How To Write A Headline (i.e. The Headlines I Stole From Cosmo Magazine)

Hello everyone, my name is Clay Collins, and in this episode of the Marketing Show, I’m going to share with you five headlines that I stole from Cosmo, Glamour, and Redbook, and other trashy magazines. That’s what I’ve got in this episode of the Marketing Show.

So a lot of people don’t know this, but I subscribe to magazines like Cosmo, Glamour, etc. And it’s not because I enjoy reading the content. I actually don’t. I mainly just focus on the covers because these covers are great sources of copy and great sources of headline and subject line inspiration for when I’m writing copy. In fact, I have a whole swipe file with headlines from Cosmo and other such sources, and I would highly suggest that you do the same. These magazines, magazines like Cosmo, Glamour, the National Enquirer, etc., live and die by their ability to catch your attention during the half a second that you’re looking at them during the supermarket. That is the basis of all their sales.

So the copywriters that write these headlines, especially for again, Cosmo, National Enquirer, things like that are highly paid, very well-trained copywriters who do business by the numbers. If these headlines did not produce sales, they wouldn’t be used again. And in fact, when you look at these headlines repeatedly, you will notice that patterns emerge, and these patterns are absolutely tested and absolutely work. So what I’m suggesting is that whenever you are lacking inspiration for an e-mail subject line, for a subject line for a sales letter or some marketing copy that you look at this.

So let’s look at the golf market, okay. If I needed to write a headline for a golf newsletter, if I needed to write a subject line for an e-mail that I’m sending out to my mailing list about golf, here’s what I could do, and I’m going to generate five of these. All right, so the first thing is 50 Sex Tips Reader Should: The Naughtiest Moves They Discovered All on Their Own. So if this were the golf market, I could say, 50 Putting Tips: Reader Share Their Sneakiest Moves They Discovered on Their Own. That’s one example.

Something else mentioned here is Three Things He Doesn’t Have to Know. So if you were writing again for the golf market, you could have an e-mail subject line where you send something out to your list. The subject line could be Three Things Your Golf Buddies Don’t Have to Know or Three Things the Clubhouse Doesn’t Have to Know, or you know, whatever. You can totally spin this. The Butt Facial. Yeah, I don’t know how you’re going to make that one work.

Anyway, next up, Glamour magazine. I’m looking here that says Is Everyone Kinkier Than You? Exactly What Real Men and Women are Doing When They Do It. So this could be Is Everyone Better Than You, okay. Exactly What Real Golfers are Doing and Why They Do It, you know. You could definitely spin all of these.

Next up, Redbook. Make-Up Tricks That Erase 10 Years. Okay. So you could be like Golf Swing Tips That Erase, you know, 10 Strokes From Your Game. I don’t know anything about golf, so I don’t know if ten is realistic, but that is one adaptation of this. Another one. Great Clothes, Shoes, Jewelry, and More Under $50, right. You could say Great Golf Clubs, Great Golf Accessories, and Local Golf Getaways For Under $50.

So anyway, there you go. Those are five head lines that I just instantaneously took from this material, and I think you get my drift. But another point I want to make here is that I was showing this for effects. You don’t have to go and spend $5 per magazine and buy these on your own. You can certainly go to,, etcetera, and use these websites as a source of inspiration. I’m on the website right now, and one of the headlines is 13 Things That Make Him Bitchy. Keep an Eye Out for These Landmines. If you were in the golf market, you could say 13 Things That Make Other Golfers Hate You on the Green. Keep an Eye Out for These Bad Habits, right?

So there is an infinite number of possibilities here, and if you are finding that your e-mails aren’t getting open, if you’re finding out that your blog posts aren’t getting read, if you’re finding out that in general, you aren’t able to capture the attention of your market, this is a way to fix that problem. And what I suggest you do, as you go through these materials that you create a swipe file in something like Evernote. So here’s mind and these are a bunch of headlines that I’ve either copied or adopted from magazines like this, and from other sources as well.

So just a quick tip for tweaking up your copy, making your stuff better, and getting your attention when you weren’t getting it before by using proven formulas from proven copywriters that live and die by their ability to get attention with your headlines.

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the Marketing Show. If you found this fascinating, if you found this helpful, I’d be super grateful if you would share this episode on Facebook and leave a comment below. My name is Clay Collins and thank you so much for watching the Marketing Show. I’ll talk to you next time.

  • Perfect timing. Needed a better headline today. Nailed it as usual, Clay.

    • Thanks a ton, Seth.  This is a surefire method.

  • Ben

    “The butt facial… Ya, I don’t know anything you can do with that…”
    Great advice and perfect timing – I was in need some one! (headline, not a butt facial…)

  • Pat

    Great way to nail headlines. Thanks for the tip

  • Shiggi El-Shig

    Brilliant insight into spinning headlines, these magazines are all over the place at work so this is helpful to keep my mind active (playing a game!) for finding headlines in magazines I’d typically avoid like a cold. 🙂

    • I agree. Folks in the online marketing world tend to think that copywriting is something new.  But there’s lots of precedent and great old school examples all around us.

  • Clpromo23


  • This is Awesome! Do you typically write you Headline Copy first or the body and go back? Our weekly email we decide on all the topics which takes moments and then spend forever coming up with a Headline to drive opens, will defiantly use this method. What application are you using for the POP up “recommended for you” in the bottom right? Thanks 

    • Marcos

       Micheal, this (annoying) pop-up looks like the SimpleReach Slide plugin for WordPress,  but I am not 100% sure though…

      • I think you’re right.  But I don’t really handle that stuff around here 🙂

    • Michael . . . I usually come up with the headline first (inspired by cool Magazines) and THEN create the content to fulfill the promise.  A lot of good marketing works that way . . . first come up with the headlines (or products, or campaigns, etc.) that you believe (or know) will be successful, and then reverse engineer the content.

      •  Thank you Clay and I’ll try to Hit our Headline first with my team this week and next the content. Played this for my team today…..all loved.  Thanks for the time!

  • Marion Spicher

    Excellent!  My headlines have been haphazard and this will give direction toward catching the attention of potential readers, both on twitter and Facebook.  Thanks.

  • Marcos

    Good tip Clay, but I am skeptical,  are you sure that you don’t enjoy reading the content of Cosmo in your spare time while nobody is watching you ?

    For headline, I also like Men’s Health magazine.

    • You busted me.  It’s those seductive quizzes. They get me every time.

      I agree: Men’s Health is also really good.

  • Curious to know the answer to Michael Kawula’s question above.  Do you write the copy first and go in search of headlines or do you find a headline you like and expand with copy?

    • Kathlyn

      Oops!  Guess it’s really below.  Thought the comments were going in chrono order not reverse.  Still want to know the answer though. 🙂  Cheers.

      • No problem, Kathlyn.  Great question.  I responded to Michael below.

  • Thomas Kessler

    Great session – love it completely – you rock!!!

    • You’re the man . . . Thomas.  And thank you for your very kind words.

  • bobbyg

    How do you shoot the videos.. is this a budget setup or high end system. About to publish eBook on Veggie Power Burgers and want to follow your tips! Great ideas!!

    soon will start a blog too!
    bob in Chicago

    • My video setup probably cost about $4k.  Plus post-production costs.  And a LOT of trial and error.

  • Deb

    Oh yeah baby!!! I write a lot of copy, headlines and marketing emails. This is so obvious – NOW that you’ve pointed it out!!!!  Heading over to the Cosmo site right now 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    • No prob, Deb.  Are you a professional copywriter?

  • super idea!!! one reason enjoy learning from you so much is you 100000% think outside the box!

  • @claycollins:disqus so in your view what are the top 5 magazine I should use to keep a swipe file? (<<<— by the way awesome tip)

    • Thanks Owen.  I’d probably say my favorite are Men’s Health, Cosmo, Glamour, and the National Enquirer.

  • October

    I love how you showed us how to tweak the headlines of the “big boys (and girls)” to fit a niche. As a l-o-o-o-ng time copywriter, I never found headlines easy, so I  appreciate how much time this tip could save.

    • Absolutely.  If you look at the top magazines, they pretty much rotate a few dozen headlines formulas over and over again.  Thanks for the feedback, October.

  • Stephen O’Keefe

    Thank you for captioning the videos and providing transcription.   I am hearing impaired, and I really appreciate it as I can participate in the