Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

In this Discussion

Here's a statement of the obvious: The opinions expressed here are those of the participants, not those of the Mutual Fund Observer. We cannot vouch for the accuracy or appropriateness of any of it, though we do encourage civility and good humor.

    Support MFO

  • Donate through PayPal

the power of click-bait journalism

Just an ironic aside from the reaction to our December issue.

I used a click-bait style headline for our article denouncing click-bait journalism. Yesterday I pulled the readership stats for the first 36 hours (basically, Saturday and Sunday) after launch.

Most-viewed article (in MFO history): Reduce your 2020 risks by 50% with this one move! 27,000 views
Second-most viewed article in the issue: the issue's homepage, 3,000 views.

I'm guessing that bots, Russian or otherwise, are involved. I'm guessing that there's an algorithm that trawls the internet looking for a certain style of headline, then scrapes it. Where the scrapings go, I know not.

Or, more optimistically, we're sparked a revolution in online media literacy and people by the tens of thousands are holding reprints of the article close to their hearts.

Yup, that's what I'm guessing. Yes indeedy.

David
«1

Comments

  • To quote a well known reality show personality: Sad. Fake News!!!

  • @David - your algo bet is probably correct. Some algo or hedge fund AI is looking for hot stock or fund tips and scours the net for such articles to throw into its data pool to analyse. :)
  • edited December 4
    Perhaps bots are attracted by second person possessive pronouns and than munch on exclamation points? From an evolutionary standpoint, the entire broader question doesn’t bode well for the future of Homo sapiens.

    (As I’m certain David knows, he employed an imperative sentence as his header, which likely has a lot to do with the excellent reception by bots.)
  • edited December 4
    A few things I would note are:

    1. There wouldn't be much click-bait journalism if Google/Facebook/Amazon hadn't killed journalism and basically bankrupted many publications.

    2. Publications are now desperate for clicks to sustain their remaining ad revenue.

    3. Readers, including--at least in the past--many on this site, assume news should be "free" with the implicit assumption that journalists don't deserve to get paid. They happily cut and paste entire articles and show other readers various means around paywalls.

    4. Many pubs are now so broke they pay journalists pennies per word.

    5. Shoddy click-bait journalism often exists because pubs are so broke/greedy--both, really--they hire writers who are really professionals in another industry seeking to promote their own businesses and journalism is really an advertisement for their businesses, be it financial planning or money management. Those writers come cheap because journalism really isn't their end goal when they write an article. It is self-promotion.

    6. Journalists at mainstream publications generally don't write their own headlines. I know I don't. Headlines are written by a team at the pub seeking "search engine optimization" or SEO to generate clicks.

    7. Investigative journalism is expensive, time consuming and often draws negative backlash from powerful interests, be they corporate or government, or both. It rarely leads to additional ad revenue for a publication. Pubs are thus less interested in doing it.

    And so good journalism is dying.
  • After Sunday, the views on the click-bait piece virtually flatlined. That is, about 400 more people have read it in distinct contrast the initial surge. If the 27,000 had been humans, I would have anticipated more spillover into the rest of the issue, but that didn't quite happen.

    Had a nice letter from a media relations person whose greater lament is not that bots scrape our content, it's that they appear to be writing much of the Yahoo Finance content. Her suspicion is that the article about Leuthold that I called out might well have been automated.

  • Yahoo Finance articles have become a joke, yeah. 24/7 Wall Street is one such example whose articles I presume are bot-written. IMO it's pretty easy to find the bot-written finanical articles since they're often talking just technicals, trends, and presented in a very formulaic manner.

    After Sunday, the views on the click-bait piece virtually flatlined. That is, about 400 more people have read it in distinct contrast the initial surge. If the 27,000 had been humans, I would have anticipated more spillover into the rest of the issue, but that didn't quite happen.

    Had a nice letter from a media relations person whose greater lament is not that bots scrape our content, it's that they appear to be writing much of the Yahoo Finance content. Her suspicion is that the article about Leuthold that I called out might well have been automated.

  • edited December 4
    rforno said:

    Yahoo Finance articles have become a joke ...

    Yahoo has become a joke. I recently ordered some pricey theater tickets. Rather than going through the trouble of changing my old “ymail” address with Telecharge, I left the old email standing. Guess what? Tickets were emailed, but yahoo mail has been completely off-line since some time late yesterday. Tried about 50 times. Finally phoned Telecharge today and got them sent to a more up-to-date email.:)

    Yahoo was a pioneer in internet search in the 90s. How far they’ve fallen.
  • 27000! Why, I'll bet that even Ted never got that many hits!
    :)
  • edited December 4
    d

  • edited December 5
    I agree with everything @LewisBraham says above and thank him for the presentation. I’ll add that our marvelous free press and its investigative reporting is imperiled by factors both financial and political. Every time I curl up with a fresh copy of the NYT or other great publication, I’m reminded that we may not be so blessed in the future.

    If you’re still with me ... I’m reminded of a short story, “The Portable Phonograph” by Walter VanTilberg Clark I used to use with students back in the 70s. The story depicts the existence of a few “post-civilization” survivors holed up in a cave following a devastating war. Each clings to some great literary masterpiece or other relic from the past. The title is a reference to an old man who treasures a collection of aging phonograph records:

    “The records, though,” said the old man when he had finished winding, “are a different matter. Already they are very worn. I do not play them more than once a week. One, once a week, that is what I allow myself. ...More than a week I cannot stand it; not to hear them,” he apologized.


    Link to brief summary of story: https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/short-story-portable-phonograph-why-author-634741

    Link to complete story (5 pages):
    http://www.mscruz.yolasite.com/resources/The Portable Phonograph.pdf
    -


    Some added thoughts re the points Lewis made so articulately.

    I obtain / read all my subscription periodicals through Amazon’s Kindle service. I’d feel better sending my money directly to publishers. On the other hand, I assume they are being adequately compensated (big assumption) by Amazon or they wouldn’t agree to have their publications re-sourced. Here’s why I use the Kindle editions:

    - Add-free. I wouldn’t mind if online papers included static “print-type” ads that didn’t detract from my reading (as hard copy newspapers did for a century or more). However, invariably these ads flash, blink, flicker, change color and dance about. I cannot read text with such distractions.

    - Ease of starting and stopping subscriptions. Amazon allows you to cancel a subscription at any time and refunds the unused portion of any subscription amount paid. By contrast, I’ve encountered much difficulty cancelling online subscriptions from Barron’s. Once, I had to have my bank pull my charge card and issue a new one as it was the only way I could keep from being charged monthly after repeated attempts to cancel through the publisher.

    - Formatting. In my opinion nobody does this better. Amazon pioneered the e-reader and remains miles ahead in providing a format (suitable for many different devices) that’s easy to access, fine-tune, read and navigate.

    - One-stop billing and ease of accessing / changing account settings,

    Just a few thoughts. I’d say Amazon ranks relatively low on the list of factors damaging the free press. I’d cite a continued dumbing down of the populace, addiction to internet, TV and electronic media, free-loaders who pay nothing, and attacks from the far right as more influential causes of journalism’s plight.
  • hank said:



    - Add-free. I wouldn’t mind if online papers included static “print-type” ads that didn’t detract from my reading (as hard copy newspapers did for a century or more). However, invariably these ads flash, blink, flicker, change color and dance about. I cannot read text with such distractions.

    Neither can I. Which is easily solved for the web using various ad- and script-blocking plugins for browsers. You can get really granular in the control ... I haven't seen a distracting ad on a news site in YEARS, and can even customize the view so that I can block entire sections of a page -- ie, 'visual' stories or large video blocks I have no desire to watch, etc. Makes life much nicer that way!
  • edited December 5
    rforno said:

    hank said:



    - Add-free. I wouldn’t mind if online papers included static “print-type” ads that didn’t detract from my reading (as hard copy newspapers did for a century or more). However, invariably these ads flash, blink, flicker, change color and dance about. I cannot read text with such distractions.

    Neither can I. Which is easily solved for the web using various ad- and script-blocking plugins for browsers. You can get really granular in the control ... I haven't seen a distracting ad on a news site in YEARS, and can even customize the view so that I can block entire sections of a page -- ie, 'visual' stories or large video blocks I have no desire to watch, etc. Makes life much nicer that way!
    @rforno, Glad it works for you. I’ve tried assorted ad-blockers with only limited success. Currently have at least 3 on my ipads in addition to what Apple builds-in as their standard blocker. They work with a lot of free websites - but ineffective with major publications. It was clear from my brief subscription directly with the NYT couple months ago that the Times did not want me blocking their ads and was trying to circumvent the blockers. That’s a no-win for publisher and reader alike. https://www.mutualfundobserver.com/discuss/discussion/53366/best-way-to-subscribe-to-newspapers.

    The Kindle edition NYT costs about $5 more monthly ($20 vs $15). Not only the absence of distracting ads, but smoother layout / format and less data consumed on downloads are appealing. (I’m still on a data-capped internet plan.) Willing to pay the added cost in exchange for convenience and a better reading experience. The higher subscription fee should allow Amazon to compensate publishers fairly.

    Overall, I believe Amazon increases circulation for many publications above what they would otherwise enjoy in this day and age. Let’s face it: Newspapers face intense competitive pressures from the likes of cable news and free websites, albeit the quality of these pales in comparison. Amazon’s Kindle site serves essentially as a top-notch marketing platform for hundreds, if not thousands, of quality publications, both domestic and global.

  • Oh, I pay for the WSJ, WaPo, and NYT ... but prefer to pay for a quality viewing experience with less distractions and better 'flow' of articles. Ergo, I pay to provide that desired experience I use my geek-fu to deconstruct/reconstruct pages/page sections and block/enable scripts to ensure that. :) But each to our own! (I don't like reading news in apps personally)
    hank said:

    rforno said:

    hank said:



    - Add-free. I wouldn’t mind if online papers included static “print-type” ads that didn’t detract from my reading (as hard copy newspapers did for a century or more). However, invariably these ads flash, blink, flicker, change color and dance about. I cannot read text with such distractions.

    Neither can I. Which is easily solved for the web using various ad- and script-blocking plugins for browsers. You can get really granular in the control ... I haven't seen a distracting ad on a news site in YEARS, and can even customize the view so that I can block entire sections of a page -- ie, 'visual' stories or large video blocks I have no desire to watch, etc. Makes life much nicer that way!
    @rforno, Glad it works for you. I’ve tried assorted ad-blockers with only limited success. Currently have at least 3 on my ipads in addition to what Apple builds-in as their standard blocker. It was clear from my brief subscription directly with the NYT couple months ago that the Times did not want me blocking their ads and was trying to circumvent the blockers. That’s a no-win for publisher and reader alike. https://www.mutualfundobserver.com/discuss/discussion/53366/best-way-to-subscribe-to-newspapers

    The Kindle edition NYT is costs about $5 more monthly ($20 vs $15). Not only the distracting ads, but a smoother layout/format and less data consumed on downloads are appealing, since I’m still on a data-capped internet plan. I’m happy to pay the added cost in exchange for a better reading experience. And the higher subscription fee should allow Amazon to compensate publishers fairly.

    Overall, I believe Amazon increases circulation numbers for many publications above what they would otherwise be in this day and age. Let’s face it: Newspapers face intense competitive pressures from the likes of cable news and free websites, albeit the quality of these pales in comparison. Amazon’s Kindle site serves essentially as a free marketing forum for hundreds, if not thousands, of quality publications, both domestically and globally.

  • All media is full of problems and they have done it to themselves - life is now one big infomercial.
  • edited December 5
    @rforno -:)

    PS - Not sure, but I think a lot of direct newspaper apps continually update throughout the day. If you’re on a data restricted I-Net plan, that’s the last thing you want or need. Kindle editions do not normally update once published.
  • I do not read news as @hank does on Kindle, but I do read online, often before I bring in the physical papers. The ads are awful. On a related note re: Amazon. I had to replace our main TV hours before the UM-OSU game. I watched it on an Insignia dubbed a “Fire TV.” Horrible experience because there was no way to avoid the Home page which was covered in a swarm of icons all costing $ to use. With two remotes and three clicks I could get to the channel I was watching when I turned off the set previously, whereas I am accustomed to one click to power up the monitor, the cable and the sound bar. Mercifully, the third TV, a Vizio worked perfectly and the Amazon-Best Buy collaboration has been returned. BTW, never go the Best Buy on Black Friday!
  • Unfortunately the game was a horrible experience for all the Michigan fans as well !
  • Gary said:

    All media is full of problems and they have done it to themselves - life is now one big infomercial.

    Sometimes it seems so, and yet at other times, like this week watching cnn and msnbc, it seems like a golden age of intellect and analytical eloquence. Quite amazing. So many smart and deeply experienced policy and academic and legal and political types, it is really something, restores my faith in substantiated reason, at least for the nonce.
  • @Gary I don't know how any one can legitimately argue that the old-school media outlets "have done it to themselves." :https://theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/12/post-advertising-future-media/578917/
    It’s tempting to think that this is the inevitable end game of Google and Facebook’s duopoly. The two companies already receive more than half of all the dollars spent on digital advertising, and they commanded 90 percent of the growth in digital ad sales last year. But what’s happening in media right now is more complex. We’re seeing the convergence of four trends.It’s not just Facebook and Google; just about every big tech company is talking about selling ads, meaning that just about every big tech company may become another competitor in the fight for advertising revenue.Amazon’s ad business exploded in the past year; its growth exceeded that of every other major tech company, including the duopoly. Apple is building tech that would skim ad revenue from major apps such as Snapchat and Pinterest, according to The Wall Street Journal.
    and:
    Ultimately, however, the market might not support some forms of journalism. For example, the number of local reporters today is at its lowest point since the 1970s, despite the fact that the U.S. population has grown by 50 percent. Research has shown a direct connection between declining local journalism and less civic engagement. If local news is a public good, it may deserve public support—perhaps in the form of government subsidies. But asking for public assistance might seem like an act of pure desperation.
  • Good points @LewisBraham. Recently the NYT covered the dearth of local news coverage by pointing out that in Ann Arbor the only paper covering local affairs such as city council meetings is the U-M's Michigan Daily, represented by a 20-year-old student. The formerly-daily Ann Arbor News has retreated to a twice weekly compendium of wire service articles with some general interest local coverage. There is no longer any check on what officials elected or appointed to various boards or councils do on a frequent basis, no local professional reporter attending hearings or trials, no one whose job it is to report happenings to the populace so that someone can raise a stink when appropriate.
  • edited December 6
    Yep - I do not understand the decline in local journalism, Why on earth would people prefer to rely on social media for news about their state and local government? I subscribe to 3 different locals (from different nearby communities) in an attempt to stay informed, all print copies - 1 daily and 2 weeklies, But they are all a complete joke, The daily keeps getting bought up or merged with other big corporations. It’s currently part of the latest merger between Gate-House and Gannett, which I hear will cost even more jobs. And 2 of the 3 local TV stations are owned by Sinclair. (I shouldn't have to tell anyone how awful that news programming is.)

    @BenWP - At least we still have Tim Skubick. When he retires, we’ll really be in the dark. Maybe have to call up @rono to find out what the h*** is going on in Lansing.
  • facebook groups and email lists and the like are way more up to date about town meetings, business closings, school schedules, sports, gossip, police logs, firings and resignations and hirings, and everything else --- a local paper cannot come close, not remotely

    as an ex-newspaperman I try and support local print pubs also, but I understand why they are dying, the triumph of free over anything that costs
  • I would argue that people lose far more in terms of depth and diversity of knowledge of their communities than what they gain in speed from information disseminated via social media. Aside from misinformation on social media, there is also the echo chamber effect on Facebook where only like-minded people are communicating with each other. Also, having a neighbor tell you such and such is going on locally on Facebook is not the same as having a group of people at a paper whose full-time job it is to get to the bottom of what's happening in your community, informing you about ideas, events, risks, machinations and coverups a neighbor would never discover. What it meant to pick up a newspaper I think 30 to 40 years ago was to serendipitously discover something perhaps you never even considered about your hometown and hear opinions different from your own. I think part of the divisiveness we see today is from that lack of exposure to alternative voices outside one's social media self-reinforcing feedback loop or bubble.

    More to the point, there is research that indicates communities that have lost newspapers vote less on average and have more political corruption on average because people are just less engaged and less in the know as to what's going on:

    https://pen.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Losing-the-News_Executive-Summary.pdf

    Yet there is no question that news spreads faster on Facebook. Whether it is useful news or thoughtful in depth analysis is another question entirely.
  • roger all of this ... was not recalling sufficiently the days only ~20y ago when local papers had an editorial staff of more than one, with beat stringers who were savvy and experienced

    outside boston as local papers have been glommed together or turned into adsheets chiefly, we have not had anything resembling thorough local coverage for many many years

    there are newsy forums (yahoo, now moving to io) and email chains that do this with the most substantive and important and divisive issues
  • edited December 6

    facebook groups and email lists and the like are way more up to date about town meetings, business closings, school schedules, sports, gossip, police logs, firings and resignations and hirings, and everything else --- a local paper cannot come close, not remotely ... as an ex-newspaperman I try and support local print pubs also, but I understand why they are dying, the triumph of free over anything that costs

    @davidrmoran,

    (1) Where’s the accountability?

    (2) Who checks the accuracy of the information?

    (3) Who ferrets out those sources bearing a personal grudge, conflict of interest, or posting surreptitiously on behalf of a well funded special interest group ?
  • Have you not participated?

    There is none. It is self-policing, mostly effectively so. Not talking about social media in general, just community postings and bulletin boards and such. Lots of good back and forth. Like this forum at its best. Except people use their actual full names most of the time, ime. Suggest you see if there is a f/b or yahoo group for your town or neighborhood or some local issue. Voter networks, that sort of thing.

    You can assume bad faith about anything, of course.
  • edited December 6
    @davidmoran - Not sure my civic involvement (or lack thereof) is pertinent to a discussion of information dissemination and objectivity.

    For access to news and information, I’d rather pay for a good daily newspaper containing all those listings, minutes of govt. meetings, upcoming ballot issues, polling places and election dates along with local sports and weather. Throw in some Letters To the Editor and lots of good in-depth investigative reporting. Guess I’m just old fashioned.

    Obviously the electorate is better informed today than when we had decent local newspapers?
  • oldfashioned has nothing to do with it, you just need to keep up with changing times

    what you want is largely unavailable in many towns and cities, though not all

    I meant see if you can get some of what you wish for from a local civic or regional or town group online

    no one is saying wide-open social media is the solution, but it is remarkably, oddly effective at some things, but most as a service (reliable pols, reliable plumbers)
  • @davidrmoran " need to keep up with changing times" - I am too set in my ways to keep with changing times and it doesn't bother me one bit.
  • "what you want is largely unavailable in many towns and cities, though not all"

    Even in a city with the size and wealth of San Francisco it's becoming less and less available. The SF Chronicle, while still capable of some really excellent reporting, gets thinner and thinner by the week. It's gonna be a close call as to whether it lasts as long as I do.

Sign In or Register to comment.