People are trolling newspaper against no-news and clickbait: that’s the Wikibombing, baby.
You open your favorite newspaper’s Facebook page. Or you find one of its post on your news feed. And, yes, you know that you are on Facebook and maybe it’s even your entertainment time. But, come on: these are newspapers. And you don’t want to find a lot of gossip on them, do you?
Journalists complain all the time that people don’t read newspapers.
They say all the time, in public, that they have to be relevant, as in these ten commandments to change journalism, for example. They say that journalists and newspapers must
- care about their reputation
- listen to society problems
- care about human rights
- engage their readers
- know their readers
- give readers quality, quality, quality…
Then, you open your favorite newspaper’s Facebook page, as I was saying. And you find irrelevant stories. Click bait posts. Disappointing sharings.
The worst strategy that a newspaper could adopt on Facebook is to use the platform just to drive traffic to its site.
And this is just what you find.
«You can’t believe this…», «Watch this incredible video», «This touching kid made the whole web crying. How?», «Look these birds live in webcam: they are taking care of their eggs».
Serious newspapers use these techniques. Or deal with light-non-news. Everybody talk about the same non-news because it’s a traffic-driven-onlu editorial line. Because it’s a click-for-coin business model.
In this way, newspapers lose their unique tone of voice. They contribute to transforming news in commodities. They betray their readers.
In Italy, some days ago, someone decided to react. To be clear, nobody is against light-news. But it depends on the contest, as usual. A Repubblica’s reader(*) wrote this on Repubblica’s Facebook page.
It sounds like: «Why don’t you open a gossip page? A lot of people like me would really do without this kind of news. Moreover, this news is on the rise».
It’s a great suggestion, actually (with 521 reactions, as you can see). It’s a good idea also to increase your potential reach and engagement on Facebook: if you publish relevant content for interested people, you can’t fail. But nobody, in the newsroom, answered.
So, here you are the reaction. It’s a Dadaist one. People start to comment copying and pasting Italian Wikipedia’s content.
This is a light-news from Il Fatto Quotidiano (**). An Italian rapper asked his girlfriend, a famous fashion blogger, to marry him “live”. The journalist wrote a piece about the “rancorous Italy full of frustrations and broken dreams” (a lot of people criticized this marriage proposal). And someone commented talking about Lemurs of Madagascar.
On another Facebook post from la Repubblica you can find comments about dryer, scrotum, how to till the soil…
… sphinx, mandrel, Roman aruspices, Aeolian arch.
Here, a reader explains clikbait.
Another one talks about caryatids.
If you look carefully, you can even find newspapers’ posts with this only kind of comments!
I’ve called this practice Wikibombing (it’s a term I took from a black-hat SEO technique). The idea is partially inspired by a fan page called Random stuff from Wikipedia, partially by an old custom on Usenet and forums.
It’s like a reader is saying: «ok, newspaper. You are talking about something I don’t care. You are talking about something irrelevant. You don’t care about me. You just want my clicks. And so, at least I put a comment with some knowledge inside! In a nonsense way, of course: maybe you’ll understand that you have to stop!».
Ironically, a lot of Italian newspapers suddenly started to use Wikibombing to call this practice, without mentioning the source. This is another demonstration of how much work has to be done to do better in (online) journalism.
Someone thinks that this will increase this kind of posts’ engagement and that Facebook algorithm will reward them. I don’t think it will be true, long-term speaking. And even if this kind of posts should be rewarded, we should understand just one fundamental thing.
Engagement is a pure vanity metric. It’s not relevant at all.
Wikibombing, however, is relevant. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Nothing! Oh, wait! You can actually do something.
What else do you need to stop click bait practice? What else do you need to stop produce futile, useless, damaging articles?
You need to put into practice what it is said to be important. It is totally useless to write the ten Commandments of Journalism if then readers have to give us such a lesson.
Even if it is a really nice lesson like this one.
(*) Repubblica.it is the most visited and famous online newspaper in Italy
(**) Il Fatto Quotidiano’s former Editor in Chief wrote, in the very first issue, that the editorial line of the newspaper would be the «Italian constitution» (!)