Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Who Can Get the Most Likes?

Heather Oard

It is a golden rule of journalism, taught to any news reporter that the introduction should grab the reader straight away.
If you cannot hold someone's attention for a sentence, you have no hope of getting them to read the rest of your article. The same is true for headlines; stark, witty or intriguing ones can draw the reader's eye to a story.

Headline writing has long been considered a skill but, in the digital age, a new word has become synonymous with online journalism, clickbait. To put it simply, it is a headline which tempts the reader to click on the link to the story. But the name is used pejoratively to describe headlines, which are sensationalized, turn out to be adverts or are simply misleading.  Publishers increasingly use it for simple economics; the more clicks you get, the more people on your site, the more you can charge for advertising.

A report by the Columbia Journalism Review highlighted the case of online magazine Slant, which pays writers $100 per month, plus $5 for every 500 clicks on their stories. Slant is far from unique and this business model is becoming increasingly common, but opponents argue it means journalists will dumb down stories in order to get more clicks in order to earn a living.  Social media now works as a separate entity for news outlets, rather than a simple headline, picture and link to a story, organizations have to repackage and change how they offer news depending on the platform.

What works on Twitter might not work on Facebook. You can potentially tell a story in 140 characters with a supporting image.  Also, more thought is needed about which stories are posted on social media as that is not going to be the same audience as a newspaper's website. Style is being prioritized over substance: "The danger is we've become obsessed with the medium and forgotten about the content.  Good journalism is good in whatever medium it is available. Clickbait in the many forms it takes, from the intriguing to the misleading, seems to be here to stay, so journalists and news organizations have a decision to make on what they want to offer people and where their priorities lie.


  1. Hi Heather, I thought it was very interesting to learn about how journalists are paid very little for their stories unless they are clicked on. I suppose they're exempt from minimum wage laws (independent contractors maybe), but this is quite an interesting business model in how it relates to the clickbait you describe.


  2. Clickbait is very annoying and I wish it would go away!! I liked hearing about the business model for that particular organization. It makes sense then why clickbait became this new phenomenon. Journalists need to get paid, and they do that by getting clicks on their article. It's very frustrating for readers, which makes us look for new sites to get our information from.
    Krystal Thorp