Once upon a time, the success of an article was judged by how interesting it was to read.

Of course, front page splashes, naked girls and free giveaways had an impact on print sales, but so, too, did regular columnists of quality and serialised work.

Essentially, serving your audience was thought to be important and publications often had agendas that went some way to determining their output.

I think this is still the case with print media, but one can’t ignore the fact that print is receding. As it does, news and media online is to some extent being depoliticised as social media allows any publisher to reach an extended audience. Reaching large audiences is important for driving up the cost of advertising inventory.

Don’t get me wrong, the sophistication of the internet is a good thing. It’s no longer acceptable or, more pertinently, advantageous to massively keyword-stuff your editorial or add the terms ‘porn’ and ‘XXX’ to your title tags.

Ad technology, too, is getting better at allowing advertisers to understand revenue associated with campaigns across platforms. But the fact remains that many believe advertising needs to break away from the religion of the impression.

If it continues, it’s going to become increasingly difficult to find subcultures. Parody and the parodied will be indistinguishable.

So, what can stop clickbait?

Facial recognition analysis

Video advertising platforms and software companies already advertise facial recognition products that are able to gauge a person’s emotion as they view an advertisement.

This happens at a small scale before a campaign is launched and its worth is perhaps debatable, as testing predicates multiple versions of an advert and for some this is too costly.

But where it may have a future application is in meaasuring every user’s interaction with content. I’m no futurologist, so I’m naturally doubtful about whether this would come to fruition.

My reservations stem partly from the complexity of assessing emotion and then tying it to desired outcomes. People differ much more dramatically than web content does. How to spot a sadist?

Also, how to account for hardware? How to account for me draping a teatowel over the lens?

Chartbeat

This company has gained a lot of publicity over the past year. It’s the achievable side of user tracking. Not eyeballs or emotion, but eyeballs and attention by proxy.

Chartbeat measures active exposure time and viewability. So, is your content in a window that the user can actually see? The metric of an engaged visit is obviously superior to that of a page impression.

Chartbeat already has some amazing clients and this company could be the driving force behind changing advertising standards.

chartbeat dashboard 

Facebook

Facebook has already updated its newsfeed algorithm.

..when we asked people in an initial survey what type of content they preferred to see in their News Feeds, 80% of the time people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through.

Over time, stories with “click-bait” headlines can drown out content from friends and Pages that people really care about.

Native advertising

Programmatic is supposedly the antithesis of native advertising (despite the fact that you can programmatically buy ‘native units’). Programmatic should enable publishers to increase advertising yield and advertisers to get better value for money and so buy more ads or pay less for the same result.

What this means is that advertising may be on the increase. As digital spend starts to rival TV, some publishers may be ever more beholden to their online inventory.

To me, this is where native advertising comes in. Premium placements with content that actually meets reader expectations will help publishers make money and rely less on the impression (and more on the engaged visit and outcomes).

The problem here is of course whether native advertising can be done with finesse. Many think it can never match the editorial standards of big hitting newspapers and the like.

Sponsored content goes some way towards making native acceptable but this is more about brand advertising and won’t appease advertisers that want to encourage an immediate action.

Downworthy

I came across Downworthy in the SERPS.

This is a little drastic and also very much tongue in cheek. Maybe users will get so fed up they install plug-ins to transform clickbaity language (e.g. ”One Weird Trick” becomes “One Piece of Completely Anecdotal Horseshit”).

Of course, subtleties of content preclude this becoming as popular as ad blocking, but you can’t argue with the sentiment of its creators.

Perhaps Google ought to add these phrases into its algorithm.

Any thoughts on what can stop clickbait (without any smart alec answers, please)?