Winning the Internet

The Most Epic Subject Line Writing Workshop in the History Of NN13

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

As we gear up for Netroots Nation 2013, we’re taking a closer look at some of the convention’s hottest training sessions. We’re interviewing the trainers and taking you inside some of online activism’s most popular and elusive topics.

Today we’re interviewing Adam Mordecai, who’ll be leading The Most Epic Subject Line Writing Workshop in the History Of NN13.

NN13 Training Session

The Most Epic Subject Line Writing Workshop in the History Of NN13
Your headline is the entry point from Facebook—where everyone is—to your site—where not everyone is. We’ll teach you to write headlines that will make people actually click on them from Facebook and go to your actual website. Whatever you are doing now probably isn’t getting a lot of clicks, and we can help you fix that. Bring a piece of content you want to work on.


Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: Hi, I’m Adam. I’ve been to every Netroots Nation with the exception of MN. *weeps*. I’m a recovering Dean campaign hack (Iowa Internet team). I co-founded Advomatic, then realized I liked writing more than building websites. So I screwed around on the Internet until I saw Upworthy was hiring and then begged them for a job. I’ve been screwing around professionally for them ever since. I’m the founding curator and it’s my job to make and test headlines that are so curiosity inducing that you have no choice but to click on them.

Q: In your opinion, why are headlines and subject lines so important?

A: Headlines are the teaser trailers for your site. Give too much away, no one needs to watch the next episode. If you don’t keep people in suspense enough to click through to your site, you are leaving audience on Facebook and wasting your own time. If I made suspense movies, which would you rather see? “The 6th Sense: Bruce Willis is actually dead and that’s why the kid can see him.” or “The 6th Sense: This kid has a secret about dead people that you won’t believe.”

Just like the “Next on…” promos that run after TV shows, you need to make sure your headlines hook people and bring them to you, without giving it all away. As an example, my editor and I both wrote up the exact same video. My headline got 10,000 people to click and visit our site. My boss’ headline got almost 2 MILLION people to click and visit our site, ON THE EXACT SAME VIDEO. Wrap your noodle around that, and then go tell your boss why you need to start testing headlines more often.

Q: What are the two most important things to keep in mind when writing a headline or subject line?

A: 1) Don’t give it all away in the headline or excerpt. Give people an excuse to click.

2) Don’t be boring. Talk to people like they are human beings.

And don’t forget the most important secret to writing amazing headlines:

3) Oh shoot, I ran out of space, I’ll have to tell you at the session.

Q: Why should folks attend your session at Netroots Nation, and how can they connect with you?

A: We started at 0 fans and 0 traffic a little over a year ago and for each of the last 4 months months we’ve gotten over 20 million page views, and have 1.5 million Facebook fans. That’s mostly thanks to our headlines (and our development, partnership and software teams.) So only come if you want your non-profit to get oodles of traffic. Or at least more traffic than you have now.

Progressives always think of marketing as a dirty word, but our curiosity inducing headlines can mean the difference between 40,000 people seeing a video about stop-and-frisk civil rights violations and 800,000. Obviously, not everyone can or should try to emulate us, but there are amazing tricks we can show you that won’t compromise your internal vision, while at the same time can really increase how much visibility you get. So there’s that.

If people want to yell at me, they can do so on my Facebook Page or at my Twitters. If they really want to learn, they might as well like Upworthy on Facebook and see what we do on a day to day basis.


To attend this training, or one of the 39 others at Netroots Nation 2013 in San Jose, register now.

About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.


  1. Netroots Foundation | Netroots Nation 2013 Training Roundup | Winning the Internet - July 10, 2013

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