I had plans to create a mock-up of what the online version of The Canberra Times would look like in a few years’ time, but Fairfax beat me to it and made the thing a reality. My estimation is that the clickbait culture has been creeping in over the past three or four years or so and has now reached nearly 100% saturation. Obviously moving traffic and pulling clicks is key to softening the blow of lost revenue from their print edition. Newspapers are struggling, this is well established.
But there’s something disheartening seeing the front page of the national capital’s newspaper mimic the style of a 13-year-old’s YouTube channel.
If you’re producing online content, ensure your headlines follow one of these three principles:
- Create a title for an article that imparts almost no information as to what the article is about. Preferably phrase it as an inane question. Or,
- make the title a broad statement and then follow it with “And this is why.” Or,
- include the phrase “this one thing”. Bold the word “one” for greater click-through.
The thumbnails generally require:
- A photo of an exaggerated expression or someone pulling a stupid face. Try to ensure the photo you use isn’t actually taken at the time of the event you’re reporting on.
- A red arrow pointing either directly at the subject of the article, or pointing at nothing in the background.
- If a red arrow isn’t appropriate, try a big red circle instead.
- Ensure at least two articles on the front page are about what happened on The Bachelor last night.
- Try to have your advertising content look identical to the journalism both in presentation and writing style.
- Try to include the word “sex” in the title, at least once.
The irony here is that they may very well drive their readers to return to purchasing physical copies of the newspaper because, thankfully, it retains the respectable air of a long established journalistic outlet.