to click or not to click

News or Sponsored? We need to make better choices about where we place our attention.

I discovered a new podcast yesterday. It’s called ‘Reply All’ and it’s made by Gimlet Media who produce one of my faves ‘Heavyweight’. The podcast is in the tech category but believe me, this is pure storytelling. They take ‘techy’ subjects and make them very interesting! For example, did you know that the boxes at the bottom of most news websites are called the Chum Bucket. This is where all the click-bait is. You know those posts that list the 50 best-dressed women in Hollywood, or the list of words the Kardashians have mispronounced, or ‘I can’t believe he left my on my wedding day’ kind of articles. The online equivalent to What’s New Magazine without all the awesome puzzles…

This episode dealt with a poor dude who had written a blog for years after the death of his wife. He raised his young child and ten years later just as he was planning to re-marry, friends started sending him messages about seeing him in the advertisement he was in. This piqued his interest of course but when he checked it out he was horrified to see that his personal story of losing his wife had been turned into an awful click bait article that was on ‘news’ sites all over the web. 

It was amazing how the investigators on the podcast tracked down the people responsible. These people are making a LOT OF MONEY from people clicking on their mostly stolen articles. There are writers, people just trying to make a living, working in offices churning out these articles. I had a quick look on Yahoo and quickly noticed that some had a little blue ‘News’ identifier, and others had ‘sponsored’ on them. So that’s transparent. Thanks Yahoo. I won’t ever be tempted to click on a sponsored link again.

It’s a little unnerving though, for bloggers, that there’s really nothing to stop these businesses from harvesting your photos and stealing your stories for their own gain. The link from the article wasn’t to the guy’s blog; he’d already taken it down. The boxes linked to other sites. I am saddened by how grubby the world has become. The Steven Pinker book I am reading talks about how much better the world is now but there are definitely some elements that are just revolting.

***This is my fave episode so far. Autumn