This would be a brilliant rant about the state of the news media, but you won’t believe who said it

So I’ve made the title of this post sort of a joke. I’ve worded it just like so much of the “clickbait” that’s out there.

That vague noun clause at the end — “who said it” — is the key. Some days on Facebook, I feel like I’m drowning in noun clauses. I have pretty much ZERO interest in Buzzfeed or Viral Meme or Upworthy, but many of my 3,000+ “friends” on Facebook share those sites routinely. They often go something like this (I’ll emphasize the noun clauses):

What she did was crazy, but you won’t believe what she did after that

I spend a lot of time on Facebook, but less and less actually looking at my own feed. It’s all just really depressing.

Now comes a brilliant rant from Mike Hudack about various news media ills about how clickbait has become the norm, even at sites with ambitions toward high-mindedness like the new Vox.com:

Of course, the problem here is that Hudack is Director of Product of Facebook.

Vox’s Ezra Klein weighs in interestingly in the comments to Hudack’s screed above (I guess you have to be a “friend” of Hudack to comment), but I share many of Hudack’s concerns about Vox.

The key here, however, is that the Facebook algorithms obviously favor and encourage the sorts of insipid posts that we are all seeing in our feeds. The point is discussed rather brilliantly at Vox itself by Matthew Yglesias: Facebook product director furious at Facebook’s effect on news

From the piece:

The trend toward Facebook being the home page for the internet isn’t all bad. Facebook drives a lot of traffic to a lot of stories. Some of those stories are very serious (like the over 6,300 people who shared my short guide to Capital in the 21st Century) and some of them are great-but-not-super-important like the jeans story. And some of the stories are garbage. […]

But for better or for worse, traffic on the internet right now is all about Facebook sharing behavior. And here’s a key point. Facebook doesn’t work like Twitter. On Twitter if you share something, your followers see it. On Facebook, what is seen is driven by an algorithm that Facebook controls — if they wanted to promote more hard news they could do it.

Facebook drives a great deal of the traffic to this blog and to the music blog hissing lawns, which I also edit. But often the links that I post to articles on one of the blogs die a quick death on Facebook. If no one happens to see a particular link and interact with it quickly, few of those who have liked the blogs’ Facebook pages will have a chance of seeing it in their feeds.

Simply put, Facebook is capitalizing on the worst instincts of news consumers by prioritizing clickbait stories in its news feeds. It’s ironic an executive for the company doesn’t even realize this.