Nick Denton, who owns Gawker Media, sent out the following memo today:
Our wordy headlines are a growing disadvantage. That's why from tomorrow we're going to warn you in the Kinja editor to keep your headlines below 70 characters — and we're going to only display 70 characters on the front page even if you go longer.
Why this drastic measure? Google and others truncate headlines at 70 characters. On the Manti Teo story, Deadspin's scoop fell down the Google search results, overtaken by copycat stories with simpler headlines.
Deadspin's headline was 118 characters. Vital information — "hoax" — was one of the words that was cut off. Our headline was less intelligible — and less clickworthy — than others. And Google demotes search results that don't get clicked on.
Facebook has recently introduced a similar limitation. We may not like this tyranny of the search and social algorithms. It might seem like an oppressive constraint: geeks from outside the company giving editorial orders.
But search and social media are the two main sources of new visitors to our sites. That's an inescapable reality. A majority of our headlines are already below the 70-character limit. Many others could do with a bit of tightening. And it still leaves plenty of room for personality and creativity.
We're making a series of other changes in the default Kinja display in order to increase the density of information and the number of links available to readers — especially if they're on small screens.
You can see the new tighter front page template here:
* Latest view intros are trimmed to ~330 characters (the height of the 300px image). So if you want your intro to display cleanly, make sure your first paragraph doesn't run on too long.
* Smaller recommend and discuss buttons on the front page
* Discuss button simply links to permalink page now, you can't reply from the front page
* Adjacent blips won't get separator lines which helps to condense them
* Later: improved splash design with more images displayed using less vertical space, as in the example below.