The BBC has no reason to use clickbait or the other trappings of the SEO and content marketing world.
- Revenue isn’t ad based, more clicks don’t bring in more money.
- The BBC is a venerable institution, the SEO lore of more than a thousand words plus multiple images isn’t going to improve organic rankings.
- Clickbaity titles might generate a few more clicks, but so what?
A Case Study
Take this article: The Surprising Traits of Good Remote Leaders.
The title is pure clickbait: OMG! Shocking! Read to find out!
The URL reveals an alternative title that would have been more sensible: Why in person leaders may not be the best virtual ones.
There are three stock photos that add nothing to the content. I can almost live with one random stock photo per article as platforms such as Medium practically force this on writers. But three?
The thesis of the article in question is that the types of charismatic leaders with personalities that fill a room are often ineffective remote managers. You can hash this out in a few hundred words. Instead we got 1k.
Why is this happening?
I have three non-mutually exclusive theories for why this is happening.
- Middle managers are mostly bumbling idiots. KPIs and metrics about engagement, click rates and viral growth are in fashion. This is true regardless of whether it’s the right business model for a particular company (hence, dataism).
- Writers get their early work experience from SEO and content marketing gigs. This was my first few years writing in the tech industry: Take a 100-word idea, add in fluff to hit a word count, find stock photos and add a catchy title. Once that becomes a habit, it’s not easy to turn off.
- Readers have become so habituated to SEO style writing, that non-screaming headlines and high information density are no longer readable.
Digital Native Content
My gripe is one of lost potential. Digital native content can be as long or as short as needed. Not many people are taking this to its logical conclusion.
- Seth Godin is a master of short blog posts.
- A Book Apart publishes extended essays that wouldn’t have been feasible as print-only books a few decades ago.
- Wait But Why is filled with illustrations, but they all add to content.
But the majority of digital native content is clickbait, mostly fluff and filled with meaninglessly banal images. It didn’t have to be this way.