One of the biggest problems with our media is headlines.
I know it sounds trivial, but it’s really true.
From a marketing standpoint, the only purpose of the headline is to get your audience to either click on the article or to read a little further. That’s it. You want to give just enough but not too much. You want someone to read your headline and say “hmmm… what’s that about?”
But we got greedy.
The online advertising model has corrupted our news outlets. Profitability is predicated on traffic, not accuracy. If no one clicks on the articles, and subsequently, if no one sees the ads, then no one gets paid. So to game the system, we started tricking people. We had to find ways to compete against the millions of other publications out there. So we got creative with our headlines.
It’s just a headline you say. What’s the harm in sprinkling a little bit of mystery or even a little bit of sensationalism in the headline?
The problem is that press is the fundamental backbone of free democracy. It’s about the people having the freedom to openly research, share and publish information that could be potentially influential in our elections. That is democracy. That’s all it is. Without that one critical piece, the entire system becomes too easy to manipulate.
So when we start lying or sensationalizing headlines, it runs much deeper than an innocent little marketing trick. Over time, little things become the big things, and when the free press loses its power, that’s a really big fucking deal.
There’s nothing in our country that scares me more than the press losing its authenticity, its trust, its credibility and its power. If that happens, there is only one place for us to go.
I want to make a quick note that in my experience in working with journalists, I have found them to be some of the most honorable, hard working, honest and properly motivated people I’ve ever met. They know the importance of their work.
Which is why when I see click bait headlines, it infuriates me so much, especially among powerful media companies.
I’m just a guy. I have a decent following with my writing, but I can’t do much to change this other than to act as if. I act in the way I would want other media outlets to act. I use marketing tactics, I use persuasive language and copy writing. I openly try to sell my academy and build a business around my work. I want to grow my brand. That’s great.
But I do so in a way that is honest to me and to my audience. People know what to expect. People never feel deceived. People generally don’t mind being “sold to.” We expect it, in a way we enjoy the thought of wondering “how can this product, or article or service can help me?” It’s free market and we participate willingly.
But the deception is the part that makes people angry. It’s the feeling of “hey… I never signed up for this.” That starts wars.
I see a wave coming. I see an influx of freelance journalists, bloggers, YouTubers, podcasters and personalities building up in the near future.
As news and media continues to be divided into smaller subsets, I believe trust and order will be restored in our media.
Until then, I ask and I hope that you rebel against click bait. I ask that you scoff at articles and media which is designed to emotionally charge you in order to get you to engage in pointless, meaningless and divisive banter.
Most importantly, I ask that you reward and support journalists, writers and content producers who do their work well and with the intention of changing the culture.
Even if you don’t agree with someone’s point of view, you need to respect the way in which they share it. You need to acknowledge that they sacrificed their time, their labor and their emotional stability to present information that they believe makes the case for a better culture and society.
Even if you think it’s rubbish, I ask that you reward it for being honest.