To gage a website’s success, one must look at metrics: clicks, views, shares, tweets, points, likes, search-engine optimization, and on and on. As experts and amateurs analyze the trends between content and metrics, they are coming to the same conclusion: High metrics are irrefutably linked to cognitive laziness, i.e., dumbing down. The internet is pandering to the channel-surfing consumers who refuse to stay in it for the long haul, and the print industry is following its lead.
Good copy does not make an appealing read. The well-thought-out article with structure and flow has been replaced by lists:“Top Ten Ways to Stay Slim over Winter Break,” “Five Ways to Control Your Diet,” “Eight Reasons Why Liposuction is for You.”
In a recent New York Times piece, Self’s vice president and publisher, Laura McEwen, expounded on the recent rebranding of the publication. “The magazine is being edited for the women who think in 140 characters,” McEwen said in reference to Twitter’s word limit, and, consequently, its readership’s attention span. With this dwindling willingness to commit to substance comes a concurrent lack of discernable style and individualism—a two-dimensional vacuum where language has a closer resemblance to binary code.
What is flourishing amid the internet age is the cheap sell. Evocative titles that grab the user’s attention long enough so that he or she will succumb to the sirens of a quick click just to pique his or her curiosity. Wired, in a recent article titled “Tabloid Chic: How Racy Headlines Unlock Money and Power,” reports that the headline is becoming the cornerstone of internet appeal to attract viewers. At the forefront of this intrepid minimal-character, maximum-impact movement is a startup company called Upworthy, which tests headlines and uses and—you guessed it—metrics to gage which one should be used.