The Language That Drives Engagement: A Systematic Large-scale Analysis of Headline Experiments.
51 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2021 Last revised: 22 Jun 2022
Date Written: June 21, 2022
We use a large-scale dataset of thousands of field experiments conducted on Upworthy.com, an online media platform, to investigate the cognitive, motivation, affective, and grammatical factors implementable in messages to motivate people to engage with online content. We map from textual cues measured with Natural Language Processing tools to constructs implied to be relevant by a broad range of prior research literatures. We validate the constructs with human judgment and then test which constructs causally impact click-through to articles when implemented in headlines. Our findings suggest that the use of textual cues identified in previous research and industry advice does impact the effectiveness of headlines overall, but the prior research and industry advice does not always provide useful guidance as to the direction of the effects. We identify the specific textual characteristics that make headlines most effective at motivating engagement.
Keywords: Natural Language Processing; Information Processing; Cognitive Psychology; Linguistic Process; Social Psychology; A/B Testing; Text Analysis
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