On Monday, I mentioned that I’d been scouring the National Enquirer.

Not the most intellectual bit of reading on my list I’ll admit, but maybe the most valuable.

A few times each week I make a point of sitting down with a trashy paper like the Enquirer or The Sun, and trawling for great headlines.

(In private I’ll sneak out a copy of Cosmopolitan for the women’s niches.)

This is an easy, cheap, and underused tactic for improving your copywriting.

Too many  “copywriters”, particularly ones who work for agencies, think that copy should be witty and clever. They measure themselves in pats on the back from their peers and how many awards those same peers hand out.

They forget that half their audience is, by definition, below average intelligence. And the bright ones are so distracted by their phones you’d never know it.

Writers and Editors of tabloid newspapers, on the other hand, know exactly who they’re writing for.

They’re masters of writing for short attention spans.

This doesn’t mean low intelligence, it means people with a lot on their plate.

Look at some of the tricks of the trade…

  • Intrigue-laden headlines.
  • Easy to read texts.
  • Plenty of  illustration with photos.
  • Explanation with simple graphics.

Just the covers are works of art in attention grabbing and intrigue.

(Can Britney revive her career with another public meltdown?)

So, how can we use them to our advantage?

Well, try dropping your own subjects into the headlines and see how much better they are than the usual “10 tips” headlines.

Here’s a couple of examples…

Original: Are George and Amal Clooney leading separate lives?

Revised: Are your blog and emails leading separate lives?

That could be a great article about using your blog to grow your email list or your email list to drive blog traffic.

Let’s try another.

Original: Find out how supermodel Giselle got into the best shape of her life…at 40!

Revised: Find out how our email strategy got into the best shape of it’s life…at 4 years old!

OK, we’ve not been about for 40 years, (well, the business hasn’t!), but we can play on the theme. After all, no one is going to be comparing the two side by side.

Last one, lets look at how the Enquirer does lists…

Original: 10 things you didn’t know about Tom Hanks.

Revised: 10 things you didn’t know about email list building.

This is perilously close to the boring “10 things” list article but by dropping the preachy “you should know” and replacing it with the curiosity-loaded “you didn’t know” the clickable factor goes way up.

Aren’t these more fun than another listicle?

Remember, it’s easier, and more effective to be different than it is to be better.

If the Enquirer can sell on a newsstand at a supermarket checkout to mums with screaming kids and an armful of groceries, you can get your readers attention the same way.

Let me see what headlines you can come up with from the trashy end of the newsstand this week.


Stephen Pratley
Copy & Conversion Consultant
The Conversion Co.

P.S. If you have an online training product that needs new life pumped into it, with stronger sales copy a better offer, or more persistent follow-up I’ll be carrying out a few more rapid review sessions early in September.

If you’re interested, you can sign up on this form on my agency website.

We don’t charge for our rapid reviews, but we don’t do them for just anybody. We’ll tell you upfront if yours isn’t a business we can help, and try to find an alternative.

c/o The Conversion Co., 2a The High Street, Thames Ditton, KT7 0RY, United Kingdom
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