Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World Part 7 - Headlines and Titles by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World
Part 7
Headlines and Titles
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Here are previous posts in this series on Marketing:







The following tweet is from THE BLAZE (in Dec 2013):

‘Fake’ Mandela sign language interpreter reportedly faced murder, rape & kidnapping charges theblaze.com/stories/2013/1… pic.twitter.com/TjhPPrkosj
-------end quote----------

Here's the twitpic link:

And here's the link to the full story on THE BLAZE:
I know, it's March already - who needs this ancient history of no importance?

Actually, you do if you've been reading this series on Marketing Fiction.  This is an exercise in applying what we've been talking about by noticing how PR is applied by professionals.  This reveals the change in our world -- one of many.  

This news item is not about how our President's Secret Service folks messed up.

This is a post in the Marketing Fiction In A Changing World series -- and one change to note when choosing a title for your story or novel is the one buried inside this Headline.

You may want to review the posts on Theme with attention to the "Integration" ones.



And Part 8 of Theme-Worldbuilding Integration

I've mentioned a number of times the "formula" for creating a title for your story.

The title symbolizes and/or states the theme in such an intriguing way that it can not be forgotten once the reader gets to the end and understands what the story is about.  The book is closed, the cover appears -- your title and byline become engraved on that reader's mind.

Why does that effect always happen if the title is well chosen?

It happens because you, the writer, have articulated something buried deep within the heart of the reader you have never met, something they didn't know was there or couldn't articulate.  You've shown not told that you understand the reader.

The element that makes this trick work is that you've never met this reader -- the reader knows you don't know their heart.  Therefore what you've said in the theme of your novel is expressing something the reader has in common with you.

Fellowship, kinship, friendship, community -- that's what makes titles "work."

You are the spokesman for this reader who has been alone with this belief you've articulated.  So the reader wants to become part of the group, to join with those who recognize this crucial element of heart.

So how do you learn to DO that in a title? 

Reading News Headlines is an excellent method.

So let's read this headline from The Blaze online news outlet.

Firstly, as I would when approaching a novel to see if I want to buy it, I look at the Publisher -- then the author -- then I read the blurb to see if the blurb is professionally written -- only after evaluating the craftsmanship in the blurb do I drill down to what the blurb says.

This headline (blurb is what News writes into a Headline) is very professionally written.

But it isn't what attracted me to this story back in December. 

The most interesting thing in that tweet is the PUBLISHER. 

But most online news readers don't pay attention to the publisher and don't know anything about them -- unless maybe just that they have a TV Cable channel (CNN, Fox, whoever).

Being a writer, I pay lots of attention to publisher-identities and profiles. 

The Blaze is a spinoff (maybe not so "off" but definitely spinning) of Glenn Beck's web-broadcast operation that I've discussed previously.



His bold move to leave (or get dumped by) Fox and plunge into building a web-distributed Network (very innovative) seemed idiotic.  But now his network is carried by a large number of Cable Providers and has a growing number of shows filling the round-the-clock broadcast slots.  We've discussed Cable's business model in previous entries in Marketing Fiction In A Changing World.  Watching Cable providers acquire Beck's operation has been an education in business. 

We'll see if he crashes and burns as the Oprah Winfrey network did.  It's all about business model -- delivering entertainment, whether fiction or non-fiction, to a targeted audience and doing it at a profit.  See last week's post for the confusion of Profit and Prestige motives.

Now, one thing Beck has claimed on-air is that he doesn't use metrics.  He changes his tune frequently, opens subjects then drops them seemingly at random.  But all the while his audience grows.  That's what "metrics" does. 

I don't believe he doesn't use metrics.  I see evidence that he does, and no evidence that he doesn't. 

This Mandela headline crafting indicates that not only is The Blaze using metrics, they are very carefully (and very professionally) applying those metrics.

What are "metrics?"  That's the numbers that Public Relations (PR) produces when applied to the problem of measuring an audience by demographic, and other opinion elements.  Metrics quantified audiences delivered to advertisers.

Why does a for-profit operation need to use such metrics?  Because that's what Advertisers use.

Beck started his web-network without advertising (except his own products), so didn't need metrics other than the number of paying subscribers.

Yes, you need a separate subscription to access Beck's video-shows unless your cable or satellite company carries his network (in which case they pay him and you pay them).

This mix of subscription and cable is a fascinating business model -- you must watch how this develops and what it's fate ultimately is.  Somehow, just ignore "who" the people are who subscribe because that's irrelevant to a Romance Writer studying the Changing World.

Watching The Blaze News operation develop (at this time it looks like a scandal rag) will likewise be fascinating. 

The announced intention that Beck repeats as a slogan is "The Truth Lives Here."

Likewise, one of his hobbyhorse topics he returns to repeatedly is the principles the USA Founding Fathers incorporated into the founding documents. 

One of those principles is "Innocent Until Proven Guilty."

That was, at the time, a VAST -- utterly shocking, and truly idiotic -- innovation.  Everyone knows if an Aristocrat accuses you (shades of The Inquisition) you are guilty. 

Now look at that headline from The Blaze -- which is striving to become a trustworthy news source. 

‘Fake’ Mandela Sign Language Interpreter Who Stood Just Inches From Obama Reportedly Faced Murder, Rape & Kidnapping Charges

Read the rest of the article -- and it quite fairly reports on all the reasons why this poor fellow might not be "guilty" -- but how many will read all the way down into that story?

Most people will see the tweet and (since you are also seeing the same kind of language from other news outlets) leap to the unfounded conclusion that since he was ACCUSED therefore he is GUILTY.

Why do "people" think that way?

Aha, that is one of the Changes in this World that we're examining in this series on Marketing. 

How did we go from Innocent Until Proven Guilty -- to Accused = Guilty?

Go read some items on Facebook or Google+  -- I put a lot of news items on Google Plus to illustrate ways to rip thematic material from them.  See if you can spot the headlines incorporating Accused=Guilty.  That assumption makes a hot-plot-development. 

Here is the bit of thematic material to rip out of this tangled mess of a headline.

We have an organization striving and struggling to become economically viable in this tech-morphing world -- The Blaze Network (Beck renamed his operation).

They claim not to "use metrics."

They disseminate headlines that are clearly and obviously (yes, only to a writer) crafted from pure metrics. 

One of the metrics behind this headline is the prevalence of ACCUSED MEANS GUILTY.

Otherwise, the headline would be:

‘Fake’ Mandela Sign Language Interpreter Who Stood Just Inches From Obama --acquitted of the rape charge but convicted of theft

That bit I changed is a piece of a sentence from farther down in the story.  ACQUITTED not FACED is the operative change.

Now, consider how many people would click through and read the rest of the story if it said ACQUITTED?  As compared to how many would click if it says FACED?

That's what METRICS does -- that's what PR is all about -- how many and will they click on an advertisement?  The advertisers (as I showed previously in this Marketing series) need to have an audience delivered to their ads with emotions whipped up to the point where action is guided by emotion not rational thought. 

So by writing the headline based on the NEW worldview of ACCUSED = GUILTY (where there's smoke there's fire) -- they get more clicks than if they indicate that what all the other media outlets are saying is unimportant -- that is acquitted, not faced.

Dismissing a matter doesn't get you click-throughs.  The choice of a word makes a non-story into a news story by whipping up emotion.  And this from The Blaze -- The Truth Lives Here.  Does it?

This headline illustrates an important principle in headline writing.  It is crafted in a professional PR style.

Study it carefully, study your emotional reactions, look at how complicated the issues really are (by reading the rest of the news item), and what mental gymnastics went into boiling all that complexity down into a headline.

SIMPLIFY is the watchword (PR assumes people are herds of stupid or stupified-by-emotion animals) -- take your complex, nested thematic structure and simplify it into a headline using this same process and you'll have a winner if the PR/Advertising people are correct.  At least it'll be profitable if not prestigious. 

Meanwhile, note the disparity between what Beck claims to be doing, and what those hired to succeed with advertisers have to do instead. 

Will his commercial success-curve bend proportionately to the hypocrisy embedded underneath it all? 

Does success require that sort of hypocrisy? 

Is the lack of Hypocrisy the reason the Romance Genre hasn't been able to "sell" the HEA? 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. In a subtle way, "accused = guilty" is incorporated into the law. At least in Maryland (unless a bill changing the situation was passed in a recent legislative session and I didn't hear about it) an arrest remains on the arrestee's record indefinitely even if no charges are ever filed. So a person who was arrested and NOT EVEN CHARGED, much less convicted (which often happens with "nuisance" misdemeanors such as loitering and public urination), for the rest of his life has to answer "yes" when asked, "Have you ever been arrested?" Those arrests with no charges filed are NOT automatically expunged, which they should be.

  2. Margaret:

    Yes, gradually, the mission of our law enforcement branch of government has transformed from "clean up the mess when someone does a crime" to "prevent crime at all costs" --- which means keeping records, dousing a whiff of smoke with a firehose, over-reacting to nothing (which means under-reacting to real somethings), and now to dragnets scarfing up digital records of people who didn't do anything wrong to catch a couple of people who might do something wrong in the future and snuff them out.

    The real culprit here is a "maturity" issue -- mature adults don't expect others to supply them with the necessities of life or create a "safe" cocoon for them to live in. We have 30-somethings raised to be perpetual adolescents. The glimmer of light for a writer looking for a market is that such delayed-development is still rather rare.

  3. NOTE: I wrote in this post:
    His bold move to leave (or get dumped by) Fox and plunge into building a web-distributed Network (very innovative) seemed idiotic. But now his network is carried by a large number of Cable Providers and has a growing number of shows filling the round-the-clock broadcast slots. We've discussed Cable's business model in previous entries in Marketing Fiction In A Changing World. Watching Cable providers acquire Beck's operation has been an education in business.

    I didn't mention that the two guys who head up GOOGLE were doing talk show appearances touting a book they had out, and said of Beck that his from-scratch online TV operation has successfully pioneered something they had envisioned -- the shift in media delivery.

    It's worth noting that Beck is still talking about starting to produce and air FICTION -- and that Netflix has won awards in that area, Amazon is roaring into that area, and HULU and others are also investing in original FICTION production designed for online distribution, not cable or broadcast.

    If you've got FICTION that just won't SELL to the ordinary distribution system, watch these developers carefully. Chances are they won't be a market for your stuff, but they will open a market to those who will want what you write.