Headline Fail – VP is Safe

More blunders as mainstream media attempts to copy what makes web players successful.  This major headline fail occurred on a slow spring Saturday night.  The oil spill was consuming the world, but somehow CNN forgot to mention that the US was fighting wars in two countries and that the US and Europe had massive economic issues.  In fact, the Dow had cratered 300 points just 24 hours before this was the main section on CNN.com We had the missing blonde girl again, a sex scandal in the NFL (yes, I read that one),  a porn actor who maybe committed suicide, a car crash, a plane crash and general interest news.  Take a look at the stories (click to make the image bigger) Besides CNN lacking any sort of credibility that goes with gravitas, look at the circled link.  I was frustrated the second I saw the words, “vice president” and “attack”.  I knew it wasn’t anything major, but I immediately begin thinking of minor things that would warrant a story. Did someone get close enough to Vice President Biden to throw a liquid on him? How did the Secret Service allow that person to get close? Oh man, I sure hope no one threw oil at him. Because only CNN can do justice to their over-the-top headline, I’ll quote the first two sentences of their article.

Joe Biden came under friendy fire during a summer-kickoff barbeque at the vice president’s residence Saturday. During the event for White House reporters and their families, the president’s No. 2 was attacked with sqiurt guns by his grandchildren and by children of members of the press corps.

Wait–some grandkids squirted their grandpa with a water gun?   And CNN has the gall to put that in a link with the terms “Vice President” and “attack”?   Writing compelling copy for the web is hard.  The audiences are different, the styles are different and the reading (more often scanning) is far more difficult. CNN .com’s headline failed because they tried a direct response trick of writing an outrageous headline that generates a click.  Except when we do that in advertising, we anger the prospect unless we deliver the actual event.  They leave the advertiser’s site and the advertiser has paid for the click.   CNN did the same thing and paid not with a 50 cent click, but with continuing erosion of their ability to be reliable and relevant online. Your takeaway as a small business is to not use wild over-promises to generate web traffic.  At best, you’ll simply waste money.  But you might take brand damage.  And that’s not damage from a water gun, even if you end up all wet.

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