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Number seven will blow your mind

It’s Summer reading season and I’m working my way through my backlog of saved articles. I’ve just finished this interesting story from the New Yorker’s January issue on Emerson Spartz, one of those irritating young new media booboos who are transforming the internet into a eyeball abusing listicle shithole. Things that don’t surprise me:

■ 80% of his company’s time is spent on social media (mostly FaceBook) promoting content, 20% on developing actual content.

■ His content isn’t his content. It’s borrowed from other sites (like mine, I s’pose, but I’m not running a clickfarm).

■ His every fiber yearns for you to hit that button. There is no other purpose to his activity.

He has a staff of elves that actually feed content into his sites. Himself sits all day in front of a screen of analytics. He will publish the same exact story on FaceBook with ten different titles, then watch which title get the most clicks in realtime, then winnow out the losers until he has found the perfect Darwinian clickbait.

Yes, it looks as though he is the creator of my current favorite hate title: X pictures of Y, #Z will blow your mind!

I’m a veteran of these things because I hang out on FaceBook passively stalking old friends and family members, and I love looking at pictures.

You click on the first picture and there’s, like, ten ads all around it. Usually animated. Usually the next button is hidden and several of the ads have right arrow buttons that look like the next button. Next picture, whole new set of ads. I’ve gotten so wadded up about these things I’m currently taking a positive delight in not clicking the bastards.

I’ve got one in front of me now. The obvious next button is actually an ad for M&S Men ‘s Linen Trousers (one above and one below the picture). Marks and Spencer’s. What are they thinking? What the hell kind of customer relationship do you build when you trick people into clicking an ad they didn’t want to click?

One of two possibilities: either the internet is so huge that if one in a hundred of the one in ten people who mistake-click your ad go on to buy your crappy trousers, it’s worth your advertising money, even if you piss off everyone else.

Or this approach to marketing is a big stupid obvious mistake that we will look back on some day and shake our heads.


Comment from QuasiModo
Time: June 4, 2015, 11:44 pm

Some of those clickbait traps are sort of interesting…some are pretty gross (plastic surgery gone horribly wrong, for eg).

Comment from AliceH
Time: June 4, 2015, 11:53 pm

I was skeptical about getting on Facebook because it seemed both useless to me and of questionable security. Plus, as I do for all software, I looked for how to uninstall/deregister before installing/signing up and… total blank. Couldn’t find anything at all. No thanks.

Every single story I’ve read about Facebook since my decision so many years ago looses another flood of relief that I never signed up. Of course, I’m not free of their privacy breeches since others on FB who also have my contact info could have provided a back door to the data sneaks, but it’s at least not a big present I’ve personally wrapped up with a bow.

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: June 4, 2015, 11:59 pm

I signed up for FaceBook cuz I had to for work…a douche at the company I work for was totally pumped about promoting on FB. It was a totally useless exercise…at least I used an alias and didn’t give it any real info.

It *is* sorta fun for the pix…

Comment from mojo
Time: June 5, 2015, 12:23 am

Facebook is evil. Like EVIL evil, so bad you have to pronounce it “E-vil”. The fru-it of the dev-il.

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: June 5, 2015, 12:41 am

Over-valued is what I would call it.

Comment from You will check in and you will like it
Time: June 5, 2015, 1:54 am

Apologies for color.


Comment from dissent555
Time: June 5, 2015, 5:12 am

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Internet Lists are the road signs along the way.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: June 5, 2015, 2:16 pm

It is a universally acknowledged truth that a young man in possesion of a fortune is in search of a oops! Advertising Works. Certainly nothing else can account for the success of Coca Cola, said to be 20% water, 4% sugar, 1% flavoring and 75% advertising. The problem is that, like other ‘dismal sciences’ like sociology and economics, no one is quite sure how to make desired results happen twice in a row. The only seeming surety is that continual exposure to a brand -if consistently presented- can build a brand image. BMW and Mercedes do this well; Cadillac, through inconsistent messages does it poorly. So, a clever single ad can create a fad, but no matter how powerful a single punch, it takes a steady stream of jabs to succeed long term.

The problem for those buying advertising is that, while convential wisdom acknowledges that only a long-term barrage can be effective advertisers want to be paid now, for two reasons: first, of course, every business requires cash flow. No one can wait a year to be paid at the conclusion of a successful campaign. Second is that advertisers really can’t be sure that any given campaign actually will work. Anyone can get a lucky hit now and then – the trick is stringing together three or four in a row. Better to get that cash right away please before statistics can show their revolutionary new campaign did nothing to sales.

So, how to pay advertisers? If we can agree that exposure works, even while acknowledging that it will be a long time before we can measure the success of any individual approach, buyers will agree to pay for exposure. Before Digital Video Recorders, TV advertisers could claim that an advertisement played was an advertisement seen and bill accordingly. Newspapers still work on this premise. My newspaper delivers a (smaller) free paper every day to everyone in my neighborhood so they can claim that they reach xxx,xxx number of households to advertisers. It is more profitable to give the newspaper away and charge advertisers than to sell the paper to readers. Now, finally, we come to the internet, and specifically Facebook. Facebook, sells advertising, and through their data analysis of YOU claims to sell targeted advertising.Facebook knows everything about you and your friends, and family, and habits, and can promise to deliver advertisers defined demographics suited to their product. (If you are seeing a lot of KY Jelly ads, I would like to be invited to your parties).However there is already enough historical data to show that merely putting an ad on a page does not guarantee anyone noticed it. Thus we come to the advertisers requiring “click-throughs” or forcing you to see an ad before continuing to content. These little scum-muffins like the guy mentioned above are selling ‘views’ and claiming that views equal exposure and that exposure sells. So, Marks and Spenser is not really trying to sell you trousers, but an impression of Marks and Spenser – so you will come to think of them as the Mercedes of retailers. Will it work? Well, who knows, but pay me now. Eventually, this will be shown not to work but, like TV advertising and newspaper ads will continue because no one can offer anything that is proven to work better.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 5, 2015, 3:03 pm

So, Marks and Spenser is not really trying to sell you trousers, but an impression of Marks and Spenser – so you will come to think of them as the Mercedes of retailers.

That’s why I think this is such an awful approach. I now associate Marks and Spencer with sleazy clickbait.

Well, I don’t. They’re a good store and I know it. As you say, it takes many small exposures to build a brand. But they have just added something to my impression of M&S, and it isn’t something good.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: June 5, 2015, 5:20 pm

So, Marks and Spenser is not really trying to sell you trousers, but an impression of Marks and Spenser – so you will come to think of them as the Mercedes of retailers.

That’s why I think this is such an awful approach. I now associate Marks and Spencer with sleazy clickbait.

Well… Mercedes IS a common stripper name… Or so I’m told 🙂

Comment from Sigivald
Time: June 5, 2015, 8:24 pm

He is still alive.

This proves that in the future I will not develop both time travel, and the ability to kill people with my mind.

Comment from Sigivald
Time: June 5, 2015, 8:29 pm

Semi-unrelatedly: http://drboli.com/2015/06/05/the-top-ten-numbered-lists-you-wont-find-on-facebook/

Comment from mojo
Time: June 5, 2015, 9:16 pm

Ad blockers. I’m big on blocking unneeded crap from my sensorium.

Comment from Stark Dickflüßiᵹ
Time: June 8, 2015, 12:00 pm

I actually failed to notice this when you posted it because my mind automatically filters shit with titles like that out. It’s like the mental blocks we all developed back in 1998/9 to any 480×70 image.

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