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Monday, October 3, 2005

I miss The New Republic's old headline style.

On Friday, switched headline styles on the magazine's homepage for the worse, although I can justify the change. I've long admired the terse, witty headlines in the magazine and on its site (where each headline was always followed by a brief, more explanatory blurb), but now they've dropped the blurbs and settled for longer, more descriptive, and much duller headlines.

On Thursday, for example, you'd find headlines like this:

Justice DeLayed by the Editors
But not, we hope, denied.

Classic TNR. But since Friday, we've had headlines like this:

How Harriet Miers can avoid the Abe Fortas trap by Akiba Covitz

Huh? Has literalism descended on the most literary magazine on the left?

The change must have to do with Google and the need to draw search engine traffic by explicitly and summarily describing each story. Since TNR requires a subscription for almost all of its content, I wonder whether higher Google rankings will help generate new subscribers. (Work note: We actually adopted a similar practice at, using a more descriptive headline for indexing while allowing the use of more flexible, less descriptive headlines for the articles themselves. Unlike TNR, though, we're not famous for our headlines — yet.)

Happily, the more artful headlines still appear on the articles themselves. But as a subscriber, I have to admit that the clunky homepage headlines have made me less interested in reading online stories. I was baffled by my own reaction for a while, wondering whether TNR had lost a gifted editor or copyeditor, but then I realized that their homepage headlines simply sound less clever than the articles I've come to expect from the magazine. Non-subscribers won't have this reaction, I hope, and I'm sure I'll get over it.

(Bet you didn't know that some people spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about headlines, did you?)

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 3 October 2005 at 9:50 PM

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h sofia:

October 4, 2005 01:06 AM | Permalink for this comment

All those minutes in the day, you've got to think about something.

Akiba Covitz:

October 10, 2005 09:51 AM | Permalink for this comment

As a long-time fan of the fun style of TNR, I, too, suggested a fun title (won't say what because I may use it again). I was over-ruled by the editors. Not sure why.

- Akiba Covitz

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