Saturday, October 24, 2015

What is 'clickbait' journalism? Would you know it if you saw it?

Here is the Wikipedia definition of 'clickbait':
Clickbait is a pejorative term describing web content that is aimed at generating online advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines to attract click-throughs and to encourage forwarding of the material over online social networks. Clickbait headlines typically aim to exploit the "curiosity gap", providing just enough information to make the reader curious, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without clicking through to the linked content.
First to make something very clear: I am not a professional journalist. This is a blog about things that interest me and people visit this blog because they are interested or curious about what is posted here. Recently a journalist at The Palm Beach Post, a very accomplished one at that, Tweeted about clickbait and then I followed the link to an article in the New York Times. Here are two excerpts from the article by Ravi Somaiya:
Since the days when most major cities supported multiple newspapers, the news media has long been subject to groupthink, and prone to search for sensation. But as more readers move toward online social networks, and as publishers desperately seek scale to bring in revenue, many have deplored a race toward repetitive, trivial journalism, so noisy that it drowns out more considered work. [emphasis added]
[and. . .]
[E]very publication now requires a greater number of readers to make ends meet. And perhaps the greatest potential resource are the billions who have turned to social media as a faster portal for information. That means journalists must now compete with entertainment, quizzes, gossip and baby pictures.
     The weapon of choice is often emotion. Specialists optimize and test multiple headlines and pictures. If they land on a successful formula — asking a provocative question, hinting at a profound experience, including a celebrity name — it is quickly echoed by other outlets.
So there you go. Readers of my blog will know what I'm referring to here: while I was at the Lake Worth municipal pool recently overheard a woman telling another woman that Lake Worth was the most dangerous city in the state of Florida. [It's not; not even close.] Goes to show how effective clickbait journalism can be. And then there's this:
You decide, is this Tweet an example of clickbait? CBS12/WPEC in Palm Beach County, FLORIDA Tweeted out this news story which occurred in MAINE. But you need to click the link to find that out.