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How I improved this website with one weird trick

18 Mar, 2014

Comic courtesy of xkcd

I’m getting more than a little bit sick of Clickbait headlines. Along with flying surveys and popunders that tell me how I’m going to make SO much money in my pajamas these “Click me Click me!” headlines have infected our browsers like a bad case of textual diarrhea.

We’ve been here before. The infamous BLINK tag in the Netscape Browser was abused so much it was killed (Try a Google search on “Blink Tag” to see it in action). Then there were pop-ups and pop-up blockers (which don’t seem to stop surveys flying at you from all angles). Note to site owners: If I wanted to take a survey I would click a link that says “Take a survey”.

It’s fair enough to expect that pop culture sites like Buzzfeed and Facebook will thrive on Top 10 lists and pictures of cats, but its shocking to see a site like Huffington post, a site that supposedly has some serious discussion of the news, degenerate into a clickbait disaster zone. Here are just some of today’s headlines on HuffPo:

Scientists May Have Discovered Something Amazing (Sure they have)

WTF?! A Rapist Who Impregnates A Woman By Rape Can Sue For Custody  (WTF?)

Tiny Baby Carrots Are A Big Fat Lie (I always thought so)

THIS HAPPENED. IN MODERN TIMES. (In fact, it happened yesterday)

9 Things That Will Ruin Your Spring Break (Clickbait not being one of them)

Who allows WTF in a headline? No amount of lying baby carrots or amazing discoveries by scientists will make me click on those headlines. I resist!

Some may say that’s what it takes to get young people interested in news, but that’s not the point. People who are actually interested in news don’t need or want to have their attention trivialized by headline writers and their bosses who see them as another thousandth of a cent in revenue. I feel sorry for the real journalists and commentators at HuffPo. Any site that insults its readers’ intelligence with headlines like these thinks that short term profits are more important than long-term readers. And when you lose your long-term readers you’ve lost.

So my weird trick to improve Newslines is a simple: No clickbait. No ads that fly out. No popups pop overs or pop unders. No surveys that get in your face. It’s just not worth it.


Mark Devlin is the founder and CEO of Newslines. Find out more about him here, and more about Newslines here. Click here to follow Mark on Twitter.