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A Brave New World of Journalism?


A Brave New World of Journalism?

Cracked.com (a humor website) recently published an article entitled "6 Reasons You Really Can't Believe Anything You Read Online" and item #4 might partially explain why so many of the online FAU articles from our local papers are negative or scandalous.


(Primer: Item #2 talks about how advertising drives online publishing profits and more page views = more advertising revenue)

#4. It's All About Provoking a Reaction

What's the best way to get page views? It's to write something that other people share on Facebook, on Twitter, on Tumblr, via email, wherever. That's why those big icons are there on every post and video you see. It turns out that as readers, we have certain buttons that make us press those buttons (see what I did there?)

Jonah Berger has done some fascinating studies on what makes articles go viral. It turns out that the No. 1 predictor of an article making the New York Times Most E-Mailed List is how angry it makes the reader. Not that anger is the only thing that works out; basically any extreme emotion will do – really funny, really arousing, really awesome, really anxious, really afraid. Because think about it: When was the last time you read an article and thought, "Oh OK," and then proceeded to tell everyone in your life about it?

Buzzfeed has basically reduced this to a science, as well. They know we love to share nostalgia, and they know we don't like to share sad things. So they produce their listicles accordingly. It's not a coincidence that the tags on the front page of the site are all Internet shorthand for viral emotions: LOL, win, omg, cute, trashy, fail, WTF.

So everything has to be controversial and provocative. Even when it actually isn't (like this fun Gawker headline when Obama did a Reddit AMA: "Obama Grants Interview to Racist Teen Nude Picture Website").

Provoking a reaction has another lucrative benefit for online publishers: It drives comments. The Huffington Post does something like 70 MILLION user comments a year (and, remember, to leave a comment you have to go to a login page and give personal info away). How do sites do it? By baiting you – by making you so angry or so enthused with agreement that you simply must give them free content and page views by posting your opinion. In other words, that blog post about Trayvon Martin that really moved you? The writer doesn't actually care – they just cared that you care.

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Re: A Brave New World of Journalism?

ha ha, this is so incredibly true. I've really enjoyed the HBO series The Newsroom and the characters attempts to be actual journalists because the News today…it's very sad.

I found myself tweeting the local NBC anchor last night during the 6:30 broadcast, they were discussing a photo of Giselle Bunchen and her 8 month old baby, apparently the kid has her ears pierced and people are in an uproar on the internet (as usual) so the guy (who really doesn't seem like he wants to be a sensational new anchor) cuts to commercial break asking the viewers to chime in on their facebook page as to whether we think it's OK for babies to have their ears pierced.

@AdamNBC6: "Is it OK for babies to have their ears pierced?" Bet you're really glad you got into journalism.

Seriously, isn't there something going on in Egypt or Syria that they can report on? It's pathetic. I tend to enjoy the Daily Show because they are the only satire that KNOWS they're a satire. Everyone else actually thinks they're reporting.
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