Thursday, November 8, 2012

Trolling For Hits: Deceptive Headlines

In a move that would have the plain language cause turning in its grave (if it was dead and not just a concept), it seems that news sources and other websites love a bit of trolling.

Using this image entitles you to be a dick on the internet.

The idea that news sources use misleading headlines to boost their hits was brought to our attention by the current affairs and humour website The Gabbler (definitely check it out!), which suggested that even the most reputable sources are using this dirty tactic in order to get more hits and in turn, more money.

We remember seeing a local newspaper article saying that "Brangelina" were coming to town. It turned out that the article was referring to them "in films" and that a new cinema was being constructed. It's fairly annoying to have given a site a hit just because you've been deceived, but if you look at most "headlines" you'll see it's the way the internet works and the same can be said for print too.

If you've ever read Hello!, OK! or any other publication that features a general salutation proceeded by an exclamation mark, shame on you. You should know better! However, their headlines are clear... they correspond directly to the shit that's in the article.

However, seemingly reputable sources regularly use misleading headlines to get people to read their articles. They're usually well written, but they're based on fact and probably don't garner as much attention as so require a little sprucing up. 

So many things to read... how to choose?
By the most interesting headlines, of course!

So here are the two options for every journo:

Clear headlines

They may appear dull and possibly deter readership.  It's a fine line and we feel the right answer depends solely on the material. For newspapers and facts, clear language is key. The BBC's news site normally has decent headlines but we must admit they've fooled us a few times.

Creative headlines:

"Creative" headlines seem more interesting than the article really is and in turn increase readership. As long as the article isn't posing as fact, what's the problem? They won't be the first people to have tricked you so they can earn some money and you won't be paying anything. Language can be creative and beautiful, and it should be enjoyed.

So...?

Which side wins in the end? Are we sticklers for thinking that language should be matter of fact? Or can news be creative? The best headlines grab your attention. If clicking on a link or picking up the newspaper is encouraged by an intriguing headline is it such a bad thing? They do earn money from doing it... and they won't be sharing that money with you despite having tricked you. At least you can take solace in the fact that they have encouraged people to read!