Give your money to me
No, I don’t really want you to send me your money. Unless, you know, you don’t want it.
That headline was just a trick, a gimmick that we journalists sometimes use to get you to read stories you wouldn’t otherwise notice.
It is attracting thousands of clicks, but also some criticism from readers who say it was irresponsible. I myself doubt whether that headline stopped anyone from donating. If folks are taking orders from headline writers now, it’s news to me.
The problem is, writing trick headlines can become just too easy. The same blogger who is enjoying such success with this one, last year wrote, “Don’t give money to Haiti.”
I hope he realizes that if his personal fortunes ever go south and he is forced to beg outside our office in Times Square, somebody is bound to write, “Don’t give money to that blogger.”
Journalists know lots of devious headline gimmicks, which I’m not supposed to tell you if you’re not in our business.
My own most successful headline from the past couple of years was, “Ten stupid things you shouldn’t do with cameras around.” The French president is illustrating one of them for me in the photo on the left.
This headline really worked well, because people like words such as “stupid” and “dumb.” They also love to read top ten lists, ever since Moses scored big with, “Top Ten Commandments thou must obey.”
That last one asks a yes or no question, which I normally try to avoid in case the reader’s answer is no.
I read this headline recently: “Want to buy Slash’s guitar?” Nope. You see what I mean?
The worst headlines are the ones which start out so stupidly that you don’t even finish reading them, much less look at the story.
Here’s one I saw over the weekend. I am not making this up: “Lady Gaga’s beauty secret…”
Yeah? Thanks, but no thanks.
Now, please go donate money to somebody other than me.
Top: Mahouts ride elephants as they collect money for victims of the recent Japan earthquake and tsunami during a donation drive in Khao San Road, a backpacker area, in Bangkok, March 21, 2011. REUTERS/ Chaiwat Subprasom
Left: French yachtswoman Maud Fontenoy poses with France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy after she was awarded Chevalier of the French order of Merit during a ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris, July 12, 2007. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
Right: Lady Gaga, wearing a meat dress, poses backstage at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, California, September 12, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni