Friday, July 14, 2017

Fake News and Clickbait

Typically on Facebook there are many posts we see in our feeds that have titles I consider as "clickbait".  So what is clickbait anyway?

Clickbait is a title that's designed to get you to click through to a blog or website that's loaded with ads ... that's because the site owner gets paid for those ads.  Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with getting paid if you write or create interesting content, whether it's articles or videos, or even through mobile apps. Getting paid for what you create yourself isn't wrong. Getting paid for junk that has no value is not something that's very acceptable in the real world though. To get paid you work, whether that's online or in a factory or store.

But there can be something wrong in the way you get those visitors to your site. And using titles that are considered clickbait, is just wrong.  At least it is if you use Adsense.

But why?

While clickbait type articles are becoming a lot easier for everyone to recognize, some people still don't get it, and still click through to go to the site. Unfortunately, when they get there, the article is either poorly written, or very general and doesn't provide the punch promised in the headline. That's one simple way to understand clickbait. The truth is, the only reason for the page is to run ads, but if the page doesn't provide what headline indicates it will ... that's considered misleading.
Users don’t want to be misled by the content they engage with online. For this reason, Google ads may not be placed on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about you, your content or the primary purpose of your web property.
Basically, these are usually articles with sensational or attention grabbing titles, but provide little or no value to their visitors. It may take as little as 2 or 3 seconds to realize the one paragraph and huge photo mean ... nothing at all.

Most decent advertising companies won't pay, or would pay very little when the traffic is garnered through social media via clickbait titles.

The other thing I think of as clickbait is something others might term "fake news" ... no, don't worry. I'm not quite as bad as Donald Trump - I don't scream "fake news" at everything I don't like.  My personal feeling is if the information provided in the article can't be backed-up or corroborated by doing a little research, there's something wrong with the article and it probably:

  • isn't true at all
  • is only partly true
  • is a hoax or scam or joke

There are two different "schools of thought" about fake news. There is "fake" news (news that isn't true), and then there is the "fake-news-website".   Some people see websites that copy news articles from other sites as a "fake-news" website. Probably because the site doesn't write their own news, they just gather news from other news websites. The news itself might not be fake, but it's also not news when it's not being reported, just copied.

I don't know that I consider that a fake news site myself ... it's not a "news" site to begin with, it's a copy site. By it's very name news is not something that is re-used from another place, "news" is usually something new. That's why the print newspapers, and even some of the biggest online newspapers have journalists and writers.  Sites that just copy these articles aren't news sites at all. What they are is aggregators.  That's not something you should be getting paid for.

Take a look at an aggregator site ... Google News. Do you see any ads on that page? Nope. If Google News isn't putting ads on their aggregator, why should anyone else be doing it when they copy news articles?  Google News doesn't even copy, they post a snippet and link to the site.

If you're going to scream headlines likes "broccoli cures diabetes" ... there better be some real medical and research studies that back up that claim. To date, there is no cure for diabetes.  Don't tell me there is unless you have proof (and no, someone's grandad or uncle or friend saying he's cured by eating broccoli is not proof).  Just because you see something on hundreds of blogs doesn't make it real or true.

If you're going to write about stuff like health (medical, diet, exercise, news, science, etc.) then no matter what you write, you better have some real, tangible proof. If you don't, then don't write it, don't promote it, don't share it. Because filling the web with false information is a pretty useless thing to do. There's way too much already (and that's probably where you read it the first time and why it's in your blog now, right?)

On social media, more and more people are learning to recognize clickbait, and are learning to ignore it, or learning to use AdBlockers when they just can't resist. Everyone on my friend's list on Facebook uses AdBlockers because of the proliferation of spammy site links.

How to Avoid Being Ignored

Write something of real value. Stay away from the fluff.  Share your own opinions. Don't spam social media, don't buy advertising for clickbait articles and false information. Don't write sensation seeking titles.

The bottom line is ... be true, be yourself, be real. It's not that hard.

posted by J.Gracey Stinson

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