The News World In A Ratings Universe

The decline and fall of TV news and its values

As you are already aware, online and digital content has dramatically changed how we do everything. As the way information is transmitted and shared online changes, so are the tactics used to acquire your attention. Now I understand that as more of the public absorbs their news from online sources, news outlets need to adapt and change to ensure they don’t lose (too much of) their market share.

However, a problem arises when these practices are taken over the top or to the extreme, which, unfortunately, is what we see in today’s television news outlets. It is ridiculous when 60-70% of every news headline you see is the exact equivalent of the pointless, nagging, endless ‘click-bait’ headlines you see on websites grabbing for any advertising revenue they can lay their hands on.


We have given it the name ‘attention bait’ – and that is exactly what they’re doing. People will not stop receiving news from traditional means such as television – at least not for long. But as CEOs and shareholders watch (excuse the pun) ratings fall to newer media sources (i.e., the Internet), they scramble to grab onto who they can, when they can.

Want an example?

Since the racist fraternity scandal, there have been at least five sudden additional stories that I have personally witnessed (not intentionally – I was at the gym- I don’t get my news from TV). 5 other minor & not-so-minor stories about university-related incidents. Do you think these suddenly started happening? Did (insert major network here) discover about these injustices?



They know that wherever they can throw in a keyword that includes a university, fraternity, student, or school, they will attract an audience because it is at the forefront of many people’s minds.

Want another one?

After the Ferguson, Missouri shooting, do you think all of a sudden, other injustices regarding police started happening out of nowhere?


It was/is the “hot” or “talked about” subject, and outlets would capitalize on it everywhere possible. Is it good that these stories are seeing the light of day? Absolutely, but it is certainly not because of the good consciousness of the news media.

Still not convinced?

Are you still not convinced that actual TV news uses click-bait style headlines to lure or catch the eye of potential viewers? Look at their websites! Major news outlets are some of the worst violators of click-bait junk. One of them, which starts with a letter close to the beginning of the alphabet and ends with 2 “N”s


Here’s another issue: right above a large picture of something to surely move or horrify a potential click victim. Just because a few media outlets do this doesn’t mean the story isn’t valid, but the means to reach the end is so blatantly predatory that it’s annoying. The use of aggressive keywords to grab attention or incite emotion. Every time someone or something is spoken about (usually negatively), the headline will read “The war on (insert)” or “(so and so) under fire.”

Really? Words such as war, under-fire, attacked, and endless reiterations and reincarnations of like terms help no one. These things are not used in the effort to describe a situation to us; they’re for you to ensure as many people as possible don’t click away in the next 30 seconds.

The vague or ridiculous headlines

Vague headlines annoy me worse than anything – they are purposeful baiting and drive me up a wall. If your story is so important and you want people to read it, take it for what it is, and not ruin your credibility as a service, then don’t purposefully bait it. It is asinine. The following is seriously a headline I saw a few weeks ago, and Fox News is currently displaying the same headline.

“Rare Doomed Planet with Extreme Seasons Discovered”

WOW, if that isn’t the most gratuitous use of over-hyped, over-speculative, attention-grabbing headlines. If you want attention so much, get a tattoo or grow long hair. Remember, corporations are people, so technically, Fox can do it. For the record, I never clicked on it. The headline failed.

And to continue this rant, here’s another thing.

If something is such breaking news ( How is it breaking if it happened two days ago and the situation is over) or is so important, we NEED to stay tuned, then don’t say “when we come back” and cut it to 9 minutes of commercials. Some stations will do anything to ensure you don’t click away for 9 minutes. They’ll dangle that cheese right before you and me for as long as possible to ensure they get the most ad revenues possible.

It’s not just TV.

When you strip away the ridiculous clickbait that, in my eyes, renders any website spouting it next to useless, the ‘Top 10s’ should go too – and they are, eventually, on their way out.

There are some perfectly valid top 10 lists, and some are incredibly useful. But you know the ones I’m talking about, those at the end of a page or in the sidebar. The ones about aging, fertility, or muscle building – More topical trigger words! To Obtain the Best Viewing Experience, Please Disable Ad-Block. Oh yeah, sure, let me get right on that! While I’m at it, would you like all the money in my bank account?

We are in a state of flux for news; the market is evolving and changing, and as it does, tactics will be tried, and schemes will be devised. what gives me hope is that it won’t be like this for long – it can’t be. Online users begin to notice the tricks of the trade and avoid them. That is the great thing about the Internet; it is built for our use and not someone else’s (though sometimes it is) profit. If you provide a proper, concise, effective delivery system, people are happy to use it and patronize your service. Try to scheme, weasel, deceive prey, or stalk, and you will become a heap of HTML on the ash heap of the internet along with AOL Internet Explorer.


Alcohol scholar. Bacon fan. Internetaholic. Beer geek. Thinker. Coffee advocate. Reader. Have a strong interest in consulting about teddy bears in Nigeria. Spent 2001-2004 promoting glue in Pensacola, FL. My current pet project is testing the market for salsa in Las Vegas, NV. In 2008 I was getting to know birdhouses worldwide. Spent 2002-2008 buying and selling easy-bake-ovens in Bethesda, MD. Spent 2002-2009 marketing country music in the financial sector.