08.27.14

What’s new in the laboratories of clickbait? (continuing)

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, The Corporate Bund at 2:47 pm by George Smith

This week the fork-tongued collective at Facebook declared it would be instituting new measures to reduce the volume of clickbait shotgunned into its closed social culture of lickspittle.

As the coiner of Culture of Lickspittle, I found this hysterical. You would too.

It’s the equivalent of Facebook saying it’s going to cut off both its legs in a sham attempt to cure disease it couldn’t exist without.

Facebook has done this before, mostly in a move to punish clickbait farms that don’t tithe to it sufficiently. This means Upworthy.

While Buzzfeed, which pays protection money to the minions of Zuckerberg, remains immune.

Facebook users live on clickbait.

So saying you’re going to do something about it is like a town hooker being seen signing up for re-education through the Church Universal & Triumphant. Unbelievable, unless it’s a maneuver to extract pay to play blow jobs from the ranks of those as yet unreached by your blandishments.

Clickbait has taken over the life blood of American journalism. It is what millions respond to. Total worthlessness is worth in the CoL. And deception is its shiny gold paint.

We know Upworthy is the highest form of crap sincerity trolling, done by smiling automatons who all look and scan the same in biographical slogans having to do with how they believe they’re changing the world by sifting stuff to make you allegedly joyous or tearful on-line.

But what about everybody else? Rhetorical. It’s clickbait or die. And you know it when you see it.

Linguistically, something like an early anti-virus scanner could get rid of most clickbait in an afternoon. Flag the words “see,” “this,” and “these.” The only utility they have in web titling is as a command/enticement to bring up something of no value. Fundamentally, they’re only used in clickbait.

Having worked for a newspaper and still regularly seeing paper copies of the Los Angeles Times and NYT, one can safely say headline writers for physical copy virtually never employ stock clickbait usages. You’ll never see the words “awesome,” “cry,” “lol,” “must” or “[the numbers 5 to 20 or so]” in old school headlines. Their presence in web publishing is not evidence of innovation or a new model of journalism. It is the pushing of patent medicines.

There were and are good reasons for headline rigor in old school journalism, just as there is good reason to not buy the idea that loud and louder farting in public is a mark of quality and achievement in an individual.

Space limitations on type set still constrain physical news. Combined with a certain amount of intellectual pride and effort going into making a descriptive headline that addresses the substantive nut of the news to follow.

But virtually everyone has surrendered to clickbait in cyberspace.

Let’s take a few examples.

Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. Here’s why he won’t go to jail.

This is from Vox. It’s part of the subset of clickbait known as the explainer. Explainers are 250-500 words of alleged explanation simultaneously explained by a dozen or more similarly done pieces at rivals, sometimes stuffed with a few graphs and charts. They’re usually done by people with no particular skill at explaining any matter, expecially science or anything else complicated.

Here’s another piece of Vox clickbait by someone named Alex Abad-Santos.

When Vox was started by Ezra Klein, the stock line was how it was going to provide better journalism, something more in line with what people actually want. Easy talk.

If this is what Klein thought, then the observation is correct. People respond to clickbait. But if that’s what you’re going to serve, and it’s what Vox does serve in many categories, it has much competition.

Ezra Klein’s talent was in politics and policy at the Washington Post. Klein’s excellence was obvious. He showed no facility in anything else.

Because you are really good at one thing doesn’t mean you should have the vanity to put your fingers into every pie, from science to comic books.

To explain, we can compare Klein to Brian Bosworth. At Oklahoma, Bosworth was a two time Butkus Award winner, the only one in college football history.

Bosworth was a dominating personality. He talked a great game and created a shell environment that led many to believe he would be a superstar in the NFL.

That never happened. Brian Bosworth was a great linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks but he was not durable. He was not an NFL bust but still lasted barely three seasons before his career was over, worn out by injury.

This is the Vox trajectory, I bet. Already, few care. Ezra Klein was a force at the Post. But outside the Post, he’s neither particularly durable or quite as special.

Here’s another piece of bald-faced clickbait, at the Washington Post, in a blog called Everything Post.

The outrage driving the Ferguson debate ignores these three key facts.

Stock troll title, commissioned from someone specifically for the purpose of creating a law and order troll piece saying, wow, that Ferguson isn’t that bad. Armored cars, menacing snipers and your small community being soaked in tear gas are only that which your require in America.

And from the Huffington Post, where the most popular pieces are those that are the best clickbait:

This Genius Project Would Create Tiny Homes For People Making Less Than $15,000 A Year

Clickbait usage, genius, which it is not the work of if you’re sucked in. Did you think Macarthur Grant genius? Or maybe the work of a Nobel laureate?

Nothing like that.

And the “tiny homes” are not even made, they exist only as a business’s drawings. The drawings make them look like nice studio apartments. Which tells you, even if they are made (in Portland), which one doubts, they will not be reserved for formerly homeless people who can now still only pay 200-300 dollars a month in rent. (What it is is most probably a scheme to get public money to underwrite a private developer’s building project, then jiggered to be handed-off to high value but small apartments gentrifying a slum.)

In clickbait, you never really have to follow up anyway. One of its strengths is in the creation of trivial but grandiose-sounding fictions.


From last week, on BuzzFeed acquiring a big infusion of venture cash money:

And if that isn’t enough, they’ll be hard at work using the cash … to better optimize content specifically for the Culture of Lickspittle:

“We spend a ton of time thinking about why people share things and what kinds of things will they share. The same stories are very widely shared on Facebook and Twitter and email.” .

When we share shit why do we share it on the places made out of sharing? It’s a boon to journalism.

Top stuff on Buzzfeed, a passing glance…

11 Things You Learn When You Watch All 5 “Step Up” Movies In A Row

1. You never knew a day could be so great.


The 17 Funniest “Jeopardy!” Fails Of All Time


What Kind of Shark Are You?

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