On September 30th the business section of the BBC News website produced an article described on its main homepage as being about “lowbrow click-bait”.
BBC business reporter Will Smale’s article (titled “Taboola: The internet firm at the forefront of ‘click-bait’“) opens:
“You may not have heard of a company called Taboola, but what it does may annoy you greatly.
“Controversial slimming pill sweeps the UK”, “15 inconveniences of being a woman”, “Nine people you won’t actually believe exist”, “Danger! Don’t watch this with your wife” – if you’ve ever seen any of these headlines screaming out at you, then you’ll be familiar with the company’s work.
Taboola is one of the main providers of sponsored stories on news and gossip websites.
When you scroll to the bottom of the page, there are picture and caption links to three, six or eight external stories, typically under the headings “More stories from around the web” or “You may like”.
More often than not the captions hoping to tempt you to click on them are just a little lowbrow, and the photos accompanying them typically show celebrities or women in bikinis (or both).
Critics have described Taboola’s (and its rivals’) content as “spam”, “click-bait”, “degrading”, “representing a race to the bottom” and many other derogatory terms.”
Whilst the pejorative term ‘click-bait’ is usually employed to describe material aimed at generating online advertising revenue, the method behind it is of course the presentation of content under an enticing ‘bait’ headline which raises readers’ curiosity to a level which causes them to click on the link.
Philosophically minded readers might care to ponder the question of the difference, if any, between that type of “lowbrow” click-bait and a recent example (from the end of August) of the BBC’s own use of the fashionably ‘highbrow’ equivalent of a celeb in a bikini when the then ‘hot’ topic of Gaza was used to prompt readers of the BBC News website to click on an article about immigration in Australia.
And if the BBC is going to engage in ‘highbrow’ explanation of Latin terms, audiences might of course be more impressed were it to do so accurately before publication. That error has since been corrected.