Sunday, March 21, 2010

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Deceptive Headlines

On Wednesday I surfing the web and I stopped by Cracked, and ran across this article “6 subtle ways News Media disguises bullshit as fact.” by, Sephira and thought it would make a great topic for Shut-up Stupid Sunday.

I thought it would be great if I could find a comparison of the results between deceptive headlines vs. normal headlines somewhere. Then I realized I could run my own very unscientific test right here on my blog. So I launched a series of Deceptive Headlines to see what happened. They were:

“Peter Graves and Cory Haim Die after Invasive Thoughts is Published”, A true statement but the two facts have nothing to do with each other.

“Dr Phil Plait linked to Autism Epidemic” A jab at the anti-Vaxers. Confusing hyperlinks and scientific links.

“Billionaires go out of reach of the Military” Sounds scary, but it’s really a good thing.

“Texas declares War on the United States.” Just a touch over-dramatic.

Some of the results where surprising but mostly it just confirmed what I thought.

Stuff I expected:

1. I figured my views would take a hit, and they did. I lost about twenty hits a day. I figure this means 20 viewers find my writing more credible than the “World Weekly News” and I am flattered by that. So the obviously Deceptive Headlines turned them off (sorry it was all in the name of research).
2. Comments went down. It’s tough to comment on trashy headlines.

Stuff that surprised me:

3. I got a lot more traffic from google, about 13 hits a day more. I wasn’t expecting that but it does make sense. When doing a google search the headline and a paragraph of the text shows up so the crazy headlines catch people’s eyes more than a normal headline.
4. Google adsense revenue went up. Instead of my usual 1 to 2 cents a day, the crazy headlines brought in 4 to 5 cents a day. That was with a slight decrease in views. Obviously Google’s bots like crazy headlines more than normal ones.
5. Digg (at least for my account) is dead. Crazy headlines used to get some notice on but I didn’t get a single hit from Digg. I’m thinking the few people that still check out Digg are so used to the tabloid style headlines nothing fazes them anymore.
6. The trashy tabloid style writing is fun.

Armed with this totally unscientific data I need to change my rant slightly. I was going to trash the people who use deceptive headlines to get people to their sites, and newspapers, but between the increased revenue (for me its not much, but for sites that make real money a doubling of that is hard to resist) and the fun it is to write that way, I’ll change my rant.

If you are going to use deceptive headlines to get people to your site, or newspaper, either state the real facts up front in the first paragraph so your not out and out lying, or have fun with your bullshit. I’ll give some examples in my new feature, “Manipulative Monday” my first post “Massive Ford Recalled” were I will talk about how I remember seeing my father-in-law’s F350 Pick-up for the first time.

But if you are using deceptive headlines and tabloid style to substitute bullshit for facts, then I say, “Shut-up Stupid, that is nothing more than lying.”

Darrell B Nelson


Stephanie Barr said...

I personally hate being emotionally manipulated like so much of those headlines do. When I find one like that, it turns me off.

Bottom line, headlines like that have an effect on the caliber of your audience. Do you prefer quality or quantity?

It didn't affect me; I appreciate you too much to give up that easily.

askcherlock said...

Newspapers are near to being deep-sixed and if citizen journalists don't get their acts and facts together, their niche will dwindle. Next thing you know, we will have Orwellian loud speakers on every corner telling us the news via robotic and subliminal messaging.