The USA Today sports team used headline testing for its Olympics reports to find how headlines resonated with its audience, according to analytics firm Visual Revenue.
Instant headline testing was launched in May by Visual Revenue. In one of the examples used in a post on the Visual Revenue blog, comparing two headlines in real-time saw one headline generate 194 per cent more click-throughs than the alternative.
Headline testing works by 50 per cent of the audience being served one headline, while the other half sees the second. The news site can then opt for whichever generates the most click-throughs, Charlie Holbech, vice president of operations and co-founder of the "predictive analytics engine" told Journalism.co.uk.
If a headline writer who would have opted for headline A finds headline B performs better, the site can then benefit from the traffic increase from headline B.
According to the blog, the USA Today sports team ran approximately 150 individual headline tests during the London 2012 Olympics. It found on average one headline resulted in 57 per cent more click-throughs than the alternative headline.
Visual Revenue states that headline testing gives editorial teams "an opportunity, in real-time, to see which different aspects of a story resonate best with their audience or whether the audience is familiar with an athlete’s name or moniker e.g. Yohan Blake vs. 'The Beast'".
Tim Gardner, assistant managing editor at USA Today Sports Media Group is quoted in the post as saying that headline testing helps the editorial team to "quickly decide which headline to choose, ensuring we maximise the appeal of every story".
Matthew Graham, vice president, audience and programming at USA Today Sports Media Group adds that as "competition to attract sports fans is limitless", the publisher therefore needs "to make sure we’re presenting our content in the most appealing way possible".