The headlines of online news are created carefully to influence audience news selection today. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationships between news headline presentation and users’ clicking behavior.
Two types of unobtrusive data were collected and analyzed jointly for this purpose. A two-month server log file containing 39,990,200 clickstream records was obtained from an institutional news site. A clickstream data analysis was conducted at the footprint and movement levels, which extracted 98,016 clicks received by 7,120 headlines ever displayed on the homepage. Meanwhile, the presentation of these headlines was characterized from seven dimensions, i.e. position, format, text length, use of numbers, use of punctuation marks, recency and popularity, based on the layout and content crawled from the homepage.
This study identified a series of presentation characteristics that prompted users to click on the headlines, including placing them in the central T-shaped zones, using images, increasing text length properly for greater clarity, using visually distinctive punctuation marks, and providing recency and popularity indicators.
The findings have valuable implications for news providers in attracting clicks to their headlines. Also, the successful application of nonreactive methods has significant implications for future user studies in both information science and journalism.
This research has been made possible through the financial support of the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grants Nos 71774125 and 71420107026.
Jiang, T., Guo, Q., Chen, S. and Yang, J. (2020), "What prompts users to click on news headlines? Evidence from unobtrusive data analysis", Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 72 No. 1, pp. 49-66. https://doi.org/10.1108/AJIM-04-2019-0097
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