This Blog Post Will Forever Change the Way You Read Headlines


Headlines

My headline is an example of where online journalism is heading – or should I say “sinking.”

Once upon a time this kind of “link-baiting” headline was limited to, well, bloggers and to low-brow online publishers:

  • BuzzFeed
  • UpWorthy
  • Gawker, etc.

And, yes, I’m guilty of reading ALL of them.

But I don’t read those publications for journalism or even for news. In fact, my skepticism meter is on high alert whenever I’m reading anything on Valleywag and its lot. Use these types of tactics and you begin to lose trust. That said these publications are masters of getting people to click through to their articles and stories. The magic, of course, lies in link-baiting headlines on trivial, but enticing pieces of content.

UpWorthy may be the king with recent headlines like this:

  • “The Only Thing Wrong in This Little Girl’s World is the People Who Won’t Accept Her for Who She Is”
  • “Here’s What Happens When Public Defenders are Overworked and Underpaid”
  • “This is Probably the Funniest, Most Effective Way to Deal with People Who Ignore Science Facts Ever”

Unfortunately, link-baiting headlines and the trivial content is infiltrating real news publishers. I’ve seen them on New York Times and TIME magazine. The latest guilty party and one closer to my geography is the Boston Globe. Or more correctly its sister organization Boston.com. Some sample headlines from Boston.com can’t really be distinguished from UpWorthy:

  • “5 Boston Characters More Disturbing than the Staten Island Creeper Clown”
  • “9 Hotel Nightmares That Could Happen to You”
  • “3 Reasons Why the Fashion Industry Needs a Makeover”
  • “17 of the Weirdest Things Seen on the T”

It’s shame to see the Boston Globe emulating the online equivalent of a supermarket tabloid. But expect more newspapers and legitimate news sources to follow suit as it becomes more about clicks and revenue and less about journalism.

It’s too bad because eventually people will tune out the link-baiting headlines.

What do you think?

Links:

A lot of Top Journalists Don’t Look at Traffic Numbers (via HubSpot)

Stop Link Bating Before It Ruins Content Marketing (via Mashable)

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