When is a headline not a headline?

I’m one of those people who still reads newspapers. Even worse, I still get the print newspaper delivered to my doorstep every day. I could wax eloquent about the tactile pleasure and serendipitous delight of paging through a print newspaper, but I’ll spare you.

Often, I find an article thought-provoking enough that I want to share it and my thoughts to the world. Easy – I pop online, find the digital version of the article, and no one needs to know I saw the article first on a dead tree.

However, I ran into problems recently when I looked up the online version of a Wall Street Journal article and couldn’t retrieve it by searching for the title. Eventually, I found it; my problem had been that the digital version had an entirely different title than the print. Curious, I compared a week’s worth of print and digital headlines of WSJ articles and found that fewer than a quarter of the headlines were the same. While some of the titles were similar (“Boeing Scrambles to Get Key Part” and “Boeing, Supplier Wrestle to Produce Key Component”), others were entirely different (“Bye, Boss, Let’s Stay Friends Forever” and “How to Leave Your Job Gracefully”).

When I asked Dow Jones about the discrepancy between print and digital headlines, I got the following not-entirely-satisfying response:

At the Journal we are constantly refining our approach to headlines to ensure that our readers are automatically drawn to our work, whether printed on a page or comprised of pixels.  We often fine-tune headlines in order to reflect developing news and improve SEO, but at the end of the day we are always looking for the best blend of digital optimization and smart journalism.

HERE is a table of the headlines from my one-week sample. Lesson: to find the digital equivalent of a print article quickly, search for a few unusual or distinctive words in the text rather than for words in the headline.

 

3 thoughts on “When is a headline not a headline?

  1. Pingback: Links We Love Weekly Round-Up — September 21, 2015 | Charlotte Law Blog

  2. Hi Mary. Have been a fan for years. I’ve done a lot of work with both online and print news monitoring. Often the print product is very different from what you get online. Often what you see in print you won’t find at all online, and vice versa. Are you aware of “Press Reader” -(www.pressreader.com)? It basically allows you to read a pdf version of your newspaper. You get everything digitally that you would in the print edition.

  3. Unfortunately, PressReader doesn’t include either of my two print newspaper subscriptions, including the US version of the WSJ. 😦

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