21 great headlines from trashy tabloids

headline secretsWant to read some great headlines? Check these out:

Man’s head explodes in barber’s chair.

Woman with 4 legs opens dance studio.

Skiing squirrel dies trying to break 196 m.p.h. speed record!

Cow crashes domino game.

Inflate-a-Boob. New breast implants take gals from flat to fabulous … in seconds!

And these are just the beginning. Alex Eckelberry from Sunbelt Blog turned me on to a collection of Weekly World News back issues preserved in all their eye-popping glory by Google Books.

This stuff is like a Barnum and Baily nightmare. But they hold a treasure of incredible headlines that, while weird and over-the-top, work like money machines. I mean, they certainly sell these publications.

If you want a quick education in using headlines to get attention and get people reading (which is the #1 purpose of any headline), spend some time with these marvels of unabashedly hardcore copywriting. Notice the startling choice of words and extreme specificity.

Pig-nosed man roasted alive in fire-walk tragedy!

Headless ghost haunts railroad tracks … looking for his booze and smokes!

18 things you never knew about Hank the angry drunken dwarf!

Loving her was easy – until she took off her clothes!

Ghost airliner brings back dead rock starts

Rub the famous magic fish … and get anything you want!

Teen’s hair changes color … with her mood!

Half of U.S. hookers are space aliens – and they don’t have sex organs!

Man makes $60,000 a year as human lawn jockey

Is your cat from mars?

London man is electrolysist by day and … werewolf by night. “I know all about unwanted hair growth says spa employee.”

Secretary lifts car off boss – and he fires her!

Iraqi elephant man keeps 10 wives happy! His trunk is his secret charm, says neighbors.

Supreme Court judges are naked under robes!

Nazi UFOs to attack U.S.

Chain-smoker kicks 30-year habit … then chokes to death on wad of nicotine gum!

Want more? Browse this collection of trashy tabloids.

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46 Responses to “21 great headlines from trashy tabloids”

  1. Phong Khang on October 20th, 2009 1:56 pm

    Totally awesome. Thanks for the great ideas. I’m going to have to buy me these issues now.
    .-= Phong Khang’s last blog … 20 Revealing Ways To Make Buckets Of Money Online =-.

  2. Joshua Boxer on October 20th, 2009 3:08 pm

    I love the old headlines you have referenced here. I am always on the lookout for mix-it up ideas to get the headlines flowing through my head. As a fairly new copywriter, I am always looking for ways to improve my craft. Thank you for sharing.
    .-= Joshua Boxer’s last blog … Advocare Reviews – A Critical Look At Advocare’s Business Model and Recruiting System =-.

  3. Dean Rieck on October 20th, 2009 3:18 pm

    Well I wasn’t suggesting that you go out and buy these trashy tabloids. Just learn from them. Who knows what all those stories of 5 legged dogs and alien abductions will do to your brain.

  4. Dean Rieck on October 20th, 2009 3:19 pm

    Yeah, looking at stuff like this is the only reason I enjoy going to the grocery.

  5. BLOGitse on October 21st, 2009 5:34 am

    It’s interesting how words like sex, porn or similar are the most looked words in Finnish blog catalog (http://www.blogilista.fi/).

    Hm…is it the same all over the globe?

    If yes, it means that those are much more interesting ‘topics’ than for example climate change!?
    Or maybe most of the blogs are for fun, not to educate/get information/discuss.

    How to write a sexy headline of a serious topic like climate change? any ideas?

    Thanks for sharing! Have a great day/evening! :)
    .-= BLOGitse’s last blog … it’s getting warmer and warmer…climate change – are we ready to act? =-.

  6. David Siteman Garland on October 23rd, 2009 2:09 pm

    This is GREAT.

    As blogger and TV producer we are always working on more captivating headlines.

    From my experience the key has not been to mislead but of course be interesting, cooky and funny.

    Misleading may lead to some clicks/opens but you will destroy your viewer/reader loyalty.


  7. Dean Rieck on October 23rd, 2009 2:27 pm

    Thanks, David. In a former life, I also was a TV producer. It was a great education.

  8. Fruitfulvine2 on October 26th, 2009 2:07 pm

    Those were really funny! But it did the trick – got me thinking about how to spice up the titles of my blog posts. Thanks to Brian of copyblogger for sharing this.
    .-= Fruitfulvine2′s last blog … Food Storage – Storing Non-Food Items =-.

  9. Credito Pessoal on October 26th, 2009 4:46 pm

    :) Now those are some sick Headlines! Cats from Mars? Say what?
    .-= Credito Pessoal’s last blog … Partners Finances Credito Pessoal =-.

  10. lawton chiles on January 4th, 2010 11:08 pm

    Dean, what are the forms these guys have to fill out- the libel forms, so they aren’t sued all the time? Thoughts? Great headlines though!

  11. Dean Rieck on January 5th, 2010 1:38 am

    Lawton, I think the stories are so outlandish, people can’t stop laughing long enough to call a lawyer.

  12. Allen on March 30th, 2010 7:48 am

    Like it … really like the “Loving her was easy – until she took off her clothes!” – a good one for the weight loss niche or similar.

    Thanks for sharing.

  13. Rodney Daut on April 15th, 2010 6:09 pm

    These were very entertaining. I’d love to see links to the actual articles to see how they relate to the content.

    Also, I’d also like to see how anyone was able to use these to come up with headlines for their own products or services.

  14. Daniela on July 25th, 2010 10:30 pm

    Aaah, a copywriter’s delight – or nightmare. :)

    They are certainly attention grabbing, thanks for sharing these headlines.


  15. John on September 3rd, 2010 6:56 am

    I haven’t laughed so hard in such a long time. I had tears in my eyes.

    I was working on headlines right before reading this.

    These just blew me out of the water because they’re unbelievable but follow known winning formulas.

    These writers must have so much fun at their jobs. I wish I worked for World Weekly News.

  16. carole anne wescombe on October 21st, 2010 1:22 am

    Gave me some great ideas, made the brain work in a different way. I agree that humour is definitely a good way to get someone’s attention, especially if it is slightly askew.

  17. JobJenny on November 1st, 2010 6:12 pm

    Oh man! I have a skiing squirrel. Why, oh why, have I not considered incorporating him into my headlines!?

    Love this. Kudos! :)


  18. wilson usman on November 7th, 2010 3:35 pm

    Yea these might catch your eye, but once you get to the article you might be disappointed.

    I’m not a copywriter or anything, but isn’t a headline suppose to make you look inside, but also provide the goods of the headline?

  19. Belinda on November 7th, 2010 8:39 pm

    I saw a magazine with Prince William on the cover with huge headline “PRINCE GETS MARRIED”. The inside story is about a prince getting married, but it’s NOT Prince William. What marketers don’t do for attention…

  20. julie algarve on November 9th, 2010 1:38 am

    I have a pig that can drive a bike upside down while playing vioin :)

  21. Frankie Cooper on November 10th, 2010 8:24 am

    I never have thought about adapting trashy tabloid headlines into some my own articles. But starting today I will research this to work me up a system to begin this approach immediately.

  22. Job Search Software on December 29th, 2010 7:53 am

    Wow! As trashy as these headlines are, they make my own blog headlines look staid and dull. Surely, they put some work into them. More power to them! Me? I’m going back to the drawing board. Thanks for the enlightenment. :-)


    John P. Coffey, President
    JobTabs, LLC

  23. Purush on March 27th, 2011 7:46 am

    Interesting read, thanks for the share!

  24. 4 Fascinating Facts on Why You Are Easily Distracted (and not likely to read all of this) « Doctor Stu's Science Blog on April 6th, 2011 7:10 am

    [...] are the most popular type of newspaper, and for one very good reason – they get all the best headlines. I bet you just can’t resist wanting to know more about the “9-month baby who gets [...]

  25. Michael Chibuzor on June 25th, 2011 1:40 pm

    Thanks for such wonderful headline samples. Honestly, these are masterpiece and I wish I could do it like you. All the same, I have learned so much from this than a $37 e-book on copywriting. Great content and happy writing.

  26. Lisa at Real Club Cancun on June 28th, 2011 12:22 pm

    First I have to tell you all how much I miss the Weekly World News! My family and I used to faithfully follow the adventures of Bat Boy every week. Second, these are fabulous headlines, they make you want more, they entice you to read the article to satisfy your curiosity. I would love to write headlines like these but we don’t have any two headed alien babies being born at our hotel!

  27. Rebecca on July 21st, 2011 11:26 am

    These are great headlines; I need to rework my headlines and titles. I get caught up with making sure I have a ‘keyword’ in the title for SEO purposes. Maybe I need to revisit this theory.

  28. Matt on August 7th, 2011 9:06 am

    “Bat child found in cave” – along with accompanying photograph – I’ll always hold that one dear. Bats, child cruelty, horror, caves… it has all the elements.

  29. Nan on August 9th, 2011 12:43 pm

    I enjoyed your blog post. Still wiping the tears of laughter from my eyes. I’ve struggled with headlines…wanting to appease the SEO gods. This article reminded me to lighten up and put my “kookie hat” on and get creative with my headlines. Thanks for the eye popper, er, I mean eye opener!

  30. Lishui on August 12th, 2011 11:21 am

    HAHA my spam filter tossed out this Copyblogger post because of the cheesy headline!


  31. Mircea Prodan on October 12th, 2011 3:43 am

    I have a site about two years. I tried everything possible and impossible to grow them traffic. In vain. I tried the more unusual titles. In vain. My site content has 100% original articles. It is about politics, movies, rock music. But not anything except help increase traffic (also reduced) to Facebook.
    I think it ultimately comes down to luck …

  32. Lilia Lee on October 12th, 2011 12:02 pm

    I laughed a lot reading the headlines. But, the writer is correct, they are masters of the headline.

  33. Michael Simpson on October 28th, 2011 10:31 am

    The headlines are hilarious and can you imagine being in the brainstorming sessions that came up with these? HAHAHA

    But these folks were geniuses and knew exactly what had to be accomplished in six words or less.

  34. Caitlin on January 2nd, 2012 11:58 am

    I started giggling at work when I was reading through some of the headlines. The tabloids sure know how to get people’s attention!

  35. Chas McNamara on January 6th, 2012 1:57 pm

    What bull crap! The tone of the headline should match the tone of the article. How about if I had used “Dumb vet can’t tell when he’s wounded” for my article on Gordon Rozanski (There are no medals for kindness).

  36. Dave on January 13th, 2012 9:28 am

    The headline is vital ad the sales of these papers proves that. You can apply the same to any subject, my area happens to be self help and personal development. Great blog by the way!


  37. Doug Tobs on April 21st, 2012 10:20 pm

    Great headlines, i used one similar to these and my unique visitors short up by 30% for that week. Amazing

  38. Tips for Writing Awesome Video Titles That Will Make You Rich | Freeex Blog on April 27th, 2012 11:21 am

    [...] 1. Learning from the smutty tabloids There is no time for snobbery when considering the art of headline writing. Tabloids have very carefully crafted headlines and they use terminology that will appeal to their audience and direct emotions for a particular response. If you want to improve your headline writing, start by looking around you and learning from the pros. Take a look at these great examples at Direct Creative’s Blog. [...]

  39. Kate McClare on May 13th, 2012 12:14 pm

    I’m proud to say that I worked at Weekly World News as a writer and editor in 2002-04. “Working with Idiots Can Kill You!” was one of mine.

    We always wrote the headline first and went from there. It focuses you and puts you in the right frame of mind

    I took up a similar topic at my blog, although it had to do with news tabs more than entertainment:


  40. Dean Rieck on May 14th, 2012 12:59 pm

    Kate, yes I also write headlines first. Until I have a good one, I can’t write any other copy. It’s the launch pad for every other element of an ad or direct mail piece.

  41. Arun Kumar on May 26th, 2012 10:37 am

    I am now creating stuff that would send welcome signals to aliens. One of the headlines for my next article would be – Aliens Ruling India For Sixty Years. And believe me, no one will sue me for that. :D

  42. Steve VanHove on July 24th, 2012 11:21 am

    A very long time ago the New Yorker magazine ran a contest for their readers to make up a tabloid headline.

    The first prize? It was a group of their most popular headline words (at that time):

    “Jackie Reveals Secret UFO Diet”

    I’ll never forget it!

  43. Man's Head Explodes in Barber's Chair | DarcelDobbins.com on July 28th, 2012 9:14 pm

    [...] 21 Great Headlines from Trashy Tabloids [...]

  44. Alain on August 7th, 2012 6:53 am

    Thank you very much.

    On June 2012, I decided to become a writer. I am loving the process.

    Thanks to you, one day I will have catchy headlines in my writings.

  45. Chris on August 19th, 2012 4:13 pm

    Those are catchy headlines, reminds me of the Enquirer type headlines, they work in marketing as long as you can get people to read, that is the main point. Funny too!

  46. Arbudi on September 11th, 2012 11:10 am

    I think they are great headlines, sometimes we have to used smart ideas to attract readers.

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