Sunday, June 11, 2017

Among German mainstream media, conservative outlets are the main purveyors of clickbait

Four venerable German websites: Spiegel, Zeit, Welt, Frankfurter Allgemeine.
Four weeks of multiple visits to their homepages every single day.
Over one thousand article introductory sections.

The result: Frankfurter Allgemeine and Welt, the two conservative web sites out of the four are the worst clickbait slingers in the country.

It is commonly accepted that the introductory section of a news story is intended to entice the reader to read the full story, that's the very definition of lede as per Merriam Webster

The blogster used a very narrow subset of clickbait for its* research. The standard notion of sensationalist headlines, pictures and "clickbait content" described in Wikipedia does not do justice, in the blogster's mind, to clickbait usage by respected mainstream outlets. Encouragingly, we do not - yet - consider for example, Buzzfeed and Frankurter Allgemeine made out of the same journalistic cloth. Although Buzzfeed hired famous FOIA terrorist Jason Leopold, meaning that one of their workers easily out-investigates Frankfurter Allgemeine.

So, the blogster looked only at two methods, neither of which qualifies as sensationalist. Both examples below are from the last few days.
1. Obscuring a fact or event
This example from Welt** says six months ago, soccer player Timo Werner made "a mistake", then states that some are still upset, and finally asks what is wrong with these people.

The offending part is the use of a mistake, not the final question. Neither the blogster nor most readers will expect an exhaustive answer in an introductory section. Hiding the core information behind the term mistake is devious because readers unfamiliar with the episode might not consider whatever mistake alludes to worth reading the full article.
In fact, the rest of the lede indicates as much when it says that relatively few people (aka. some) continue to be up in arms. 

2. Outright refusal to provide information
Frankfurter Allgemeine*** had a lede with great news for Germany the other day: German companies are even increasing production beyond expectations. "Especially in one sector."

Which the clickbait doctors at Frankfurter Allgemeine flat out refuse to name in the lede.

To the blogster, using such devices is demeaning to the readers and dumb on the part of the journalist or editors. Considering that all four publications cater to a somewhat educated, more middle class and up audience, the blogster cannot help but feel that even more educated conservative readers are not highly regarded by their news people.

All in all, Die Zeit treats its audience with the most respect, with virtually zero clickbait ledes. Der Spiegel could not resist a couple of times, which is in line with their sometimes slick-and-sloppy headline writing, but that's still a far cry from Die Welt and light years from Frankfurter Allgemeine.

Die Welt came in third with whole days free of bait, and one, maybe two simultaneously on the homepage on most days.

Frankfurter Allgemeine is the worst of the four, deserving of a Tony Soprano shoutout for clickbait ledes: forget about it.

Let's not forget that this is the digital age. You don't run out of space on a page, you don't find the print shop short of one or two letters of movable type, and the ink cost for a web site is guaranteed to be zero - unless you write off the editor's luxury Mont Blanc fountain pen under that line item.

So, there is absolutely no excuse for this disgusting practice

* Yep, gender neutral, out of principle, and also to piss of everybody trapped in the male-female binary. 

** Vor über sechs Monaten machte Stürmer Timo Werner einen Fehler – und noch heute blasen einige moralinsaure Gutmenschen die Backen auf und pfeifen ihn aus. Was stimmt bloß nicht bei denen?  

*** Der Aufschwung in Deutschland ist intakt: Die Unternehmen weiten ihre Fertigung sogar noch mehr als als erwartet. Vor allem in einer Branche.  

[Update 6/11/2017] Clarified both examples are from last few days.

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