This Headline Is a Trial Balloon

Depending on the roll of a virtual dice that a computer on the internet just cast, this blogpost has one of the two following headlines:

“This Headline is a Trial Balloon”


“Testing, Testing 1, 2, 3”

Welcome to one of the cooler (and really powerful) areas of digital communication: real-world testing.

Testing has been part of communications forever — from consumer packaged goods companies setting up mock shopping environments to see what products and packaging consumers gravitate towards, to politicians leaking “trial balloon” ideas to the press to see how they fly with the electorate (before they come out and say something “for real”).

What’s different — and beyond powerful — about digital media and communications is that testing can happen not in a mock environment, but in the real world. I’m just having a bit of fun with it in this blog post to give you an idea of what is possible. We do have some actually useful tests running on this site (for example: check out the link on the right for Rassak’s 10 Rules of Viral Engagement. Does it have the word “free” in red next to it —- or not? Depends on the virtual dice. Once we know what works better we’ll end that test and go with the winner.

I went briefly last night to a really interesting event in San Francisco — put on by the  publisher of Which Test Won?   She (as in Anne Holland) has a great niche — she publishes and also runs trainings on testing. And I love the way she promotes her business. She offers a free newsletter called, well, Which Test Won?, and it’s more a game than a newsletter. She sends out example of real-world tests and lets readers try to guess which test won. I have been reading/playing it for a while — and I often lose.

At the event I got a refresher demo from Julio Bermúdez who works at Optimizely com — they offer a tool that makes testing web content easy.  The video above is me setting up the headline test for this blog post… so you can see how quickly it can be done.

Of course, one needs a lot of traffic to a tie to get statistically sound results so real testing works best on high-traffic sites like a number of our clients have — or in combination with a concerted traffic-buying effort to run a specific test on real people.

I’ll let you know which headline you (in aggregate) preferred.

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