Every fortnight I write a piece for the opinion pages of Resumé, this week I decided to translate it.
A storm is brewing online. The media house born from the blog revolution, Gawker, lost both audience and face when Hulk Hogan won his case about privacy infringement against them. An independent jury awarded Hogan huge damages, a large enough sum that could topple the entire Gawker media house. It turns out that clickbait based on peoples secretly filmed sex tapes can be really expensive in the long run.
Clickbaiting may have surfaced when bloggers appeared, but did not become a real pain until the social networks took over our lives and we could follow "live" how Gawker rallied up a Twitter mob to hunt down Justine Sacco. Everything from private Facebook comments to 140-character jokes from strangers can now become an entire series of articles. Media driven mobs drive Nobel laureates from their universities, and people from their jobs, powered by thousands of articles in hundreds of 'news' sites.
The social media and facebook algorithms make a certain type of headline viral. Upworthy proved to us all that we click on almost anything if the title is just right. Or worse, we spend a full day arguing with each other in the comments, without even having clicked.
Once it was Google that directed traffic, now it's Twitter, Facebook and traffic-sellers like Taboola and Outbrain. It's easy to customize junk sites to look legitimate, at least for a moment, and pull traffic to it with headlines that draw people in. Famous brands advertising is seen on fly-by-night pages, a site that appeared yesterday and is gone tomorrow can make a lot of money. Legitimate media houses and junk sites are vying for the same advertising coin. The recipe for holding the traffic up is to report on, join or create the social media mobs, armed with tar and feathers.
Readers tire, they outfit their computers and phones with Adblock. Upworthy headlines no longer appeal to people. What suffers is everything; from our ability to concentrate and read past the headline, to the craft of journalism itself.
It is simply not worth the trouble to make a quality product when a sarcastic review of someone's sex tape scoops more traffic - and even sympathy from fellow journalists when they lose the privacy intrusion case.
In Resumé there's "what's hot / Not" list as well. My picks:
UP: Brave browser on the phone, Chrome is dead.
DOWN: Anyone who thinks they can control what @Notch says on Twitter. Just stop that.