When does giving the reader what they want turn into clickbait? It’s complicated


The conventional wisdom is that clickbait is the bane of internet journalism, a kind of desperate pandering by revenue-challenged media companies aimed at racking up eyeballs — driven by the relentless economics of pageview-driven advertising. But what is it really? Everyone thinks they know it when they see it, and Facebook is even trying to ban it from the network, but defining it is harder than it seems. In fact, the dividing line between clickbait and serving the interests of the reader is a lot more blurry than the conventional wisdom suggests.

What got me thinking about this again was a Nieman Lab post by ethnographer Angèle Christin, who has been looking at the impact that audience metrics and analytics have had on digital journalism in the U.S. and France. Christin — a post-doctoral fellow at the New School for Social Research — spent two years observing and…

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