Up Yours Fox Sports (Your Headline Is A Promise, Stop Breaking It)


Like many people, Facebook has become the largest non-direct way I access news. I ‘like’ just about every major Australian news organisation and then some. With so may options coming into my stream I rely heavily on headlines for selecting which stories I read.

After many weeks of frustration this morning I gave Fox Sports Australia the punt with a very aggressive click on the ‘Unlike this page’ button. I hope I never see them in my stream again. The reality of their content had simply failed to meet the promise of their headlines on too many occasions. They annoyed me and then they lost me.

More often than not they promised ‘the best’ of something, usually a video, only to deliver a very mediocre something. “The Best Goal You Will See This Year” followed by a video of a very average goal (more often than not a 15 second clip preceded by a 30 sec ad!). “Jarryd Hayne Stuns NFL Commentators”, followed by a couple of commentators saying the Aussie is ‘not doing too bad’.

I’m sure they don’t care but I also have news.com.au on a very short leash and they are likely to get the chop by the end of the week if they don’t change their ways.

Your headline is a promise

As any first year marketing student will know, failing to meet customers’ expectations for your products and services is one of the surest ways to damage your reputation.

In a competitive content space your headline is your promise. If the content doesn’t deliver on the promise, you are damaging your brand.

The temptation in a competitive market is always to over reach, make your content sound like something it’s not, just get the click at any cost.

If ‘get the click at any cost’ is your headline writing strategy you better be prepared to pay the price. You may get away with it for a short period by replacing dis-enfranchised readers with new readers (attracted by great headlines) but eventually you end up annoying everybody. It will quickly become a death spiral for your readership as the pool of new readers shrinks and the pool of ex-readers grows.

Content is a long game, clickbait is short term

Just as great content has the capacity to grow customer engagement, it also has the capacity to grow dis-engagement.

Unlike traditional advertising and marketing mediums, content is not about achieving an instant sale; it should be about delivering a lifetime of sales. Your content should build trust, respect and likability. This doesn’t happen with one story, one video or one infographic, it happens over time across multiple interactions and multiple pieces of content.

Luring customers with the false promise of a headline that can’t be justified by the substance of the content is the surest way to undo all of your hard work.

Simple tips for great headlines

Creating a good headline has the capacity to make or break an article. Here are a few tips to keep you on track.

  • Create your content and then write the headline
  • At least 25% of the time spent writing an article should be spent on the headline and first par.
  • Test your headline with a colleague or a customer
  • Don’t trick people into reading something boring; draw them into something exciting.
  • Be descriptive and detailed, while still being punchy
  • Consider the context – will the piece be read online or offline (magazine etc)? Does it work on the social net? Who is the target audience?