By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Apr 03, 2012 at 10:49 AM

I'll admit it: I judge a book by its cover. I literally buy wine based on what the label looks like. And I click on news headlines if they're engaging.

Great headlines on the Web are more important than their counterparts in print because usually, you see them without any context. You can't scan the lede or see an accompanying photo. If they're ambiguous or truncated, forget it.

For example, I just copied and pasted the "Latest News" headlines from

Most of these are pretty good, and I might click on them. Some tell me enough (too much, really) so I don't have to click on then. And others mean nothing to me, and I'll move on. If you don't click, then you lose a page impression. And if you lose a page impression, you lose a few ad impressions. If you're not monetizing your content, you're in trouble.

Good headline writing is no accident, but all too many digital journalists forget that their medium requires a unique presentation.

For example, here are the headlines that might make me click:

  • Police: Shooting suspect not remorseful
  • 'Shooter looking for administrator'
  • Activists: No signs Syria is withdrawing
  • MD lotto winner clouded in mystery
  • Key al Qaeda websites go quiet
  • Transgender contestant back in pageant
  • Drama on the 'DWTS' dance floor
  • 'Batman' jailed after Facebook post
  • Firefighters donate lottery jackpot
  • Here it is! BA's new Olympic plane

Here are the headlines that tell me what I need to know without a call to action to click:

  • James Murdoch resigns from BSkyB
  • New grads to get fatter paychecks
  • Pelosi: Don't fail women of Arab spring

And here are the headlines that fail in their job to get my click:

  • Women at Augusta?
  • 'Awake' -- is Michael really just...
  • LIVE: Biden on affordable colleges

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.