Really, Glenn Beck, you gotta link bait like that to us? For shame.
While we tend to avoid The Blaze, Glenn Beck's attempt to form his own populist media empire after being gently kicked out of Fox News, the site sometimes yields juicy enough information worth mentioning (such as Matt Drudge's defection to the Tea Party). So we are forced to pay attention once in a while in case something pops up to our benefit. Still, one cannot help but notice a new, troubling pattern in recent weeks in their headline-writing. "The Passionate Chris Matthews Rant On Benghazi That Will Probably Leave You Speechless." "This Couple's Halloween Costumes Are So Realistic You'll Think You Were A Kid Again." "Author Finds Out What Happens When You Try To Tell Glenn Beck Our Rights Don't Come From God." This concerns us not because of the vagueness of the headlines, but because it is a tactic used by a despised media outlet that we call Upworthy. Is The Blaze seriously trying to be a right-wing Upworthy? Are they that obnoxious?
The headline tactic Upworthy (and now The Blaze) use is a form of "link baiting" called an "emotional hook." Link baiting is a strategy in which reading a link's title or headline is specifically designed to compel you to voluntarily click the link, thus generating traffic for the viewer. BuzzFeed are masters at this. An emotional hook, sometimes called an "evil hook" depending on the tone and subject matter, is a headline that fills you with one emotion or another, be it tears, rage, joy, or shock.
The trick with the "emotional hook" headline is that it does not actually tell you what actually happens in the story. Instead, it leaves out that detail, hinting that something has happened, but never telling you what. It is a mild but still awful form of deception: The purpose of the hook is to get your feelings worked up to the point that you want to click the link, regardless of whether or not the information is worth their time.
Ironically, despite being the kings of viral linking and link baiting, BuzzFeed avoids the vague emotional hook, going instead for lists, and simple headlines that basically speak for themselves, but whose tone stills compels you to click. A good example today is "Boy Wanders Onto Stage To Hang Out With Pope Francis:" Easy, simple, and while it still plays with your emotions a little bit, you know exactly what you are getting into.
Upworthy, on the other hand, has no shame. Consider "These Kids Finally Say What They Really Think About Mom. And Her Reaction? Priceless." Vague, intentionally catering to stressed out moms (or children who really love their moms) with the express intent of making them click the link. Now, that is bad enough, but when you click on the link, you're welcomed to the site with a message like this:
Why are you saying this? Oh, right, so you can compel me to subscribe to your site...typical.
In other words, white liberal guilt-tripping, one that will compel you to join their Facebook or Twitter. It happens every time you enter the site the first time in the day. This is why we worry for The Blaze. Much as we disagree for the most part with Glenn Beck, we leave him alone, for he has got his own thing to run. But if he and his site are going to pull Upworthy's tactics, then that is just disgusting and contemptuous, and no person should in their right mind, be it conservative or not, support this crass form of leeching revenue off users. This has got to stop before it gets worse. Help a brother out Glenn! Save yourself, man!
On second thought, never mind...
(Media sources: Screen Grabs, Flickr: asterix611)