Four Things You Think When You Read Headlines Like This

July 29th, 2010  |  Published in etc  |  1 Comment

Like Marco, I think the “pads/tablets will kill e-readers” sentiment is a little foolish:

Naturally, the tech press is already declaring [the new Kindle] “dead”, because the tech press loves product “killers” and other perceptions to completely rule out entire classes of products because they lack the empathy or worldview to recognize these products’ markets.

Well … I don’t know about all that.

The tech press usually wraps the whole “killer” thing in a question mark in the headline, e.g.:

Is the iPad a Kindle Killer?

Then follows the headline up with some overthinking and dithering in the actual content. A definitive conclusion is more of a nicety than a requirement*, so it’s wrong to think the headline is harboring some motivation beyond engaging the part of the reader’s brain that reads:

Is the iPad a Kindle Killer?

and thinks a number of things in no order I’ve paused to consider, like:

  • “I know the answer to that question …”

  • “I bet the way they answered that question is wrong …”

  • “I hope they answered that question the same way I did …”

  • “Grar!”

Then the brain makes the finger click the button before any executive function can blurt out “flamebait! flamebait! we’re being trolled!”


The limply engaging “Is the {noun} a {noun}-killer?” article can be safely classified as a close cousin to the “{number} {superlative} {nouns} you {must/haven’t/will/should/shouldn’t} {verb}” article. The point isn’t that anyone on the other end has any particular stake in the answer or has even considered whether it’s a good question. The point is that we’ll foolishly click through because someone might be wrong on the Internet.

Reading a lack of “empathy or worldview” into these provocations is like calling a Mynah bird “hard-hearted” because it has been taught to repeat choice quotes from Milton Friedman.

* And may even be a liability, unless the author is the sort to plan in advance for columns built around topics like “I was right …”, “I was wrong …”, and “People who like {thing} are unreasonable, unlike me.” The problem is, tech writers often don’t have enough job security to think that far ahead.


  1. GIGO :: dot unplanned says:

    July 30th, 2010 at 11:26 am (#)

    […] Apropos yesterday’s “Four Things You Think When You Read Headlines Like This“: […]

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