On Headlines, or ‘Monica Lewinsky Boyfriend: My Date With Bill Clinton’s Blow Job Intern’

taylormomsen On Headlines, or Monica Lewinsky Boyfriend: My Date With Bill Clintons Blow Job InternDavid Carr marvels at the maddeningly low-brow, mystically formulaic craft of writing headlines for the web in his column today.

Mr. Carr presents an example from The Huffington Post — “Obama Rejects Rush Limbaugh Golf Match: Rush ‘Can Play With Himself’” — to show what best practice has to offer in 2010.

It’s digital nirvana: two highly searched proper nouns followed by a smutty entendre, a headline that both the red and the blue may be compelled to click, and the readers of the site can have a laugh while the headline delivers great visibility out on the Web.

Gabriel Snyder, who took over as executive editor of Newsweek.com after his exit from Gawker, told Mr. Carr that he thinks of headlines on the internet as “naked little creatures that have to go out into the world to stand and fight on their own.”

Sites like The Huffington Post have continued to test multiple headlines and see which gets more clicks, according to Mr. Carr, while Politico’s new site TBD.com writes headlines with clarity in mind so that readers scrolling past hundreds of stories (on an RSS reader, for example) will be able to know what they’re getting when they click.

The length of these headlines is another consideration, and shorter is better.

“Google’s crawlers and aggregators like Digg quit paying attention after 60 characters or so, long before readers might,” writes Mr. Carr.

Long before joining The New York Times, Mr. Carr worked for years, editing The Washington CityPaper, and writing lots of punchy, newspaper headlines.

This morning we pondered what a web-friendly headline would have been for Jake Tapper’s Washington City Paper story about dating Monica Lewinsky from twelve years ago, entitled “I dated Monica Lewinsky.”

Huffington Post media editor Danny Shea, himself a master in the arts of S.E.O. friendly headlines, chimed in with an idea: “Monica Lewinsky Boyfriend: My Date With Bill Clinton’s Blow Job Intern.”