Short animations about how clicky health-claim headlines are often misleading

In these two excellent short animations, data science professor Jeffrey Leek of the Simply Statistics blog and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and his university colleague, postdoctoral research Lucy McGowan, explain how "in medicine, there’s often a disconnect between news headlines and the scientific research they cover."

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This company analyzed 100 million headlines to find out which ones were the most effective

Buzzsumo analyzed 100 million article headlines on Facebook and tracked how well they did in terms of shares.

In our sample the most powerful three word phrase used in a headline (by some margin) was:

“Will make you … “

This phrase “will make you” gained more than twice the number of Facebook engagements as the second most popular headline trigram. This was a surprise. When we started out looking for top trigrams, this one wasn’t even on our list.

So why does this particular trigram or three word phrase work so well? One of the interesting things is that it is a linking phrase. It doesn’t start or end a headline, rather it makes explicit the linkage between the content and the potential impact on the reader.

This headline format sets out why the reader should care about the content. It also promises that the content will have a direct impact on the reader, often an emotional reaction. The headline is clear and to the point which makes it elegant and effective.

Typical headlines include:

24 Pictures That Will Make You Feel Better About The World What This Airline Did for Its Passengers Will Make You Tear Up – So Heartwarming 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person “Who Wore It Better?” Pics That Will Make You Laugh Out Loud 13 Travel Tips That Will Make You Feel Smart
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"Clickbait"-esque titles work for academic papers too

A psycholinguist reports that some of the factors that make headlines more clicky also apply to the titles of academic journal papers. Researcher Gwilym Lockwood of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics analyzed the titles of 2,000 papers published in the journal "Frontiers in Psychology" and their Altmetric Attention Score that measures social sharing, mentions in the news, and other metrics of attention. From Phys.org:

(The titles of the 2,000 papers were) coded for positive framing (e.g. using "smoking causes cancer", rather than "the link between smoking and cancer") and phrasing arousal (e.g. referring to "gambling" rather than "mathematical decision making").

It turned out that articles with positive framing and phrasing arousal in their titles received higher Altmetric scores, meaning that they were shared more widely online. In contrast, having wordplay in the titles actually lead to lower Altmetric Attention Scores, while having a question in the title made no difference. This is independent of the length of the title or how interesting the topic was.

"This suggests that the same factors that affect how widely non-scholarly content is shared extend to academia, which has implications for how academics can make their work more likely to have more impact," Lockwood writes in her own paper.

Do you think she applied what she learned to her paper's title, "Academic clickbait: articles with positively-framed titles, interesting phrasing, and no wordplay get more attention online"? Read the rest

Woman-centric clickbait sites parodied

If The Onion For Her and Lady Clickhole sound like sites you'd enjoy, swing by Reductress, a site that mocks the new crop of craptacular content farms aimed at women ages 25-39 who are watching their dreams slowly die. Read the rest

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Click Click. Read the rest