I’ve never believed that clickbait had anything to do with audience preferences. The popularity of longreads shows that people would well and truly prefer to read proper, in-depth journalism.

The thing is, low-content reporting (short listicles that are mostly images, 500-word “articles” that are mostly pull quotes from other people’s coverage, reposted press releases) is super cheap and easily outsourced to content farms. If you’re being paid by the click and you can’t easily maximize the clicks (because you’re in a red queen’s race) then you can at least make sure you’re spending as little money as possible on each ad-hosting page of “content”.

Written by

Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store