Yes, Journalists Write Articles "For Clicks," So Get Over It

Those who condemn online journalists for "digging for clicks" need a reality check. This is how online journalism works.

It's all you ever see from the self-righteous, "I know more than you" gamers who bash game journalists every chance they get:

"Bah, just more click-bait."

To clarify, there is indeed a difference between articles written purely for attention, and articles written that reflect the hot trending topics of the day. Too many people seem incapable of differentiating between the two, and that's not only a mistake, but it's wildly insulting to hard-working journalists who operate exclusively online. This goes beyond video game journalism, of course.

The bottom line is that the Internet culture relies on attention, more so than traditional print ever did. This is not the same world. This is a world that continually blurs the lines between journalistic integrity and the harsh truth of survival.

For the most part, this is a FREE service online journalists provide

There are no subscription fees for your favorite video game websites. There are no fees whatsoever, in fact. While the gaming industry has a score of monetary methods, from microtransactions to downloadable content to Season Passes, online journalists and websites have to rely on advertising. Newspapers and magazines require advertising as well, but at least they've got a standing subscription fee that - very often - keeps them afloat.

Having experience in both print and online publishing, I'm well aware of the inherent differences. I know that if you're The New York Times, you needn't compromise a thing; you'll get your traffic because you're the Times. In our industry, same probably goes for GameSpot and IGN, but that's about it. Such companies have other ways of generating revenue but for the most part, 99 percent of all video game websites must rely on ads. In turn, they need traffic. Traffic = clicks.

This is the digital world. And by the way, the fee we all have to pay to get online is a general fee, and not related to specific industries or websites. None of that money heading to your Internet provider ever goes to your favorite gaming site, that's for sure.

Trending topics generate traffic; keying in on what people are talking about is part of the job

Right now, if you check around, it's clear that The Last Of Us: Remastered and Destiny are the two hottest trending games. Therefore, any good online journalist will generate multiple headlines pertaining to these games. Now, obviously, that still requires work, effort, and occasionally, research. Those who simply pen a SEO-rich headline with nothing but ranting fluff can be accused of creating "click-bait." But even then, that's a derogatory label applied by the very people who turn those articles into click-bait.

The readers make it plain on a daily basis: "We want to read about this." If you do about two minutes of research, you'll easily discover the popular topics of the day, week and month. It's not even that much different than traditional print journalism, is it? During the O.J. fiasco, don't you think every journalist on earth was writing articles based on that case? Would you call the thousands of various articles written about 9/11 in the latter half of 2001 "click-bait?"

Yes, of course it's to get your attention. This is not a non-profit endeavor. If you'd like journalism to be a non-profit endeavor, than say so. As it stands, it's a business like anything else, and businesses have to survive somehow. If you've got a better way of insuring survival for websites that rely exclusively on traffic so you can get up every morning and read those articles, let me know. Not willing to pay a monthly subscription, now are you?

Don't want "click-bait?" Click on different articles

The readers dictate. If everyone wasn't so obsessed with The Last Of Us: Remastered right now, you wouldn't see dozens upon dozens of headlines every day pertaining to that title. You can't honestly stand there and blame journalists and websites, whose only source of survival is your clicks, to ignore what's getting clicks...right? I mean, how illogical is that? Please, just stop acting all high-and-mighty about what is produced in the online journalism world.

And again, if you've got a solution, by all means, there are Digital Content Managers all over the world who would love to hear it.

Featured Columnist

A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.

Published Jul. 17th 2014
  • Phillip McCracken
    Careerist clickbaiter composes cabalist clickbait countenance.

    The only winning move is not to click.
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    The way I look it, there is plethora of game journalism going on. I've written several general news articles, especially items in the mainstream news about gaming that leaps out at me. I will read those items, delve into the topic some and then try to write a gamer spin on the topic. There's a wide market for the reader out there.

    I also have a couple of favorite games I post items on regularly. The general stories while more fulfilling at times, never get anywhere near the amount of views that the game-specific ones do. The Injustice articles I do hit 10k views, while generic items may barely break 1k.

    I like seeing my numbers go up, but I won't stop writing general stories as they occur. But, I decided that I wouldn't just write about a popular game unless I actually played it, simply because I thought it would be click-bait.
  • Zachary Welter
    Featured Contributor
    For example, this article is clickbait because its title is made for people to click on out of sheer curiosity due to its strong and hostile headline.

    A 100th post about TLOU: Remastered, is not clickbait because it's not actively trying to get me to click it. I'll click it if I like TLOU, but I'm not a huge fan, so meh. I mean, yes, it panders to a huge fanbase, but it's not streaking across a football field yelling for clicks.

    But if the article claimed in its headline that "ALL NEW INFO" was available when it was just rehashed old info, it'd be clickbait, because it's gone past pandering and become lying to get people interested.

    "The readers dictate. If everyone wasn't so obsessed with The Last Of Us: Remastered right now, you wouldn't see dozens upon dozens of headlines every day pertaining to that title. You can't honestly stand there and blame journalists and websites, whose only source of survival is your clicks, to ignore what's getting clicks...right?"

    The Nazis weren't to blame, guys, the German people really wanted the Holocaust.
  • Spyke_3447
    Pretty much what evan said, tabloid journalism can go eat the corn out of my shi*.
  • Si_W
    Click-bait is just a lazy insult for something vociferous readers disagree with.

    Nothing more.
  • jb227
    You make some great points in this article, mostly the ones pertaining to readers having the power to click or not to click, and that the same people who are complaining are the ones who are keeping these practices afloat. On the other hand, there are plenty of people clicking to read an original, interesting & thought provoking article, and when they receive what generally amounts to a splashy headline & a paragraph of thoughtless text, they have every right to call these pieces 'click-bait'. There are so many sites on the internet dedicated to just that, nearly every single page we go to will show that infamous row of splashy headlines (like the ones above this very comment box) to catch eyes in order to redirect you through 10 ads only to get to something even less than fluff. Discerning readers should just find sites they enjoy & trust and stick to those. It's a shame that these practices are killing the act of discovery, making it hard for anyone to find new interesting sites w/o wading through swaths of trashy ones, but such is the state of the internet. I think at the end of the day what needs to be thought through by anyone posting anything on the internet in that fashion is intent. If you've spent more time coming up w/ a controversial headline than the actual body of text, then you're the problem. I'm sure it's frustrating to get lumped into this category by fanboys who need to tear down anyone who doesn't agree w/ their opinion, but it is a practice that has become more & more prevalent, from blog sites on down to iOS games, thin on content, thick on ad potential. Let's not strike the term 'click-bait' from the lexicon, but let's be more aware of what we apply it to, it's easy to spot when someone took time & put actual thought into something, that's on display in this piece, but it doesn't automatically become click-bait if it sports a controversial headline & an opinion opposite to the popular one, most definitely not.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    I must be missing these sites that rely entirely on click-bait. Maybe it's just because I'm smart enough to know they're a waste of my time...?
  • Solkard
    What we have is an industry crammed full of people who want to make a living doing a specific job, only there isn't really a need/demand for all those people. And while this may be true for many professions, the "problem" is that journalists are in a unique positions to create their own "demand".

    Otherwise, applying Fathoms' logic, car mechanics should be expected to set your sensor lights to go off or use substandard parts so that you go see them more often. Doctors should "exaggerate" your test results so that you are "compelled" to schedule exploratory operations and extended hospital stays. After all, their "jobs" aren't "non-profit endeavors" either.

    Yes, people are stupid, but you I'm willing to bet you couldn't tell whether a growth is benign or malignant on your own either. A job also comes with a responsibility. Just because you want more money, doesn't excuse you to compromise the trust that is placed in you, when you take up that job.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Mechanics and doctors charge for their services; for all intents and purposes, online journalists don't. So that's a poor analogy.

    Make "more' money? Amend that to "at least some" money. Yes, they have a responsibility and that responsibility is to the readers. If the readers keep demanding a certain thing, that's what they're going to get.

    So who exactly is at fault here?
  • Dirk_7586
    What chaps my hide is when the website has more advertizing than journalistic content. I've been to websites where they have 3 or more Flash videos running concurrently and all trying to talk to me. No mouse overs to hear the content and no way to disable the sound on the videos except to shut it off in Windows or my speaker power button. How the heck are supposed to even here 3 different videos at once? Sometimes the resolution of these videos are enough to crash my browser because it can't keep up. Fortunately, Gameskinny is da bomb and I have never had that problem with your website. Although you certainly have a very busy website keep the articles coming and I will be your click bait BFF user.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Yes, the website manager should balance the user experience against the ad content. That's true.

    I think GS is set up very well. :)
  • GameSkinny Staff
    If you don't like certain kinds of content, don't click on it - but do click on the stuff you want to see more of. In online publishing, clicks = paychecks. This is a reality for almost every platform that isn't behind a paywall. If you stop clicking on "Top 20 Cutest Cat Butts" Buzzfeed-style articles and start clicking more on well-researched editorials... then online writers will take notice and go where the clicks are. This is an exceptionally democratic system, but online publishing often gets stuck in feedback loops.

    Until that happens, however, don't get angry when someone writes "20 MORE Cutest Cat Butts." We know you clicked on that.
  • Amy White
    Former Editor in Chief
    ...They... they were just SO CUTE.
  • Ashley Shankle
    Associate Editor
    The problem is that clickbait is often inflammatory in some way, and makes much issues seem much larger than they really are. Or makes non-issues into "issues" -- and most people aren't smart enough to realize either of these things.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Also true.

    But I take exception to the term "click-bait" being applied to legitimate articles written about trending topics.

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