Daily Meditation – A Critique of Clickbait (TechHoly)

One of the most frustrating and upsetting side-effects of an ad-based Internet is the proliferation of Clickbait. I bring this up in part because I’ve been asked why sometimes I change the titles of stories I link to. In general, I am trying to make sure you know what is really being discussed. If an article seems like several paragraphs of fluff to get you to scroll through a page or more of ads to get to a conclusion, then I will do my best to TL;DR it. Cutting to the chase is pretty much my raison d’etre for this site.

 

On the other hand, a site that needs ad revenue NEEDS viewers and numbers to show advertisers that their message is getting in front of as many eyeballs as possible. If talking about the “one weird trick” will get you to check an article about a new phone doubles the numbers of viewers, it is hard to say that was a bad decision. If talking about an incredibly expensive laptop that hardly anyone can afford, and virtually no one needs, leads to everyone doing a short article about it (guilty as charged here), then it probably was worth building the prototype even if 10 or less actually sell. Heck, their $2K laptops will suddenly seem cheap by comparison.

 

So what to do? First, I’d suggest trying to see if there is someone else covering a topic who isn’t resorting to such tricks. Using Dark Sky versus the Weather Channel as an example. Second, perhaps asking yourself if you aren’t encouraging sites to keep writing such titles by clicking on the link. Just visiting the site main page instead so it looks like you weren’t seduced can help make it seem less worth the time to spend on such silly games. And finally, if you’re really frustrated by a particular example, perhaps dropping a comment or an email to the editor is worth your time. In general you want to make sure you’re going to the editor, and not the writer, because it’s usually the editor who decides the tag/headline. Most of the writers (at least the ones I know) are just as bothered by the silliness, but if their boss thinks folks actually like such stuff, it can be hard to argue against.

 

My .02 worth of course.

 

What do you think?