2013.12.22

Death of RSS and rise of sensationalist headlines

I have no data to backup my theory; it’s just a trend that I observed in the past years. The amount of headlines like “10 places you should visit before you die”, “15 best jQuery plugins of the year”, “best video you will watch today” keeps increasing; I blame the rise of social media and the death of RSS readers.

It’s sad to admit it; but if a headline isn’t sensationalist, the likelihood of someone reading it and sharing it, is not as high.

I remember a few years ago, when the first thing I did during the morning was to open NetVibes to check if any of my favorite blogs had a new post. Nowadays the first thing I do is to open Twitter to see if anyone shared an interesting opinion/link. And I know a lot of people that use Reddit and HackerNews for the same reasons.

Somehow I think I wasn’t as influenced by the headlines when it came from some of my favorite sources. It didn’t matter what Jeff Atwood, Steve Yegge, Kangax, Angus Croll, John Resig and so many others published; I always read at least the first paragraphs, since the likelihood of being something I would enjoy was pretty high.

Nowadays I end up reading only what is shared by trusted sources, or posts where the title makes me curious about it. Don’t know if it is just a side effect of the insane amount of information that we have access nowadays (I have over 2000 articles saved for later on Pocket); or if it’s a side-effect of the death of the RSS readers and rise of social media. But I do know that I don’t like what I see. It is really disappointing when a linkbait doesn’t deliver the content, I feel cheated.

Tabloids aren’t trustworthy, the same way that linkbait articles shouldn’t be. Everything that is sensationalist is very likely to be exaggerated just to increase the drama, be it for entertainment or just for selling more copies. – I’m guilty as well.

I have no idea how to solve this problem (and if it needs to be solved), I just hope this trend ends soon.


Comments

I've observed a similar trend in recent years within the community. Linkbait headlines and tweets are on the rise and one does need to pay greater attention to drafting a good headline if you want it to be seen amongst the noise. I unfortunately don't see this trend disappearing anytime soon, much in the way that we haven't seen tabloids go the way of the dinosaur.

Instead, I see us becoming more intelligent with how and who we decide to rely on for our news. As you mentioned, trusted sources are now quite important.

Seeing the same thing. After a while it wears you off. It's interesting that it's not just sensationalism - it's more about, instead of the title telling you the content of the article, they sort of tell you what you will get out of the article (or what they want you to think you will get out of the article). Like, instead of "What's new in ECMAScript 6", the article has to be "You will not believe the things you will soon be writing in JavaScript". As if all article title writers suddenly read Marshall McLuhan's writings and decided to take it to heart.

xkcd has been exploring the topic a bit recently. Today's comic is about that:

http://xkcd.com/1307/

And this is a previous one:

http://xkcd.com/1283/

The sad thing is, I bet it works.

A site without conetnt is not a site. Content is important. But so are a lot of other SEO factors. Just like a piano, don't consentrate on one key and ignore all the others.

Wow, I never noticed they did that. I just tried it on my xkcd feed and even saw it cnovert the tooltip to an HTML one.How much do you want to be that it's part of some standard javascript include Google uses for all of their stuff? Good eye.

Matt, Wouldnt you agree that there are good reasons to hide some text, not for SEO puorspes but for others. For example on my site, using wordpress, there is a plugin that allows users to download the video files that we put up using the plugin. Rather than modify the plugin which can cause all sorts of problems, we choose to hide the text that allows them to download it. We arent concerned that more sophisticated users can find it and we certainly arent worried about the search engines finding it but would rather that users dont take. the video content. Just an example. I guess my question is this - Are webmasters allowed to hide any text at all using css, even when doing it for other reasons? I have other examples of hiding text that I could provide. Thanks in advance for the explanation.

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