In India, they call it shoulder, and in the US they call it kicker. But in both countries the kicker or shoulder is a great help to headline writers. It provides them the extra space that they desperately need to pack meaning in headlines.
The shoulder or kicker has been defined as the headline that is placed on top of the main headline. This headline is set in small points, and its purpose is to supplement the main headline.
It can be used in two ways:
In this case the headline writer uses the subject of the story as the kicker.
For instance, when the Supreme Court refused to defer the trial in the disproportionate assets case filed against the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, the Indian Express headline writer used the subject — that is disproportionate assets case as the shoulder.
This gave the headline writer the space to focus on what the Supreme Court ruled, which then became the main headline.
The headline writer has the option to run the kicker across the width of the main headline. In this case, the headline writer can provide more information in the headline by focusing on a different point.
For instance, the Telegraph headline writer focused on the heroics of caption M.S.Dhoni in leading his team to victory. The kicker gave information about the margin of the victory.
The kickers serve one more purpose today. Newspapers now set shoulders in reverse or against colour backgrounds to provide contrast on the page.
One, the newspapers do not want to waste space.
Two, too many kickers can become a visual irritant.
It is best to use kickers sparingly.