Everything you’ve been told says that the story title will determine whether or not someone is interested enough to click open your story and start reading it. I’m here to tell you your title can be so good it can generate tons of interest, get people to make comments and post memes; all without reading one word of the story. Medium writers are now earning money strictly on reading time. A title that’s too good, can actually be self-defeating.
When writing about politics for example. People are so polarized, they have a negative or positive reaction based on the name Donald Trump. They go on to express their opinion without bothering to read the story. I have a couple of examples of titles that generated hundreds of likes and comments on Facebook and Twitter that didn’t translate to views and reads on Medium. Here are two:
- Should Donald Trump Receive a Pardon
2. Why We Need a White History Month
In both cases, people’s opinions were strong enough that they didn’t need to read the story to comment on it. I market my stories on Twitter and Facebook as well as submitting them to Medium publications. While on Medium, one would need to open the story to respond, Facebook patrons, in particular, seem to have no problem jumping straight to the comments without burdening themselves with the information contained within.
The solution would seem to be making the title intriguing, without being so precise that one needs no facts to render an opinion. The titles in these two cases did an outstanding job of getting a reaction and garnering interest. If you compare this situation to a conversation. People are sometimes more interested in talking than listening.
So how could these titles have been written to generate higher readership and less jumping the gun? The first title was a question that could be answered yes or no. People already know one way or another whether they think Trump should be pardoned. Instead of making the title a yes or no question. It could be transformed into a statement like; “The Pros and Cons of Trump Receiving a Pardon.” A subtitle might generate interest as well. How about, (What Happened When Nixon Got Pardoned?). This lets readers know there’s information contained that they won’t receive without reading the story. I’m betting readership would have been greatly increased.
The second title, “Why We Need a White History Month,” has an implicit criticism that might turn off some white readers. Maybe the title should have read, “American History That’s Never Been Told and Why It’s Important For Us to Know.” That title suggests that some information’s going to be delivered to us. It’s likely it would get more readers.
The time to pat attention to the title is before you press, “Publish.” Make sure your title is an accurate reflection of your story. Nobody wants to be misled. But also consider whether or not someone needs to actually read the story to respond to it; even if it’s a subject guaranteed to get their attention. I suppose my theory should be tested by changing the title and seeing what happens? I’ll give it a try and let you know the results.
P.S. The story I retitled as, “The Pros and Con of Trump Receiving a Pardon” was ultimately curated by Medium whereas the original was not. It was also accepted as a submission in a major publication. Nothing changed except the title and photo. Just saying.