I had an epiphany the other night. Actually, that makes it sound a bit grand. It was more of the penny dropping. Finally. I could almost hear someone say “like, duh!” in the background.
I was reading this LadBible piece on Mr Brightside when it came to me; looking over the opening lines, shaking my head at the meaninglessness of it. See, as a trainee newspaper reporter, I was taught to cram as much meaning – as many facts – as possible into the intro and the next few lines, and I think the things you learn early in your career really stick with you.
So I was like: “Ballistic? In a good way? What is this guff? Cryptic lyrics? He’s having a smoke and she’s taking a sodding drag. What’s cryptic about that?”
The bit about rejoicing in its “perfect simplicity” just about did me in but it took me to the first advert so I got a break from reading. Then a few more lines and another advert. And that was when I realised.
Now, I’m not so daft that I don’t understand how clickbait works. I know that when I’m 34 pages into 246 about child stars who are now adults, I’m aiding and abetting this site in its pursuit of pageviews, advert impressions and therefore revenue. I know this and I can stop any time I want. It’s just that Fred Savage is on page 198 – and what he looks like now will blow my mind.
But it hadn’t clicked that LadBible and other social entertainment sites deliberately pad out their stories for this reason. The meat of the Mr Brightside article could have fitted into two sentences but they strung it out into 20-odd, by which time I’d seen ads for bareMinerals foundation, Google AdWords, Ikea, Very and some sponsored stories.
It grated like hell on the reporter half of me but the other half had a grudging respect for the way these people have worked out their business plan and made a fortune from it. So, respect to LadBible, Buzzfeed and others like you. You done good.
Now, you’ll have to excuse me. This Hull woman’s weird weight loss trick has got doctors baffled, and I need to know what it is.