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  1. null (Ed.)
    Headlines play an important role in both news audiences' attention decisions online and in news organizations’ efforts to attract that attention. A large body of research focuses on developing generally applicable heuristics for more effective headline writing. In this work, we measure the importance of a number of theoretically motivated textual features to headline performance. Using a corpus of hundreds of thousands of headline A/B tests run by hundreds of news publishers, we develop and evaluate a machine-learned model to predict headline testing outcomes. We find that the model exhibits modest performance above baseline and further estimate an empirical upper bound for such content-based prediction in this domain, indicating an important role for non-content-based factors in test outcomes. Together, these results suggest that any particular headline writing approach has only a marginal impact, and that understanding reader behavior and headline context are key to predicting news attention decisions. 
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  2. 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. 
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