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Why I don’t read blog posts with overly long and descriptive titles

April 22, 2010

Regardless of what I’m doing, I always have Google Reader open somewhere. It’s either minimized in my dock or sitting idle in a browser tab waiting for me to click over. Google Reader is  like my cigarette break, a quick respite from whatever I’m doing. That’s how I rationalize it to myself anyway. Media Crack might be a better analogy.  The way I use Google Reader is probably not the most efficient method, and cleaning out and organizing my blog/news feed has been on my to-do list for months. I’m well aware there are better systems than mine. I have about 50 sources feeding in, so at any given time, I have a few hundred new entries to either skim or zero out without looking at them. As I write this, it’s up to 826 unread articles. By the time I finish this post, that number will go up and down several times. I start and stop a lot – that’s just my scatterbrained, channel-switching approach to writing.

The first minute or two of a Google Reader break is just weeding out crap I don’t care about in search of something worthwhile.  For every article I read, I ignore a hundred, which is fairly typical behavior for online media consumption.  There’s so much out there that we tend to skim and make snap judgments based on title, source, and length of the article.  Which brings me to the point – titles matter much more than we think, and most of the time it is the difference between someone reading or not reading what you write. Everyone’s time is valuable, and brevity is a beautiful thing.

There’s a whole cottage industry of how-to blogs that will tell you what makes a good title.  It should include numbered lists, keywords, a controversial or timely topic, and all in under 35 characters.  That’s all well and good, and many of those tips have some merit.  But if everyone is using the same canned tactics, how long until you’re right back to drowning in a sea of blogger noise?  We live in a quick fix culture.  We’re busy and distracted, and we want solutions that require as little effort on our part as possible.   I’m all for stealing good ideas.  That’s the fun part.  Spinning them into something that’s your own is where hard work comes into play.  Canned tactics are never a substitute for a genuine interest and passion for your subject matter.  If it’s there, it’ll show.  If it isn’t, you’re just noise.

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