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The Greyhound

Twitter user fights back against manipulative headlines

“You won’t believe who just signed to the Miami Heat!” “Wild J. Lo and Kim K. Rumor.” “This heartwarming story will have you in tears!”
If you’ve been reading online news in the last few years, headlines like these probably sound familiar to you. They’re clickbait headlines, headlines that don’t reveal what the content of their articles will be and bait readers into clicking on them to reveal the answer. Clickbait turns every article into an annoying, profitable little mystery. If you find headlines like this annoying, you’re not alone. Twitter user @SavedYouAClick is the world’s premiere clickbait vigilante.
The pressure to drive clicks to raise ad revenue is immense for online news publications and, knowingly or not, many of them give in to the desire to make headlines more intriguing and opaque in order to pull money in. The upshot of this is that we as news readers are being left with less and less information before we start to read artcles, and are less able to determine if an article’s worth reading by using its headline. Headlines should give the most accurate possible impression of an article’s content, not serve as sensational advertisement generators.
@SavedYouAClick retweets headlines from news outlets that are titled using cheap click-baiting devices and conveniently “spoils” the article, saving you a click. For example: @AlexJamesFitz tweeted: “Here’s how long it will take you to watch every Simpsons episode” with a link to an article that discloses the answer. @SavedYouAClick retweeted that verbatim, but with an added “202 hours, 24 minutes. (About 8.5 days).”
Even though we’re no New York Times here at The Greyhound, we know better than to try to stretch out a single piece of numerical trivia into an entire article. But not all publications do, and for those bad eggs we have @SavedYouAClick.
Some publications like The Verge have criticized Jake Beckman, the man behind @SavedYouAClick for ruining the experience of reading their articles. This argument might sound appealing, after all putting the punch-line up front would ruin even the best joke. But I think I’m not alone in not wanting my news to read like a joke. When looking at the front page of a news-site I want to be able to make informed decisions about what to read.
I have a confession: not even I read The Greyhound cover-to-cover. Except for my section, I usually take a look at our headlines and then decide to read about what interests me. This is possible only because our headlines aren’t unintelligibly cryptic questions that force readers to read to completion to understand the point. Though we’re too small to ever register on @SavedYouAClick’s radar, the fact that he exists keeps us, and no doubt many other small publications aware of the headlining process and conscious of how we communicate information to readers.
As an editor for a news publication, @SavedYouAClick makes me think, but as a reader of news it makes me smile. Browsing through his Twitter feed is always a pleasure, partially because it’s refreshing to see a clear presentation of news content online, but mostly because it’s a blast to see cheeky, one-word answers to questions like this one asked by the Huffington Post: “Is Jennifer Lawrence starring in Quentin Tarantino’s next movie?” No. No she isn’t. Aren’t you glad that you didn’t drop another click in HuffPo’s advertising bucket just to hear the non-answer to that question?
To anybody who turns to the web for their news, @SavedYouAClick is essential reading. Beyond stopping you from wasting your time, he forces publishers to reconsider their strategies to attract readers. Stripped of their ability to inflate click-counts with bombastic titles, they may even need to start making their articles informative and well-written! Though @SavedYouAClick isn’t large enough to dismantle the entire institution of clickbaiting online, it promotes an awareness of dishonest clickbaiting strategies that could make people reconsider giving websites their clicks when they read headlines like “You’ll never guess what this A-lister said about President Obama!” Resist the temptation.
In the wild west of sloppy standards and loose morals in online news, @SavedYouAClick helps to bring clickbait to its knees with his own brand of frontier justice. Personally, I welcome the new sheriff in town.

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Twitter user fights back against manipulative headlines