Headline Writers are Trolls

In the past a headline was well crafted short and succinct way of reflecting the content of a news article. But just like many a catchy epithet in a marketing campaign, today many are nothing but the shallow outpouring of a seedy huckster.

I trained as a sub-editor and mourn the death of quality, but realise that as the world changes, so much everything which depends on a market to survive.
While it’s easy to be critical of the News Media and their linkbait behaviour – believe me I am regularly – perhaps they are just reflecting real life? As so much information is constantly available, we need a reason to pick one piece over the other.

It was serendipitous then when today a couple of non-deliberate interesting real life examples of my own happened to somewhat prove what I had been mulling over for some time.

I tweet a lot. Randomly. Deliberately. Never Selectively. It isn’t that I don’t believe in quality over quantity, its because I realised more than two years ago that twitter is a stream of thought for hundreds of thousands (now many millions) people in real time and the overwhelming majority of your tweets will never be read or at the very least be only read by a few of your real followers.

So when, in the middle of the torrent, specific tweets get picked up for attention, whether that be retweets, mentions or favourites I always ask myself why.

Today while standing at the station awaiting the train, I noted three people one after the other utterly immersed in their iPhones. In order to get surreptitious #tightsarenotpants photos I’ve kind of mastered the art of the odd sly photograph. So I quickly snapped the three modern sycophants at play and instantly tweeted it.

One or two responses came in, of varying disapproval and mirth. And a few retweets.

Then later tonight I was watching my very favourite comedy and was selectively tweeting punchlines from the Show. Swiss Toni is always a favourite of everybody, despite his apparent sexist ways. And despite one his lines being 13 years old and surrounded by a feast of other ridiculously out of context lines from show, this was the one which got noticed, responded to and retweeted.


What made both tweets stand out from the crowd? Well I can’t answer that for those who responded to them. Perhaps they’ll comment below.

What I know is people are attracted to controversy and conflict. Tabloid Headline writers know this. Trolls live by it.



you know that online media are all over it.

Most of us want a quiet life, but perhaps some of us, if we want to get noticed online, need to challenge a bit harder.

Or write a better headline.

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4 thoughts on “Headline Writers are Trolls

  1. Hey Frank, interesting stuff. How and why people use technology is very interesting to me, in particular I’ve done writing and public commentary (including in some cases the media), talking about how the more things change the more they stay the same and how technology utilisation by people today can contain oddly nostalgic use cases and it’s not always obvious.

    It probably wasn’t what you were doing, but a lot of journalism laments the demise of things like books and outright blames technology for it. When you Tweeted that “We don’t read books anymore.”, for some reason I immediately imagined all the three people were all reading classic novels in a Kindle app on their phones, and it made me chuckle.

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