Headline writing tips and stand-up meetings geared to social

The headline wall at Thunderdome.
The headline wall at Thunderdome.

Notice any difference in the headlines written by Digital First Media’s Thunderdome staff recently? A couple months ago, Thunderdome began experimenting with a 5-minute meeting intended to improve headline writing throughout the newsroom.

The weekly headline contest
The meeting’s big draw is a contest for the best headline of the week. By ‘best’ we’re specifically looking for a headline that would play well on social media — something that compels a click. This is an art no one’s quite figured out, I think, and also doesn’t usually have much in common with our other strategy: SEO.

How the contest is judged
A panel of anonymous judges — they don’t even know who the other judges are — votes from a list of the top five headlines to select the best. Their instructions are simple: We want to reward headlines that are clicky and shareable. Choose the headline you’d be most likely to click on.

Before the contest
Each meeting kicks off with a style note. It’s space to highlight persistent mistakes or offer tips, and in a manner breaks the mold of the easily-ignored email.

After the contest
We have been emailing the results of the contest and the weekly style tip internally, but decided to move the follow-up to here on Inside Thunderdome where we can share the process with the rest of Digital First Media and beyond. It’s a good opportunity to let others see what we’re working on to improve our efforts, and how we’re trying to do that.

Here are this week’s results and recap:

THING TO KNOW THIS WEEK
When dealing with money in headlines, only use the abbreviations M (million), K (thousand), as a last resort for space considerations.

WINNING HEADLINE
You won’t believe what this 6th grader is sending into space - by Jillian Sederholm 

OTHER CONTENDERS

Karen Workman will share the results of Thunderdome’s headline contest and the style tip each week right here on Inside Thunderdome. 

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