A common tactic for capturing attention is using a headline

N something for something

For example on Copyblogger some headlines:

  • 10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work
  • The 5 Things Every (Great) Marketing Story Needs
  • 7 Scientifically-Backed Copywriting Tips

Or here is a screenshot from a Google Search showing 5 of the top articles on this query all employed this tactic ("These five astonishing..." is spelled out but still counts)


Here's another one on page 1 (above it was some paid ads) again showing the exact same thing

headlines 2

Since What is still disputing and claiming its only for things that make good lists, here's a page 1 search of "Affordable Care Act" again a top result:

headlines 3

My question is - have any studies been done on print media to show the same tactic works? All I can think of is the "grocery store" mags will often have on the cover something like "10 ways to please your man" or "6 steps to rock hard abs" but I really have no idea if there's any data to support using this tactic in print?


Since it seems @What just thinks I'm making stuff up about this method being proven here's one of my articles you can find with data supporting it: http://moz.com/blog/5-data-insights-into-the-headlines-readers-click

The question is if there's any data to show it also works in print.

  • @what there have another screenshot from page 1 results.
    – Ryan
    Mar 25, 2014 at 20:45
  • 1
    A headline about lists will only appear if you search for things that can be ordered into lists. They are typical for searches that involve "best of", "great ways to" or similar list questions. Articles about a single topic ("Obama Says Recent Moves by Russia Are an Act ‘of Weakness’") will never have a list headline. So list headlines are not superior, they are simply natural to articles that collect things together, i.e. articles that are lists.
    – user5645
    Mar 26, 2014 at 6:02
  • @what You deleted your Answer and Comments.... did you however read the moz.com link I provided at the end of the question? It shows very clearly that people are more likely to click on and share "number headlines." Your point COULD be mostly true for journalism but I'm not asking for journalism... to add to that I just attached a screenshot from yet another query, once again... I get it you don't agree or don't like it or just have a personal vendetta against me at this point. But nothing I've said is inaccurate.
    – Ryan
    Mar 26, 2014 at 13:46
  • Look, does it work for every article and headline? No. But studies show that if your goal is maximum exposure this is an excellent tactic in online marketing. My question is if its been shown to work in print as well.
    – Ryan
    Mar 26, 2014 at 13:47
  • 1
    I don't have statistics, but I'm more likely to ignore articles on the web and in print if they contain a "list headline". In my experience the article below such a headline is more likely to be clickbait garbage, spread over as many pages as there are list items. List headlines are sure signs of sleazy marketeers being at work.
    – Hobbes
    Mar 26, 2014 at 15:51

1 Answer 1


I haven't come across any specific data regarding the effect being carried over into print but I doubt it does--right now at least.

Firstly, what kind of reading do people do in print? Usually it's of the attention-demanding kind--novels, textbooks--for which they've already made the mental commitment. Certain types of print material (magazines, newspapers) have made occasional use of lists in the past and will continue to do so but again that's because people don't always pick up a newspaper prepared to devote their whole attention to reading the thing in one go. (And more people prefer these online now anyway.)

Secondly, articles in print are not fighting for attention in a hyperstimulating environment like articles online are--there are no CTA's like "click here", "google this", "watch this video", or other such distractions.

But even if we don't have any significant effects right now, we will likely see more print material adopting this format in the future. We've already got evidence that Internet/screen reading impacts the brain's reading style both offline and online.

Sources: 1. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/serious-reading-takes-a-hit-from-online-scanning-and-skimming-researchers-say/2014/04/06/088028d2-b5d2-11e3-b899-20667de76985_story.html
2. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/reading-paper-screens/

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