Is News Media Compromising Content for Clicks?

By: Courtney Fishman

Washington Post Tweet courtesy of Twitter.

Washington Post Tweet courtesy of Twitter.

Although it’s only September 9, the pumpkin spice craze is already in full swing. With Starbucks releasing their signature fall drink over a month earlier than its usual release, pumpkin spice merchandise is returning to coffee shops and maybe even convenient stores.

Yesterday, The Washington Post shot down rumors from Twitter that Durex would release a pumpkin spice condom. The idea of this flavored condom might be a strange one, but even stranger is the fact that The Washington Post is reporting about it.

As digital media takes over traditional news, web traffic is increasingly more important for advertising dollars. Sure, an article about pumpkin spice condoms is right up Buzzfeed’s alley. And yes, they did in fact write an article about the rumored condoms. But are popular news mediums compromising quality content in hopes of site clicks?

Unfortunately, the answer is leaning toward yes.

Just last month, The Washington Post wrote an article about how Malia Obama took a selfie with a fellow Lollapalooza goer after stating she couldn’t take pictures with other attendees.

As ‘controversial’ as Malia Obama taking selfies is, there’s plenty of news we can focus our efforts on.

Let’s continue writing about how Scotland might separate from the U.K. if they win the referendum or how Arab states are joining forces to combat Islamic extremists.

These are topics I’m eager to learn more about, while sipping my pumpkin spice latte — not reading about it.




9 responses to “Is News Media Compromising Content for Clicks?

  1. I think this is great post that starts to dig into a very real problem in journalism today. As you said, it may be ok for a site like Buzzfeed to write an article about a pumpkin spice condom, but if a publication wants to be considered a serious news source than I think it’s important for them to stick to serious news. Fluff pieces are great and they exist for a reason, but it’s sad to see the way media has shifted their reporting in order to get readers to click on their articles. That being said, I understand that more people want to read about pumpkin spice condoms than Scotland separating from the U.K. The question is how do you get people to care more about the news?

  2. This is an interesting point, and I almost wonder if the news sources are to blame. I think sites like Buzzfeed could make people today, especially younger people on social networking, less likely to read more credible news sources like The New York Times. We want to read “fun” stories, ones that stick out to us. And of course a pumpkin spice condom would increase traffic. I am hoping people aren’t turning away from the news, and similar to what Cassie asked, how can we get people to care more about the news? It’s a tough one, but I don’t think producing more articles that center around pumpkin spice anything will do us any favors.

  3. This is actually something I’ve been wondering about for a while, and I really like the points you brought up to defend your argument. I also agree with Maggie in wondering if news sources are at fault for succumbing to stories that are, I’m sorry to say, beneath them. While the temptation to post stories for clicks is strong, and growing with the increasing influence of social media, reputable sites like The Washington Post and The New York Times should continue catering to the audience they have built up over decades instead of trying to change their image to fit less serious journalistic sites. An article on a pumpkin spice condom in a publication that generally centers around political and economic concerns isn’t going to make readers more interested in fluff pieces start to read the publication simply because they have one article that fits their interests. Hopefully, these news sources will realize this and continue doing the serious reporting that has gained them a reputation for credibility and reliability instead of conforming to the fun but uninformative thrill of social media.

  4. I completely agree with you that major news outlets are leaning more and more toward stories that will get clicks. This problem is arising in the form of stories about flavored condoms like you pointed out, but it’s also making a rise through “native advertising” or real news stories that are sponsored by companies. It’s a very strange concept. I would urge you to check out Jon Oliver’s Last Week Tonight piece on native advertising on YouTube. I believe it’s a dangerous trend and agree that more focus should be put on stories like Scotland’s referendum and the crisis in the Middle East.

  5. It’s a great point you bring up and is something I think should be addressed. I agree with the fact that we need more serious news and need to get more young people, especially, interested in serious news. On the other hand, I do feel that there is and should be places for this style and type of writing; whether it be BuzzFeed or some sort of blog, I think there should be a place for it. From my experience what gets younger students, such as high schoolers, interested in news starts with these fluff pieces. There are very few 14-year-olds who will sit and read an article about the Scotland situation. If they read articles that genuinely interest them they will continue to read and will, as they progress, move up to the serious news.

  6. I feel like this battle was over as soon as BuzzFeed was classified as a “news website” in numerous places (e.g., the App Store, if I recall correctly). It’s incredibly frustrating to see a website that exists almost exclusively as clickbait listed as “news,” a title that used to be held in high regard. I love ClickHole, the Onion’s satirical answer to BuzzFeed and other clickbait websites, because it gets the absurdity of the situation. But unfortunately, news websites gain the most from getting those precious clicks- so they’ll do their best to bait us into going to their sites.

    Now, will click bait ever replace real news when real news is necessary? I’d like to think not. The coverage of Obama’s suit rather than his speech at a recent press conference is worrying, but in times of crisis, when we need important news to be reported, there will always be someone doing that reporting. But I worry that beyond those times of crisis, we will have to deal with a less informed and less educated populace.

  7. Thanks so much for all of the comments. I think that it’ll be interesting to see how websites we find less credible, such as Buzzfeed, hold up in times of crisis. Do you think that people drawn to these websites, especially younger readers, are also seeking out other media coverage? If not, then is it possible that Buzzfeed will begin reporting on harder news stores to encourage people to stay informed?

  8. This is an interesting post, and I completely agree that what’s deemed as “news” today is completely off-base from what reporting used to be. My question, though, is how do we fix this? It’s no secret that more people care about a pumpkin spice-flavored condom than Obama’s plan for fighting ISIS. But if the media industry’s ultimate goal is to make money and gain readership, doesn’t it make sense that sources will cover the trivial stories, if that means generating a bigger audience? If we want what’s labeled as “newsworthy” to shift back to what it used to be, how do we get there?

  9. I thought this was an interesting post as well. I do agree, some news sites have been posting stories that would get them more clicks. I agree with Lauren though on the question, how do we fix this? It’s sad that stories about pumpkin flavored condoms are more viewed/read, than stories that are actually “newsworthy.” Its not going to be easy to get people to read more about Obama’s plan with ISIS, and other major newsworthy stories, rather than pumpkin condoms, but we need to figure out how.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s