As I delve deeper into the darker corners of online journalism I’m saddened with what I’m discovering. Whilst I’m sure it seems obvious to you that the aim of an online journalist is to attract an audience and generate traffic on to their post, website or blog, but I’m starting to question the consequences this is having on us as writers and consumers.
As I’m writing, re-writing, deleting, editing and adding, trying to make this post as enjoyable and interesting as possible, I can’t help but think, what’s the point?
I came across an article, You Won’t Finish This Article by Farhad Manjoo, that explores the truth about online readers and their attention to online articles. It appears that it has become nearly impossible to get ‘clickers’ to properly engage with articles online. 38% of readers that click on an online post immediately ‘bounce’ off the page, not engaging with the article at all. Furthermore, it’s rare that we fully read an article online, usually only scrolling or skimming through 50% of the post.
It’s becoming evident that the scoop is all in the headline. It disappoints me that ultimately a successful article is an article that creates the most shares, tweets, comments or likes. I hate to think that well researched, reported and written articles are going unnoticed because their first priority is to generate a share.
Scott Havens, Senior Vice President of Financial and Digital Operations at The Atlantic Media Company, explained that The Atlantic’s online journalists are now writing with the goal to send their story viral, not for Google searches or their passion about the topic.
Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the business perspective to all of this, you do what makes the dollar. But I can’t help but wonder, are we approaching the end of ‘good’ writing if it’s all about the ads and the clicks?
Unfortunately, I’m a victim of the manipulating headlines, leading me to posts decorated with sidebar ads, containing content that’s likely to be inaccurate or even a complete fabrication. I only have to scroll down my Facebook page to discover ’19 Reasons Why Your College Friends Will Be Your Friends For Life’. True? Probably not. Relatable? Completely.
Even though these somewhat trashy, gossipy and pointless posts fill our timelines, who can blame these virtual enterprises when the majority of their traffic is sourced from social media?
There are endless debates as to whether the future of print is dying a slow death, but because of the direction that online journalism is taking, I have hope that this will sustain the life of newspapers as more credible journalism. I do believe that online journalism is on a downward spiral to becoming wholly focused on clicks and shares, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.
As a consequence, I think the quality of online journalism is deteriorating, but it’s feeding the high demand for entertaining, but short lived articles whilst clearly successfully generating views and the all important clicks for companies.
So, as my research has proven I doubt many of you are still reading, but if you are I challenge you to think before you click.