The Impact of Snappy Titles, or, “You Must Read This Or Die”

I’ve been experimenting with making my work easier to engage with in many ways. For students, this involves careful design and construction, structured development and all those good things. For you, my readers, I’ve been working with content, coming up with snappy titles to draw you in and trying to bring in graphics. Ultimately, I want my voice to be part of your thoughts on this area so I’m trying to make the blog itself attractive and engaging.

Apparently, the biggest impact on my readership appears to be the titles. Yesterday’s post had 22 readers within 6 hours of posting. It also had a really snappy title.

One of my recent posts. “This Is Five Minutes Work”, is, to me, one of the best posts I’ve put in – it’s a live writing exercise designed to show what five minutes of uninterrupted activity can look like. It’s designed to frame the old chestnut of ‘how much time do we allow in class’? And it attracted the least viewers of any of my posts, barring the time when I didn’t use categories or Facebook linking.


Five people read “Five Minutes”, either on Facebook or in the Edu stream. Somehow, for that post, less than 1/8 of my usual readership decided to read this post, across all of the countries and places that they normally read.

Given that the tags and categories are the same, I can only draw one conclusion – there is something about the title or initial set-up that makes people think “Meh.” Now this is fascinating but, at the same time, I found the challenge of producing “This Is Five Minutes Work” to be quite exacting and it is not something I would have done, if not to illustrate a point.

Regrettably, this point has not been made because almost no-one has read it.

I imagine that this post will have even fewer viewers. A number of people will refuse to read this BECAUSE of the title – they don’t want to be manipulated. Maybe I’m wrong – maybe the Oyster post will have enough follow-on ‘titleness’ to keep people coming back.

It’s interesting, isn’t it? I have some data but I’m not really sure what it means – the constant dilemma of the scientist.

I’m not sure what to do with this information but a good scientist continues to measure, even after they get the result that they want, to see what the result actually is. I thought that my days of sub-10 readers was behind me but, apparently, I still have to watch my step! 🙂

This is all part of being honest about the investment of effort, something that we should share with our students. The knowledge that one approach may not be working, and that it may be time to try others, is not defeatism but pragmatism. You’re not giving up, you’re trying another angle. One of the big benefits of this blogging process is that I’m, still, always learning something new from it, even on a low reach day.

2 Comments on “The Impact of Snappy Titles, or, “You Must Read This Or Die””

  1. David C says:

    Five people read “Five Minutes”, either on Facebook or in the Edu stream.

    … maybe some people (like me) read it via RSS – does that show up in your stats ?


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