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Shut Up About "Clickbait"
March 27, 2014 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Ninety-two years ago, a 34-year-old Chicago man named Joseph Wozniak woke up missing one of his balls, which had been surgically removed by hoodlums. As the Lawrence Journal-World had the story, he was on his way home from the bar when "four men leaped on him, put a bag over his head, and loaded him into an automobile." They then drugged him and stole one of his testicles, presumably "for an experiment in gland transplantation, perhaps for the purpose of rejuvenating some infirm or aged man." This is how the front page of the paper looked on Oct. 14, 1922. (SL: GAWKER EMPIRE)
posted by josher71 (52 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
ctrl-f "yellow journalism"

No results? I'm afraid that's an F on your Journalism 101 final, Tim Marchman.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:31 AM on March 27 [5 favorites]


loaded him into an automobile

Gland theft auto
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:32 AM on March 27 [49 favorites]


Gland theft auto

"Gland Larceny".
posted by cjelli at 9:33 AM on March 27 [19 favorites]


But "sensational-but-untrue-story" isn't what people mean by "clickbait." "Clickbait" is either "mundane story dressed up to sound sensational" or "deliberately provocative/contrarian opinion piece designed merely to provoke rage-reading."
posted by yoink at 9:33 AM on March 27 [19 favorites]


You won't believe what happens next...
posted by studentbaker at 9:37 AM on March 27 [5 favorites]


"Gland Larceny"

I love that headline so much I am tempted to go back in time to give a ball to the headline writer if he is interested.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:37 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


I'm Still Trying To Pick My Glands Up Off The Floor
posted by iotic at 9:37 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


(Related: my opinion about clickbait is actually also pretty contrarian.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:37 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Gawker used to just insult my intelligence. Now it's insulting me to my face by calling me an asshole. So, yay, straightforwardness?
posted by benito.strauss at 9:39 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


"Gland Larceny".

Nice to see Al Swearengen get a promotion.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:42 AM on March 27


Snark aside, this article is pretty disingenuous. OK, so journalists have always wanted people to read their articles. So they get paid more - not for any altruistic reasons (as the Nepali workers example seems to hint at).

But until recently, they didn't use tactics like "these ten pictures of poodles will blow your mind. number 6 will make you scream with joy", or whatever. That's a new phenomenon. New phenomena need new words, and here we are with "clickbait". Don't tell me to stop going on about it. Stop doing it.
posted by iotic at 9:46 AM on March 27 [13 favorites]


There's an "escrow" joke here.
posted by zippy at 9:48 AM on March 27


Well now, that's just rude. (The ball stealing.)
posted by Bee'sWing at 9:53 AM on March 27


Next up on Gawker Media:

"Shut up about shoddy journalism."
"Shut up about trend pieces."
"Fuck our readers. Seriously."
posted by duffell at 10:04 AM on March 27 [13 favorites]


Yeah, there are plenty of good points in this post, but it's truly bizarre how resolutely it ignores the core idea motivating the "clickbait" complaint, which is disappointment: you promised me x, but when I clicked, you only delivered y.

Certainly, this is a subjective standard – some people will always be unreasonably hard to please – and certainly the word gets applied too broadly. But nobody ever complained about clickbait after being seduced into reading something and then being glad that they were. If you're being accused of it frequently, something's gone wrong in your relationship with your readers, whoever's fault that is.
posted by oliverburkeman at 10:11 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


You Won't Believe How This Blogger Misuses The Term "Clickbait"...
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:14 AM on March 27 [15 favorites]


But until recently, they didn't use tactics like "these ten pictures of poodles will blow your mind. number 6 will make you scream with joy", or whatever.

I hope this new trend dies quickly, because it sincerely annoys me how shamelessly oversold things are. I have lost the ability to judge whether something really is worth my time.

It reminds me of this Louis CK riff:
Anyway, I was listening to the two guys. And one of them used a word that really pissed me off. Because, it was how he used it. He used the word ‘hilarious.’ That’s one of those words that we use, and we don’t care what it means. We go right for the top shelf with our words, now. We don’t think about how we talk. We just say, 'Dude, it was amazing. It was amazing.’ Really? You were 'amazed'? You were 'amazed'? By a basket of chicken wings? Really? 'Amazing?'

What are you going to do with the rest of your life now? What if something really happens to you? What if Jesus comes down from the sky. Makes love to you all night long. Leaves the new living lord in your belly? What are you going to call that? You used ‘amazing’ on a basket of chicken wings. You’ve limited yourself verbally to a shit life. All these words we use. ‘Genius.’ Anybody can be a ‘genius’ now. It used to be you had to have a thought no one had ever had before. Or you had to invent a number. Now, it’s like, 'Hey I got a cup in case we need another cup. Dude you're a genius. '

So this guys, he used ‘hilarious.’ […] His friend goes, ‘I saw Lisa today.’ And he goes, ‘Hah. That’s hilarious.’

How the fuck is that hilarious?! That you saw Lisa? Is Lisa a poodle on her hind legs. How is that hilarious? Was she standing next to Jerry Lewis when he was younger. How the fuck is that hilarious? Do you know what hilarious means? Hilarious means so funny that you almost went insane when you heard that shit. It’s just so funny that it almost ruined your life. You’re homeless now because you can’t cope or reason anymore because that hilarious thing just shattered your mind. And three months later you’ve got shit and leaves in your hair and you’re drenched in pee in the gutter. That’s how funny hilarious is. I don't know this Lisa... but she ain't that funny. There's just no way.
That rant runs through my head when I read this obnoxious linkbait trend about how #13 will blow my mind or change my life or whatever.
posted by dios at 10:16 AM on March 27 [26 favorites]


Oh, and in case you wanted to hear it from his mouth.
posted by dios at 10:24 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Not only is clickbait about the whole overselling things deal, it's also generally characterized by enticing intentional vagueness where the title doesn't actually tell you anything about the content. These are examples of actual titles on Upworthy right now:

"Ellen Page's Response To A Stranger Who Wanted To 'Save' Her 'Struggling' Soul Is Pretty Funny"
"A Christian Girl Stood Up To Anti-Gay Churchgoers With This Sharp Comment On Facebook"
"How Do You Handle People Being Awful And The Universe Sucking Sometimes? Come Home To One Of These"
"Here’s What Happens To Kids When They Get To Eat Before School Every Day"
"Here's What Some Protesters Decided To Do Instead Of Picketing The Westboro Church With Hate"

All of these titles deliberately do not include the actual content of the article, just opinions surrounding the content.
posted by TheMayorOfCanTown at 10:26 AM on March 27 [9 favorites]


ctrl-f "yellow journalism"

No results? I'm afraid that's an F on your Journalism 101 final, Tim Marchman.


Exactly. The first line in the yellow journalism Wikipedia page sounds not like a dark period for print media, but a real, living element currently in practice for a number of reasons:

Yellow journalism, or the yellow press, is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers.

Yup, still happening. Less in the press and more online, if you're focusing on the eye-catching headline aspect instead of the shoddy journalism angle.

All of these titles deliberately do not include the actual content of the article, just opinions surrounding the content.

Yellow journalism, ahoy!
posted by filthy light thief at 10:28 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


All missing-the-point-ness aside, Gawker telling us to shut up about clickbait is kind of like an arsonist telling us all to shut up about how much we hate having our shit set on fire.
posted by Itaxpica at 10:36 AM on March 27 [4 favorites]


How the fuck is that hilarious?! That you saw Lisa? Is Lisa a poodle on her hind legs. How is that hilarious? Was she standing next to Jerry Lewis when he was younger. How the fuck is that hilarious? Do you know what hilarious means? Hilarious means so funny that you almost went insane when you heard that shit.

I realise that Louis CK won't appreciate this, but I found his rant hilarious.
posted by ambivalentic at 10:41 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


"...a 34-year-old Chicago man named Joseph Wozniak..."

I shall call him "JozWoz."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:50 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


If I had the know-how, I'd create a web service that links to these articles with headlines that actually describe the content.
posted by jamincan at 10:52 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Upworthy Spoiler
posted by josher71 at 10:53 AM on March 27 [6 favorites]


To be fair, this used to be a thing (well, with monkey glands). Serge Voronoff was a famous doctor who inserted monkeyglands into millionaires. Apparently even Kemal Ataturk received the monkeyglands treatment.
posted by fishhouses at 11:01 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Man, I would be pretty teste if that happened to me.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 11:11 AM on March 27 [4 favorites]


Does anyone here actually click on clickbait links? Slate.com started using these sorts of titles on some stories and as a result I've been clicking on fewer slate stories. I've learned that clickbait titles are nearly 100% used to point to stories that I don't want to read, so they're actually helpful signals to not read the content for me.
posted by HappyEngineer at 11:13 AM on March 27 [7 favorites]


That's just nut.
posted by jferg at 11:31 AM on March 27 [4 favorites]


Headline: Shut Up About "Clickbait"

Content: Raising the cry of "clickbait" is a healthy response to the world as it is.

Verdict: Haha, you guessed it.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 11:35 AM on March 27


"This is how it's always worked. You publish something, and you try to get people to read it."

I agree, but printed words used to mean something. It was an investment to type it up, have it printed, and present it to a consuming populace, and if you wanted even more people to read it, you made sure it was something which had a target audience who would be interested in its content.

Clickbait, on the other hand, is the electronic print version of "fluff" or "teaser," which are widely accepted terms used in visual media. It's tantamount to that special type of charged question a news anchor will read right before a commercial:

"Coming up after the break... You may be surprised to learn what's in your chicken soup, and it's not chicken!"

[Commercials]

"It's NOODLES!!!"

At least when general news programs do it, there is other content being consumed, whether it's local news, weather, or national news. The specialized "news" shows that run this content as their prime focus, usually have the appropriate reputations a la Current Affair, ET, and HLN (otherwise known as The Missing White Girl Channel)

Finally, if your medium is the Internet, and you take honest umbrage at the word clickbait, which was coined and is accepted by consumers of that medium, perhaps you need to just get off the Internet.
posted by Debaser626 at 11:42 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


"We're shitty and sensationalistic and misleading, but some journalism has always been shitty and sensationalistic and misleading, so anyone who demands better work, or is doing better work, is a snob."
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:44 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


If I had the know-how, I'd create a web service that links to these articles with headlines that actually describe the content.

That reminds me of an article I read about how someone wrote the NYTMinusContext bot for Twitter, which takes lines from NYT articles and presents them without context. A'like so: And so, of course, someone else came along and wrote NYTPlusContext, which replies to those tweets with the headline and a link to the article: posted by brentajones at 12:10 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Hi. Can you maybe stop it with the "You Won't Believe How Witty This Comment Is!" and "Here's How Clever I Can Be With My Comment!"? I know, the source is shitty, but maybe you could just let it die its own death?
posted by disconnect at 12:14 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


My rough typology of clickbait:

1. Curiosity gap, missing subject subtype. Conspicuously withhold the subject of the story to create curiosity. "This one weird trick will ..."

1a. Curiosity gap, emotional subtype. Explicitly tell the reader they'll be shocked or amazed when they read the story.

2. Numbered list clickbait.

3. Bait-and-switch clickbait. ("Kim Kardashian in Bitter Feud With Liza Minnelli" = she tweeted a joke about her)

4. Troll clickbait. Associated with contrarian thinkpieces. Eg "Why Shakspeare Was A Mediocre Writer"
posted by dontjumplarry at 12:30 PM on March 27 [5 favorites]


Can you maybe stop it with the "You Won't Believe How Witty This Comment Is!" and "Here's How Clever I Can Be With My Comment!"?

Clearly this is your first time on Metafilter.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 12:56 PM on March 27 [8 favorites]


I don't have 10,000 dollars to throw around because unlike Gawker I'm paying all my employees. (They might have stopped that intern bullshit?)

So I will only offer ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS for a legally obtained, unpublished leak that embarrasses Gawker.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 12:57 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Wozniak lost a ball on the street, another Wozniak lost his computer company later worth billions. I don't know which would hurt more.
posted by C.A.S. at 12:58 PM on March 27


To be fair, this used to be a thing (well, with monkey glands).

It wasn't just Voronoff and it wasn't always monkey balls. L. L. Stanley, Chief Medical Officer at San Quentin Prison in the early 20th Century, was using human testicle transplants (from executed prisoners) to "cure" any number of perceived physical and mental ills. Robert Lichtenstern, a colleague of Eugen Steinbach (who advocated vasectomies as rejuvenative), was also experimenting with testicle transplants at this time, including to "cure" homosexuality. He even got a write up in JAMA:
Testicle Transplants -- Lichtenstern has now a record of eighteen cases, and in all of them the implanted testicle healed in place and has apparently answered the desired purpose for years to date. In four instances he used normal testicles, and in the others undescended testicles. In eight of the cases the operation was done to cure pure homosexual impulses, and the cure was complete.

- "Current Medical Literature" JAMA, 1922, Vol. 78(3)
If you ever want a healthy dose of weirdness, you need look no further than early modern medicine.
posted by Panjandrum at 1:16 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


I get the feeling this is a guy who proudly tells people (okay, young ladies) at cocktail parties that he writes for Deadspin and gets all hot and bothered inside when they smile knowingly and joke about Gawker linkbait; the frustration's been building and building inside him until he snapped and wrote this silly article defending opportunistic online journalism, and incidentally pointing out how much worse, say, HuffPo and The Grauniad are. Kind of pathetic, really. The googlable dorky picture of him with the pipe does nothing to dispel this little theory.

If journalism were as easy as tricking people into pushing buttons, it would have been automated by now.

Wow, he says that like it mostly isn't. SMDH.
posted by aught at 1:26 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine registered the Twitter account @UnHuffed (or something like that) which he was gonna use for a bot which would take Huffington Post articles, scrape the source link, and then tweet it. The project fizzled out, which is honestly too bad; I would've loved to see it.
posted by Itaxpica at 1:45 PM on March 27


Obligatory
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:31 PM on March 27


Metafilter: Where you simply can NOT stop it with the "You Won't Believe How Witty This Comment Is!" and "Here's How Clever I Can Be With My Comment!"
posted by Chuffy at 3:35 PM on March 27


there was a young man from chicago
who wondered, where did his left ball go?
they cut off his nut
leaving him in a rut
halfway to being a virago.
posted by bruce at 4:16 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


This guy was told that if anyone, even him, tried to call of Project Mayhem...
posted by 4ster at 5:13 PM on March 27


A friend of mine was a History grad for several years who studied sex and the elderly, and I remember reading one of her papers on this odd nineteenth century French phenomenon where elderly yet wealthy French men where having primate glands surgically inserted under the skin. Frequently it was a disaster, but every now and then the recipient would report all kinds of rejuvenating benefits from the procedure. From the obvious like renewed sexual appetite, to an increase in energy, increase in strength, endurance, etc. Anyway, the gland thing probably isn't entirely fictional.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:32 PM on March 27


As mentioned above.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:33 PM on March 27


The monkey-gland thing worked for Yeats. Just sayin'.
posted by tuesdayschild at 7:55 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


The inspiration for the Monkey Gland cocktail.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:56 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Oh, balls. Everybody knows the story actually involves a bathtub and kidneys.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:26 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


All missing-the-point-ness aside, Gawker telling us to shut up about clickbait is kind of like an arsonist telling us all to shut up about how much we hate having our shit set on fire.

Above and beyond that, it's like a little kid telling his mom that he isn't saying ass like butt, but ass like donkey. Or to be more inflammatory, white bros who try and convince you that it's ok to say the N word if you don't say the ER but just the A.(and the "faggot doesn't mean gay anymore!" contingent. lots of overlap)

Of course they want to redefine what the phrase means so it doesn't include them. It's image management. Whether or not the argument is actually internally consistent or actually makes sense doesn't matter as much as selling as many people as they can on the idea who don't think about it too critically.
posted by emptythought at 3:36 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


I want to start a news channel called "The Boring News Network" or BNN for short.

BNN will operate like this

- no sensationalism; not necessarily "if it bleeds it leads"

- reporting is always done in context and in statistical perspective i.e. if a plane goes missing, we will also report that a further 2,456 planes landed safely today with no complications.

- a couple of happy stories are added throughout but not nauseatingly sweet 'shortest cat in the world' or but 'child works hard, earns higher letter grade' or 'lost item returned to owner in mint condition' stories

- anchors and journalists, whether men or women, will wear black or dark grey suit jackets (no sexed up women anchors ugh)

- the final signoff will be "For those of you watching, your today was 100x safer than 100 years ago. So hug your spouses. Hug your children. Hug your parents. Hug your pets. Hug yourself. Have a good night."

It will likely go off the air in less than a year due to lack of viewership but it will win tons of awards and go down in history as ahead of its time.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:50 AM on March 28


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