Trick To Click Media

315198337 f24cff69bd o 225x300 Trick To Click Media

I’m coining a new term today, “trick to click media.” Trick to click media live and die by the page view. BuzzFeed, Upworthy, Gawker, Business Insider are trick to click media. They’ll do anything to keep you on the site, as long as it means you read one more article.

Trick to click media doesn’t care whether you’re informed, enraged or distracted by what they publish as long as the traffic is counted.

The Onion recently ran a blistering critique of CNN’s decision to feature Miley Cyrus‘ twerking performance at the MTV Video Music Awards ahead of news of chemical weapons being launched against civilians in Syria.

Over the years, CNN.com has become a news website that many people turn to for top-notch reporting. Every day it is visited by millions of people, all of whom rely on “The Worldwide Leader in News”—that’s our slogan—for the most crucial, up-to-date information on current events. So, you may ask, why was this morning’s top story, a spot usually given to the most important foreign or domestic news of the day, headlined “Miley Cyrus Did What???” and accompanied by the subhead “Twerks, stuns at VMAs”?

It’s a good question. And the answer is pretty simple. It was an attempt to get you to click on CNN.com so that we could drive up our web traffic, which in turn would allow us to increase our advertising revenue.

There was nothing, and I mean nothing, about that story that related to the important news of the day, the chronicling of significant human events, or the idea that journalism itself can be a force for positive change in the world. For Christ’s sake, there was an accompanying story with the headline “Miley’s Shocking Moves.” In fact, putting that story front and center was actually doing, if anything, a disservice to the public. And come to think of it, probably a disservice to the hundreds of thousands of people dying in Syria, those suffering from the current unrest in Egypt, or, hell, even people who just wanted to read about the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

But boy oh boy did it get us some web traffic.

Although the article was satirical, it almost certainly could have been pulled from real life. Andrew Wallenstein of Variety countered that CNN used what is click-worthy to support its essential, but unprofitable hards news reportage. Critics responded that Wallenstein further emphasized the point The Onion originally made–editors pay for the news with what clicks.

Are you more than a click on some publisher’s Google Analytics report? I hope so.

I’m all for media outlets making money. But we have limited time and attention. I do feel the media have a responsibility to inform as well as titillate. Trick to click media entices us to view, share and comment, but it leaves us worse off than where we started.

There’s a lot of important news out there that simply isn’t being covered. We trust the media to bring us what is important, not only what sizzles. Reporters and editors are human. Covering important stories like the crisis in Syria require putting yourself or your employees in harm’s way. This is part of the job description, and ultimately it is the public who benefits.

Let’s do our part to support quality media, and call out publishers who abuse our trust, and try to click trick us just to line their pockets.

An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic.

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