You're trained in journalism. What if you were leafing through a magazine and you saw the following headlines:
This is not a joke
I know, I know, I know
I want to be able to say
A dollar a day
We can’t wait
They got it wrong
Stronger for it
Take him up on it
You'd think, This magazine needs a headline writer.
Yet, these are typical subject lines from e-mails I've gotten from BarackObama.com.
Now, first let me acknowledge difference between subject lines and headlines. An e-mail subject line is preceeded by the name of the author, which gives it context. If you got an e-mail from your boss with the subject line, "See me," that would be a lame headline, but an urgent call to action.
An e-mail from BarackObama.com, however, comes to me once every few days, and when I see it's from old Barry, I don't sit up straight in my chair anymore.
So the Obama campaign is becoming more like a magazine. It's trying to pull people in with their headlines … but also needing to identify what this particular note is about so as not to waste the time of someone who is wholly uninterested.
Like most Obama supporters, I'm interested in some BarackObama.com stuff, and I'm not interested in other BarackObama.com stuff. (For instance, I've said do not want to have dinner with Barack and three nervous twits who donated $5 and won a chance to drool on their shirts; like Jan Brewer, if I'm going to mix it up with Barack, he and I will need some privacy.)
With these opaque subject lines, the Obama campaign is failing to fulfill one of the main responsibilities of the headline writer: Let the discerning reader discern.
Keep sending us shit with headlines like, "I know, I know, I know," and the only people who will open these will be shut-ins and people who haven't heard from themselves in three months.
So what sorts of subject lines would I like to see on these e-mails?
Well, let's take the e-mail that appears below the opaque subject line, "Stronger for it."
We're building something different here.
Ours is the only major presidential campaign that outright rejects contributions from Washington lobbyists and refuses money from special-interest PACs.
No matter what the deadline, no matter what the pressures or distractions, we're always going to do this the right way: one person and one grassroots donation at a time.
It's the hard way to do it, but we're stronger for it in the end.
So please donate $3 or more before midnight tonight:
P.S. — If you make a donation of any amount before midnight, you'll be automatically entered for a chance to join me for dinner with three other supporters.
Okay, count me out for the stupid dinner, but I dig the rest of it. So how about a subject line that says: "Help us hold onto the high ground."
E-mail subject lines are limited in space; writing my own e-blasts, I hate not having a subhead to tell the reader even more before he or she clicks.
But I think you'll agree that "Help us hold onto the high ground," is a hell of a lot better than "Stronger for it."
Or would you?
I reckon ain't nobody smarter than the Obama people about campaigning, so I acknowledge that maybe I'm missing something.
But what on earth could it be?