Clickbait has a bad name, frankly, because there is a genuine art to an eye-catching headline.
In these go-go frantic days of mobile reading and 24 hour news cycles, when every news organisation is frantically competing for eyeballs, being able to draw the jaded reader into one’s site even for a second is battle of gladiatorial proportions.
And if you’re a newspaper reporting a reasonably dry story about a reasonably dull topic – that the government are cracking down on the illegal tobacco trade, which is apparently a thing – then you need to do something more snazzy than “People Are Cheating The Tobacco Industry Out Of Poison Dollars”. Which is what I would have gone with while deploying all the insufferable smugness of an asthmatic lifetime non-smoker.
And thus I would like to applaud the unknown Fairfax subeditor who worked clickrate magic on journalist Mark Kenny’s piece on Sunday, “Government ‘butt-squad’ to chase billions in criminal tobacco fraud”.
Government Butt Squad.
Just roll that around your mouth for a second. It’s just an enjoyable thing to say out loud, as well as being an amazing name for your next punk band.
It’s such a pleasure that it doesn’t even immediately register that “butts” are the things that cigarettes burn down to and are not a synonym for cigarettes themselves and that therefore the headlines doesn’t really make sense in context, unless these criminal syndicates were smoking their own supply first.
But enough of such infernal nitpickery! We say excelsior, SMH: the culture is the richer for your exemplary headlinesmanship.