As the world of media changes, evolves and diversifies – the rules change, styles change, the media powers change. And so the presentation and style of how you (and all of us) digest news, changes.
Many publications in Ireland are being accused of shifting to what is described as ‘clickbait’ articles, with social media users turning up their noses when facts are deliberately omitted, in order to entice readers from social media onto their site.
The majority of publications are doing so now – cheekily insisting readers click on the link to get the full story. Many social media users have vented about the use of clickbait headlines on publisher sites, shaming them for insisting the full story must be opened.
The headline act
I agree, that using a misleading headline is not a good practice but if the headline is in fact accurate, yet omits a fact, why is this a bad thing?
For generations, the media has had different forms of ‘clickbait’.
Television news has encouraged you to find out more: “after the break”, radio is the same. Newspapers create enticing headlines for their front pages and magazines encourage you to delve into their glossy pages to “find out how she does it” for celebrities, for trends.
I’m not saying some sites aren’t guilty of the real clickbait – promising a story and then not having the information in the post, or not delivering the promised content. But if the information is in the post, just not all in the headline, it’s not really clickbait.
As newspapers shut down and the print industry slowly dissolves, users are looking for where to best get their news – and outlets are grappling for ways to maintain income.
Where's the money at?
When readers shame these publications, they neglect to mention one vital thing - these services are free. They also require staff to write the stories.
Publications need advertising revenue to pay their staff. Journalism is not free (as much as many people like to think we do this for kicks, journalists gotta pay the bills too.)
Publishers rely on ads, whether display ads or sponsored content, to raise money, and just like plenty of other businesses, they need an income to function.
Why should Facebook get all the advertising revenue, of which it already has the lion’s share? Changes to the Facebook algorithm are making it increasingly difficult for publishers to get reach to readers without spending their own money – increasing Facebook’s revenue more-so.
Even publications like BBC, who do not primarily rely on ad revenue, utilise mechanics like clickbait to get readers on the site. And why shouldn’t they?
Someone has spent hours, days, weeks – researching a story – why shouldn’t they ask that you read the full story before jumping to conclusions based on a headline?
The term ‘fake news’ has absolutely exploded in the past 12 months, and the easiest way to distribute this fake news, is creating useless, exaggerated or false headlines and sharing them on social media for people to not click on – just share the headline.
Encouraging readers to dive in, to engage in the content and learn about the topic at hand is a far more logical approach.
The point of the story
If you’re seeking news in less than 25 words, Twitter is your place, and you can rely on unpaid accounts to give you the information, regardless of its factual accuracy.
But if you want the information, presented in a factual and balanced way, then you’re going to have to click on that story. And as a journalist, I am not sorry for that.
If the user is glad they clicked on the story - then it's still good journalism.
What do you think?