After 10 months of A/B testing its headlines seriously, the New York Times has started slicing its audience into finer segments, albeit informally.
Last week, a story about airlines abandoning their in-flight entertainment systems got two headlines, one of which spoke directly to the fact that readers were likely holding the reason that airlines were making that move:
Airlines phasing out screens because you’re looking at this (mobile)
Airlines phasing out screens because you’re all on your devices (desktop)
The headline, which helped drive 26 percent more clicks on mobile, was just an experiment. But it’s a step forward for a project that began in April 2016, when the Times tasked a two-person team with optimizing its headlines, a practice that’s become standard operating procedure in digital media over the past several years.
While headlines have always been important to publishers, the emphasis on testing them has grown as publishers have grown more reliant on social distribution for traffic.