Disembodied Heads Don’t Say Much

Editor’s Note: The following Ad Age story that I reference here was not found on an aggregator. Rather, I read it in Ad Age’s printed edition.
Our content is aggregated by others. In general, we don’t have a problem with it because we want to reach people we might not otherwise reach. The thought is those people might then become fans and visit our site regularly or subscribe to our RSS feed, both of which are monetized via ad placement.
Here’s another view:

“There are a lot of people who never want to know more than ‘Six Killed in Iraq,'” said Jane Seagrave, senior VP-global product development at the Associated Press, “so that the money spent — to put reporters in place, to guarantee their security, in many cases to compensate their widows and orphans when they’re killed in action — is not offset by any actual income from the work.”

I don’t argue with Seagrave’s findings that there are headline only readers out there. Writing the headlines here every day is one of my favorite activities, but the idea that it all hangs on the headline is nuts.
I know people suffer from time and attention deficits, but you either want to be informed or you don’t. If you do want to be informed, you read. If you don’t want to be informed, you don’t read–headlines, subheads, body copy, or legalese.
Michael Wolff, Vanity Fair columnist and founder of the aggregator Newser, says:

“By offering more information, consumers are forced to look for abbreviations of that information. There’s only so much time in the day or minutes in an hour. If you’re going to take in more, you’re going to have to focus it more.”

My argument is taking in more headlines on Newser, Digg, or any of the other aggregators isn’t “taking in more.” A headline isn’t news. It’s a pointer to news.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.