In an earlier post, I decried the dangers of "most popular" lists, which so many publishers use on their sites as a way of promoting clicks to content. I pointed out that this leads to a sort of winner-take-all effect, in which a few articles get tons of coverage, while the vast majority of articles get very little traffic, suppressing discovery and promoting run-of-site content. I recently realized that there is an even more pernicious problem associated with this sort of favoritism: once certain articles make it to the "most popular" widget, the single most important factor in driving clicks …
A waiter at a Michelin-rated restaurant returns to a candlelit table for two and asks, "Have you had time to look at our menu? Do you have any questions?" The gentleman, who is out to dinner with his wife, responds.s "Yes, we're wondering about this sponsored dish, the Visa Veal Scalloppini?"
Several years ago, when people really cared about Windows vs. Mac OS, I heard a joke that went something like this: "If cars were designed by Microsoft, we would constantly have to stop to reboot them." Today, I am compelled to make a different joke: "If our highways were designed by advertisers, billboards would jump in the middle of the highway whenever we tried to drive by."
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