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Thursday, August 7, 2014

What ‘Clickbait’ Means For The Future Of Journalism

This "selfie" by a macaque monkey in Indonesia with photographer David Slater's camera has gone viral, and has become the focus of a copyright controversy. (Wikimedia Commons)

This “selfie” by a macaque monkey in Indonesia, taken with photographer David Slater’s camera, has gone viral and is now the focus of a copyright controversy. (Wikimedia Commons)

Do you click on a story because of the picture or do you click because of the headline? Chances are it’s the picture that is luring you into the story — and these days pictures may be getting a lot more attention than the story itself.

Nikki Usher, an assistant professor at the George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs calls it “clickbait”.

“A headline-grabbing big photo, getting people to click, might actually be getting people, sadly, to think of the survival of journalism,” she tells Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson.

Samir Mezrahi, senior editor of BuzzFeed, also joins us to discuss clickbait and BuzzFeed’s practices.

Interview Highlights: Nikki Usher and Samir Mezrahi

Usher on why millennials are attracted to images over headlines

“I think because they are so saturated in a torrent of information, images, social environment — all sorts of things that are competing for attention. When you’re constantly getting a stream of pictures of your friends, pictures of food, pictures of the world around you, you need to be grabbed by something unique and different if you’re going to pay attention.”

Mezrahi on the importance of images for BuzzFeed

“It depends on the content, but in general more people will click and share articles that have more compelling images, and, I think, if the image doesn’t catch the eye of who’s scrolling through their social networks, then people won’t want to know more about what’s going on there.”

“A lot of stories these days are based around a few images or a single image. These are the more viral stories — there are news stories that are longer and more in depth. But a lot of these Facebook news stories that are very popular for a day or two and then go away are based upon one thing that happened. That image is the one thing that people want to see and that people want to share.”

Usher on how clickbait journalism has changed our consumption patterns

“One of the most interesting things that’s happening is that we’re getting much more accustomed to clickbait journalism, clickbait content. Because you can get morsels of things like ‘monkeys taking selfies’ so instantly, it becomes really tantalizing that you can click on that when you’re maybe bored at work or you’re sitting in class and you’ve got nothing else to do. There’s a real change in consumption because there’s more content like this available to you all of the time.”

Usher on how clickbait journalism can support more traditional content

“If you can get people to become immersed in a website and you grab them, you can get them to take some of the much better, sort of more substantial content. This is why BuzzFeed has such a good news operation in addition to some of its fun stuff. I think there is potential for candy, but also potential for vegetables at the same time.”

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