Why We Title Things The Way We Do

Our thoughts about the famous Cracked.com.

Why We Title Things The Way We Do

Postby LegionofShrooms » Thu Aug 20, 2015 11:20 pm

Well this is a new low.

I have to admit, I'm rather disappointed in this video. I'd honestly looked forward to it hoping to gain some insight on their rather bizarre practices, but instead it came off more as self-excusatory hand waving and blaming your target audience for internal issues and decisions.

Funny thing is, I can't even blame Sargent for this one. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but this video reeks of something pushed by editors/executives as a (poor) attempt at damage control.

As for my thoughts on what they actually said, well, I don't think I can sum up my feelings any better than I did in the comments of the video.

Re: Titling on Cracked

I don't think most of us mind the buzzwords or the hyperbolic overselling of certain qualities of the article, even if we lovingly poke fun at it.

It's mostly when the title is changed to something that is either misleading or flat out untrue, or tries to shoehorn in an idea that wasn't in the article in the first place for the sake of generating outrage to garner clicks that most of us get annoyed.

Case in point-there was an archeological submission a while back about discoveries regarding badass females in history that made us rethink the roles of certain groups of women. It was informative, interesting and entertaining, and stood entirely on its own merit.

By the time the evening had rolled around, the title had been changed to something about how these discoveries somehow meant all archeology was secretly sexist, thereby insulting the concept by making a f**k yeah! article about awesome women an issue about MEN, trying to generate unnecessary anger towards the discoveries and tricking the readers into thinking it was abut something other than what it genuinely is.

Being hyperbolic and trying to sell your article is fine-blatant deception is not, and Cracked's been guilty of the latter a few times as much as any of the other sites he referenced.



To put it in another perspective, let's treat this as we would advertising a product. After all, that's basically what this is, isn't it? Advertising an article.

Now when it comes to advertisement, most people know to take it with as grain of salt. A certain amount of hyperbole is to be expected. That's why while we may snicker about an article being "mind blowingly amazing", we (mostly) keep quiet because you more or less gave us what you said you would.

However, imagine that you bought said product, but rather than it being simply overhyped, it either didn't do what it said it would, or worse, you were sent an entirely different product altogether. You would rightfully be angry. You'd likely be wary of buying from that company in the future, and maybe even seek legal recourse (I'm not actually suggesting anyone should be able to sue for mistitling of articles-that's both absurd and unenforceable. This is merely for the sake of this example).

Just because what you're selling is an idea on the Internet rather than a tangible good, it doesn't change how people react to this sort of practice. Plain and simple, we don't like being deceived. We place a certain amount of trust in this site. When you abuse that trust, it's a hard thing to gain it back. Being a site on the Internet doesn't absolve you of reproach for such actions.

By sacrificing long term reputation for short term views, you make your own core dynamic of fans mistrustful of you. I can't speak for anyone else, but as a result of these practices, I've gone from reading every article and replying multiple times a day to sometimes going three or four days at a stretch without reading by vice of the titles alone. And sometimes it turns out they were good articles too! Just horribly misrepresented.

Bottom line, you're a (social) media site, and venues like this that don't evolve with the times and needs of their target audience are on a fast track to nowhere (just look at cable). Perhaps instead of blaming your audience, a bit of introspection is in order to determine why they are reacting the way they do and what you can do to change it internally.
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Re: Why We Title Things The Way We Do

Postby DamianaRaven » Thu Aug 20, 2015 11:59 pm

LegionofShrooms wrote:I'd honestly looked forward to it hoping to gain some insight on their rather bizarre practices, but instead it came off more as self-excusatory hand waving and blaming your target audience for internal issues and decisions.


Considering that their business model is built around clicks, I would think that the target audience is to blame. If people wouldn't keep clicking on inflammatory, bullshit titles while passing over the more accurate and sensible ones as "booooooring," then there wouldn't be all these internal issues and decisions over titles. Just 'cause you're on the internet using a different form of currency (attention) doesn't mean you stop getting what you pay for.
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Re: Why We Title Things The Way We Do

Postby LegionofShrooms » Fri Aug 21, 2015 3:03 am

DamianaRaven wrote:
LegionofShrooms wrote:I'd honestly looked forward to it hoping to gain some insight on their rather bizarre practices, but instead it came off more as self-excusatory hand waving and blaming your target audience for internal issues and decisions.


Considering that their business model is built around clicks, I would think that the target audience is to blame. If people wouldn't keep clicking on inflammatory, bullshit titles while passing over the more accurate and sensible ones as "booooooring," then there wouldn't be all these internal issues and decisions over titles. Just 'cause you're on the internet using a different form of currency (attention) doesn't mean you stop getting what you pay for.


Oh, there's no denying that the reader base can be part of the problem. There's a reason Cracked continually uses these dodgy tactics even after admitting they're deceitful-it works. Well, for now at least.

But when the higher ups are the ones that pushed these decisions (among others) in the first place and are hiding behind a veil of "Well everyone else is doing it!" rather than trying to focus on the quality content and at least the bare minimum of honesty in advertising over misdirection and provoking outrage, they don't get to just absolve themselves of guilt by blithely shifting blame to the readers.
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Re: Why We Title Things The Way We Do

Postby NathanLoiselle » Fri Aug 21, 2015 3:48 am

LegionofShrooms wrote:Oh, there's no denying that the reader base can be part of the problem. There's a reason Cracked continually uses these dodgy tactics even after admitting they're deceitful-it works. Well, for now at least.

But when the higher ups are the ones that pushed these decisions (among others) in the first place and are hiding behind a veil of "Well everyone else is doing it!" rather than trying to focus on the quality content and at least the bare minimum of honesty in advertising over misdirection and provoking outrage, they don't get to just absolve themselves of guilt by blithely shifting blame to the readers.


This is an interesting comment especially when you consider reading material from other sources. For instance Gawker is trying to become more respectable and when the editorial staff fails to live up to that goal they strike out at the management for interference instead of blaming the audience for reading said material.
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Re: Why We Title Things The Way We Do

Postby PSTN » Fri Aug 21, 2015 6:10 am

This whole video felt like going into a business to complain about their product and being told, "well you're the idiot who bought it." He pretty much admitted that they don't really care about creating good content or whether or not they're deceptive or needlessly inflammatory. The only thing that matters is the clicks.

I really wish we could collectively work out a way to easily spend small amounts of money online, so that the driving factor behind the content is our satisfaction, rather than our attention. The current model just encourages spectacle, rather than quality.
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Re: Why We Title Things The Way We Do

Postby DamianaRaven » Fri Aug 21, 2015 6:22 am

Well said, Piston. I haven't watched the video, cause I don't often do that without extraordinary incentive.
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Re: Why We Title Things The Way We Do

Postby reallifegirl » Fri Aug 21, 2015 5:06 pm

I find the timing of the video interesting, since it seems like titles aren't even being changed mid-day anymore. I get to work at around 8:30am EST, will open Cracked, shuffle my papers, and notice the titles have already altered. It seems to have been happening a lot this past week; I'm pretty sure today's Photoplasty had changed by 8:45.
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Re: Why We Title Things The Way We Do

Postby Crimson847 » Fri Aug 21, 2015 6:18 pm

Someone needs to give Sargent some Xanax or something. It seems like he's trying to do the Zero Punctuation fast-talking bit, but he stumbles over himself too much and it comes off like he's just super nervous.

Regarding what he actually said, I didn't interpret it as "we don't care about good content" so much as "it doesn't matter how good our content is if no one looks at it", which is a fair point. Looking at the reader stats on Cracked articles seems to back up this line of thinking.

One can argue (as I would) that bullshit clickbait damages their brand and hurts them over the long term by replacing dedicated readers with magpies drawn to anything shiny who will flit off to another site at the drop of a hat, but here's the thing: that's a self-serving claim. I'm basically saying "giving me more valuable content without charging anything extra for it will help your business!". Without strong evidence to support my claim, it just comes off as another greedy customer always wanting more for less and thinking what's good for me is good for everybody. And when it comes down to a decision between believing some random reader on faith and believing the numbers in front of their face, I can't blame Cracked's staff too much for going with the latter.
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Re: Why We Title Things The Way We Do

Postby LegionofShrooms » Fri Aug 21, 2015 8:51 pm

I suppose that's a fair point, and maybe there is a bit of selfishness wrapped up in it on our part.

But here's the point that irks me. You don't necessarily have to choose one or the other. You can have something be fully clickbait and still use a bare modicum of truth when advertising it in the title. Cracked has done it enough for me to easily believe it's possible.

If they want to publish a certain kind of content or advertise it a certain kind of way because it sells, well, it's there site so go for it.

But when the titles don't make any sense in context to the story (or for that matter sometimes don't even make sense as an intelligible phrase in the English language), the only conclusions that I can typically draw without doing the kind of mental gymnastics that would make the Westboro Baptist Church green with envy is that the person titling them that day is either

A) incompetent or ignorant of the actual content of the article
B) Doesn't care
C) Is being intentionally deceitful
Or
D) any combination of the above
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Last edited by LegionofShrooms on Sat Aug 22, 2015 7:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why We Title Things The Way We Do

Postby AdricDePsycho » Sat Aug 22, 2015 6:13 pm

I thought Sargent had a beard? You mean...that was really him? I thought it was whoever replaced Cody in his videos, the guy everyone hates for replacing him?
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