In an information-dense world, headlines prevail

By Neicole Crepeau, Contibuting {grow} Columnist

I’ve been extremely busy, lately. With a lot of client work, I have neglected my blog and have been sharing content less on Twitter and G+. Often, I only get to read blogs and share content one or two days a week. When I do, I have to pick which blogs and posts to read from my Feedly list and FeedMyInbox items. My position now is a lot more like that of the average social media user. And it made me ask myself how I’m deciding what to read.

When you’re pressed for time and can only read a few posts, which ones do you pick?

We work to build a subscriber list and a fan base, and we hope that our fans will loyally read our content. For those who have chosen to opt in to our blogs, we hope when push comes to shove, they’ll choose us to read.

I’m finding that being a subscriber isn’t, by itself, though. For me, it’s a combination of:

  • The feeds from people I’ve subscribed to. I click less on links posted on social networks now, because I’m spending less time scanning my Twitter feed or G+. I’m more inclined to look at posts from my short-list of trusted bloggers. That’s the good news.
  • The headlines that speak to me. When you’re scanning, the headline makes all the difference. Whereas before I might have clicked on a headline that I deemed semi-interesting, now I only click on the headlines that convey a topic that really interests me.
  • The hit-rate, or historical quality of the author’s post. This is the one that I think most of us wouldn’t expect. I subscribe to a lot of blogs. Some of them put out posts almost daily. Others weekly or even intermittently. It doesn’t really matter to me how often they post. What does matter to me is what percentage of the posts I find valuable.

It’s the last bullet that I want you to think about. Because I expect that our readers have the same back-of-head quality meter that I do. How many times have you seen a killer headline, clicked on it, and found the post was sub-par? It’s happened too often to me. So while I certainly judge a post by the headline, that’s not the only factor.

Over time, we develop a sense of how often a given author’s posts prove truly really valuable. We have an idea of how well the author delivers on the headline. And when all other things are equal between bloggers, I’m going to open the posts of those writers who have a high batting average—the ones whose posts I almost always find valuable, insightful, thought-provoking, or useful.

So, if you’ve been striving to post every day, even when you don’t have something really ground-breaking or valuable to say, remember that the average reader has a quality meter. When push comes to shove, the historical quality of your posts may be the deciding factor on whether users read your latest post.  That fact might change your approach to blogging.

Neicole Crepeau a blogger at Coherent Social Media and the creator of CurateXpress, a content curation tool. She works at Coherent Interactive on social media, website design, mobile apps, & marketing. Connect with Neicole on Twitter at @neicolec

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  • Spot on Neicole. When I’m swamped, I definitely focus in on a core set of blogs and (next) a very short list of people on Twitter that share sparingly with a very high bar for quality. 

    The standard advice seems to be that headlines are key. It seems we need to add to that: 

    Write a great headline. Then Pay it Off.

    Great post!

  • On the last bullet pion… I agree. It seems like I almost don’t even see the items in my inbox or Twitter feed (that I can’t seem to unsubscribe/unfollow from) that haven’t been as compelling. I just gloss right over and focus in on the people and items that I’ve grown to trust. Heck, I found this from Mr. Iannarino’s Tweet. I’ve grown to trust his eye for content.  It cuts down on having to spend too much time wading through the mess. I don’t have that kind of time. 

  • Anonymous

    Bullet #3 is so true. I have that core set of bloggers I read regularly. I don’t use my RSS feed though, I just have some blogs I regularly check. HOWEVER, I’ll stop checking a blogger after a few times if there are no updates. So, regularity does matter.

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  • Thanks, Eric!

  • Especially for people like you who go visit the blogs rather than have the blog feed come to them.

  • I love that you are relying on a good content curator to share the best content! As I said, I haven’t been as active lately, but when I am, I try to be a filter for others by tweeting only the best content. It lets others save valuable time!

  • Neicole,

    I completely agree with you on the consumption side of things… I’ve been reading mostly through Bloggers on trust on the Google Reader.

    I’m not picking off Random post in Social Media like I used to.

    Thanks!

    Ryan H.

  • Great post Nicole.  I strive to post 3x/week, but sometimes I only make it 2x/week when I don’t feel I’ve got enough quality content for a full post.  I’m noticing a trend, even among bloggers I admire, to go to shorter less meaty posts.  I’m not a fan. 

    I appreciate content curators who are also thought leaders.  That’s the combination that gets me to follow and continue to follow. Of course, the goal of my blog is to clairify.  Some folks may have the goal of provoking.  And, to be fair, sometimes the provocation takes me down the path towards clairification.

    I could definitely take more time to work on my headlines too!

  • Thanks, Claire. I’m also the curator/blogger combo. Though my blog has been inactive due to my heavy work schedule. 

    Sigh. Blogging really can be a full-time job. There is so much to it, headlines, SEO, content sharing/marketing, blog design–all on top of the writing!

  •  Amen!  It can be daunting if you think too much about it (especially if no one is paying you to do it, and you’re just doing it for love).  However, all those things are what go into making a blog successful.

  • Neicole, your post made me think how the way I consume blogs has changed. I’ve been using Rockmelt as a browser for a while and it’s extremely helpful at highlighting the new posts from the blogs I’ve bookmarked. Even then I go through the feeds and look for titles and keywords that particularly interest me. 

    I wish I did have a higher batting average on my own blog, it’s something I work on but I find if I focus too much on what everyone else wants I write less because I’m worried about the response. I tend to use my own blog to collect and discuss information I might find useful in the future, so in a way it works as a record of my work and interests. 

    You also reminded me that I’ve got out of the habit of commenting on blog posts I enjoy. It’ll be my Wednesday resolution to start interacting again. 

  • I tried Rockmelt for a while, but dropped it. Don’t remember why. Maybe I should give it another shot. Sounds like it’s handy for you.

  • Betsy

    I 100% agree – especially with ”
    or historical quality of the author’s post” This is why I no longer look at Huffington Post. More often then not, the headline is great and the story is terrible or doesn’t deliver. Makes me hate them for wasting my time. 

  • With the growth of Twitter I’ve come to use RSS less and less. Sure, I subscribe to quite a few blogs and news sites but I generally let the news / blogs find me. It comes from trusting the right folks, but also the headline. 

    In Reeder, my RSS tool, I certainly skip to my most trusted bloggers first but once someone wanders off-topic or starts to bore me they’re out of there ! And, boy, do I bore easily. 

  • Neicole,

    I’m late with my comment because I’m reading your article a day after it posted. I am glad to hear I’m not the only one having trouble having time to blog, follow blogs, comment and curate as much as I should be.

    Since your headline was about headlines, I went back to look at it when I finished reading the post. It is certainly an information-dense world, no doubt. But it’s also an Attention Deficit world. And that makes your point even more relevant. We are all judging books by their covers and content by the headline because it’s all we have time or patience for anymore. I’m sure we are missing a lot of great content as a result but all the more reason for content creators to take time to both package and present their content with a carefully crafted headline.

    As anyone that follows this {grow} blog well knows, Mark is a master of great headlines and attention-grabbing visuals.

    Thanks for the interesting article. It delivered on the promise made by your headline!

  • Glad to know I delivered!

  • I find myself skimming and dumping quickly if it doesn’t look good.

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  • Neicole, I miss you. I’m so glad to see you here.

    Myself, I don’t pay much attention to how compelling a headline may be. I consider it for subject. Mostly, it’s the author that determines whether or not I make the click-thru.

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