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Actual news still triumphs over clickbait

November 5, 2014 1 comment

Screenshot 2014-10-30 17.15.23

We’ve all seen the articles – “25 Men’s Coats That Will Definitely Get You Laid” or “38 Things You Probably Don’t Know About ‘Hocus Pocus.’

Thanks to BuzzFeed, in large part, our Facebook Newsfeeds are cluttered with clickbait headlines. But are these stories replacing real news in our lives? The analytics say no.

In an article posted on PR Daily recently, John David discusses “The race back to ‘actual’ news.” He’s talking to public relations professionals about how to pitch their stories to journalists, but he sends a good message to journalists as well, editors especially. Actual news with a fresh angle still sells better than clickbait. People want hard-hitting stories.

And Buzzfeed doesn’t just post fluffy pieces; it shares real news too.

Sites like Buzzfeed and Mashable, which started as social-sharing sites, are hiring journalists to produce what David calls “actual news” because it has “originality, relevance, and authenticity,” he said.

Beyond social-sharing sites, David mentions a column by New York Times reporter David Carr about The Washington Post’s revival since its purchase by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. Bezos’s approach to making The Post digital and saving it from perceived ruin was pumping energy in to actual news and “increasing sophistication in promoting its content nationally,” Carr writes.

The Post, in other words, is churning out hard-hitting investigate reporting — the kinds of stories some people believe are dying. Of course, the commitment to hard news was renewed when the newspaper posted articles based on leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, which won The Post a Pulitzer Prize.

There were whispers not too long ago that The Post wouldn’t survive the shift into the digital age, but Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, said “I think The Post is a very confident newsroom right now. They pick the right stories, throw a lot of reporters at them and go after them hard. That’s a well-led newsroom.”

Closer to home, and on a much smaller scale, the Daily Nebraskan has shifted to a digital first approach this year. And what have the senior staff at the DN found to work best? Locally focused, hard-hitting news.

“The articles about the big things that have happened on campus have all gone viral this year,” said Jacy Marmaduke, DN editor-in-chief. “We put a lot of hours in to breaking the sexual assault story, and then we continued to update online as more news broke and that really makes a difference.”

Updating as stories happen is one of the biggest benefits Marmaduke sees with digital.

“I think (instant updates are) the biggest advantage of digital,” she said. “It’s our job as journalists to inform the public about what’s happening around them. Digital helps us do that job better.”

Clickbait will always have a place in our lives. Some days readers just want to know the “17 Reasons It’s Better to Date a Dog Person,” but they also want those hard-hitting pieces and want them shared on social media.

—By Stacie Sikora

Categories: guest posts