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This Boring Headline is Written for Google 317

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the always-a-price-to-pay dept.
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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This Boring Headline is Written for Google

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  • by tinkertim (918832) * on Sunday April 09, 2006 @01:37AM (#15093809) Homepage
    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.
    • 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.
       
      • 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 t
        • by rolfwind (528248) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @04:16AM (#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.
          • I agree. Digg is not entirely unique, either. kuro5hin/scoop allow anyone to rate a comment (though they show the average rating, and ratings aren't as meaningful as digg or /.).

            I've heard that a new rating system is in the pipelines. Good. A Javascript/AJAX implementation shouldn't suffer from "scalability" problems that the /. programmers are always complaining about.

          • I'll agree with you to some exent, there is a problem with the system that /. uses, but perhaps it is the best of the bad systems we have to choose from. The things I like about it include that it is harder to get mod points, meaning by the time people get them they should "get" how things should be and achieve a level of maturity within the system. One thing that I really dislike though is what I will call the "mod flame war", I've had comments modded up to 5 by people who agreed with me and then down to
          • by nutshell42 (557890) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @08:39AM (#15094499) Journal
            Absolutely not.

            If I look at digg, the percentage of idiotic, flamebait and stupid-but-common-misconception posts that are modded up and of witty, insightful and thought-provoking posts that are modded down is disheartening.

            Yes there are stupid mods on /.; a number of my posts have been modded down because the mod simply didn't know what he was doing or because he had an ax to grind (or modded up for the same reasons =). But overall the situation's much better here especially when the discussion's about things that tend to end in flamewars (Apple, Linux DEs etc =)

        • Well it started off as a 4, now its a -1 .. so looks like someone called all of their buddies "HEY, you got mod points? Go mod this down .. " , thats just .. pathetic.

          It pisses me off because I spent time contributing, and now most people won't see it. I don't post just for the sake of doing it, I work in the business of helping people make sites successful and had some things to share. I don't care what people reply about it, the kick in the ass is because someone's ego got a boner nobody is going to even
      • "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
      • >> These days, users become subscribers so that they can get first post and fool the moderators into thinking that what they wrote was insightful.

        I don't post to earn brownie points, I post because I like participating here. You read articles, and post your thoughts regarding them. I bought a subscription because I got sick of the ads (I thinK I complained about ads in my post .. ).

        You're welcome to challenge anything I have to say, but .. challenge it in a friendly way and I'm happy to banter. A blan
        • I bought a subscription because I got sick of the ads...

          That's funny... I just use Adblock. I have a subscription as well, but it's more to see what's coming up and to browse back beyond the first page of history for a given user.

          You're welcome to challenge anything I have to say, but .. challenge it in a friendly way and I'm happy to banter.

          When I reply to a post, it's done so as I please... whether or not you feel like bantering is, of course, up to you.

          [...] Otherwise you just sound like a rather un-hap
    • 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.
    • by kfg (145172) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:19AM (#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
    • by Ru55el (967148) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @04:22AM (#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.
      • by pla (258480) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @08:29AM (#15094485) Journal
        Any suggestions we try and break the mold and develop relations with the press to obtain credible editorial are laughed at.

        Of course they laugh at you for such suggestions!

        I really don't see the problem here... If the topic involved writers of fiction, writers of poetry, some form of "artistic" endeavor, I would say that writing-to-Google could destroy it.

        But the topic does NOT involve "art", it involves NEWS. Writers (supposedly) of "fact".

        If Google forces every journalist on the planet to stop thinking themselves "cute", if it finally and fully destroys the abomination of filler they call "human interest", if it means I can read a story about a dead cat and not mistake it for a physics pun (or vice-versa), I applaud the change Google has forced on journalists!


        My advice - Don't fight a positive change for your profession. Embrace it. Google has made it possible for anyone with an interest in your story, whether you write for the NYT or the East Nowhere Gazette, to find and read your words. It has also, as a POSITIVE side effect, forced you to stick to the point and not assume airs that you create some form of art. It even makes basic fact-checking a 30-second (rather than all day) task.

        You can either use all of that to your benefit, or complain that it forces you to do your job better. But whichever you choose, keep in mind that Google has also lowered the bar for entry - Any of a million bloggers could (though you can take comfort that very few do) decide to post about something more interesting than what Sam said Hunter did to Crystal and how much it pissed off Joey.
        • As a search engine Google is great. The one beef I have about Google-driven news is in terms of me obtaining credible editorial for my company. I would much rather it was solicited by journo's genuinely interested in what we have to say, and offer, rather than print our PR verbatim. When Joe Bloggs reads a press release in PC Mag he can see it for what it is, just another advertorial. Why should he believe it? Nor do I believe it's an 100% positive change for the profession I am in in as it forces public
          • Nor do I believe it's an 100% positive change for the profession I am in in as it forces publications to pick up on wire service releases to please the advertisers; not the man in the street. While that may bring home the bacon for one and all it certainly stifles investigative journalism

            Ah, then I owe you an apology. On that point, we agree - Entirely too much news has turned into cookie-cutter ripoffs on what the Big Boys decide to cover.

            I had taken your earlier post as more of a stylistic complaint
    • >The sites that attract visitors through searches and make revenue by serving ads are established and have consumed the available market share.
      This is wrong or at best, misleading. Online advertising continues to grow. New publishers succeed. New niches are discovered. Competition increases but online advertising continues to florish.

      >Sorry guys, but the days of putting up hundreds of pages of content and waiting for Google to do your marketing are gone.
      Welcome to yesterdays news. Doorway pag
  • by jpopper (947183) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @01:38AM (#15093810) Homepage
    I'm boring, straight to the point, and can't be creative even if my life was on the line. Hire me!
    • God forbid... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by severoon (536737) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @04:46AM (#15094169) Journal
      ...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.
      • by Angostura (703910) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @06:47AM (#15094352)
        First off, someone is confusing "section headings" and "headlines". Second you are conflating misleading, confusing headlines with ones that use language imaginatively.

        I've written some headlines in my time; getting something to fit to the page, convey the meaning and (hopefully) be elegant is an art. The occasional pun is no bad thing.

        I remember the story of a UK national newspaper sub-seditor who had a headline all made up in hot metal which sat above his head for on a wall for years on the off-chance that the suitable event occurred. It never did.

        The event? He wanted Michael Foot (labour party leader) to be put in charge of the organisation monitoring IRA decommissioning.

        The headline?

        Foot Heads Arms Body.

        Ah well.
  • by TopShelf (92521) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @01:39AM (#15093813) Homepage Journal
    Personally, I can think of nothing that would improve newspapers more than getting rid of those idiotic puns often seen in headlines...
    • But Slashdot isn't a newspaper, is it?
    • by Shimdaddy (898354) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @01:46AM (#15093827) Homepage
      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.
      • by tuxedobob (582913) <tuxedobob AT mac DOT com> on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:00AM (#15093863)
        90% of puns are bad.

        100% of newspaper puns are bad.

        I'd rather read Variances and Zoning Volume XIV.
        • 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.
          • My all time favorite magazine cover is the Spetember 10-16, 1994 Economist which bears the headline "The Trouble with Mergers" which features two camels humping and the female looks decidedly unhappy. And yes, I used humping deliberately.
        • A pun in headline [wikipedia.org].
          • by Tim Browse (9263) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @06:11AM (#15094303)

            I once worked for a Flight Simulator company, who came up with a rather innovative solution to the problem of displaying lights, especially at simulated night-time. The simulators cockpits are basically surrounded by a big curved mirror, onto which the final rasterised image is projected, to give a wraparound view. The projectors were called SPX projectors.

            They found that if they just put the lights into the rasterised image that was displayed on the mirror, it looked a bit rubbish - pixelated, aliased etc. So someone came up with the idea of plotting point lights during the flyback period - they could control the beam on the way back to show up to N points of light (by flicking the beam on momentarily). I forget what N was. It looked significantly better, which is important when you're training to fly at night, as pretty much all you can see are landing lights, so you notice if it looks bad.

            Anyway, they came up with the term 'calligraphic' to describe this technique - something to with it the beam being used in a more analogue, continuous way, I guess.

            The real reason was, of course, so they could give the product this name:

            Super Calligraphic Raster SPX Projectors

            I apologise on their behalf.

        • by Varitek (210013) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @06:09AM (#15094299)
          Oh, come on. "Headless body found in topless bar" is a work of genius. "Sick Gloria in transit Monday", also.
      • 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
        • For too long [...] readability and human interest were sacrificed to a false god of objectivity

          Yes, and now the only thing sacrificed to the false god of objectivity is basic reason and logic. "NASA scientists say that the sky is blue and the Earth orbits around the sun, but not all agree: here is an opposing view from Mr. P. Gumby about how the sun is actually a piece of brightly colored yellow paper taped to a giant eggshell that surrounds the Earth. Which is correct? We'll report both sides and leave

    • 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.
    • 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.

    • 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!
    • by raoul666 (870362) <pi,rocks&gmail,com> on Sunday April 09, 2006 @04:20AM (#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.
      • by MartinB (51897) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @05:23AM (#15094227) Homepage
        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
    • The Guardian ... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Tim Ward (514198) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @06:02AM (#15094282) Homepage
      ... has the worst puns and is the best online newspaper ...
    • Well, puns may be bad, but poems are verse.
  • This is a good thing (Score:5, Informative)

    by matt21811 (830841) * on Sunday April 09, 2006 @01:40AM (#15093815) Homepage
    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 (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hackwrench (573697)
      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 (Score:3, Insightful)

        by matt21811 (830841) *
        "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.
    • by ZachPruckowski (918562) <zachary.pruckowski@gmail.com> on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:00AM (#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?
    • search engines are dong us all

      Truer words were never spoken.
    • by David Hume (200499) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:40AM (#15093955) Homepage
      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.
      • by Echnin (607099)
        I doubt more people speak Latin as a first language than as a second language. In addition, you have constructed languages like Esperanto and ancient languages like Coptic, which have no native speakers at all (there are children brought up whose parents speak Esperanto who can arguably be said to speak it as their native language but this number must be quite small). It sounds like a dubious statistic. Looking up on Wikipedia, there are 182 million speakers of French, of whom 87 are native. Of course, the
      • by vadim_t (324782)
        I completely agree.

        English is my third language. I'm capable of talking to people online without problems, and can read technical manuals and books just fine. However, I wouldn't get even half of the witty headlines.

        To put a few examples from the comments here:

        "Super Calligraphic Raster SPX Projectors": This would take a while to sink in, but I'd eventually get it, having seen part of the movie. Have in mind though that not all movies are translated so literally that you can tell a reference to something in
        • by Fnkmaster (89084) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @12:30PM (#15095099)

          "Sick Gloria in transit Monday": Don't get it.

          This has nothing to do with your knowledge of English and everything to do with your knowledge of Latin. "Sic transit gloria mundi" means "thus passes the glory of the world". It's apparently recited as part of the papal coronation ceremony. Anyway, 98% of Americans would not get this either. But that's not the point - for those who do, it's funny. :)


          "Close but no cigar"

          Not a pun at all. There's nothing to get here - it's just a saying that means "close, but you missed the target". Either you know what the saying means or not, there's no way to figure it out. Apparently a reference to the mid-1900s practice of giving out cigars as prizes at local fairs for winning contests.

          "Foot Heads Arms Body"
          This would mean nothing to an American either (well, an American would get the pun value, but not know who Foot was or what Arms Body they were talking about).

          "COPS MAKE BUTT-ER KNIFE CON SPREAD 'EM"

          This one I didn't get until I looked at the story either, it doesn't really parse even to a well-educated native English speaker. Basically, this pun is only funny even to a native speaker if you know the story behind it (that the con was hiding the butter knife in his butt and the cops had to umm... search his orifices for the knife).

          So... give yourself more credit. Most of what you didn't get was pretty much impossible to get, or has nothing to do with the English language. :)
  • Content (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dante Shamest (813622) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @01:40AM (#15093817)

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

    Slashdot's popularity is an anomaly though...

    • 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).
  • by caffeinemessiah (918089) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @01:45AM (#15093824) Journal
    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.
  • Revert the Pyramids (Score:3, Interesting)

    by n8k99 (888757) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:01AM (#15093871) Homepage Journal
    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? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by laughingcoyote (762272) * <barghesthowlNO@SPAMexcite.com> on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:03AM (#15093873) Journal

    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.)

    • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:25AM (#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]
      • "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."

        Except it's a damn lazy proxy measure of spam. Instead of measuring "WHAT", (spam or ham), they measure "HOW", (how is this text delivered). If it's not visible to a user, it must be spam, if it is visible to user, its ham. Hoping that the user will verify the text for them.

        I think the following sentence needs to be capitalized:
        TH
    • Re:Two headlines? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anthony Boyd (242971) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:29AM (#15093933) Homepage
      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!"

      • 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.
      • If browsers started displaying metadata at the top of the page when rendering it, maybe people would get more embarassed about 1800-keyword pages and start using the tags sensibly...

    • Re:Two headlines? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tbo (35008) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:31AM (#15093940) Journal
      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? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Turakamu (523427)
      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 opti
  • Ugh (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    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"

  • 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.

  • GOOOOD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tehwebguy (860335) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:25AM (#15093927) Homepage
    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.
  • by Soong (7225) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:26AM (#15093931) Homepage Journal
    (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.
  • They have to write informative headlines now.
  • by JanneM (7445) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:38AM (#15093951) Homepage
    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.

  • 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?
  • I can never find George M. Cohan [filmsite.org] to explain the unintelligible "witty" headlines [wikipedia.org] to me when I come across them.
  • obvious solution (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jdbartlett (941012)
    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.
  • good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by penguin-collective (932038) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @03:41AM (#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.
  • 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).
  • by Qbertino (265505) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @04:20AM (#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.
    • 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 o
    • That's naive (Score:3, Insightful)

      by p3d0 (42270)
      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.
      It is your job, if optimizing for "them" increases your revenue tenfold.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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
  • 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.
  • by LowlyWorm (966676) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @05:32AM (#15094246) Homepage
    Truthful words are not beautiful; beautiful words are not truthful. Good words are not persuasive; persuasive words are not good

    --Lau Tsu
  • by ubiquitin (28396) * on Sunday April 09, 2006 @08:56AM (#15094537) Homepage Journal
    As citizens of this democracy, workers in this nation, and technologist hobbyists, it's hard for all of us to find time to read anything from start to finish. So they're right on that point: the headline is often all you really get out of news. Funny thing is, I know lots of people who are more interested in Matt Drudge's headlines than the NYTimes headlines. He writes better headlines than the NYTimes. They're more timely, more revelent, and often more witty.

    Stick that in your Google and search it.
  • Too Bad (Score:3, Funny)

    by hotspotbloc (767418) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @10:05AM (#15094647) Homepage Journal
    Back in the '70s I remember one of the many classic New York Post headlines:
    CANNABAL IN NEW YORK
    Human BBQ Bash in Bronx
    God bless the New York Post. (...sniff...)
  • by danny (2658) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @10:08AM (#15094655) Homepage
    Six or seven years ago, I [dannyreviews.com] ranked #1 on a search for "book reviews" at most search engines. Eventually the print media cottoned onto sensible TITLEs and link anchors, and I was displaced by the NRYOB and NYT (and I think I'm now down to 10th on Google [google.com]). There are still some really poorly thought-out major sites, but things are getting harder for small web sites.

    The Sydney Morning Herald has not only replaced its old-style "meaningless without context" headings with "boring" ones, but it's stuck them into its URLs - which is another SEO idea.

    Danny.

  • by ctwxman (589366) <me@@@geofffox...com> on Sunday April 09, 2006 @04:04PM (#15095806) Homepage
    I have read through the comments, and I haven't seen anyone mention (I could have missed it) the major change that's brought this about. Search engines are the outward evidence of a totally different way to use information. It used to be you would pick up a paper or turn on the TV news and see what someone else had planned for you. Now, it's information on demand. That's an immense change.

    Oh - the Times article's own headline will be ineffective to search engines.

    I've written more about this on my blog: http://www.geofffox.com/MT/archives/2006/04/09/its _not_smart_to_be_clever.php [geofffox.com]

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