There are many people today who believe that newspapers are a dying breed. Like rotary phones and milk delivered to your door, they’re still around, but only at grandma’s.

That being said, there’s a lot that website owners can learn from the website’s great-great-grandfather, the newspaper. Publishers have been trying to figure out how to move papers from the newsstand to your kitchen table for over a century, and they’ve learned a thing or two about a thing or two in the process.

In short, newspapers know how to grab your attention.

There are three strategies that I’d like to point out today that newspapers use to get our attention and draw us in, and how websites can do the same.

Test 1: Is what’s above the fold awesome?

Newspapers have long understood that what’s “above the fold” needs to be exciting and needs to communicate exactly what the big news of the day is. Above the fold means literally what content is on the top half of a folded newspaper. This is important because this is the portion of the paper people would see when it’s being sold on newsstands. If the stuff above the fold didn’t grab you, you probably wouldn’t be interested in buying a copy.

Photo credit: Flickr/ Eivind Z. Molvær

Photo credit: Flickr/ Eivind Z. Molvær

Websites have an equivalent “fold”, and the content above it needs to do the same thing. On a website, when you first open a page (funny how we call them pages, eh?) the content that you can see on the screen without scrolling is considered to be above the fold. The bottom edge of your screen is the digital equivalent of the fold.

The website's equivalent to the newspaper fold.

The website’s equivalent to the newspaper fold.

For your business’ website, its important that your most important content or most important goal is represented above the fold. For example, is your goal to get more email list subscribers? Great. There had better be some sort of call to action encouraging people to sign up placed above the fold of your website.

Test 2: Do the headlines grab your attention?

Newspapers are great at writing attention-grabbing, descriptive headlines. What’s important about this is that it’s the headline that really makes you want to read a given article. A crummy headline is a disservice to a great article because nobody will move past a crummy headline to ever read the actual article.

Guess what – your website is the same way. If you don’t have bold, descriptive, catchy headlines, why would anyone ever read anything on your site? This is even more important when you consider the fact that what people see in Google searches are your headlines. If you want people clicking over to your website, the headline is all you have to attract them. The same goes for social media.

As an example, I Googled “How to raise a puppy”. Most of what sows up has attention grabbing headlines that make me interested in reading the article. Only one in the top few results was a bit boring…

Google results for "How to raise a puppy"

Google results for “How to raise a puppy”

Test 3: Do you supplement with awesome multi-media?

Can you imagine a newspaper without pictures? It’s hard to. Imagine the New York Times trying to sell papers with no pictures. It’s tough to see how that would work. So why do we publish websites without pictures? Beyond that, why just restrict ourselves to pictures? On a website, it’s easy to add video and audio content in addition to pictures. If newspapers could do that, you bet you best hat that they would. In fact, they do (on their websites…).

As an example, I’ve added a bunch of pictures on this post to help illustrate the points I’m trying to make, but also to make the content interesting when people are browsing my blog page, or when sharing on social media.

Does your site pass the newspaper test?

Let me know in the comments section below if your site passes the newspaper test. I’d love to know. If it does, great! Share the URL to show others how it’s done. If not, no problem, share the URL and we can help you make sense of how to improve the site.

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