Magazine Headline Remix:
PC World Edition

PC World

We’ve already used Cosmopolitan and Details Magazine for blogging inspiration. Let’s switch to a more technical topic to see if we can use the headlines on the cover of a computer magazine to come up with relevant content for a variety of blogs.

So l stopped by the grocery store and snagged a copy of PC World. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized there was something strange about this month’s issue.

Every article featured on the cover used a list headline.

Upon closer inspection, I found out that this was in fact a “Special List Issue.” I turned to the editor’s note (which is also a list article) for the story:

This month we’ve gone loony for lists: Most of the articles in this issue follow the easy-to-read list format that we’ve found popular on We continue to draw lessons from working on our website…

Interesting. Offline publishers have been using list headlines for decades because people respond well to them. Apparently they work great online, too.

Who knew? :)

Too late to turn back now, so let’s have some fun with lists. For those of you who are new to the magazine headline remix, I hand out headline assignments to various bloggers to see if they can produce the corresponding post.

Something tells me this group of bloggers is about to get some serious traffic.

PC World Headline – “10 Easy Ways to Avoid Security Nightmares”

Writer Dad has come a long way since figuring out that, yes, he is indeed a writer. How about writing this post for those who haven’t yet made the turn?

10 Easy Ways to Avoid Writing Insecurity

The use of the word “nightmares” in the original headline is powerful, but in this context it would be too much. Sometimes you’ve got to know when to tone it down.

PC World Headline – “12 Vista Features You Don’t Need—And How to Turn Them Off”

Getting affiliates to sell for you online is great, but not all affiliates are desirable. Rebecca, how about doing this one for the affiliate managers category of Market Leverage TV?

5 Types of Affiliates You Don’t Need—And How to Keep Them Away

Since this is video, you’ll get more traffic if you make this a special segment rather than just a section of a regular broadcast. The headline will pull in managers and curious affiliates looking for controversy.

PC World Headline – “10 Products That Don’t Live Up to Their Hype”

Loren Feldman of 1938 Media constantly harasses me about these headline posts, so I’ve got to include him just to annoy him. But something tells me he won’t be able to resist this one.

10 Web 2.0 Sites That Don’t Live Up to Their Hype

The challenge will be limiting it to 10. Bonus points if delivered by a puppet.

PC World Headline – “50 Tune-Up Tools to Make Your PC Run Faster”

This one is open to all. Remember to drop your link in the comments for a round-up post featuring everyone who participates.

What makes this headline catchy? Let’s break it down see what’s happening:

[Number]+[Alliterative Modifier]+[Tips, Tools, Tricks, Ways, etc.] [to, that] Make Your [Subject]+[Better, Faster, Stronger, etc.]

Keep with the spirit of the formula instead of rigidly following it, and you’ll have way more options. Here are some examples:

  • Five Productivity Programs That Make Innovative Action Easy
  • 10 Titillating Tips to Make Your Sex Life Sensational
  • 11 Insider Investments for a Recession-Proof Portfolio

Remember, the human brain loves list content because it’s concrete and easy to process. You only insult the reader’s intelligence when you provide thin, unremarkable content after making a bold headline promise.

Great content is great content, whether in a list or not. But great content that attracts more readers is golden, and list headlines can make that happen for you.

About the Author: Brian Clark is the founding editor of Copyblogger, and co-founder of DIY Themes and Lateral Action. Get more from Brian on Twitter.

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Reader Comments (41)

  1. says

    I think it’s interesting that PC World decided to do a list format. I’m a big fan of lists. I can’t live without them. I have found that my blogging efforts typically feature a list format with “Five Ways To…” or “Seven Steps For…” headlines. Thanks for posting this! I guess I’m headed in the right direction!

  2. says

    When can we drop our links? I would like to participate…sounds fun…

    I really want to see Loren Feldman of 1938 Media to deliver something with the puppet:)

    Brian, good ideas for headlines…..Thanks

  3. says

    Aw shucks, Brian. That’s a whole lotta (yes, I know that’s not a real word) fun. I’ll hand in my assignment shortly.

    On a side note, I find it interesting/telltale that print is looking online for cues. I think this ball is just starting to roll. The landscape of all media will barely resemble what we think we know, and it will happen sooner than we’re expecting.

  4. says

    Everybody loves their lists. The next step from list writing is countdown writing. Everyone loves the suspense of a countdown and working its way down to number 1. I can see more content being written that way and in stages to allow for suspense to build and for a stage like writing process to draw readers in over a time period.


  5. says

    Thats cool. I would pick up a copy, but PC world is EXPENSIVE if you by per issue. So I think I’ll save my $10 and use it for something a bit more useful.

  6. says

    Ryan, no need to pick up a copy… the idea is to just take one of the headlines from the cover (which are in this post) and transform it into something appropriate to your blog.

  7. says

    The theme with these headlines and many articles I’ve written in the past that are the most successful is that that they’re all lists.

    I suppose people fall in love with lists because it’s easier to take in information in that type of format and they know exactly how many items of content they’re going to get out of the copy.

  8. says

    I have written articles using both list headlines and normal headlines. I can’t say that my list headlines pull better.

    So I have to ask: What is the difference between a successful list headline vs a poor list headline?

    Or, in other words: What makes a list headline flop?

    PS: I’ve read your related articles on list posts “7 Reasons Why List Posts Will Always Work” and “Five Reasons Why the List Post is Dead”.

  9. Erica B says

    This is a great idea for writers like me. In my day-to-day life, I’m never without a mini legal notepad to make lists on, whether they be to-do lists, grocery lists, or lists of ideas for stories and projects. I never my lists could be adapted for articles, too – thanks, Brian!

  10. says

    Interesting timing for me to come across this article. I happen to have that exact copy laying on my desk next to my keyboard.

    I noticed the lists on the cover as well and too that the issue was a special “lists” issue.

    The big list headline on the cover reads:
    100 Incredibly Useful Websites

    How about a remix to include a benefit at the end:
    100 Incredibly Useful Websites That Makes Your Life Easier

  11. says

    Okay, perhaps it’s the link that is getting my comments Askimeted…

    Anyway, I have an article posted today (Monday) as well: 6 Steps to a Smoother, Safer WordPress Move. Just click on my name for the article.



  12. says

    Would “8 Music Mastering *Methods* to Make Your CDs Sound Better” be even better, or overkill ? Is there such a thing as excessive alliteration ?

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