In the wake of David Carr’s meditation on search optimization’s murder of the old-school headline, we did some more thinking on the subject and found perhaps the greatest headline technique of the search-optimization age: The “Pantless Celebrity” hed.
Here’s how it works. Any celebrity who wears anything other than pants in public (e.g. skirts, miniskirts, minidresses, a bathing suits) is eligible to be labeled “pantless” in any headline. It’s sexy, but also technically accurate! Notice that most of the clothing articles listed tend to be worn by female celebrities, which brings us to our next consideration: Who should be pantless in the name of Google-baiting?
For the trick to work best, not any famous person will do. We haven’t run the numbers, but we’re guessing “Antonin Scalia Pantsless” is not setting the Google Trends charts on fire. Better to pick a female celebrity whose pantlessness is in high demand. A headline with “Kate Moss … Pantless” or “Taylor Momsen Isn’t Wearing Pants” in it is sure to draw clicks. The Taylor Momsen example is particularly delicious because it plays a self-aware game of deliberately tasteless Google baiting. It’s a double-win, because the author winkingly acknowledges the ridiculousness of the practice, thus preserving a postmodern sense of irony and a veneer of journalistic credibility.
In a pinch, one may forgo mention of a celebrity, and opt for a trend piece about not wearing pants.
Technically accurate, salivation-inducing, and thrillingly shameless: The no-pants meme the way forward for Internet journalism. Embrace it, and all the attendant pageviews.