The true cost of clickbait

While this dynamic hasn’t changed with the advent of the Internet, the method by which publishers are rewarded for grabbing people’s attention has.

Whereas a print publication can get people to purchase an entire newspaper with a couple of juicy headlines and a well-curated crossword section, the central currency of web publishing is the pageview, a direct measure of how many people clicked on an individual story and an indirect measure of how many ads the publisher can show its audience.

The result is that rather than having the luxury of filling pages with news briefs and town council reports, these media outlets can now only maximise revenues online by presenting every single story to readers in a way that will make them choose to spend their time with it instead of any of the other things that come down the pike in their Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Publishers have always known they can’t survive if nobody’s watching them.

Out of this overcrowded media landscape came “clickbait,” the process by which web publishers began using headlines to promote something “amazing” or “epic” that “you won’t believe” to lure people to click on their stories — regardless of whether the contents of the story were actually any good.

While everyone has his or her own definition of the term, one thing’s for sure: you don’t have to look hard to find it on the web these days.

“It’s a hyper-competitive environment, so websites have to gather eyes and hold them,” said Dr. Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University and the author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30). “We had a lot of junk in the old print days, but on the web, it is just so much, and it is piling forth nonstop.”

Of course, simply classifying clickbait as “junk” is perhaps not the best way to think about it. Rather than a judgment about the quality or the substance of a piece of content, the digital publishing industry seems to have coalesced on a definition that focuses more on whether the content’s packaging on social media and search engines match what people will see when they click the link.

Read the full article here

Source: Native

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