Sunday, June 15, 2014

Clicking On This Will Change Your Life Forever, Click Now, I Have Candy

I'm sure we're all familiar with the Onion. (Well... some of us aren't. But those people are to be mocked.) I am equally sure you're all familiar with the phenomenon of clickbait: articles that are designed to get you to click- and drive up ad revenue- by any means necessary. Content is dumbed down, often made into a list even if it doesn't have to be a list. The headline- the all-important headline- screams out to you. Literally, at least as literally as can be done without any actual sound. You are straight-up, openly, brazenly begged, ordered, coerced, frightened, titillated, whatever emotion has to be wrung out of you, whatever gets you to click that link.

I'm not quite sure how ridiculous the appeals can be made, but The Onion appears willing to try and find out through a new venture of theirs- sitting right next to the link for the AV Club- called ClickHole. Launched on Thursday, the mission statement of ClickHole is "All web content deserves to go viral." As they elaborate, "We strive to make sure that all of our content panders to and misleads our readers just enough to make it go viral. You see, we don’t think anything on the internet should ever have to settle for mere tens of thousands of pageviews. We believe that each and every article—whether about pop culture, politics, internet trends, or social justice—should be clicked on and shared by hundreds of millions of internet users before they can even comprehend what they just read."

Early offerings: "6 Heads You Never Realized Were Also On Mount Rushmore", "10 Hilarious Chairs That Think They're People", "You Won't Believe How Cheap This Stock Video Of A Woman Sitting On A Swing Was", and "It's Time To Publicly Execute Ronald McDonald", and "Meet The Most Powerful Man You've Never Heard Of". That last one comes with a picture of- and, after you click, turns out to be about- Barack Obama.

While I'm supportive of poking some holes in the practice, I'm not sure how to take the fact that space is set aside just below every article and just above links to other ClickHole articles (I speak here of the 'Lesser News From The Web' section) for real, non-satire clickbait. ("See which fashion trends have run their course and need to disappear... and FAST." "Amazing, Hard-to-Believe, Perfectly Timed Pictures... Taken at Just the Right Moment!") This may be ClickHole's biggest challenge, in fact. Whatever they come up with, it's going to have to be more obviously wacky than the actual stuff that is, fittingly, no more than one click away.

Of course, if there's one thing the Onion is good at, it's managing to be somehow wackier than reality.

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