Ask Massively: Seven seriously spectacular reasons to hate clickbait

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Ask Massively: Seven seriously spectacular reasons to hate clickbait
Oh hi! Welcome to our clickbait article, and thanks for clicking! No really, let's talk about clickbait. Massively reader Avaera recently posed to me a question that dovetailed nicely with a few complaints I've seen in our comments. He wrote,
Does Massively make a deliberate effort to minimize the number of perceived "clickbait" opinion pieces? That is, to make sure that any controversial topics or unpopular opinions are discussed only sparingly, so that the perception and reputation of the site is kept relatively neutral? I can completely understand trying to manage a certain tone for the community; I'm just curious if that is an explicit factor in some editorial decisions.
I'll tell you, but first you have to click to find out!

First off, I loathe the word "clickbait," and I loathe the ways bloggers feel obligated to justify it because those ways should be self-evident. We shouldn't have to explain to people that we are in the online journalism business and that online journalism relies on people reading our work just as the TV business relies on people watching TV. We write articles, you click on articles, we get ad revenue, we get paid, we write more articles, and so on. If we stop writing things you want to read, then you stop reading, we make no money, the site closes, and we have to go live in a van down by the river. This should be obvious stuff to everyone who isn't brand-new to the internet, right?

So yes, Massively's writers do as much as we ethically can to increase clicks. To do otherwise would be stupid if we want to stay employed, and presumably you also want us to be as interesting as possible for your own entertainment. Who wants to read a boring blog?

I put the word ethically in italics because different organizations go about getting clicks different ways, some of them unsavory. Recently, I saw a rival gaming site post articles with titles essentially offering pics of hawt chicks to readers. I bet those articles did their job and got a lot of clicks, too, but they're gross. Some organizations take SEO deadly seriously and focus heavily on titles like the spoofy title for this article. Some will post rumors and tall tales without substantiation just to be first. Some will deliberately sensationalize or mislead. But I'm of the opinion that long-term and reliable readership is built through quality writing and interesting and humorous angles on MMO topics rather than gimmicks and boobs and being first to post an undeveloped story, personally, so that's where we focus. (Although I'll never stop cajoling our writers to craft catchier headlines!)

To answer Avaera's question more directly, I think I am being fair in saying that we don't try to minimize our coverage of controversial subjects in order to keep the site neutral; in fact, I don't think any site that publishes editorials or awards or has people working for it can ever be neutral. It's definitely our goal to remain factual and impartial in news articles, but our writers are pretty opinionated, and that emerges as the voice of the site in editorials, one that's constantly changing as our staff changes and our opinions change too.

At the same time, a site just can't keep hitting the same topic over and over and over, no matter how strongly the writers feel about it, because it'd eventually lose its luster and become boring to read and result in fewer clicks anyway. So while we don't shy away from controversy just to appear neutral or avoid unjustified clickbait accusations, we might be unconsciously spacing it out a bit, the same way we don't like to put two posts on the same game too close together in a day.

Getting clicks is important, and no professional writer will tell you otherwise. But integrity and interest are important too. Let's just stop labeling everything interesting enough to click on as "clickbait." Not everything interesting or funny or outrageous is a dirty trick, and if a site keeps treating you like a brainless fish -- if it keeps offering cheap bait to capture your clicks and not food to satisfy you -- stop reading it.

What should you play? Where is the MMO industry headed? How does Massively operate? Has Lord British lost his marbles? Why is the edit button on a timer? Should "monoclegate" be hyphenated? Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce submits to your interrogations right here in Ask Massively every other Friday. Drop your questions in the comments below or ping us at Just ask!
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