Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Headlines for dead lines online

"A dash of humor with the ricotta."

That's the headline for the feature obit that I wrote for Jim Indriolo that appeared in the print version of The Plain Dealer on Monday, July 23, 2007.

It's a terrific headline for "A Life Story" about a genial, witty man, who made his living by selling Italian cheese to small grocery stores in Cleveland's Italian neighborhoods.

But that headline does not appear on the online version of the same story. "A dash of humor with the ricotta" becomes "A life story: Jim Indriolo, good-natured deliveryman."

Boring, boring, boring.

The generic label wasn't an oversight or misstep, as I had thought. It was intentional.

My editor tells me that headlines for all stories in our online edition are being rewritten, when necessary, to accommodate Google searches.

In this case, folks looking for "Jim Indriolo" would get a Google hit more quickly, because his name is in the head, not just in the story.

The same reasoning applies to searches for my weekly "A Life Story" feature.

I'm not sure why anyone would do a search for "good-natured" or "deliveryman" or "good-natured deliveryman," but you never know.

Both the print and online editions of Indriolo's story show this subhead: "He delivered cheese in Italian neighborhoods for 3 decades." That's searchable in any case.

I do understand the need to be search-friendly. And I can't assume ownership for this or any other cleverly written, purposely worded headline. But I mourn the loss of such well-thought-out prose for the sake of boosting the number of hits a story receives.

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