Out of 18 choices, why does one piece of content get 49 percent of the vote while another gets 0 percent?Over the last six years, I have tested a range of headings and summaries. The tests were carried out in 14 countries with almost 3,000 people. People were asked to scan 31 headings and 18 summaries about a particular subject and then quickly choose the one that stood out for them. The subject areas were:
* The launch of iTunes
* A pet food scare
* A launch of discount software by Microsoft
* The launch of the final Harry Potter book
Here's a summary of the results: TOP HEADINGS
* Tons of tunes (22 percent)
* Poison found in pet food (30 percent)
* $3 software for developing countries (23 percent)
* Flying off the shelves (31 percent) BOTTOM HEADINGS
* Apple's Music Store breaks the mould and sells technology (0 percent)
* Rodent poison found in now-recalled pet food blamed for animal deaths (0 percent)
* Three-Dollar Windows for Govt-Subsidized Student Computers... (0 percent)
* 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' sells 2.6 million copies in 24 hours (0 percent) TOP SUMMARIES
* 99 cents per download, no restrictions. One million tracks sold online in one week encouraging sign for ailing music industry. Apple ... (49 percent)
* By Josh Fineman and Michael Quint. March 23 (Bloomberg) -- Rat poison killed at least 16 cats and dogs and prompted last week's recall of 60 million cans of ... (38 percent)
* Microsoft plans to offer a US$3 stripped-down package of Windows, Office and other software to people in developing ... (34 percent)
* WARNING: If you don't want to know what happens in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," stop reading now. JK Rowling is far too savvy a … (38 percent) BOTTOM SUMMARIES
* The music industry owes a lot to technology. But the new millennium has brought slumping sales. Technology now terrifies music executives ... (0 percent)
* BY MICHAEL AMON. At first, the pet food recall didn't much worry Jack Friedman. His cats love Iams canned food but had never eaten the "cuts and gravy" ... (0 percent)
* In its effort to remain competitive and relevant to today's new generation of Windows users around the world, Microsoft unveiled on Thursday a new program ... (0 percent)
* Cash tills around the world rang to the tune of Harry Potter over the weekend and the seventh and final book in the ... (0 percent)
The Web is the ultimate laboratory for content. It allows us to know, with increasing precision, what content leads to a positive action, and what content leads to the Back button.
The content that works on the Web has one key characteristic: it is customer-centric. The content that doesn't work on the Web also has one key characteristic: it is organization-centric.
"99 cents per download, no restrictions" is the essence of what people want today. They want an immediate answer to the question: What's in it for me? They want brutal, pared down content that gets to the point immediately.
Your website is not a murder mystery. It is certainly not a place for we-we content. Short, sharp, second person and active; that's web content. Get to the point. Then stop.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.