribly sympathetic.

KFG

Re:Creativity in Journalism? (1)

onebecoming (965642) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094067)

Why, not cringeworthy [offoffoff.com] enough [offoffoff.com] ?

Re:Creativity in Journalism? (1)

Monkeys!!! (831558) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094099)

(What the hell does one find in a "Scene" or "Lifestyle" section anyway?)
When ever someone says go get a life, the lifestyle section is the source you are supposed to go to... So I'm told at least.

Re:Creativity in Journalism? (3, Interesting)

mashade (912744) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094138)

I don't really mind drab headlines as long as the point is clear. What really gets my goat are authors that think they're being clever when they twist a headline's grammar simply to insert that lovely pause -- the comma -- thus saving a word or two.

You've all seen it before, but for example:

In house, wife murders husband

By all, a good time had

On spring break, not taking it Easy

I couldn't think of many good examples, (the last is taken from washingtonpost.com) but I'm sure you see my point. Why bother? It sounds dumb. It looks dumb. And in the case of my silly examples above, doesn't even save a character.

Stop twisting the headlines to make them sound like bad headlines.

Wit is good; puns are fine. God dammit, make it readable!

-- Shade

Isn't there a way... (1)

Null Nihils (965047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093868)

to get around this difference in presentation / semantics using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)?

For example, when I use image-based text for nicer fonts on websites I make, I can use CSS to give the tag an image, and shift the plain-text version of the content off to the side so it doesn't appear on graphical browsers. Slashdot itself uses these techniques in its HTML.

There are, in fact, lots of methods CSS provides to get around this problem, most of which are even supported by junky browsers like MSIE.

Re:Isn't there a way... (5, Interesting)

NetSettler (460623) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093942)

I can use CSS to give the tag an image, and shift the plain-text version of the content off to the side so it doesn't appear on graphical browsers

I completely agree with the spirit of your remark insofar as you're suggesting that technology can trivially solve this problem.

Not just for this, but for an international audience generally (many of whom read English but have trouble with idioms, sarcasm, and other advanced usages), it wouldn't hurt to have an XML or HTML markup that is, effectively, the ability to associate a plainer meaning to text for alternate use. A browser could be put in a mode to show the fancy use, show the basic use, or show the fancy use but with plain use pop-ups like tool tips (or plain-use explanation-on-demand-by-right-click). Doing it this way would allow search engines to offer a radio button saying "search idiomatic uses" which was, perhaps, defaultly off, but that could be re-enabled if the witty text was what stuck in your mind.

Good headlines are like good subject lines in mail. One of the best subject lines I ever saw in email was the text "crowbar in head". No, it wasn't about crowbars, it was about a "brain-damaged program" someone was alleged to have written. It might be a bad search keyword if I was searching for info on crowbars literally, but it is very easy for me to find in old mail because it was unique and easy to remember. I would hate to see the net move away from the ability to make useful labels.

I also worked at a company where the User Interface people got overzealous and started to rename all the editor commands from things like "View xxx" and "Show xxx" and "Print xxx" and so on to just "Show xxx" because they thought that was more regular. But at some point someone noticed that the emacs-style command keys like Control-V (formerly mnemonic for View) no longer made sense. Those UI people were soon pejoratively nicknamed the "View Police" because their entire focus seemed to be on stamping out flexible use of language. People started to rightly question whether eliminating all the synonyms in the language was good, because it meant every time you searched for "Show" you got a zillion hits and every time you searched for "View" you got zero. There are times when this is right and times when this is absolutely wrong, but the problem is not fixed by renaming commands. A better fix would be to have search commands that understand likely synoyms and then the option to turn that on and off. I think that lesson might apply here, too.

So I think there's a lot you could do with, for example, an extended USAGE="sarcasm|wit|pun|joke|..." MEANING="this is a rewording" attribute in, for example, a SPAN element of HTML, for example.

What I don't agree with is doing something like making an IMG tag that has sarcasm or wit or whatever in it and then having the ALT attribute for the IMG element use the plain text. The reasons are many, but include such issues as: eventually Google will search text found in images so it's a temporary solution, people on non-image-based browsers (including the sight-impaired) deserve access to wit, and, most fundamentally, the whole point of markup is that it allows a flexible ability to tag things with their true nature. The true nature is not "wit is graphical and plain meaning is text"; that's just a way to shoehorn a solution into existing frameworks.

(If this is not what you meant, then I've misread you and would appreciate a more detailed explanation of what you're going after.)

Re:Isn't there a way... (2, Insightful)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094013)

Why shift content off screen when you can just tell it to not display it with your CSS? that's one of those things people do that I can't really see the point of (shifting, not hiding). Is there a benefit to only shifting it?

Be warned that you need to block your stylesheets from being crawled though if you try to hide text from users with CSS because search engines can mistake (or be correct in some cases) that as spamming and kill your search placement because of it.

It's a handy way to put more keywords in pages that users might not want to see. So you can put "Scene [Lifestyle]" and only have the user see the word "Scene" so you are actually helping people find you. Something I do is include common differences in how to write part numbers in that kind of hidden text. On my site the users can search and find stuff by that hidden text but they won't see it because it'd be confussing to them. I go ahead and include it in the page source though so that people searching on Google, Yahoo, etc can also find those pages. Pretty much what the keywords meta tag probably should be used for but isn't since search engine spammers devalued those tags.

Re:Isn't there a way... (5, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094073)

There is an even better method for keeping witty headlines *and* be ranked in top position with google : pr0n. Here are some sample headlines :

- UN concerned about Iraq and free hentai
- Pope Benedict XVI replaces John Paul II in bondage
- France strikers and Natalie Portman arrested

Re:Isn't there a way... (1)

ClamIAm (926466) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094149)

to get around this difference in presentation / semantics using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)?

Ever heard of the "meta" tag?

Revert the Pyramids (4, Interesting)

n8k99 (888757) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093871)

Maybe now the articles will be written in a manner which actually resemble a story rather than having a fistful of facts crammed down your throat in burst of staccato like phrases. It would be quite an innovation for the newspapers to tell stories that make you want to read them rather than wrap your fish. Might even include some room for style to enter into the picture.

Two headlines? (2, Insightful)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093873)

Would it be that hard to develop a standard (perhaps much like meta-tagging), giving one set of data easily digestible by the bots (and not displayed to the human reader), while retaining an entertaining writing style for human consumption? Computers don't always have an easy time digesting data a human would find simple to understand, and vice-versa. Shouldn't that generally be acknowledged by design? (Disclaimer: I don't do much work with web design. If you do and you know why this hasn't been done or won't work, please let me know.)

Re:Two headlines? (1)

Null Nihils (965047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093886)

This has been done and does work, its called CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). CSS separates the text content from the presentation, the visual look from the actual semantics. See my unparented post above!

Note that not a lot of sites, even on the "modern" Web, take advantage of CSS. Using CSS requires a little bit of skill and attention, is based on Open Standards, and helps both 'bots and the disabled to understand Web content. So, naturally, most web designers don't use it properly. :P

Re:Two headlines? (1)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093954)

CSS requires more than a little bit of skill to get it right across all browsers. The amount of time one needs to spend buried in their search engine of choice looking for work-arounds or fixes to get internet explorer working; it is far beyond the time most people have available to them.

Even when web designers use CSS properly, Microsoft go and screw it all up. (Not only limited to Microsoft, though they sure are the worst in my tiny little opinion)

Re:Two headlines? (1)

jdbartlett (941012) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094024)

Advanced CSS (such as would cause browser problems) isn't really needed to do this - just use an image for the flashy section name (scene) and alt text and a hidden span containing the plain text name (lifestyle). The same could actually be done with headlines - as the story is uploaded, it would be uploaded with two headlines, one a 'witty' headline, the other relevant. The 'witty' headline could be converted to an image (there are several server-scripts out there to do this) while the relevant headline remains text. The relevant headline could be displayed immediately under the 'witty' headline image while the 'witty' headline is displayed as text link in the news index.

Re:Two headlines? (1)

tinkertim (918832) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094034)

I use skiplinks which I don't display inside of graphical browsers, .skipLinks {display: none;}

However they are just anchored links to the areas of my page, i.e. content, header, footer and navigation.

I use them for easy linking from other pages, so I can cut down on the amount of anchored links inside of the respective sections. It's more for lazyness and organization than SEO.

They also help on the odd chance someone is using a text based browser to view my pages, right up top so only a few arrow strokes in Lynx gets you where you want to go.

Google doesn't mind you making your site organized and inter-operable. They do mind it when you attempt to add content for SEO value that is not visible to someone who would visit your page under normal circumstances. This is called "cloaking" (even though you aren't using some application to generate content just for Google) and will get you banned quickly.

Google will blacklist you for that. (5, Informative)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093929)

That's in essence what happened to BMW.

Google doesn't like you presenting different data to their search engine than the user would find if they visited. And I can easily see why. Sites would abuse the heck out of it.

See this link amongst many.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4685750.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Two headlines? (5, Informative)

Anthony Boyd (242971) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093933)

Would it be that hard to develop a standard (perhaps much like meta-tagging), giving one set of data easily digestible by the bots (and not displayed to the human reader), while retaining an entertaining writing style for human consumption?

That won't ever happen (or more precisely, if it ever happens, it will fail). The problem is that we've done that before with the meta tags you mentioned. See what the SEO world has to say about them (summary: they're nearly useless now). Here's the deal. Any time you create a system for someone to deliver one thing to search engines and another thing to humans, what happens is a small group of opportunists will create massively spammy porn pages for human viewing, while making the search-engine content about every popular topic under the sun. You'll see a headline-made-for-Google which reads, "Britney Spears on Will and Grace" but when you click it, the headline-for-humans reads, "3 lesbian midgets have a pee party!"

Re:Two headlines? (1)

neonstz (79215) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094157)

You'll see a headline-made-for-Google which reads, "Britney Spears on Will and Grace" but when you click it, the headline-for-humans reads, "3 lesbian midgets have a pee party!"
You say it like it's a bad thing.

Re:Two headlines? (3, Insightful)

tbo (35008) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093940)

Would it be that hard to develop a standard (perhaps much like meta-tagging), giving one set of data easily digestible by the bots (and not displayed to the human reader), while retaining an entertaining writing style for human consumption?

As another poster pointed out, something like this is already possible, via CSS and/or meta tags. The problem is that the system gets abused. Scammers will feed "NATALIE PORTMAN NAKED AND PETRIFIED" or some other high-demand content as the headline to Google, while hapless human users get to see Cialis ads and penis enlargement spam. Naturally, search engine designers know about this and use countermeasures to punish sites that send different content to webcrawlers and users, on the assumption that such tricks are usually employed for malicious purposes. The collateral damage is any site that actually has a legitimate reason to serve different content to webcrawlers than to users.

I know from personal experience that designing for Google has had a negative impact on the aesthetics of my wife's website. Some might argue that designing for Google usually results in a "slimmer" design with more text and less unnecessary images, but when your website is about something visual (say, art), that can be counterproductive. Also, making a (visual) art site have better support for screenreaders seems kind of pointless, and maybe even cruel. What would the ALT tags say? "A really nice painting--too bad you can't see it".

Re:Two headlines? (2, Informative)

Turakamu (523427) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093965)

Would it be that hard to develop a standard (perhaps much like meta-tagging), giving one set of data easily digestible by the bots (and not displayed to the human reader), while retaining an entertaining writing style for human consumption?

Like the keyword meta? It was a tag designed specifically so content authors could assist the search engines to classify the information easily, without poluting the readable canvas. Very useful in theory.

Search engines stopped using the keyword data as search engine optimisers (vile opportunistic scum that they are) abused the mechanism with words that weren't relevant to the page. Selfish human behaviour destroys another opportunity to make life better for everybody else. Personally I'd like to see them tacked on the anti-spam legislation.

Re:Two headlines? (1)

dcapel (913969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094029)

Google gets really pissed and will ban people who present a different site to a bot than a human. Getting banned by Google is a Really Bad Thing.

Search engines want to search what you HAVE, not what you think you have.

Ugh (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15093891)

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."'"

"Sex" turned into "Scatting on a midget who's being busy with a horse"

good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15093902)

This is the doubleplusgood way to go. Using too many words can only lead to thoughtcrime.

Writing for Alta Vista, maybe. (3, Insightful)

scaryjohn (120394) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093903)

I thought the boring, machine-readable stuff (i.e., not just headlines) was supposed to be in metadata. No need to do a hatchet job on a descriptive or witty title. Of course, I just may be an old codger in Internet time.

What's more, I thought the whole point of Pagerank was to make your page associated with what others think your page is about... that if your obituary about Gene Pitney is entitled "Tulsa star: The life and career of much-loved 1960's singer." it'll show up in a search for Gene Pitney because (hopefully) that string will be indexed from the page body and that as other people associate your page with Pitney — irrespective of the <title> that obituary will float towards the top. And if they use your witty title, not only will you get more popular for "Gene Pitney", but also "Tulsa Star" as well.

But there are unwashed masses that do use other search engines, but I thought the last people to rely absolutely on metadata were Alta Vista and WebCrawler.

Google discovers toilet paper (1)

grikdog (697841) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093915)

I was going to do a rant about how Google hires Deep Thinkers who can crack bizarre mathematical conundrums, but na'atheless can't write a search algorithm that dredges up the history of toilet paper, but it turns out they've nailed that one. More or less. If you want the sources instead of the dissertations, it ain't so charmin'.

GOOOOD (5, Insightful)

tehwebguy (860335) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093927)

the author didn't seem to consider the possibility that readers prefer this..

i personally would rather actually know what articles are about based on their headlines, than be tricked into reading something by a misleading headline. most headlines aren't "creative", so much as they are "dishonest" in the newspaper.

i skim through my university's paper every other week, and i usually am reminded why i don't read it more often.

Direct, Content Relevant Headlines Are Good (5, Informative)

Soong (7225) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093931)

(notice my to-the-point headline)

Really, not only is it good for search engines, it's good for my brain's relevance filter for trying to see if I care about the story the headline points to.

POOR BABIES (1)

Edmund Blackadder (559735) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093935)

They have to write informative headlines now.

Not about search engines (5, Insightful)

JanneM (7445) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093951)

This is really only tangentially about search engines. It's really about people finding things by searching, rather than by browsing, today.

It used to be a potential reader would be standing in front of a magazine stand, or leafing idly through a newspaper. To grab that reader, a witty, slightly hard-to-understand headline was great - it catches your attention and makes you at least look closer since you want to know what that mysterious piece is actually about. And thus you made the single-copy sale, and perhaps, in time, sold a subrscription.

Today we increasingly don't start by picking up a paper and looking within for what we want; we find things by searching for what we want and end up on anyone of a large number of newspapers and magazine sites. The choice of paper isn't the start of the process - the search is. And when we search, that witty off-color headline is going to mislead us since it doesn't actually contain the key terms that would indicate relevance. Making headlines and summaries clear, straight and to the point isn't about pandering to search engines, but of adjusting to the changing behavior of the readership.

It's the reader behavior that has changed. The search engine angle is just a smokescreen.

Why are so many people threatened by puns? (4, Interesting)

nugneant (553683) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093970)

I personally like them. Give me some dry wit - or "32 Scoot to Shoot with Plane Aflame" (see comments above) - over a boring summary of the facts any day of the week. Personally, I'm apt to think this is symptomatic of the decay within our society - but then again, I'm apt to think that over the latest Steven Spielberg movie as well, so go figure. Really, it harkens back to a day when those who read the paper, read the entire newspaper, and thusly would know the entire news. The headlines were there more to prepare your mind for the inevitable than to attract the reader's eye. This USA Today trend of posting full color buzzwords on the front page, so Joe Schmoe can skim it and knows what names to drop around the water cooler today, has got to stop.

-1 Flamebait out of the way, it's time to go for my weak attempt at +1 Insightful:

Wouldn't it be relatively simple for Google to allow newspapers the use of "alt" or "meta" tags for their headlines? Considering there's a small, reasonably finite number of trusted news sources, couldn't some sort of whitelist be easily implemented?

Re:Why are so many people threatened by puns? (1)

Lally Singh (3427) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094004)

Dude, read some news about Apple for a while. Thousands of the same stupid "bite out of" headlines will quickly change your opinion.

Re:Why are so many people threatened by puns? (1)

nugneant (553683) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094171)

I've engineered a solution, which is to not give a crap about Apple until they can come out with a product that is well designed, well supported, won't break after two weeks of use, and, oh yeah, can be fixed by anyone when something minor goes wrong [ipodsdirtysecret.com] - maybe then I'll start groaning at the predictable journalism jokes.

(yes, I know the iPod has had replaceable batteries for a year or so now, but that doesn't change the fact that for three years, they didn't).

obvious solution (2, Insightful)

jdbartlett (941012) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093978)

Obvious solution: use images to display the witty section names (scene) and alt text and hidden span text displaying the boring name (lifestyle). With a little work, the same could be applied to headlines.

Media contexts (1)

virgil_disgr4ce (909068) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093997)

The contexts of the medium have changed very fundamentally. Instead of (comparatively) infrequently delivered paper newspapers, readers (consumers) are on-demand access to the news source. The consumption of newspapers has become dramatically less of a literary activity and more of a computational activity: Instead of a quiet evening mulling over the news in an easy chair, more are inclined to rapidly take in as much news as is relevant and necessary. This is a natural evolution towards increased efficiency. The only thing we're losing with this adaptation is creativity, which is, in this case, effectively linguistic and textual innovation. It raises the question of how important (if at all) creativity is to news writing and reading. The intuitive answer is that it is irrelevant to the efficient consumption of news. In the "evening newspaper" paradigm, creativity is often a basic marketing tool: take the NY Post for example. How many people do you see reading the NY Times versus the Post on the subways? It's not just the (substantial) cost difference, it's the attention-grabbing, sensational tabloid headlines. The NY Post has created a niche for the masses that works the same way any sensational media does, and in these cases efficiency is irrelevant to selling the "news" in the first place. My conclusion would be that in the context of online news media, speed and efficiency detirmine pervasiveness, and therefore advertising revenue. In contrast, paper news media need not expect to be consumed as quickly and efficiently as online. Clearly, publications like the NY Post and the sprawling magazine industry draw their crowd with a certain kind of innovation and creative content (like it or not).

Re:Media contexts (1)

jdbartlett (941012) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094054)

Generally, tabloid headlines are a form of cloak, misguiding or sensationalizing without actually contradicting fact (except when they are); big bold simple words that leave a strong impression. It's an advertising method that perks interest and therefore sells, which is a great thing if you happen to be a media corporation. Dry headlines sell fewer papers, as you noted. When articles are lifted directly from the article to be printed and put on the web, 'witty' headlines can mean lower page rankings. But when articles are written for the web and then printed, high-ranking articles may earn few newsstand readers. If news writers insist on doing one or the other, it's obvious where their priorities should lie: income. Does the paper earn more from page rankings and advertisements, or does it earn more from its print edition? Better yet - why not opt for two headlines, one for print and one for web.

Once upon a time (1)

vloktboky (936167) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094030)

Way back when, they use to shout the news to sell their papers. "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!" anyone? Of course, way back when, they also started a war to sell their papers...

At least we have the security that (-1, Offtopic)

kiyuki (954365) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094043)

Porn will always be porn.

Re:At least we have the security that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15094092)

Apparently you haven't seen much of the Internet.

Animated tentacle midgit milfs... with horses?

good (3, Insightful)

penguin-collective (932038) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094050)

Newspapers should focus on the news. Unfortunately, ours are trying to provide entertainment, sensationalism, titillation, thrills, and witticisms. Lets hope that, after the gimmicky double-entendre headlines are gone, we can also get rid of these other misfeatures of journalism. And, yes, the NYT is one of the biggest offenders.

This has been the case for some time (1)

joeykiller (119489) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094087)

Sometimes it's very satisfying to obnoxiously say "I told you so". Because this is basically what I said would happen in a comment here january last year [slashdot.org] (I wrote, among other things, about sites adapting their design -- if not wording -- to Google).

Search Engine Optimisation is a misconception (2, Insightful)

Qbertino (265505) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094123)

Search Engine optimisation is a contradiction in term

How come does anybody, not to speak of web designers, get the stupid idea that one has to optimise ones website for search engines anyway? Isn't that totally backwards? I should optimise my website for *users* and their expierience and the general webstandards. If the search engine is to stupid to find content on my site that is relative to a search, then it certainly isn't my job to optimise for them. That's the job of search engines themselves. That's where the name comes from.
Guess why Altavista missed out when Google appeared. The had the more optimised search engine.

I allways thought (and still think) that so-called webdesigners that offer their customers 'search engine optimisation' (whatever that's supposed to be) to be the used-car sales and multilevel marketing lot of IT field. Some shady semi-professionals offering some non-product. Whenever I'm finished building a Web CMS Site for customers I take the time to feed the URL into the searchbots so they do the first scan of the site more quickly, but that's it. If anyone comes to me bickering about the bad search results a searchengine comes up with I usually tell them that if the searchengine sucks, they should use a different one. It's that simple, really.

Bottom line:
If you're doing *anything* on the web, forget about search engines and just build a good site. If your site is good and the search engine is good, both will find each other fast. All else is just bogus.

British Left Waffles on Falklands (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15094147)

This is bad news... these puns are quite entertining at times. The subject of this post is an example of one of my favorites: British Left Waffles on Falklands.
I find it hard to believe that posters don't see the value in this sort of word-play. For goodness sake, as a computer scientist, language and grammar are highly important and our wordplay sets us apart from the machine!

-Starfishprime

Praise be to Jeebus! (1)

schnitzi (243781) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094162)

Come ON, people. When a newspaper has an article titled "Something Fishy About Springdale's New Winter Festival" is there ANY part of you that's fooled for even a millisecond by the pun?

It seems to have become the law that every paper must do this for every headline possible. It makes me want to rip the paper into shreds and piss on them.

Bless your little hearts, Google, if you are indeed having this effect. Give me a straightforward headline over an insipid one any day of the week.

This has already been done in modern media (1)

RandomPrecision (911416) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094204)

Snakes on a Plane!
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