Why Portent’s Content Idea Generator Will Make You Question Everything

By Devon Glenn 

Think about it: what was the last headline you clicked on and why? If you’ve got a keyword in mind and a few hours to waste, head over to the Content Idea Generator: an online tool that will create a much zippier headline to use in blog posts and marketing emails than the one you just wrote.

Portent, Inc., an internet marketing company based in Seattle, WA, launched the generator last week at SearchFest.

In a nutshell, the tool will mash your keywords with other headline parts for a one-liner that demands to be clicked.

That’s not to say that the tool can understand a story as well as its author. “Computers may someday be able to figure out what’s important about a story for computers, but they’ll never be able to consistently figure out what’s important about a story for humans,” said Portent CEO Ian Lurie said via email. “They can try, and get close, and sometimes get it right. But given the infinite possibilities for news, fiction and other kinds of storytelling, it’s hard to figure out how a computer would figure it out, even if it’s writing its own algorithm.”

But this particular algorithm was informed by a human, at least. Each auto-populated headline suggestion also comes with explanation as to why the headline works so well on readers. Writing a “guide to” works, for example, because “resource posts make readers feel smart,” while starting a headline with “why” is effective because “we all want to know why.”

We created the headline for this post by filling in the words “Portent” and “content idea generator” and then smoothing out the results. (The generator told us this one would speak to your fears and concerns so you’ll listen to us. Sorry about that.)

The SocialTimes team also found a wealth of other story ideas to follow up on, like “10 Ways Online Videos Can Find You The Love of Your Life, “16 Secrets About Video Games The Government Is Hiding,” and “How Sex Can Help You Predict The Future.”

Do alluring headlines like these matter as much now as they did in the days of print? “They’re just as relevant, but for slightly different reasons,” said Lurie. “Headlines used to grab attention as we walked by the newsstand. Now they grab attention via a search result or news reader. Same outcome, different medium.”