The News World In A Ratings Universe

The decline and fall of TV news and its values

Online and digital content has dramatically changed the way we do everything as you undoubtedly, are already aware. As the way information is transmitted and shared online is changing, so are the tactics used to ensure your attention is acquired.

Now I understand that as more of the public absorbs their news from online sources, news outlets need to adapt and change to ensure they don’t lose (too much of) their market share.

A problem arises, however when these practices are taken over the top or to the extreme, which unfortunately, is what we are seeing in today’s television news outlets. It is ridiculous when 60-70% of every news headline you see is the exact equivalent of the pointless, nagging, endless ‘click-bait‘ headlines you see on websites grabbing for any advertising revenue they can lay their hands on.

We have given it the name ‘attention bait‘ – and that is exactly what they’re doing.

People are not going to stop receiving news from traditional means such as television – at least not for a long time. But as CEO’s and shareholders watch (excuse the pun) ratings fall to newer sources of media (I.E Internet) they are in a scramble to grab on to who they can, when they can.

Want an example?

Since the racist fraternity scandal, there has been at least 5 sudden additional stories that I have personally witnessed (not intentionally – I was at the gym- I don’t get my news from TV). 5 other minor & not-so minor stories about university related incidents. Do you think these all of the sudden started happening? Did (insert major network here) just discover about these injustices?


They know that wherever they can throw in that includes such ‘Keywords” such as university, fraternity, student or school, they will attract an audience because it is in the forefront of a lot of people’s minds.

Want another one?

After the Ferguson Missouri shooting do you think all the sudden other injustices regarding police just start happening out of nowhere?


It was/is the “hot” or “talked about” subject and outlets were going to capitalize everywhere they could. Is it good that these stories are seeing the light of day? Absolutely, but it is certainly not because of the good conscious of the news media.

Still not convinced?

Are you still not convinced that actual TV news uses click-bait style headlines to lure or catch the eye of potential viewers? Look at their websites! Major news outlets are some of the worst violators of click-bait junk. One of them, which starts with a letter close to the beginning of the alphabet and ends with 2 “N”s


Right above a large picture of something to surely either move or horrify a potential click-victim.

Just because a few media outlets do this doesn’t mean the story isn’t valid but the means to reach the end is so blatantly predatory it’s annoying.

The use of aggressive keywords to grab attention or incite emotion

Here’s another issue. Every time someone or something is spoken about (usually negatively) the headline will read “The war on (insert)” or “(so and so) under-fire.”

Really? Using words such as war, under-fire, attacked and endless reiterations and reincarnations of like terms helps no one. These things are not used in effort to describe a situation to us, they’re for you to ensure as many people as possible don’t click away in the next 30 seconds.

The vague or ridiculous headlines

Vague headlines annoy me worse than anything – it is purposeful baiting and it drives me up a wall. If your story is so important and you want people to read it, take it for what it is and not ruin your credibility as a service than don’t purposefully bait. It is absolutely asinine.

The following is seriously a headline that I saw a few weeks ago and the same headline is currently being displayed by fox news.

Rare Doomed Planet with Extreme Seasons Discovered

WOW, if that isn’t the most gratuitous use of over-hyped, over-speculative, attention grabbing headlines. If you want attention so much, get a tattoo or grow long hair. Remember corporations are people, so technically Fox can do it. For the record, I never clicked on it. The headline failed.

And to continue this rant, here’s another thing

If something is such breaking news ( How is it breaking if it happened 2 days ago and the situation is over) or is so important we NEED to stay tuned, then don’t say “when we come back” and cut to 9 minutes of commercials. Some stations will do anything to ensure you don’t click away for 9 minutes. They’ll dangle that cheese right in front of you and I for as long as they can to ensure they get the most ad revenues as possible.

It’s not just TV

When you strip away the ridiculous click bait that, in my eyes, renders any website spouting it next to useless. The ‘Top 10s’ should go too – and they are, eventually on their way out.

There are some perfectly valid top 10 lists and some are incredibly useful. But you know the ones I’m talking about, those ones at the end of a page or in the sidebar. The one’s about aging, fertility or muscle building – More topical trigger words!

To Obtain the Best Viewing Experience, Please Disable Ad-Block

Oh yeah sure let me get right on that! While I’m at it would you like all the money in my bank account?

We are in a state of flux for news, the market is evolving and changing and as it does, tactics will be tried and schemes will be devised and what gives me hope is that it won’t be like this for long – it can’t be. Online users begin to notice the tricks of the trade and avoid them. That is the great thing about the internet, it is built for our use and not someone else’s (though sometimes it is) profit. If you provide a proper, concise, effective delivery system, people are happy to use it and give patronage to your service. Try and scheme, weasel, deceive, prey or stalk and you will become a heap of HTML on the ash heap of the internet along with AOL disks and internet explorer.

*Steps off of soapbox.

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