On my mobile device, since FB Purity doesn’t work on handhelds, I have to scroll through a lot of real garbage – often every other post is “sponsored.”
Here’s a sample of things I’ve seen just in the last few days.
Obviously clickbait works, or companies wouldn’t do it – but it’s so annoying to see all these hackneyed “you won’t belive” and “this will shock you” attention-grabbers. The other part, of course, is that most of these articles are relatively valueless anyway, either [bad] opinion pieces or poorly-compiled lists.
It makes browsing Facebook on a mobile a less-than-fulfilling experience. I wish FB Purity were available for my Android, it really cleans things up on the desktop version.
I’ve mentioned Android webjacking before, but here’s another example. Things like this are not usually “viruses” on your handheld device, but rather malicious code embedded in a legitimate website by unscrupulous advertisers.
First, this exploit makes your phone buzz like a hornet that’s just been pinched in a vise, and locks your browser. No going back. Second, vulgar sites? No, actually this popped up when I was trying to leave a comment at retailcomic.com. I trust the site not to hide exploits like this on purpose.
The claims on these “warnings,” along with being written in questionable English, are absolute lies: “If the problem can not be resolved immediately , the viruses will spy your phone, and destroy your SIM card, delete all your contacts.”
Now I’m just following the trail to see who’s behind this.
Looks like someone is hawking an app (surprise, surprise):
A comment at the app’s site complained, and the developer responded; notice the salutation “Dear,” usually seen on Nigerian scam emails but certainly a red flag that the app developer is not a native English speaker.
Despite the apology and denial of malicious intent, I would be very suspicious of apps that are advertised in this way.
Have a look at a few screenshots from my Android a couple of days ago:
Hilarious joke collection. OK, I’m always up for a new laugh or two. But beware: popup ads like this are rarely honest or ethical, and often sleazy and deceptive. Let’s see:
Starting to smell a rat, but let’s just go down to the next level:
Well, the joke’s on me – and anyone who clicks these links. This transcends the concept of clickbait, which usually offers some kind of content in order to get people to the pages where ads are displayed. Now they’re eliminating the middleman altogether.
And people wonder why fake news gets such traction.
Recently saw this article on SA’s website about the Dragonfly Galaxy, a mysterious, diffuse star cluster that appears to be made predominantly of dark matter.
The problem is that the picture on the article is not the Dragonfly galaxy, but rather the Sombrero galaxy. Yes, the caption says this – but clearly Sombrero cuts a much more impressive figure than Dragonfly (seen below.)
There’s nowhere on SA’s website to give feedback, so I’m obliged to post it here, in the hopes that someone who cares might just possibly see it.
This is called “clickbait,” and even if it’s a very small example, it should be above the standards of this publication. So please, editors and webmasters – have a bit more integrity than this.
Let’s look at this ad that appeared on my Facebook feed (Android). The first one seems to indicate that US comsumers are urged to stop using WiFi after some sort of revelation by Donald Trump.
But click on the ad (which I never do, unless I’m following some sort of jiggery-pokery down the rabbit hole) and you end up with an advertorial (read: advertising thinly disguised to look like a news article) for YesBackup, a cloud backup service.
If you’re confident in your product’s abilities, Mr. or Ms. CEO, you shouldn’t resort to outright lies, trickery, and deception to get customers. Even the use of Advertorials (sometimes called “farticles” or “fake articles”) alone is enough to make your integrity suspect. Now this may be the the work of an affiliate marketer, that doesn’t really excuse the company – they are, after all, responsible for all of their advertising whether in-house or contracted out.
The takeaway: Be very careful clicking “sponsored ads” – the vast majority of them are going to be deceptive at best and outright scams at worst.
Catacomb saints are ancient Roman corpses that were exhumed from the catacombs of Rome, given fictitious names and sent abroad as relics of saints from the 16th century to the 19th century.They were typically lavishly decorated with gold and precious stones.
There’s no question the subject is of some interest to scholars and historians – I’ve seen a few of these in my peregrinations around the world.
“Though selling the relics would have been considered simony, enterprising church officials still managed to raise funds while countering the iconoclasm by charging for transportation, decoration, induction and blessing.”
And keeping in mind that fundraising was foremost among church leaders then as now, it’s not surprising that so much effort was put into the preservation and illumination of these relics. Some of the bodies may have been of early Christian martyrs, but none were of any particular religious significance. Dressing them up and giving them the name of a saint, however, was the 16th-century equivalent of The National Enquirer or Buzzfeed.
These relics have been around for a long time, but when the Internet discovers something, it’s often presented as a “stunning new find” or some other silliness – anything to get eyeballs on ads, as you can see below.
Let’s look at the kinds of headlines one sees with a simple search for “Rome jeweled skeletons:”
These Skeletons Were Found In Roman Catacombs And You’ll Never Believe What They’re Wearing
Unbelievable Skeletons Unearthed From the Catacombs Of Rome
Meet the Fantastically Bejeweled Skeletons of Catholicism’s Forgotten Martyrs
Beauty from the crypt: Europe’s jeweled skeletons
19 Bejeweled Skeletons That’ll Blow Your Mind
Incredible skeletal remains of Catholic saints still dripping in gems and jewellery discovered by ‘Indiana Bones’ explorer
Beauty Beyond the Grave: The Story Behind Europe’s Bejeweled Skeletons
Secrets of the Catholic Church: Unbelievable Jeweled Skeletons Discovered in the Catacombs of Rome
The ghastly glory of Europe’s jewel-encrusted relics
THE JEWEL-ENCRUSTED SKELETONS OF ROMAN MARTYRS
The Catacomb Saints – So-Called Saint Skeletons Dressed in Jewel-Encrusted Gold and Silver
Skeletons Unearthed From The Catacombs Of Rome Have Jeweled Beards
Bones with Bling: The Amazing Jewelled Skeletons of Europe
As mentioned above, many of the referenced articles try to make it appear as though these relics were just recently discovered.
This delightful Epic News video by Peter and Chris (two Irish gentlemen with sharp wit) deconstructs the nature of clickbait to make it easy to recognize. The video is irreverent and lowbrow, but spot on and hilarious. Watch at your own risk.
For those who want the executive summary:
You usually see a highly-sensational title that completely misrepresents and oversells whatever content there may or may not be.
Take a headline like “19 Reasons Why Young Marlon Brando Will Ruin You For The Rest of the Day.”
What do these headlines even mean?
What follows is a summary of how to generate successful clickbait:
Don’t waste your time generating original content.
Spend your day lurking on link aggregator sites such as reddit and repackaging other people’s stuff to get maximum shares on social media.
Add a ridiculous claim about something that will happen provided you CLICK
1) Take a simple video of a homeless man playing a tin whistle for his dog.
This homeless man’s music (will change your life) / (will restore your faith in humanity) / (will make your jaw drop) / (will shock you)
2) If possible crowbar in gender, race, or social issues to make it more provocative:
This blind homeless man’s amazing music for his terminally-ill (gay) dog will restore your faith in humanity.
3) Remove as much descriptive information as possible from your headline to create what the industry calls “a curiosity gap.” Replace it with Hyperbole. If the reader can tell what the story is about at a glance, you’ve FAILED!
Wow! A Blind, Homeless man Befriended an Old Adorable Lost Dog, and What Happened Next Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity.
4) If possible, turn it into a bogus list somehow. Use age and target demographics for greater impact.
16 reasons why only 90s Kids from England will Keep Calm and Carry On While Understanding Why This Blind Homeless Man and His Full-Blown Dog-AIDS-Infested Best Friend Will Restore your Faith in Humanity and Change Your Life (Forever).
5) Add a hashtag
If you need good examples of clickbait, toddle over to ClickHole, the Onion’s (semi)-parody website originally designed as a sharp stick in the eye to BuzzFeed and Upworthy, but now taking on all the media without discrimination.
As the presenters say, there’s a place for this kind of bulldust tabloid journalism, because enquiring minds want to know. The problem arises when so-called “real news” outlets try this stuff and are deadly serious about it.
Now I need to confess that I often scan media outlets and reddit and other sources for things I consider interesting or worthwhile or socially relevant, and share them with my social circles. However, I don’t think I’ve ever asked anyone to “like and share” anything. I’m not a like farmer, it’s a poor way to make money.
The Old Wolf Has Published a Blog Post Accessible from Almost Anywhere in the World, and Reading It Will Change Your Life Forever! #Monsanto