The Hype of Headlines (yahoo, huffpost, motley fool, playboy)

October 28, 2012

I woke up just a few moments ago and do what I always do now – reached over for my ipad, checked my email & surfed yahoo homepage, yahoo finance & huffpost to get the gist of current events.

I purposely didn’t open twitter yet because I know I’ll get lost in there for a while, jumping from topic to topic.

And like you, I also don’t really read full articles anymore. I can get an idea of what’s happening by skimming the headlines.

What I’m noticing is the extreme hype in most of the headlines which once you open, rarely live up to the extreme promises.

And there are some patterns. They usually revolve around sex, losing weight, irrational fears, looking pretty (for women), cleavage shots of celebs (mostly for men), sports, scandal, gossip, etc.

Here are some examples from RIGHT NOW:

yahoo homepage:

The ‘Perfect Storm’ beards down on East (current fearful weather news, fair enough)
Pretty woman, ugly makeover (women WILL click on this)
Stunning NBA trade (it’s just a trade, nothing stunning about it)
Secretive man who owns a million acres (plays on our gossip instincts)
Storm of Saturn surprises scientists (who cares, a lot of things surprise scientists)
The time Demi Lovato ‘box dyed’ her hair (who cares)
Biden does a double flub in Virginia (so what?)
Space capsule returns with creepy cargo (just samples of blood and urine of astronauts for study, why is that creepy?)
Jaw-dropping photos of dogs underwater (jaw-dropping? really?)

and my favorite: How to make your home cancer-proof (who won’t click on this? can we really make our home cancer-proof?)

So you may be thinking – big deal, all of this stuff is obvious.

I agree. It is obvious.

But I still click on those hyped headlines and waste my time reading pointless articles. 99.99% of the time, these extreme headlines just lead to regular boring articles.

Why do they use these extreme headlines?

Because there’s just so much noise on the internet (tons of websites competing for our attention) – each party has to use bigger and better headlines to capture our attention.

Once our attention is captured, we’ll click on the article – hopefully read it – but more importantly it means eyeballs for them & more advertising dollars.

I’m not revealing any deep dark secret here. Everyone knows this. But we all fall for it also because the headlines are that damn good at pushing our buttons.

Let’s look at huffpost – my new favorite button pusher:

Huffpost has four sections.

First is the headline news at the top that takes up most of the page. Then there are three columns underneath – editorials on the left side with no pictures (I always ignore that) – middle column with popular news, politics etc – and my favorite right column with gossip, celeb cleavage & sex stuff.

Maybe they figured out that our eyes naturally look to the right and that’s the best place to put these salacious headlines?

Here are the headlines from right column RIGHT now:

Obama Butter Bust Unveiled Downtown (haha, so pointless)
Experts Throw Cold Water on Woman’s Virginity Sale (photo of near nude hot chick)
Madonna Booed at Concert (who the hell cares about madonna?)
7 Shows We’re Quitting (I clicked on this, it’s just another one of those annoying slideshow pictures – completely useless article)
Jennifer Aniston Takes the Plunge (so what)
Barista’s Murder Suspect Had Child Porn (creepy, fearful, must click to avoid similar predicament)

and my favorite: Kim Kardashian’s Dress is About to Fall Off

I clicked on the Kardashian article (why wouldn’t I??!) – and dammit, they got me again.

Another one of those hyped up “this celeb is almost naked” headline that just leads to regular photo slideshows.

The title of the slideshow is “Celebrity (Almost!) Wardrobe Malfunctions.

(click to enlarge)

Only the first pic is of Kardashian just wearing one of her revealing dresses. Nothing magical or “falling off” here. She usually wears way less than what’s in the picture.

Complete bait and switch.

Huffpost does a lot of these bait n switch headlines & I keep falling for them every time.

And the funny thing is: Kardashian has a 100% naked sex tape plastered all over the web + tons of naked photos from magazine shoots & playboy. Why the hell am I so curious to see “almost” wardrobe malfunction?

Male curiosity, I guess. It’s like a pavlovian reaction.

And of course, huffpost knows that people are super curious about Kardashian gossip – so they used that as their headline rather than “some chicks wearing dresses” headline.

The rest of the pics in the slideshow are of other celebs wearing possibly revealing dresses. Big shocker – celebs wear revealing dresses! Nothing you won’t see on the red carpet at emmys/oscars or even on letterman/leno.

Wow, thanks huffpost. You did it to me again! You clever gossip siren pushing all of my buttons. And in return, you got eyeballs & click views or whatever it is that you track to get more ad buys.

The weird thing about huffpost is that it is super liberal, run by a woman & probably has many female workers – but they are the most shameless in celeb almost-nude/upskirt/downblouse/clothes-falling-off articles.

To the right of that article, there’s something else that caught my eye. Brittny Gasineau Bares her Nipples (On Purpose?) In Sheer Top (NSFW Photos)

Aaaah yes, the famous “nsfw” tag that will get every guy (and girl’s) curiosity.

It’s just a picture of another rich “socialite” girl wearing revealing clothes. Big deal.

Motley Fool:

Motley Fool has turned from a useful personal finance & stock market site (when I discovered it in 1999) to a hyped up marketing machine today.

All that we need to know about the motley fool is perfectly described by this ad I see everywhere all the time:

The “betrayal” is that he’s mad at google for allegedly copying the iphone & getting into the mobile telephone market w/ their android os.

It’s been described by Jobs himself in many interviews, in his book & is all over the web. Plus we know that apple is suing samsung for billions of dollars all over the world – as a proxy war – since samsung uses android os.

Who cares?

If you clicked on that fool ad, you’ll be led to this page:

Not only are they going to tell us about the “steve jobs betrayal” (using his popularity to get clicks on headline) – they will also tell us “what you haven’t heard!”

Curiosity overload. There’s something we haven’t yet heard???

Now, I’m not above this. The only reason I didn’t enter my email address this time is because I’ve done it so many times before and 100% of the time I’ve been disappointed.

Is it really worth giving up your email address to hear this “news”? And of course once you’re on their email list, you’ll get a steady stream of emails pushing all of your buttons to sign up for their motley fool newsletters.

I’m not saying motley fool sucks. I’ve made most of my money in stocks because of their awesome stock advisor newsletter. I’ve tried their other newsletters as well – all top notch. And they offer a 30 day free trial & money back guarantee.

But they have to resort to hyped up headlines to push our buttons enough so that we get to that point of being a paid customer. There’s just too much noise on the internet to just wait back and let customers come to you normally.

PS: I’m no saint either. If I ever sell anything – you can bet I’ll use all the marketing techniques to get sales. I’m just pointing out the game here.

Lastly, yahoo finance:

yahoo just aggregates news from 3rd party sources. here are some headlines:

The secrets to investing in uncertain times – motley fool (ps: there are no secrets)
Apple has peaked: the warning signs are multiplying – seeking alpha (danger! warning sign! fear!)
Is this war chest microsoft’s secret weapon? – motley fool (keywords: secret weapon, pushing our curiosity button)
Is apple losing its buy status? – wall st cheat sheet (hey their name rhymes!)
Apple’s surprising number – motley fool (“surprising”)

The Bottom Line:

So what’s the point of me explaining things you already knew?

Well hey, don’t be that harsh. It took me a long time to finally learn all of this for myself! I’m slow.

And just because I consciously know these tricks – it doesn’t mean I don’t click on these headlines. That’s how powerful these marketing tricks are.

Marketers have spent billions figuring out all the buttons that need to be pushed for us to click on something & buy. They rely on our subconscious processes – which are more powerful than our conscious self.

It’s the same trick magazines use at checkout lines at the grocery store. They all have heavily photoshopped pics of hot celebs wearing revealing clothes. And headlines about sex, weight loss, attracting mates, & fear button pushing.

Once you open the magazine, it’s just a boring collection of articles.

Same goes for playboy. Back in the day, I used to think it was just full of naked women. The first time I opened up a playboy, I was severely disappointed.

It’s mostly articles! Boring pointless articles. And there are a few pages of photoshopped naked girls – which is great. But naked girls are just a gimmick to get us to buy boring content.

They’re using high fructose corn syrup (nudity) to sell us words we don’t care about!

It doesn’t matter how many times you trick your cat with a laser light or a piece of string – it will jump, contort & fall all over itself next time you pull out your tricks.

Same with us humans. We’re not as smart or above tricks as we would like to believe.

The best solution is probably to set our own priorities & avoid distractions like the plague.

What is it that we really want to accomplish in life? Wealth? Health? Relationships?

And keep our eyes down & keep pushing forward.

There are many people vying for our attention and each time we get distracted – we’re derailed from our true path.

I now avoid looking at television/internet ads as best as I can. Especially while I’m watching tv shows on hulu – when the long ad plays, I turn off the volume & look away.

As crazy as it sounds, I don’t need expert marketers exploiting my natural human tendencies.

I already waste tons of time as is it without their help! I have more important things I need to accomplish before I die.