Buried leads appear more and more in social media these days. They make me crazy.
Yes, I know they want the click-throughs, the hits, and that’s why the video description or the article headline (or worse, the article headline for the video description) are so vague. If you can ‘get’ the content from just the facebook teaser line, you won’t go to the site.
But it makes for awkward writing. “You won’t believe what this one girl did to make some other person have this reaction.” “They said no. What she said back will amaze you.” “He only had one choice. You won’t guess what he did instead.” “Watch this animal doing something you never thought possible for an animal to do!”
It’s vague and wordy and had the headline just said what actually happened instead of burying it so you simply must click through, well, no one would actually click through, because the entire video or story could be summarized in a few short words.
In terms of communication, these buried leads achieve their goals, because the goal was never something cool to share, it was to turn you into a number on some company’s stat counter.
Is this evil and wrong and bad? No. It’s how the internet works. The danger lies in how prevalent this technique has become–how much it used to annoy me, how quickly I’ve adjusted. I don’t like them, but they don’t clang quite as loudly in my ears as they once did.
This is how language changes. With each new advancement in technology, each leap of accessibility, the way we communicate changes. It’s fascinating to watch. Things like popular acronyms and hashtags were predictable, a logical evolution. But what about buried leads and teasers and thirty second videos? Will these change the way we use language on social media?
In printed journalism, the juiciest bits of the story are parts of the headline, because the point was to get you to buy it. Papers are tightly curated, meaning that space is limited so content is carefully chosen. You can trust that the headline isn’t all there is to it.
Not so in our internet space. Little things that would never have made news go viral–who doesn’t like to see a dog acting like a human? But many times these stories are so short that it could fit in a headline. Great for a tweet, not so much if you want the viewer to hop onto your site and see your ads.
My lead-in to talking about fiction from buried leads got a bit lost (or should I say buried?). A lot of things have changed about reading and writing fiction in the past century, but some things haven’t:
You don’t have to bury your lead. The most interesting, compelling parts of your story can go front and center, in your headline, in your blurb, in the first paragraph of the novel. Readers know there’s more to follow, that more juicy stuff will follow, just as we know that a headline reading “What she did next will” must be a two-sentence story sandwiched between three ads and five affiliate links.
PS No need to tease about ‘what this dog did’ because seriously, a video of a dog doing something funny? I’m in!