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‘Desperate’ media snared by ‘clickbait trap’ says weekly editor

Leo WhitlockA weekly editor has launched a strongly-worded attack on “desperate” media organisations for using so-called “clickbait” to increase their online readership.

Kentish Gazette chief Leo Whitlock hit out in an editorial looking at how the digital age had affected news coverage on the paper’s patch.

Leo, pictured left, wrote that the Gazette was using its “vast” social media following to find news and promote stories, rather than share “naked pics of celebs with no local link” with its readership.

The comment was a thinly-veiled reference to a rival Kent title which last year covered a national news story about the online leaking of nude pictures of celebrities.

In his piece, Leo argued that the Gazette had “stood out from the crowd” in the digital age by continuing to produce “trusted” content.

He wrote: “We are not afraid of running the odd quirky story while not falling into the clickbait trap loved by many news organisations desperate for someone to read their content.

“We avoid lists of the best places to go dogging or running stories about popular TV shows or naked pictures of celebs with no local link.

“We are using our vast social media following to find news, promote our stories and be part of our audience’s lives. They talk to us and we talk to them like never before.”

In October last year, Simon Finlay, editor of the Local World-owned Maidstone and Medway News, defended a decision to cover a national news story about the online leaking of nude pictures of celebrities.

It was illustrated by a picture of an American fashion model, Erin Heatherton and another celebrity with no known link to the paper’s patch.

At the time, Simon had argued “teaser” stories had got the News’s website thousands of hits.

However, the decision was criticised by Gareth Davies, chief reporter of sister title the Croydon Advertiser, who described the practice as “utterly shameless” on Twitter.

In June, Richard Bowyer, former editor of The Sentinel, Stoke, claimed “soulless web analysts” were destroying trust in newspapers in a blog post in which he said he had been asked to make decisions on placing stories based on how well they had performed online.

Since then Trinity Mirror has published plans to introduce individual web audience targets for journalists, although the company has denied this will encourage “clickbait.”


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  • September 14, 2015 at 9:03 am

    Looks like the Local World clickbait rush, if nothing else, has given it sufficient digital numbers to make Trinity Mirror want it. I hope the TM execs are looking carefully at what lies behind the glossy brochure though.

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  • September 14, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Kendo, the dogging site outside Chester has closed but I believe there are kennels operating in Wirral and North Wales

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  • September 14, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Shoreham Air Crash was a sad example. Local papers way beyond area or people affected put it on their websites as click-bait. Don’t care how many hits it drew, sad stuff. Local just ain’t local any more.

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  • September 14, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Last year I was tempted click on a story entitled “Shots fired in city street,” only to find that the city in question was 50 miles from the city covered by the newspaper whose website I was searching.

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  • September 14, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Anton, it is all part of the desperate panic to get as many clicks as you can regardless of whether the story is local or not. All rather pathetic.

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  • September 14, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    Clickbait is the complete antithesis of what local newspaper websites should be about, they should be ultra-local otherwise what is the point?

    Too many sites have gone down the clickbait route for cheap and easy hits, you may as well just paraphrase the Daily Mail and have done with it.

    It is also utterly soul destroying for any journalist to have to be told to write this drivel.on a day to day basis – there might be an industry being built out of this, but it isn’t journalism.

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  • September 16, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    when employed by the hapless JP (check share price for confirmation of current state) and under pressure to file five a day (not vegetables, they were all in the boardroom) I wrote some web material that shamed me with its triviality. I got an e mail thanking me for my good work.
    And once glance at any JP site will tell you it is worse now. Where does it all go from here?

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  • September 17, 2015 at 7:23 am

    I’ve been in regional papers and I now place sds for a large but local organisation ie we only seek local ‘customers’. I know the figures online are a sham. The sales people quote these vast numbets of people online (more than the whole population of the city) but no one knows where they are, or if they are real. It’s the house built on sand and we know what happened there!

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