Hurtling towards a clickbaity singularity


Oh, how I despise Salon. I was an early adopter — I was an avid reader from the day they first opened their doors. A news site with a politically progressive slant? Yes, please. And then they turned evil. It was the same with the Huffington Post, although I think they were evil from the very beginning.

Unfortunately, people still send me links to their crappy crap. The latest is this abomination: 9 “scientific” facts about breasts. At least they had the kindness to slap scare quotes around the word “scientific”.

It’s a collection of nonsense like “Poor men like big breasts while financially secure men prefer smaller breasts” and “Squeezing breasts may prevent cancer” and “Men who like small breasts prefer a submissive partner”…and it includes one study that they openly confess was totally debunked as a fake, and they still included it anyway. They cite studies that were published in shoddy sources like Psychology Today and Men’s Health and The Huffington Post — I’m seriously considering grabbing a copy and giving it to my science communication class as a bad example. This is an article that is drowning in the red flags of a totally untrustworthy source.

This has happened to every news site I initially enjoy. I gave up on Salon a few years ago, I fled HuffPo when I first looked upon that horror (that I later discovered they have a “sideboob” section just confirmed my first impression), and now I’m getting worried about the Raw Story — every once in a while I look in and there’s a little mini-flood of totally credulous articles about Bill Maher.

Maybe it’s not that liberals are prone to falling for absurdities. Maybe it’s me, and my malignant gaze poisons the media I look upon.

Or maybe people are just dumber than I give them credit for.


  1. says

    The Raw Story is consistently clickbait. Almost everything I see linked from them is a single-sourced piece elaborating on the actual raw story (which, to their credit, they usually link) with a hugely spun and misleading headline slapped on.

    The actual story usually bears only a faint resemblance to the Raw Story spin.

    They have an occasional article that any effort whatsoever was put into. But in general, the Raw Story is the Highly Processed And Misleading Clickbait

  2. numerobis says

    There’s an interesting synergy between the kind of people liable to click on a clickbait link, and the kind of people liable to click on an ad. That makes the clickbait website concept particularly powerful.

  3. says

    What ads does this post attract?

    1. 10 Countries with the Most Beautiful Women in the World
    2. 1 Fruit That “Fights” Diabetes
    3. 6 of the Strangest Airports in the World
    4. 15 Weird Homes We All Wish We Lived In

    Scare quotes and everything! I propose an adaptation of Lewis’ law: “The ads attached to any article on clickbait will demonstrate the absurdity of clickbait”

  4. says

    But then we have Cracked, which fairly consistently delivers reasonable quality and a few yucks on articles starting with an Arabic numeral.

  5. says

    Contrariwise, as well as the blatant clickbait, Buzzfeed has increasingly been running actual investigative journalism effortposts of value. It’s quite disconcerting.

  6. Artor says

    Raw Story has been my primary news source for several years now, but I’ve been getting fed up with it’s clickbait tendencies too. Can anyone recommend a good, fairly objective, but progressive news outlet?

  7. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Listicles are like text versions of standup comedy. I read them for laughs, not for infomationization. To me they are there to make the reader chuckle, like Seinfeld’s “observation humor”. “Didja ever notice … {smirk, squint, eyebrow raise}”

  8. says

    Did anyone read the quote above about men who like small breasts preferring submissive women, and find themselves assuming it has something to do with stereotypes of Asian women?

  9. comfychair says

    Same for even Charlie Pierce’s place at The Atlantic. ( The post titles on the main page, the post’s URL, and the post title inside are all different, and the excerpts have been shortened so much that you can’t know what the thing is until after you click on it. They could save time and just title them ‘post 12345’, ‘post 12346’, etc.

    Another ‘improvement’ showing up everywhere lately is the abandoning of descriptive image filenames in favor of the string of random alphanumeric strings of nothingness (like, from The Guardian, the super-helpful 2ce8c22c325adbe1c5b07b17b076f539021d60a2/0_193_2659_1595/2659.jpg). If you have a needle phobia, or have a problem with things like stock photos of an angry cop’s gun aimed point-blank at the camera, guess what, your adblock filters that used to get rid of those things no longer work.

  10. says

    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    “The Guardian”

    WUT! evidence that confirmation bias works just as well on the left as it does on the right.

    The Independent is a UK news source that deliberately tries to cover news from a non biased perspective and I think it does a good job, ie: its a tiny bit left/progressive.
    Unfortunately that stance doesn’t bring in the money so the quality of writing can often be appalling.

    I tend to get my news from BBC Radio 4 and anything I feel might do with a bias check I’ll have a look at what Al jazeera has to say.

  11. Alverant says

    There’s a lot of cross posting between alternet and Raw Story. I’m becoming disappointed in both. Last week RS reposted a story from last year about Tom Delay. A few days later AN does there regular “5 horrible thing conservatives said this week” article and, guess what, RS’s year-old article was included.

    I don’t mind clickbait as long as the story is accurate.

  12. vereverum says

    I usually read Onion for the liberal slant and National Report for the conservative slant (hey, with Cruz/Palin on the masthead it’s gotta be conservative doesn’t it?), but if I want in-depth reporting, I turn to A. Jones. I find that their reports are more consistent with the people I see and hear around me. Life is fun.

  13. anteprepro says

    Danny Butts:

    WUT! evidence that confirmation bias works just as well on the left as it does on the right

    Fine, I will bite: What are you on about?

  14. yazikus says

    I generally like Raw Story, and the clickbaitey articles are usually so obviously Clickbait Articles that I just avoid them. I usually do a news round up from there, Al Jazeera, BBC, Shakesville, Daily Kos, here, and a few others to get a better rounded idea about what is going one.

  15. jackrousseau says

    I get sufficient news from blogs and RSS feeds, I don’t have a dedication to any sites per se. The Guardian is pretty reasonable though if you’re looking for that though. One of the last liberal news outfits that isn’t completely pathetic and can rely on subscriptions instead of clickbait to make the payroll.

    So Jacobin, the Guardian, Naked Capitalism, The Intercept + Glenn Greenwald’s Twitter feed, that rounds up a lot of the good stuff.

  16. mistershelden says

    I suggest Democracy Now! and the Real News Network. Both have lots of video but it is possible and often worthwhile to read transcripts if you prefer. Before trusting the UK’s Guardian, Independent or BBC, check out what medialens have to say about them. They are all corporate media, and therefore their frame of reference is not very dissimilar to all the others. This is especially true when it comes to business and international coverage. RT is often worth checking out and has some excellent features; and although it is not trustworthy on anything directly to do with Russian policy, it might be worth looking at as a balancing POV to UK/US corporate media, which is not trustworthy on anything to do with UK/UK foreign policy.

  17. devneuro says

    Slate can be a good read. The bulk of the site can be iffy, and when non-science authors write on science it can be bad (I’m looking at you, Engber and Saletan), but Laura Helmuth, the science editor, runs a good ship.

  18. says

    People have a dedicated news site?
    Why, when you have thousands of blogs which link to news, and Google search, and Google News, and headlines and etc. etc. etc.
    I can’t imagine going to one site as “my news source.”

  19. anteprepro says

    Jafafa Hots: I imagine it is easier, for those who specifically want to know the latest news of the day in a more methodological fashion, as part of a routine, etc. etc. I am fine doing what you do, though, and just obtaining news from the thousands of random sources that you can easily stumble upon on the internet. Only issue I see is knowing which sites are credible and which aren’t (and why, and to what to degree, and on what specific topics, and so on and so on). I am not sure if having one reliable site is any less of an issue though, on that front, because even the most reliable sources can be wrong. And at least the random sources you don’t necessarily trust by default.

  20. throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble says

    Democracy Now!

    My mouth immediately crusted over as boredom loomed over like a vulture. I’m not saying they do bad work. It’s just so dreadfully desertified as a news source. Colorless. Odorless. Like prechewed tofu.

  21. polishsalami says

    Jafafa Hots #23:
    Seconded. I find Twitter to be a useful news hub, if you know what to look for.

    dereksmear #6:
    nice nods approvingly

  22. HolyPinkUnicorn says

    @deneuro #22

    Slate can be a good read. The bulk of the site can be iffy, and when non-science authors write on science it can be bad (I’m looking at you, Engber and Saletan), but Laura Helmuth, the science editor, runs a good ship.

    Slate is generally too iffy for me; while it does have Phil Plait it also seems to spend an enormous time to covering whatever TV show just aired its newest episode. And I found Saletan’s recent article Don’t Blame Drones atrocious. (Though I shouldn’t be surprised; back in 2003, on the Iraq war he wrote If you want to minimize the killing, stop resisting the war.)

    And it’s only ostensibly liberal, the same way the Washington Post and the NY Times are “liberal” while actively defending much of the status quo–both regularly give space to neocons and hawks–plus, it still frequently devolves into HuffPo-levels of obsession with pop culture. But at least it criticizes the antivaxx movement far better than HP.

  23. AlexanderZ says

    anteprepro #18

    What are you on about?

    You mean besides having an editor who was a KGB spy? And then following it up by hiring a Hizb ut-Tahrir member? Plenty. Like any ideological company it shouldn’t be fully even if you agree with its ideology.

    Danny Butts #15 has it right – pick a generally neutral and mildly biased news agency like the BBC and supplement your reading with other sources (like Reuters). Want to know about the Middle East? BBC + Al Jazeera. Israel? BBC + Haaretz + B’tselem (not a news agency, but they often have the best info on civil rights violations in Palestine). The civil war in Ukraine? BBC + learning Russian and critically read some blogs because neither side is trustworthy.

  24. Alverant says

    Well Jafafa, I only really have time to go to two or so sites for my news. I have neither the time nor internet savvy to go out hunting on Twitter, Facebook, whatever to get all the news.

  25. Alverant says

    Oh, one plus about RS, there’s a good community of commenters. And by “good” I mean “people who agree with me and will slam down on the trolls with a sledge hammer”. Yes, I know it turns things into an echo chamber but at least people are more willing to back up their statements with links to other sites.

  26. dannysichel says

    Uh. I thought the original comment about the Guardian was a complaint about – and only about – their current practice of naming image files things like “3445678954634.jpg”.

  27. whirlwitch says

    @busterrgi #27:

    So, how does staring at boobs affect a WOMAN’S lifespan? I shall strike a pose and mutter rhetorical grumbles about why this is never considered. Hypothetical researchers: “Women? Stare at boobs? Why would women do that?”

  28. tdxdave says

    I am surprised noone has mentioned as a reasonable news source. Seems to be prety neutral and has longer articles that actually explain some things.

  29. Pierce R. Butler says

    Let’s not forget Salon’s repeated helpful contributions to the atheism/religion debate, such as Why Do We Let New Atheists and Religious Zealots Dominate the Conversation About Religion? by Peter Birkenhead, with such argument-settling profound insights as –

    Authentic religion doesn’t ask us to follow Seven Easy Steps to Nirvana, or crunch numbers to comprehend the Tao. It invites us to encounter the infinite, to engage with it. It is not the opposite of scientific inquiry, but it wants us to place our attempts at a physical understanding of the universe in a broader context by acknowledging the narrow scope of our perception.

    Deep, huh?

  30. spamamander, internet amphibian says

    I spend much, much too much time on Raw Story commenting. I agree with the critiques of it though. Talking Points Memo and ThinkProgress come up in my Facebook news feed and I get some good information from both. Addicting Info is very clickbait-y and opinion oriented but some stories are a good read.

  31. AlexanderZ says

    marilove #46

    And what about The Atlantic?

    Page Not Found (404)

    Also, does Vice have any reporters to send Yemen? If not, then it’s not a news source – it’s just a political magazine. Perhaps a good one, but the Russian section’s top headlines are “I’ve decided to keep a healthy life style by smoking cigarettes”, “I tried to watch 40 hours of Game of Thrones in one go” and “Perhaps we shouldn’t stop fantasizing about our exes?”. The other headlines are no better.

  32. malta says

    +1 for Al Jazeera America. They do lots of excellent, in-depth articles, with a good mixture of U.S. and world news. I don’t think it has much of a progressive tilt, but I feel like it still counts anyway because reality has a well-known liberal bias.

    On topic: I hate the click-bait “articles” that put each part of the list on a separate page. It’s such a blatant attempt to get extra ad views. Why can’t I has my 10 adorable pictures of cats with cheeseburgers on a single page? :C