For sites that generate all their “links,” like some new startups think about it, clickbait is the devil. It takes advantage of our need to fulfill a once-obligatory click or interact with a news article in order to appear clickworthy. Today’s sites are vying to be at the very center of headlines, with headlines enticing readers to click, and after three and a half seconds a half percentage point in Google news rankings is no longer needed in order to enter the coveted top five. Better get clicking! It gets clickbait to the ground faster, therefore elevating the story overall. Also, making the news “more clickable,” boosting its popularity. All of this adds up to a clickbait fire hose of content, serving up millions of articles on multiple topics across multiple publications that might not be as engaging as the first line of a story by Emily Nussbaum over at The New Yorker, or the next line of Jason Citron over at BuzzFeed, or the next line of a story by N.T. Wright over at the New York Times.

Adding to the overall fire hose of headlines is the rise of social media websites (hi Facebook), and people’s tendencies to share stories more freely to their friends, enabling them to enjoy the content without perusing it first. As Anne Mulkern at The Washington Post explains, this combination of rising clickbait volume (constantly rising) combined with decreasing clickbait efficacy (rising clicks) means our main means of news consumption is not actually essential for getting the information you need for living a fulfilling life, but more so for getting the stuff you want to read now (like people who click the headline).

Want to eliminate clickbait, enhance your web traffic and save people money? Founders Arielle Zeliger and Lezlie Patterson want to help. Zeliger tells me they’ve created a computer program, Wordflow Ai, that does all the heavy lifting in generating headlines for all the websites, reducing search engine “help” in order to squeeze more clicks. Naturally, Wordflow Ai is a gross-out topic for Mayors to eliminate, but I’m not arguing against this as a solution. In fact, we could make this work across our entire news consumption cycle. Instead of waiting three and a half seconds for a summary of the most recent Pulitzer-prize winning news story, and clicking it because “oh yes,” Wordflow Ai churns through all the articles and sources to churn out the title of the story so that when you click on it, your eyes automatically think they are about to read an actual breaking news story, not a clickbait headline.

So what is one to do for longer-term news? Zeliger says for major news stories, Wordflow Ai is likely not a solution, but they’re trying to put some pressure on an industry currently trying to build on data and clickbait. With this approach, they hope to introduce a new set of metrics, keeping a very close eye on the quantity and quality of all the content for companies trying to monetize their content.

Companies might be forced to take some action if they don’t respond to this competition, so keep an eye on these two innovative companies and how they are able to disrupt the current landscape.


What tech has taught us about ‘fake news’ and how to fight it