#Muckedup chat Tuesday: Headlines & Clickbait
Click it. Come on, just click it. You know that headline that's just too good for you to pass up—or that picture, far too enticing to leave unopened.
You know what I'm talking about: action verbs, suggestive words or imagery promising more than they could ever possibly deliver. So what do you, the reader, do? It's simple human behavior. You click the story, of course, and then you read and scroll down, and see that the headline, or the lead image used to sell it, has nothing whatsoever to do with the piece you're reading. You scan the piece back up and down, annoyed—it's happened again. You've been had. The story has nothing to do with what was promised.
Hook, line and sinker. Gotcha.
In the battle to amass page views and clicks, these are standard tactics. And they exist on television news programs as much as in magazines, newspapers and online outlets. The ethics are shaky, if existant at all, beyond the desire to feed the page view beast, the never ending numbers game that makes advertisers pay the salaries of us, the journalists who, whether we like it (or admit it) or not, are often to blame for this game of bait and switch. It may be too far to say link or clickbaiting is "killing" journalism, as Washignton Post data editor Greg Linch wrote a few years back, but it isn't helping. And another dangerous caveat is that the practice restrains content marketing, which journalism purists may not think is a big deal, only it further waters down the value of content in general, ruining the public's patience and belief that they actually get what they pay (or in this case, click) for.
Without souding like I myself am baiting readers too much, although it seems and sort of feels like I am, next week I will be traveling to Nepal on assignment for the BBC. It's the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Everest Base Camp, and I will be going to look at the human footprint and surprising levels of trash on the mountain. It should be an amazing trip, but because of the time zone difference, my Muck Rack colleagues will have to take the reigns for this one. But please join anyways, it'll be worth it. And because I can't help myself, and promise to deliver just what I advertise, if you're so inclined, follow along on my trekking progres here.