As I was flicking through my RSS feeds yesterday, I came across the following headline:
“Steve Jobs Leaves Apple”
Huh? Wow… well I know I haven’t read that anywhere else, but could this be a scoop?
Naively, I clicked on the link to be greeted with this opening paragraph:
“Steve Jobs is leaving Apple — eventually. Whether because of health, age, or any other reason, key employees leave companies. It happens everyday. What distinguishes a great company from a just a good company is how they plan for this eventuality.”
Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t impressed, particularly as for some reason the web site in question had decided not to publish an excerpt — let alone a full feed — for the article.
I can cope with less-than-scintillating prose so long as it’s related to the title and excerpt, but in my opinion this misleading headline was simply used to try and entice more visitors to the web site.
The thing is, I’m not convinced that a misled visitor is a happy one.
The article in question was about succession planning — something that I might have had a vague interest in but probably wouldn’t have clicked through to if I’d found it sitting in my feed reader.
Because it used a famous business leader who generates a lot of online buzz, particularly of late where his health is concerned, it potentially lured other readers in.
Are the articles at that web site well-written? In general it looks like a fairly professional outfit, so I’m guessing so.
However, does this little stunt make me want to subscribe to the RSS feed of that publication? No, not really.
No doubt the site will pop up again from time to time as I search for information, but it’s not on my list of favourite sites.
Perhaps I’m making too much of this, but I really don’t think creating deliberately misleading headlines is a good policy.
Controversial headlines: fine, so long as the article is on-topic and actually contentious.
Now, hand on heart, I can’t say that I’ve never published an article with a headline designed to lure visitors, but I hope that I haven’t deliberately tried to mislead people in order to get a few more click-throughs.
At the end of the day, the overall reputation of my site is more important than any short term gains gleaned from such tactics.
What do you think?