Extra, Extra! Clever headlines suffering from technology’s limits

As I’ve mentioned, I’m humoring the kid in me who always wanted to be a sportswriter with this website called Bleacher Report.  Well, yesterday, after hearing that Randy Moss was traded by the Patriots, I wrote up an opinion piece stating the Pats coach Bill Belichick was basically bagging this year to get on with the future.  To cap it off, I gave it the headine “No Moss Growing Under Bill Belichick’s Feet”. 

(If you don’t know football, then you probably have no idea who I’m talking about.  But bear with me, I have a point in here that has nothing  to do with sports.)

I was proud of my modest little headline.  It mentioned two of the principles by name in Moss and Belichick, and it was a both a play on Moss’ name and a metaphor for the direction New England was taking as a team.  About as perfect as you can get for a throw-away opinion piece on a sports blogger website.  If I do say so myself, it was also one of the most, if not the most, clever headline I saw on any of the Moss articles.  Bleacher Report has an editor process for each submission.  When I went later to look at my article, I noticed that the editor had slapped a three-word preface on my clever headline;  “Randy Moss Trade:”. 

Now let me say, I understand completely why this was done; three other little words- search engine optimization.  But I still couldn’t help feel that this slight addition for visibility’s sake somehow lessened the original.  Moss’ name, in particular, being mentioned prior to the pun took something away from its impact.  Besides, the article was already tagged every which way, including the phrase “Randy Moss Trade”.  Was it really necessary to sacrifice cleverness and presentation in this, or any other, case?

I say no.  Never once have I penned a headline here for any other reason than to creatively present the piece I had written.  Limiting interesting headlines for search engine optimization is a sacrifice I’m not willing to make, given the choice.  Nor do I think any of us should have to.  Why are we dumbing down the content we produce to accommodate the technology? Instead, we should be making search engines to better catalog and present that content, to suit the standards of the creators.

For an inherently visual and dynamic medium, the internet is still all-too-frequently about long blocks of words.  Certainly, the possibilities for disseminating content are amazing and nearly without limit, but we are giving up some creativity and presentation value in the bargain.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  In fact, it shouldn’t be that way at all.


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