More than once I have shared my angst about the sensationalist format of many websites. These sites use catchy photos that have nothing to do with the article, pop-up reminders that come right back after clicking them closed, and/or fear-mongering headlines that use scare tactics to persuade you to purchase an overpriced, marginally useful video course or 30 page eBook.
Why do they do this? The more traffic they generate, the more likely that unsuspecting readers will click on a network ad and generate income for the website owner.
Many of these sites steal content from legitimate, hardworking authors and, when challenged, set up hate mail campaigns to spam comments and Facebook feeds. It is a real problem for many of us and something bloggers have to deal with day in and day out.
Jim Cobb at Survival Weekly wrote an article that addresses this problem. Many of you know Jim as a frequent participant in BDS Book Festivals. He is prolific author of high-quality books on preparedness and has a pretty decent web site to boot.
With his permission, I want to share his article with you. If you are a seeker of truth, take heed to what he is saying and do your best to avoid clickbait. It is important.
The online world is very much a double-edged sword. I mean, we live in an age where just about any piece of information we seek is, quite literally, at our fingertips. Yet, at the same time, people are becoming less and less likely to make even the most minimal effort to obtain reliable information. Case in point – Clickbait.
Clickbait is a technique used by websites to increase their traffic. Basically, the website will come up with some sort of sensational headline, one that is sure to evoke an almost immediate, emotional response from the reader. Something like, “Obama sues trucking company for not hiring Muslim terrorists!” The headline is posted on social media along with a link to the website. The linked page typically contains very little in the way of hard facts and instead is usually a poorly researched and sometimes horribly written “article” that, from time to time, might even have little or nothing to do with the headline.
The idea behind clickbait is to accomplish two goals. First, many people will just share that post without actually reading the article. The headline is enough to incense people to the point to where they’ll post a comment and share the link. This increases the reach of the website, allowing more and more people to see that link. This serves the second goal of increasing traffic to the website. The more people who see the link, the more who will click on it. These websites make money off of your traffic through advertising. Often, the rate of pay is linked directly to the number of clicks the website generates in a given time period. The more clicks, the more money earned.
Keep in mind, too, that there really is nothing to prevent any website from posting whatever the hell it wants. Some sites, such as The Onion, specialize in parody and making their “news” look like real news. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people share links to Onion articles believing the stories to be genuine, regardless of how ridiculous the story actually is.
There is a difference, though, between parody and outright bullshit. The latter is what many websites consider to be their stock in trade. The folks running the sites don’t care that the stories posted are utter and complete fabrications. As long as the traffic numbers are high, that’s all that matters. The sad fact is, many people who read such nonsense can’t be bothered to apply even an iota of common sense to see if the story passes muster. They read it on the Internet so it must be true! So, they forward on the link to the story to every person in their address book and on their friend’s list. At least a percentage of those folks will click on the link and the circle continues on and on and on….
Preppers and survivalists often say that they believe facts about the world, the government, whatever, are being withheld from them. That conspiracies are afoot and we are in danger from Jade Helm, Planet X, New World Order, whatever. I don’t know what truth, if any, lies behind those so-called conspiracies. I do know this, though. You aren’t likely to find any real answers on a quasi-news website that is filled with clickbait.
We complain a lot about the mainstream media and how it distorts the truth. There is definitely a bias present in just about any news story that you read, see, or hear. Gone are the days of “just the facts” reporting. That said, people sometimes overlook that this applies across the board, no matter if you’re looking at a liberal or conservative news source.
Use your head for something more than just a hat rack, folks. Apply just a little logic and common sense before you buy into these sensational stories hook, line, and sinker.
Jim Cobb is a prolific author and friend of Backdoor Survival. In addition to his website at www.SurvivalWeekly.com, Jim publishes a free weekly newsletter called “The Survival Dispatch”. I invite you to sign up here.
Given the financial chaos in the world right now, you may also want to check out his book The Prepper’s Financial Guide: Strategies to Invest, Stockpile and Build Security for Today and the Post-Collapse Marketplace. In his usual style, Jim offers tips and strategies that are both practical, and easy to implement.
The Final Word
As time goes on, those of us that are serious about preparedness will continue to be challenged in our attempt to separate truth from lies. What is real and what is made up? It is bad enough that the main stream media is slanted to whitewashing reality but when the alternative media jumps in with dubious claims, where do we turn?
I don’t have any answer other than this: take what you read online with a grain of salt. If something does not seem right, seek out other avenues that will either validate or refute what you read. Come to your own conclusions and most of all, don’t follow the sheep. Be your own person and use the gray matter that sits between your ears.
There are plenty of fantastic online resources that are credible. Todd Sepulveda’s Prepper Website is a great place to start. Seek out the honest and forthcoming websites and support them by returning to visit them again and again. Sign up for their newsletters and share their work.
At the end of the day, the truth will rise to the top.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!