Facebook Shutdown (Sought|Not Sought)

It doesn’t even seem to matter anymore if the headline matches the body of the article.  The headline is linkbait – text designed to get you to click on a link to an article – and if it gets you to click, that’s all that matters.  But when you resort to inaccurate link text, that’s another story.

Like this headline from InfoWorld:  “Facebook sued, shutdown sought“. 

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From the body of the article:

The company is not seeking to shut down Facebook, and an injunction is just one option for the judge, Hornick said.

But does it matter that I got tricked into clicking on that link?

For sites like Slashdot, Digg, Fark, and other “social news” sites, where the users are the ones writing the headline and supplying a link to an actual article, it may not matter.  There isn’t same expectation of jouranlistic integrity for your average Digg submitter as there is for the professional writers at InfoWorld, and the users themselves don’t have anything to lose by making their submission seem exciting.

Trust is hard to gain and easy to lose, and misleading headlines are a step in the wrong direction.

Part of the problem is that aggregators are great equalizers.  A story written by Joe Q Blogger doesn’t look any different on Digg than a story by the New York Times.  However, the NYT’s stodgy headline draws less attention than the sensational headline by Joe Q Blogger even if his story contains the same information or even links back to the NYT story.

This creates a downward spiral towards ever-more-sensational headlines.