As an editor, there’s a lot of things I could get upset over.
Typos would be one of them, especially if they’re mine. Cold coffee, lazy researching, and no cold beer are a few others. But when it comes to the journalist in me, there’s not a lot that can piss me off.
In fact, there’s only one: clickbait.
Urban Dictionary has several definitions for the term. Of them all, this one seemed most accurate:
“Clickbait: A seemingly innocent posting on social media that contains a link to more content, but whose true goal is to trick the viewer into clicking on the link so that the writer can collect view stats — usually for monetary or for narcissistic purposes.”
Buzzfeed essentially invented this bait-and-click model. And although the website has progressed over the years, there’s little doubt that they deserve a mention in this discussion.
In a nutshell, here’s how “clickbait” works.
First, you create a below-average editorial product.
Then, after you spend as much time strategizing a title as you do writing the entire column, you publish the link on your Facebook page and pump just enough marketing funds into the post to please your advertisers.
Sadly, listicles filled with two to three sentences of bullshit have become the norm for journalism’s online (ADD) generation. Not only does this publishing model sacrifice journalistic integrity, it also suffocates creativity in a World Wide Web that has become an essential echo of itself.
In the music industry, nobody exemplifies this problem better than EDM.com. Other than quality writing, basic story development, and credible journalism, this website has mastered just about everything you need to be a successful publication.
[quote_right]Constructive debate on a controversial topic everybody knows about is not clickbait. Appealing to people’s self-involvement is clickbait.[/quote_right]
With articles seemingly constructed by robots, EDM.com has become notorious for misleading headlines and content manipulation. By boosting this behavior on Facebook, the overall impressions they receive will outweigh the fact that it’s entirely and utterly bogus.
Because who likes impressions? Advertisers do.
Take a look at this Facebook post from February, for example.
Calvin Harris is the highest-grossing EDM producer in the world, and Dillon Francis is arguably one of the hottest names in the entire industry.
Essentially, this headline should have been groundbreaking.
After clicking on the link, I immediately felt like a fool. And if you look at the actual post, you’ll see why.
Although the headline and corresponding image clearly suggest a collaboration from two of EDM’s most popular artists, the “story” itself was a four-paragraph advertisement.
Released on February 24th, Ultra Dance 16 features 24 songs from a grocery list of notable electronic artists. Besides that, nothing about this album was headline-worthy to begin with.
First, the album includes “Blame” by Calvin Harris. That song was released last September.
Secondly, it includes Dillon Francis’ sparky rendition of “Some Chords” by Deadmau5. That remix was released in October.
To make matters even laughably worse, these two songs aren’t even on the same disc. And as you can see from the comments below, I wasn’t alone in thought.
A few weeks ago, EDM.com made their announcement for Summerfest in Milwaukee. Instead of finding the intrinsic storylines, the website instead decided to find the most click-worthy artists on the lineup and craft a headline around that.
Had they put an ounce of research into the post, they wouldn’t have missed one key detail: Kaskade and Ed Sheeran aren’t playing on the same stage. In fact, they’re playing on completely different stages.
During my research for this column (yes, writing an article entails research), I came across EDM.com’s writer application.
Aside from standard employment information, each candidate is required to enter three writing samples upon applying. However, they are also asked to answer a series of questions.
Here’s a breakdown of the questionnaire:
– Who are your top-5 favorite artists at the moment?
– How many live shows do you attend a month?
– What are your top 3 favorite genres?
– What EDM song best represents you and why?
– Are there any genres outside of EDM that you enjoy? If so, list them:
– Describe the one meal you could eat everyday for the rest of your life:
– If you could bring one weapon to the zombie apocalypse, what would it be?
– If you had one day to spend $1M, describe what you would do:
– If you could meet any individual from the past or present, who would it be and what is the first thing you would say to them?
– What is your spirit animal and why?
– The city is honoring you with a bronze statue outside of City Hall. What does the plaque say?
– How many people have been born in Atlanta, GA with the name Teriyaki?
– What should the acronym ‘PLUR’ really stand for?
Here’s a better question, how many of these questions have anything to do with working in media?
To be fair though, they’re not the only website monetizing from this borderline illegal publishing strategy. But at outlets like Deadspin, VICE, and even Dancing Astronaut, journalists exhaust themselves every single day to illustrate the news in an unfiltered and ethical manner.
Clickbait shouldn’t be seen as deceptive. And it shouldn’t be seen as dishonest, neither.
Because if you asked any journalist, they’d all tell you the same thing.
“Clickbait” should be considered illegal.