Linguistic effects on news headline success: Evidence from thousands of online field experiments

What makes written text appealing? In this registered report, we study the linguistic characteristics of news headline success using a large-scale dataset of field experiments (A/B tests) conducted on the popular website Upworthy.com comparing multiple headline variants for the same news articles. This unique setup allows us to control for factors that could otherwise have important confounding effects on headline success. Based on the prior literature and an exploratory portion of the data, we formulated hypotheses about the linguistic features associated with statistically superior headlines, previously published as a registered report protocol. Here, we report the findings based on a much larger portion of the data that became available after the publication of our registered report protocol. Our registered findings contribute to resolving competing hypotheses about the linguistic features that affect the success of text and provide avenues for research into the psychological mechanisms that are activated by those features.

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