So far this week has felt like an all time low—content-wise—for the internet at large. And it’s only Tuesday! Yes, I’m talking about the incessant VMA coverage we were bombarded with from all angles over the course of the day yesterday. The last thing I want to do is contribute to the attention it’s getting, but I do want us all to at least stop and think about why it’s getting this absurd amount of attention, from a content strategy perspective.
I bet on Monday you didn’t visit one major “news” source, or even get through ten lines of your Twitter feed, without some mention of the former Hannah Montana’s latest publicity stunt. I couldn’t care less about the actual “story” of that. This is what’s troublesome to me: why has something like this become “news” to begin with? Why is this being so extensively reported on and shared, commented on and replied to, forwarded, tweeted, memed…and so on?!
Of course I’m not surprised by Huffpo or Yahoo, but even CNN cashed in on the nonsense. (I would have hyperlinked but I don’t want to encourage any more traffic.) This not-at-all-news was literally their top story, given the same placement allotted for 9/11 coverage in 2001.
All I want to point out, and hopefully discuss, is the fact that “journalism” has hit a new low. So…why?
This satire piece from The Onion sums it up pretty well (warning: don’t read it if you are easily offended). The article—though fictitious—does an excellent job painting a picture of how the (mis?)use of analytics has led some of our once esteemed news sources down into this content wasteland. The fact that visitors’ habits can be reviewed with such scrutiny puts a lot of power in the hands of the advertisers, who can now ask for very specific numbers in their negotiations.
In the old days of publishing, there was no way to know where a reader’s eyes lingered, or how quickly they turned a page. But now that every click can be timed and tallied, content consumption can be measured on a game-changing level.
Are publications then just giving people what they want? Or are they sinking to new lows of manipulation, taunting readers with provocative imagery and exploiting their curiosity with purposefully vague text? I believe it’s the latter.
But it’s us, the readers, who are the ones clicking! So we do have control over the problem.
My guess is that most Torque readers are not the people clicking on this type of blatant BS anyway, but I still think it’s important to bring up. There are other people in our lives—siblings, kids, friends—who probably don’t think about what they are doing when they click on the most salacious “news” story on CNN.
To each their own, of course. But since I would still like to think I can go to CNN occasionally to get some semblance of actual news, I won’t be clicking on their traffic bait posts. Am I too idealistic to hope that there are enough other people out there doing the same?
Anybody else disgusted with mainstream news? Any suggestions for better sites to visit?
And for other content creators out there, is it ever tempting to post provocative or manipulative content just to up your traffic?
How do we best deal with these dilemmas?