By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)
THINK about every article you’ve ever seen pop up on your Facebook or Twitter timeline.
Chances are that said article is the spawn of some sort of click-bait conglomerate, whether it be BuzzFeed or some sort of copycat. Click-bait, for those of you who don’t know, can be defined as “web content that is aimed at generating online advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines or eye-catching thumbnail pictures to attract click-throughs”.
Regardless if it is a piece detailing the “THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT X” or “YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT NUMBER 9 IS”, pieces like this are undoubtedly detrimental to journalism. In a time where print journalism is dying at an alarming rate, with various publications having to close down due to the boom of the internet, and broadcasters are struggling to make ends meet, these shallow headlines are more toxic than ever.
The prioritising of “catchy words over quality writing” not only sets a dodgy precedent for up and coming bloggers and journalists but has a negative effect on already established writers. Sites like The Daily Mail and The Sun, who were pretty much the grandfathers to click-bait, have started to adapt similar headlines in a vain attempt to grab attention in the digital era.
Not only that but shoddy business models such as Slate’s, which pays writers $100 per month, plus $5 for every 500 clicks on their stories, have become the norm. This is heavily criticised for dumbing down journalism and prioritising getting clicks to earn a living rather than do their job efficiently.
Just last year, the NUJ expressed concerns after Trinity Mirror, one of the UK’s biggest newspaper publishers, announced plans to introduce individual website “click targets” for journalists, showing the extent to the epidemic.
While it may seem harmless in theory, the effect that click-bait journalism has on the industry is clear to see. As long as businesses encourage this type of approach to writing then we’ll continue to see the repercussions of this lazy way to grab attention.