Reached the bottom of some Internet page the other day, and just when I thought I’d come to the end of useful content, there was a trove of irresistibility. Ding dong! You merengue?
15 Artists Who Got Naked for Music Videos.
15 Gorgeous Models Turned Actresses.
Young Hollywood Celebrities Bare All.
90s Heartthrobs You Forgot You Crushed On.
15 White Girls with the Best Butts.
Fed Eyes Wage Growth as it Stands Pat on Interest Rates.
Okay, maybe that last one wasn’t on the page, because it doesn’t quite qualify as clickbait. It’s news. It affects everyone. It is slightly technical. It has no cleavage. Therefore it holds no allure for the hoi polloi. Clickbane, I guess you’d call it. But this exercise got me wondering.
1) Why does the clickbait feature so many bikini-clad women and other boobage, as opposed to beefcake? Half the audience is female. Is the soft-porn that passes for “content” of that much interest to women? (I fear for the answer to this). And are bare male celebrity chests and butts unenticing to women? It just seems like if you’re going to be in a sleazy online race to the bottom, you should be an equal-opportunity sleaze. Aren’t some ill-gotten clicks being left on the table?
Don’t be shy. As Joe Pesci says in "My Cousin Vinny," shout it out if you know the answer.
2) Since when did 15 take 10’s place as the optimum number of items in a listicle? Obviously, these things don’t just become standard out of nowhere. They know what the curiosity market will bear. They know precisely how many times humans will click on trivia, amid the minefield of other popups and detours, before tiring of the e-tangent. Our shallowness runs deep, but it is not bottomless. Try listing the 39 Most Moist Moist Towelettes. Good luck with that.
3) Do those humans realize that the infrastructure is built on fresh page views, all supplied unnecessarily, by the labors of their own index fingers? Are they not aware that publishers can just as easily place list items on a single page, but instead compel the audience to propel the content -- like Fred’s feet in the Flintstone car -- to multiply the page-views count by 15? And why do they -- that is, we -- allow ourselves to be suckered like that?
Where’s the payoff? Once you traipse through 38 (!) Nick Stars: Where are They Now? you immediately forget who they were and where they are. Because it doesn’t matter. To anyone. Meantime, we’ve not only spent seven minutes we’ll never get back, we’ve tossed 38 quarters in a fountain that someone else harvests 24/7.
4) How authoritative are these lists that purport to know, objectively, J-Lo’s 17 Most Booty Popping Shots Ever? Is this published in the Federal Register? Does the National Office of Weights and Measures track the data? Maybe I’m just a cynic after 37 years of journalism, but I almost suspect someone might be just making this stuff up.
I don’t say that for no reason. Because I am a carbon-based organism, I clicked on the supposed 15 White Girls with the Best Butts article with interest. What a farce. The “best?” Seriously? Fifteen slides.
Only one Kardashian.