Gerry McGovern has tested 18 summaries and 31 headlines in web content over 6 years. 3000 people were asked to scan 31 headlines and 18 summaries about a particular subject and then choose the one that stood out. Now, the results aren't entirely transferable to real life use of the web, as it was specific to reading news stories. Nevertheless they reveal a lot.
The worst headlines, chosen by 0 percent of users, all had the smell of media releases, reminding us how different media releases are from news stories, and should be.
- Poison found in pet food (top choice for 30 percent of testers) is a news story headline.
- Rodent poison found in now-recalled pet food blamed for animal deaths looks like a media release headline to me.
The top summaries all get straight to the point. The dud summaries are verbose and start with burble.
The content that works on the Web has one key characteristic: it is customer-centric. The content that doesn't work on the Web also has one key characteristic: it is organization-centric.