Tuesday, August 19, 2008

All the news that fits (multiple sizes available)

Back in April, and then again in May, I wrote about Yahoo and CNN.com, respectively, employing titillating—and even misleading—news headlines to generate more click-throughs than might otherwise be expected given the story content. More click-throughs leading to more money from the advertisers who pay for the eyeballs these sites provide.

The other day I saw this headline (at left) on CNN.com’s front page. Anyone who knows me decently well knows that I’m opposed to public discussion of bathroom-related activites. It's just not an appropriate topic in polite conversation. With that in mind, imagine my delight at reading “E. coli poop could be new fuel source.”

For starters, “poop”? Really?

You’re freakin’ CNN! You’re “the most trusted name in news” (according to your slogan.) Does use of the term “poop” in a headline support that claim? Was there some discussion that the term “waste” might be confusing?

Or are you simply hoping to sell a few t-shirts? [Cue dramatic Perry Mason-esque music to signify the seriousness of my accusation.]

That’s right, folks. T-shirts!

If you regularly visit CNN.com you’re probably familiar with the little video camera icon next to news headline that signify the story is actually video, not text. Look at the headline above again and check out the icon next to the video icon.

It registered for me right away. “Is that a t-shirt?” I wondered. (Incidentally, nice work, graphics dude or dame; your icon communicates quite clearly.)

Sure enough, if you click on the little t-shirt icon you get redirected to an online store where you can purchase a t-shirt featuring your favorite CNN headline! How awesome is that?!

Answer: Not awesome.

Since seeing this, I swear CNN.com has been using ridiculous headlines more frequently and leaving them posted “above the fold” for longer periods than in the past. (Today’s big winner is “Playboy bunny’s love is unrequited.”)

Today’s loser is everyone who goes to CNN.com for serious but accessible news and finds less and less of it. Surely this new revenue stream (and you know that’s how this idea was pushed through and green-lighted) compromises CNN.com’s primary goal (that being bringing us the news, in case you’d forgotten).

Someone should remind them.

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