How To Come Up With 10,000 Great Ideas For Audience-Grabbing Content In 5 Minutes

headlinesI’m not a big fan of re-creating the wheel. And if someone is willing to do the hard work of testing compelling ideas and headline structures for me, I’m more than happy to let them.

As a former magazine editor and publisher, I know publishers do just that. They are in the business of attracting the attention of passers by. If you want to know what topics your audience is looking for, just walk into your nearest big-box bookstore and head to the magazine racks. You’ll also see the types of headline constructs that get people to open the page.

Now, go to the bestseller racks for fiction and nonfiction. Look at the titles and subtitles of those books. Take a picture. Now walk to the section that is most closely related to your business. You will notice that most books are spine-out on the shelf, but there are several turned so that the cover is showing. This is no accident. These books are displayed that way on purpose. Those are the featured titles the store is trying to sell in that genreā€¦ or they are the hot titles and they are hoping to catch your eye to get you to slow down and peruse the shelves.

This is actually a gold mine of market research. Think about the hundreds of titles on those those racks. Each book typically has a title and a subtitle or teaser line and each magazine has between 5 and 15 headlines/teasers on the cover. Here are thousands of titles that have successfully made their way through the gauntlet of agents, editors, marketers and purchasing agents, and been edited, revised and refined before making it to the store where you see it.

You don’t need to read the books or magazines. You don’t have to stand in the store and studying them. Snap photos of the racks, and then head to your office, the nearest coffeeshop or wherever you do your best work and take a look at your pictures. For books and magazines with an overlapping audience, make note of the topics. For others, look at how the headlines are written.

Do not plagiarize the articles or headlines themselves. But you can take the topics, do your own research and write your own articles on them. Or take headline constructs from other subjects and apply them to your industry.

Based on what you’ve found in your five minute walkabout in the bookstore, sit down and, in 15 minutes or less, come up with 25 (or 50, or 100) different headline ideas for your own content. Use the titles you found in your research as a springboard for topics and catchy headlines for your own material.

If you have 25 headlines, you have the seeds for nearly a month’s worth of daily content. Once you have a headline like “5 Hacks That Will Dominate at Short Stop” or “Lessons From The Hunger Games That Will Change Your Marketing** Forever,” five to fifteen minutes of research online will often be enough to find what you need to write the post. **[substitute “marketing” for “Hunting” or “Beauty Routine” or whatever]

To consistently create good content, you don’t need to be really creative. You simply need to be able to recognize when something else is engaging, reverse-engineer it and then use those elements for your own benefit.