Friday, 23 January 2015

Five click bait titles that need to stop happening. And you won't believe why!

Because it's fucking annoying. *end post*

But seriously, it needs to stop. Whatever happened to meaningful headings? I don't mind if they are sensationalist attention grabbing headings, but they need to tell me what is happening. It's not that hard, I could have titled this post "Why I hate clickbait" or simply "clickbait" but A. my friend Shigy beat me to that one (damn you, I've been sitting on this idea for a month) and B. I think I finally hit on some solid irony. Or satire. Or sarcasm. For a writer I'm really bad at defining those terms.
As with every element of society something grows from an idea. Then people build on it and recreate it into something bigger and greater. And they have some more ideas, and use things in unexpected ways, until finally something huge grows. Obviously not all ideas do this, most fizzle and die, but some of the best ones take on a life of their own. The internet and social media (specifically Facebook, but also blogging sites such as this one) started as small ideas and grew into something bigger and bigger until finally, someone started making money on it. Okay there was always a little money to start with, but the bigger these things get the craftier the money making becomes.

Social media has hit a point where millions of dollars can be made, simply by encouraging people to view your stuff. You can find an example of this in the right menu of this blog between "The best things I've ever written" and "Labels". That's an AdSense advert and every time it loads I get a teeny tiny amount of money. Most adverts pay per thousand impressions, so there is a lot of incentive to get a lot of people to your site. It doesn't matter if they click the ad or not (although clicks pay more than views) simply getting people onto your site increases your revenue. Pay-per-view ads can be built into any web platform, including Facebook.

So here is the problem with click bait. The people writing those titles don't care if you want to read the article, or watch the video. They want your clicks. I'm desensitised to online adverts to the extent that I have missed legitimate links because the person who designed the page made it glitzy, like an ad, but god damn have you seen clickbait pages? It's like these websites spring up from nowhere and just blind you with ads and internal links. Any thought to a user friendly interface is thrown out in favour of more clicks. Have you come across "12 things that only make sense to random profession" or "18 ways in which children's movie studio ruined my childhood"? Generally these links take you to a website that shows you one picture per page. Why? Those 10, 12, 18 pictures could easily fit on one screen. But they get more impressions by making you click through again and again. And just to make me angrier, they normally set up the ads so close to the 'next' button that roughly 1 in 20 of my clicks hits an ad, especially when using a smartphone or tablet.
Here's another huge issue with click bait. Someone has created these videos, these pictures, this content. Do we really believe that these websites that host THOUSANDS of articles and videos actually created these things themselves? Hell no! Sometimes they do the courtesy of saying 'originally posted on' or 'originally posted by' but just as often people grab a video, re-upload it and claim credit for it. Don't believe me? It happened to Destin from Smarter Every Day. He uploaded a video showing a tattoo needle in slow motion. It was his most popular video to that date. It was hijacked by another company, who downloaded the video, cut out every reference to Smarter Every Day and reloaded it to Facebook. It received 17 million views before Destin managed to convince Facebook to take the video down, with no compensation from Facebook or the thieving company.

I have adverts on my content, and I use slightly click baitey titles (Save Your Vagina was the worst one) but here's why. I create content, I deserve some compensation for it. I'm not amazing enough to sell my writing in a book or to a company (yet) but if I come pull in a couple of cents here and there, I believe deserve that. I use slightly click baitey titles because I want people to want to read my stuff, but I do my best to make the titles informative too. According to the definition on I'm still on the wrong side of the line but hopefully you will forgive me.
Okay, I've touched on appropriate other peoples content (Destin refers to it as 'Facebook Freebooting) and I've griped about the obsession with clicks, but here is what really gets me about click bait titles. Somewhere, in the deep dark history of these click baits is a real title. I have watched over the course of a day a link get uploaded by one person as "How to make fruit cake in a mason jar" and then becomes "Amazing mason jar fruit cake" and then "She puts fruit in a jar, you won't believe why!" I don't know, maybe she want to take it to work and eat it. I'm also pretty sure that as these titles progress, these viral videos are being free-booted and that guy who filmed his dog howling along with Frozen is getting no accolades, and no cash. I wouldn't be surprised if half the time people don't even know their content is stolen until weeks or months later.

So click bait, it's wrong on every turn. The title are inane uninformative crap, someone is making a boat-load of money on building un-friendly websites and most of it is probably not giving credit to the original owner. The internet is spoon feeding you crap, taking your money and not even giving the accolades to those who deserve it. The next time you see click bait, don't touch it. If you really really want to know why someone is putting fruit in a mason jar, you can Google it. And honestly how many renditions of Frozen songs do you need? Let it go.

While I was pulling down images for this blog, I kept coming across articles saying Facebook was 'cracking down' on click bait. If my news feed is anything to go by, they're doing a pretty terrible job. Could that be because click bait generates revenue? *gasp*

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