Optimizing Content with A/B Headline Testing: Changing Newsroom Practices

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Optimizing Content with A/B Headline Testing: Changing Newsroom Practices


  • Nick Hagar Department of Communication Studies, Northwestern University, USA
  • Nicholas Diakopoulos Department of Communication Studies, Northwestern University, USA


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Abstract:  Audience analytics are an increasingly essential part of the modern newsroom as publishers seek to maximize the reach and commercial potential of their content. On top of a wealth of audience data collected, algorithmic approaches can then be applied with an eye towards predicting and optimizing the performance of content based on historical patterns. This work focuses specifically on content optimization practices surrounding the use of A/B headline testing in newsrooms. Using such approaches, digital newsrooms might audience-test as many as a dozen headlines per article, collecting data that allows an optimization algorithm to converge on the headline that is best with respect to some metric, such as the click-through rate. This article presents the results of an interview study which illuminate the ways in which A/B testing algorithms are changing workflow and headline writing practices, as well as the social dynamics shaping this process and its implementation within US newsrooms.

Keywords:  audience metrics; content optimization; digital media; headline testing; headlines

Published:   19 February 2019


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v7i1.1801


© Nick Hagar, Nicholas Diakopoulos. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.