A better alternative to headlines?

Author: Edward J. Smith

Publication: Leadlines May Be Better Than Traditional Headlines, Newspaper Research Journal, volume 20, no. 1 (winter 1999), p. 55-64.

“Leadlines,” which are story leads set in display type and used like headlines, aren’t used very often in U.S. newspapers, but they are far more effective in communicating information to scanning readers than traditional headlines, this study found.

Smith took two versions of a specially created newspaper page – one using traditional headlines, the other using leadlines – and gave one of them to four groups of 251 college students. One group got the headlines page for five minutes, giving members time to read at least some of the six stories on it; another got the headlines page for a minute, which offered only time to scan. One group got the leadlines page for five minutes; another got the leadlines page for a minute.

Then the students’ recall of the stories was tested with a 24-item multiple-choice test. Both “readers” and “scanners” who got the leadlines page remembered significantly more about the stories than students who got the headlines page.

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