Headlines are everything. They convince a user to click on an article; They tell potential readers what the article is about. But more recently, they’re used to shape public opinion on a topic and inject the author’s thoughts into current events and news. This problem is acute amongst cryptocurrency publications, and it is often directed towards XRP.
There is a big difference between news and opinion pieces, though publications in recent history have blurred that line. Cryptocurrency outlets are not unique in this regard, but as crypto is my main area of interest, I’m going to pick on them a bit. An opinion piece, which is the sort of thing I write most often, is intended both to inform and to make an argument. It goes beyond the scope of a news article, which ideally should report an event as it has happened without the added injections of ideology or opinion. The title of an article can be an essential extension of how the general public interprets an article. The rise of ideologically driven publications in both print and broadcast media are significant drivers towards the general public’s ever-increasing distrust of news media. The line between what is the news and an author or a publication’s opinion has become so blurred that it is often difficult to find an objective report on an event.
Take the recent departure of Evan Schwartz, a Senior Software developer at Ripple, as an example.
Here’s a good headline:
The headline is short, to the point, accurate, informative, and there’s no additional addendum or preface that either softens or catastrophizes Schwartz’s departure.
Here’s another one:
This title isn’t quite as good as the meaning shifts into the negative with the addition of the word lost. But it’s not strictly misleading, as the departure of a senior software developer isn’t necessarily a great thing. I’m not a fan of adding the word lost in there, particularly when it’s placed with the high-profile descriptor, but as we’ll see further on, this is one of the better titles.
This heading features misleading positivity injected into a news title:
I’ve read several articles about Schwartz’s departure. I’ve seen his twitter postings, and I can’t find anything that indicates that he has specifically left Ripple to focus only on Coil. The article itself provides no proof other than mentioning that Evan Schwartz is still working on the Coil platform, and the author of the article stated that, at the time of publication, Schwartz had still not replied to their queries about his departure. The title is non-neutral, and while it’s not quite clickbait, it’s unnecessarily positive by indicating that he’s shifted towards another company that is actively using XRP as a currency.
This title and the article itself combine two different pieces of news in an apparent attempt to draw a correlation between the two. Evan Schwartz quitting Ripple, and the association of this event with the subsequent downward price movement would be fine but the author has merely combined two news events without any additional information, proof, or argument:
The title gives the reader the impression that these two events are inexorably linked. But in the body of his article, he makes no such argumentative association. The market downturn also lasted only a single day:
The title is needlessly alarmist, and the markets spiked the same day the author published the article, which makes the association all the more dubious.
It can be tricky to craft a headline that is both informative, accurate, and piques a user’s curiosity. You don’t want your title to be an exact carbon copy of other publications, but the headline should also not attach a connotation to an event. When reporting the news, leave the interpretation of positive or negative up to the reader. Anything else is attempt to influence market expectations and individual opinion on a current event.