Editors’ Weblog‘s Jean Yves Chainon looks at the recent Wall Street Journal report that* Times Online* is doing some search engine optimisation with their headlines:

UK newspapers are teaching their reporters how to write articles. How so? By writing in ways that show up at the top of search results from Google and other search engines. This is a look at how the online news portal oligarchy is concretely changing journalism.

That blasted online news portal oligarchy, at it again, messing with our journalism!

Alternative interpretation: The newsagent oligarchy concretely shaped journalism until today.

Headlines have always been newspapers’ primary marketing mechanism, even when they were in print and designed to catch readers’ eye on newstands. Adapting to new, headline styles appropriate to new distribution technologies  just good sense. Google is the Internet’s newsstand.

Technological determinism has always had a big effect on journalistic writing styles: The inverted pyramid convention came from the unreliability of telegraph transmission in the 19th century. This is just the 21st-century example of the same thing.

Times Online isn’t the only site doing this, by the way.