Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Story Doesn't Sell? Change the Title!

All news is fake news these days - designed to sell you something.

The Left seized upon the term "fake news" to describe the outright falsehoods that the Right was throwing around, in terms of conspiracy theories and whatnot, such as Alex Jones' Infowars, which even he admits (in his divorce proceedings) is just a persona he adopts for entertainment purposes.  No one was expected to take these things seriously!

But today, the right uses "Fake News" to describe any news story that they don't like.   But there is sort of a kind of left-wing fake news that I have addressed before, and the New York Times and The Washington Post are both awash in it.   Every time some event or even rumor occurs in the Mueller investigation, these tabloids (which is what they are today) do breathless stories that, this time, for sure, the Trump administration will topple and we will all be lead to a nirvana of peace and prosperity lead by Nancy Pelosi - or something to that effect.   What it ends up being, though, is just rumor-mongering and sensationalism, that really has dragged the Post and the Times down to the level of, well, the level of President Trump.   You can't fight fire with fire, or a shitstorm with another shitstorm.

But that's not what I am talking about today.   All news, even "impartial" news stories (Do they exist?  Really?) were designed back in the old days to "sell newspapers" and today to "sell eyeballs to advertisers".   If you don't click, they go broke, so the idea is to create a sensationalist headline that gets you to click on the story.   A banner ad appears, and they make 1/10th of a cent from your clicking.

In recent months, I have noticed a trend on MSN news, which aggregates news stories from a number of sources, of headlines that change in real time.    For example, there was recently a headline about "Warren Buffet decides to invest in India for the first time!" which wasn't really all that interesting to me.  Another article on another site mentions the name of the company he is investing in, in the title (bad move, amateurs!).

What was funny was that a few hours later, I load the site and the same article appears with different headline.  This time, the headline is more click-bait:  "Warren Buffet invests in this country for the first time!"    But since I saw the headline a few hours ago, I already know that "this country" is India, and I don't need to click on the story to find out.  Again, amateurs!

The point is - and I did have one - is that all news today is fake news, in the sense it is not designed to inform, but to titillate.  The name of the game is to generate clicks, so they concentrate on sensationalist stories and click-bait headlines to get you interested in something that, in real terms, is of no consequence to you.

For example, where Warren Buffet is investing is really not much concern to me, even if I owned some stock in his company.   So they gin up the headlines to make me click to find out where - as if whatever he was doing (along with "Cramer" who they trot out with regularity) is of some consequence to my daily life.

The variation of this is, of course, the "You'll never believe....!" headlines, which of course turn out to be things that are quite believable, but again, they get you to click.    The corollary is Betteridge's law of headlines, which basically states that any headline (on the Internet, in particular) that ends in a question mark, can always be answered by the word "NO" and thus saving you a click.

The worst, of course, are the "paid content" click-bait stories on Reuters (shame on them) which, if you click on, will present you with the story laid out over ten pages, each with at least five to ten slow-loading animated ads on them.   They use the click-bait "You'll never believe!" headlines and after ten pages of clicking (think of the revenue!) you find out it was something that was quite believable after all.  Oh, and the ads are for the worst sort of cons and scams.  Again, shame on Reuters.   So much for professionalism.

Again, they are not trying to educate or inform you, but rather just sell you something.   They likely don't have a political agenda, as President Trump alleges, but rather a simple financial one.  And today, with a majority of people disliking President Trump, it is a no-brainer that stories that sell are stories that paint him in a bad light - something that is easy to do, as he paints himself this way.   So no, Donnie, the media and Google are not out to get you, it is just that people don't like you.  Not much has changed since 3rd grade for you, has it?

People don't like you, and you do and say stupid things, so you generate a lot of negative attention.  Google is merely reflecting both popular perception (which is your fault) and the stupid things you do and say (which is also your fault).   The news media prints what sells.   And what sells today is yet another "You'll never believe what Trump did today!" (which again, turns out to be entirely believable).

This is not to say the media is not biased against Trump or against the Left or Right, but biased against your own self-interest and your own pocketbook - in favor of their own. (If more people clicked on "Trump is Great!" stories than not, I suspect the Washington Post would change its motto to "Democracy does just fine in the darkness - besides it's over-rated anyway!")   At the very least, the media will waste your time and energy getting you to click on nonsense stories or irrelevant bullshit.  At the worst, they will sell you toxic ideas that cause you to go out and squander your resources.

But either way, the media is not on your side.   And yes, in three hours I will change the title of this blog entry, if it doesn't generate enough hits.  Just kidding!