Compelling headlines get readers to stop and read your stories

February 25, 2016

By Ken Blum
Black Ink

So here you have a compelling collie-mix interest story all edited and ready for the front page of your newspaper. It’s about a family dog who ran off with a little mutt a few months ago, but then the little mutt runs off with a Rottweiler and our doggie decides life on the lamb is too ruff for his liking.

So it’s back home to kind masters and a fresh bowl of Kibbles ’n Bits™.

Now comes the headline—the magnet that draws the reader to the doggone story.

Let’s see:

Dog Comes Home

Dog Alive and Well

Pet Returns after Three Months

These are the type of headlines you would see in too many hometown newspapers—yawners.

This is why I would like to see more community newspapers grab the reader’s attention first, and explain what the story is really about later, in a subhead.

Which brings us to headlines that produce big questions in the reader’s noggin; headlines that compel the reader to pick up the paper and start devouring the story, just like our hungry truant canine gobbles his Kibbles ’n Bits™.

I’m sure the journalism schools have a name for this brand of headline, but I’ll just call them “Wha’-dooya-means?”

When a reader sees a “Wha’-dooya-mean?” there’s only one thing he can do. And that’s find out “Wha’-dooya-mean?”

And to do that, he must read the story.

Check out the illustration of the Courier-Record of Blackstone, VA (edited by Billy Coleburn) with this column and you’ll see what I mean.



WHOOMP, there it is!




I would sure like to know.

So keep this in mind, you editors.

If you want to draw readers to your stories, don’t be boring, write a Wha’-dooya-mean? headline. © Ken Blum 2016


Ken Blum is the publisher of Butterfly Publications, an advising/speaking/publishing business dedicated to improving the profitability and quality of community newspapers. He puts out a monthly free e-mail newsletter titled Black Inklings. It features nuts and bolts ideas to improve revenue and profits at hometown papers. To subscribe to the newsletter or contact Ken, e-mail him at; or phone to 330-682-3416.



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