Brainpower: How Negative Headlines Far Outperform Positive Ones

|Gabie Kur

This may be the only time you’ll hear it from us, but negative prevails over positive. When it comes to headlines, that is.


Contrary to popular belief (and widespread use), positive superlatives are not compelling to readers as content marketers have hoped. In fact, our data shows just the opposite. This may simply be a product of overuse, or it could be because readers are skeptical of sources’ motives for endorsement. On the flip side, sources of negative information may be more likely to be perceived as impartial and authentic. Positive superlatives have become clich├ęd, overused; negative superlatives provide the reader with something more unexpected and intriguing.

Did you know that compared with headlines that contained neither positive (“always” or “best”) nor negative (“never” or “worst”) superlatives, headlines with positive superlatives performed 29% worse and headlines with negative superlatives performed 30% better? Compared to their positive counterpart, negative headlines received a 63% higher average click-through rate! We find that staggering.

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Gabie Kur

Gabie is Marketing Coordinator at Outbrain. Read more

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  • Lori Feldman| January 15, 2015 at 1:01AM

    Gabi, never ask a Q in email that you don’t want to know the answer to!! But I love your article. Same reason we can’t look away from a catastrophe.


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