Commentary

I Clicked On Clickbait. You Won't Believe What Happened Next.

Maybe the Internet content business doesn’t really realize it yet but in the last month it must have lost a lot of traction, with users sincerely questioning what they’re seeing or reading,  questioning how much more they want to take in and questioning if they still have the capacity to even decide.
If people don’t trust mainstream media, as we’ve heard for years, what must they now think of streaming media? For many consumers, it is now the place for fake or false or at the very least, misleading.
A lot of the raw material for the fake content came from the presidential campaign, most of it posted, it appears, by Trump partisans or people who figured out fake news worked best with Trump backers.

But really, fake was doing pretty well before that, I’d say. Clickbait shows up everywhere, with headlines that tell you that you won’t believe what happened to Tina Yothers, a child actor you may remember from “Family Ties.” Legitimate publishers create this stuff, or essentially lease out parts of their pages to advertisers that create their own fictions that lure readers.

Earlier this month, I saw this headline: “Clint Eastwood Says ‘Goodbye’ At 86.”

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Dead? Not anymore. He found a new ED pill!


Why does this go on? Because there’s lots of money in it and a lot of suppliers. In fact, the clickbait industry is big enough that way back in August, before fake news had become a sexy topic. Facebook announced its very polite war against clickbait.

In a post on its newsroom site, a Facebook research scientist and a user experience researcher pointed out all kinds of bad actors Facebook users complained about

“We’ve heard from people that they specifically want to see fewer stories with clickbait headlines or link titles,” they wrote. “These are headlines that intentionally leave out crucial information, or mislead people, forcing people to click to find out the answer. For example: ‘When She Looked Under Her Couch Cushions And Saw THIS… I Was SHOCKED!’; ‘He Put Garlic In His Shoes Before Going To Bed And What Happens Next Is Hard To Believe’; or ‘The Dog Barked At The Deliveryman And His Reaction Was Priceless.’
And to remedy this bad stuff, here’s what Facebook did: Its blog post explained that from that point forward, “our system” would identify posts “that are clickbait and which Web domains and Pages these posts come from. Links posted from or shared from Pages or domains that consistently post clickbait headlines will appear lower in News Feed.”

That’s right. Lower! Not a strict prohibition. Just bad placement.

The punishment reminded me of an old National Lampoon joke when Watergate defendants got ridiculously light sentences. The judge “threw the pamphlet at them,” the old humor magazine cracked.

Facebook continued, “if a Page stops posting clickbait headlines, their posts will stop being impacted by this change. We’ll continue to update how we identify clickbait as we improve our systems and hear more from people using News Feed.”

In the wake of the fake news controversy, everybody from Facebook to Twitter to individual Websites stiffened up on their monitoring of bad stuff. Good. But late.

pj@mediapost.com

1 comment about "I Clicked On Clickbait. You Won't Believe What Happened Next.".
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  1. Dennis Balgavy from Britton Marketing + Design, December 2, 2016 at 4:13 p.m.

    I totally clicked on the title of this article in my VideoDaily email because I wanted to see what happened next.

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