It is now possible to troll your own audience. What’s more, some editors are apparently doing it purposefully and the Columbia Journalism Review doesn’t like it. I guess I don’t either, even though I didn’t know it was happening.
This is going to require a bit of explanation.
If you are a denizen of Twitter or Facebook, you have no doubt noticed that certain stories get shared a lot. Sometimes it’s not that they are important or even something the sharer much cares about. It has to do with the headline.
At first, savvy online outfits sought to create what even more savvy observers called “the curiosity gap.” This is a headline that doesn’t tell you all you need to know. In fact, it is designed to make you curious about what follows rather than tell you what follows. Here’s an example from the geniuses at Upworthy. By ending with “I think we know where this is going,” editors are baiting you. … You mean you don’t know where they are going? Don’t you want to look?
Now comes “hate-sharing.” This is a type of Internet headline designed to make you mad – and thus more likely to share it on your social media feeds precisely to say how mad it makes you.
Examples in the CJR story include, “Should single women be allowed to vote?” and “Brunch is for jerks.” …
In CJR, Kira Goldenberg writes:
“… this deliberate trolling—this very calculated decision to offend, anger, or appall publications’ target readership—may increase reach, but it also draws focus and discussion away from the actual content of a piece. That’s a game outlets can play, but only for so long.”
She’s right. Mostly, I think the idea of making someone hate you enough to share you is too precious by half. I think it’s outsmarting yourself. I think if you spent that cognitive energy coming up with something compelling to begin with, your time would be much better spent. After all, the click isn’t supposed to be the thing itself, right? What do you think?