The headline: “Keep calm and write a headline worth reading.”
Facebook announced recently that it would step up its efforts “to weed out stories that people frequently tell us are spammy and that they don’t want to see.” Part of that is reducing “click-baiting headlines.” From Facebook’s company blog:
“Click-baiting” is when a publisher posts a link with a headline that encourages people to click to see more, without telling them much information about what they will see. Posts like these tend to get a lot of clicks, which means that these posts get shown to more people, and get shown higher up in News Feed.
The example Facebook used was a post from Celeb Style Weekly that read, “You’ll NEVER believe which two stars got into a fight on the red carpet last night!! CLICK to find out which starlet they were fighting over!!”
Saved you a click: Celeb Style Weekly is a mock page created for the blog post.
“Hyperbolic come-ons of this sort run counter to principles more traditional (some might say outdated) news outlets take pride in following,” Driscoll writes. He continues:
Among them: Keep the exaggeration in check and the blowout language in your back pocket, because someday you may need those explosive adjectives when a truly big story lands. Using “destroys” to describe what a comedian did to a politician’s position looks odd when the word also characterizes the devastation wrought by deadly floods.
Driscoll also notes that if a potential reader’s motivation to click on your story can be killed with one or two words, the specialty of Twitter feeds like @SavedYouAClick, “It’s the story that’s the problem.”
Comedian Louis CK makes a similar point in his comedy special “Hilarious,” which I won’t embed here because too much in the routine is inappropriate. He talks about people using extreme words like “amazing” and “hilarious” to describe things that aren’t.
“We go right to the top shelf with our words now,” he says. “‘Dude, it was amazing. It was amazing.’ Really? You were amazed? You were amazed by a basket of chicken wings? Really? Amazing? What are you gonna do with the rest of your life now? What if something really happens to you? [Here he describes Jesus returning and impregnating the speaker with the 'new lord.'] What are you gonna call that? You used ‘amazing’ on a basket of chicken wings!”
Have you noticed that there’s a new player in the sports media field? It’s TMZ, which broke the Ray Rice elevator video this week. TMZ also had scoops with the Donald Sterling audio this spring and the news last year that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was being investigated by police for an alleged sexual assault.
The New York Times wrote about how TMZ, which began and thrived as a Hollywood celebrity gossip site, has moved into sports:
TMZ decided to move beyond Hollywood and into sports after it helped break the story of Tiger Woods’s extramarital indiscretions. The logic was simple, driven home by the public’s seemingly unending interest in Woods’s off-the-course activities: Sports are now their own form of pop culture, and some of our biggest celebrities are athletes.
I think TMZ moving into sports and quickly becoming a major player is a reminder that in today’s fast-changing media world, you never know where your competition—or your next potential employer or partner, for that matter—is going to come from.
I often repeat the advice, which hardly originated with me, to differentiate yourself, make yourself valuable by doing something that nobody else does. But even if you manage that, you can be bopping along, thinking you’ve got the market cornered on something, and here comes someone you didn’t even know was in the game to beat you at it.
It’s a tough racket, all right.
Jeff Pearlman, an author and freelance sportswriter who sometimes writes for Bleacher Report, does a weekly Q-and-A interview on his personal website “with a person from sports/entertainment/politics/whatever.” He calls it The Quaz. It’s often a great read.
This week’s Quaz is with Peter Carry, the longtime executive editor of Sports Illustrated, where Pearlman was a staff writer from 1996 to 2002. Pearlman writes that Carry was a legendary editor who “presided over the golden age of sports journalism,” starting at S.I. in 1964. A short, typed note from Carry praising a story, Pearlman writes, was all the sustenance a Sports Illustrated writer needed.
He asks his former boss about his approach to editing:
The most important work was done before the story was written, even before it was even assigned. Rule 1: The best ideas come from the guys in the field (and Lord knows whatever other sources outside your office), so listen. Refine. Combine. Bad ideas result in bad stories, no matter who’s doing the writing. Rule 2: Listen and talk to the writer. Don’t nag, don’t hang over her shoulder. But do have a discourse. Challenge. Help the writer refine the idea. Rule 3: Read the damn story all the way through before you lay a pencil or a cursor on it. This seems like a simple matter, like medical personnel always washing their hands before they touch a patient, but you’d be surprised how often patients and stories get prematurely handled. Rule 4: Be gentle but be firm.
I’ll let you read the rest of it. My favorite part is when Pearlman asks Carry what it was like to work at Sports Illustrated at it’s peak, and Carry begins his answer, “Do you watch Mad Men?”
Sourcing is an important facet of writing for Bleacher Report. With the vast amount of information available in the digital media landscape, it’s vital that we attribute our sources properly to give credit where it’s due.
The Attribution Guidelines are a handy reference point, but here we’ll look at those guidelines and expand on some areas where there is occasionally confusion.
All news items that have broken in the 24 hours before your article publishes should be attributed with a link and citation to a credible, original source.
This includes national stories that could be considered common knowledge, such as LeBron James signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers. While the news may be widely circulated on the web, it’s still proper journalistic practice to acknowledge the person or outlet who broke the story.
Some examples of properly sourced breaking news:
LeBron James is rejoining the Cleveland Cavaliers, announcing the decision in an essay on SI.com told to Lee Jenkins.
At left wing-back, Luke Shaw begins his first United season with a hamstring injury and is expected to be out a month, as reported by BBC Sport.
Once a team or league has officially confirmed the news, a link to the official announcement is sufficient attribution rather than naming a media outlet. For example:
Bayern Munich have announced the signing of Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso from Real Madrid.
All rumors must be sourced to a credible, original outlet. For advice on what to look for in a “credible” source, see this B/R Blog post.
Typically, a rumor will be accompanied by a word like “reportedly,” but in general it is a story that’s unconfirmed by official sources.
Personal speculation does not need to be sourced, but all items framed as rumors or speculation from elsewhere must be attributed to credible outlets. See examples of correct sourcing for rumors below:
According to Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman, executives around the league believe Jim Harbaugh is wearing down the San Francisco locker room.
Tottenham are interested in a move for Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck, with James Orr of The Independent reporting that the north London club are the favourites to sign the England international.
According to Alan Nixon of The Daily Mirror, Fulham are interested in a loan deal for Valencia star Sergio Canales.
Quotes and Paraphrases
All quotes and paraphrases not obtained firsthand should be sourced to credible, original outlets. Proprietary quotes and paraphrases are attributed by linking to and citing that source.
All quotations that are not proprietary to one source (such as those from press conferences where several outlets are reporting the same quotes) should be properly hyperlinked to a source confirming the quotes, while specifying the context in which the quotes were made (“in a press conference …” “told reporters …” etc.).
Writers may also clearly indicate when and where the quotes were reported live (such as a TV broadcast), in which case no link is required.
Example (Indirect, Non-Proprietary Quotes)
Incorrect: After the game, Richard Sherman said, “I know some ‘thugs,’ and they know I’m the furthest thing from a thug.”
Correct (Writer garners indirect, non-proprietary quotes from the Internet): In a press conference, Richard Sherman said, “I know some ‘thugs,’ and they know I’m the furthest thing from a thug.”
Correct (Writer garners indirect, non-proprietary quotes from live TV/radio/etc.): In a postgame press conference televised on ESPN, Richard Sherman said, “I know some ‘thugs,’ and they know I’m the furthest thing from a thug.”
Distinguishing Between Primary and Secondary Sources
When attributing information, it’s important to ensure you’re giving credit to the correct source(s). Not only do we need clear attribution to the original source reporting the story, but we also need to credit any secondary sources from which you’ve obtained the information.
For example, this Mark Polishuk article on MLB Trade Rumors collects various reports from around the web, including a piece from ESPN’s Jayson Stark. Here’s proper attribution if you’re relying on Polishuk’s article:
Since Stark is the original source but we obtained the information through MLB Trade Rumors, we should credit both sources, with a hat tip (h/t) to the secondary source. It’s inaccurate to say MLB Trade Rumors is solely responsible for the rumor.
Be sure to read a source thoroughly to verify if the story is based on someone else’s reporting.
Sourcing Information That Isn’t Available Online
If something was reported in a print publication that’s not available online, we do not need a link: A citation and a clear indication that the source was a publication is enough. For example, we would ask you to make it clear when using quotes from a magazine.
Information from books also does not need to be linked. One common issue we see is writers linking to Amazon pages for books as a way of sourcing, but it is actually against our guidelines on promotional content to link to a page where a book that you have not written can be purchased.
Similarly, if writers want to use a report they saw on a television broadcast, they don’t need to link to it, but it must be made clear that it came from a broadcast:
Ian Rapoport reported on NFL Total Access that Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson has asked to be traded.
Attributing Firsthand Information
While most B/R writers are prohibited from breaking their own news, we do allow all writers to acquire and use firsthand quotes in their articles. However, because a lot of the information we use comes from external sources, we ask that writers make it clear when what they are reporting is firsthand.
There are a few ways this can be done:
- A tagline placed at the end of your article or slideshow saying “All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.”
- An indication in the text (“she told me,” “he said in an exclusive interview with Bleacher Report”).
- A dateline at the start of your article.
In that same vein, we ask that firsthand observations from events such as NFL training camps and college football practices are clearly attributed as being your own if that’s the case. Otherwise, we would need them to be sourced with a link and citation as they are considered proprietary to those reporting them.
* * *
Calum Rogers is a Content Moderator at Bleacher Report.
Seattle Seahawks 36, Green Bay Packers 16. And the NFL is underway. Last week we introduced our college football coverage team. Today, here’s the rundown on the NFL roster.
The onetime NFL defensive back brings inside-the-NFL player perspective to his analysis for Bleacher Report and Team Stream Now.
Adam Lefkoe (@AdamLefkoe)
B/R’s video host Adam Lefkoe anchors the Team Stream Now studio.
Stephen Nelson (@Stephen__Nelson)
Just in time for this NFL season, Nelson joins Bleacher Report video team as a Team Stream Now anchor.
Chris Simms (@CSimmsQB)
A former University of Texas and NFL quarterback, Simms is Bleacher Report’s lead NFL video analyst.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram Cowboys beat reporter will write about the Cowboys regularly for Bleacher Report.
Michael Schottey (@Schottey)
Ty Schalter (@tyschalter)
Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writers Michael Schottey and Ty Schalter provide perspective on the biggest games and the biggest news around the league.
AFC North: Andrea Hangst (@FBALL_Andrea)
AFC South: Rivers McCown (@riversmccown)
AFC West: Christopher Hansen (ChrisHansenNFL)
NFC East: Brad Gagnon (@Brad_Gagnon)
NFC North: Zach Kruse (@zachkruse2)
NFC South: Brent Sobleski (@brentsobleski)
Cian Fahey (@Cianaf)
Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope)
Nick Kostos (@TheKostos)
Alex Miglio (@AlexMiglio)
Ryan Riddle (@Ryan_Riddle)
Dave Siebert (@DaveMSiebert)
Cleveland Browns: Will Burge (@WillBurge)
Denver Broncos: Cecil Lammey (@cecillammey)
Detroit Lions: Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon)
Green Bay Packers: Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq)
Indianapolis Colts: Kyle Rodriguez (@ColtsAuth_Kyle)
Miami Dolphins: Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy)
Minnesota Vikings: Darren Page (@DarrenPage15)
New England Patriots: James Christensen (@NEPatriotsDraft)
New York Giants: Patricia Traina (@Patricia_Traina)
New York Jets: Ryan Alfieri (@Ryan_Alfieri)
Philadelphia Eagles: Andrew Kulp (@KulpSays)
Pittsburgh Steelers: Curt Popejoy (@NFLdraftboard)
San Francisco 49ers: Peter Panacy (@PeterMcShots)
Washington: James Dudko
Atlanta Falcons: Scott Carasik (@ScottCarasik)
Baltimore Ravens: Jason Marcum
Buffalo Bills: Brandon Croce (@BrandonCroce)
Carolina Panthers: Charles Edwards (@CEdwards80)
Chicago Bears: Matt Eurich (@MattEurich)
Cincinnati Bengals: Chris Roling (@Chris_Roling)
Cleveland Browns: Andy McNamara (@AndyMc81)
Dallas Cowboys: John Owning (@johnowning)
Denver Broncos: Travis Wakeman (@twf2000)
Detroit Lions: Brandon Alisoglu (@BrandonAlisoglu)
Green Bay Packers: Jason Hirschorn (@jbhirschhorn)
Houston Texans: Brian McDonald (@sackedbybmac)
Indianapolis Colts: Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke)
Jacksonville Jaguars: Bo Martin (@BoKnowsBCB)
Kansas City Chiefs: Farzin Vousoughian (@Farzin21)
Miami Dolphins: Thomas Galicia (@thomasgalicia)
Minnesota Vikings: Bill Hubbell (@billyhubbell)
New England Patriots: Sterling Xie (@SterlingXie)
New Orleans Saints: Zane Brown
New York Giants: Kevin Boilard (@KevinBoilard)
New York Jets: Aidan Mackie
Oakland Raiders: Brian Flores (@BrianJ_Flores)
Philadelphia Eagles: Cody Swartz (@cbswartz5)
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Batista (@Steel_Tweets)
San Diego Chargers: Marcelo Villa (@_marcelovilla)
Seattle Seahawks: Marlon Maloney (@marlonmaloney)
St. Louis Rams: Steven Gerwel (@Steve_Ger)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Luke Easterling (@LukeEasterling)
Tennessee Titans: Daniel Barnes
Washington: Marcel Davis (@Mar_CelDavis24)
Giancarlo King (@GiancarloKing)
Kristopher Knox (@Kris_Knox)
Eric Simons, author of “The Secret Lives of Sports Fans: The Science of Sports Obsession,” has a piece in the Columbia Journalism Review with the headline “What science can tell sportswriters about why we love sports.”
I found what he has to say about why we love sports only mildly interesting, but what he has to say about how sportswriters talk about that subject quite compelling. Just in case your interests differ from mine, Simons writes that psychologists have settled on eight motivations for why people love sports:
Some of them are more common, but none is any more significant than any of the others. People like sports because they get self-esteem benefits from it. People like sports because they have money on it. People like sports because their boyfriend or girlfriend or family member likes sports. People like sports because it’s exciting. People like sports because it’s aesthetically pleasing. People like sports because, like the theater, it is a venue for emotional expression. People like sports because they need an escape from real-world troubles. People like sports because it provides a sense of belonging, a connection to a wider world.
Simon’s main point, though, is that sports fans love sports for all kinds of complicated reasons that have more to do with the individuals than with the sports themselves.
“The science also says that sports speak a different truth to each observer,” Simons writes. “Assigning them a collective narrative, like assigning a collective narrative to a billion soccer fans, obscures rather than defines the nature of their passion.”
And yet, we do that all the time. Simons opens his piece with a litany of examples, links to pieces from the 2014 World Cup in which writers had summed up the personality of entire nations as though they were all of one single, sports-loving mind. Spaniards in mourning over their elimination, Argentines finding joy in their team.
The takeaway of stories becomes, unsurprisingly: Sports exercises a lot of power over some people.
But how? And how much power? And which people? These narratives of fans, identity, and meaning underlie some testable hypothesis about how sports affect people but offer little in the way of empirical backing. Perhaps that’s because numbers would challenge the hypotheses.
It sounds to me like what science can tell sportswriters about why we love sports is: There’s such a thing as science. Quit faking it.
What’s the difference between “clickbait” and serving the readers by giving them what they want?
Christin, after studying several newsrooms to try to learn how they’d been changed by the web, concluded that “all media sites now rely on web analytics to make editorial decisions. But this does not mean that they all use and interpret metrics in similar ways.” She also pointed out that journalists often say one thing about numbers and do another:
There is often a gap between what journalist say about metrics and what they do. Many writers express cynical views about traffic and say that they do not care about page views. Yet they almost always check whether they are in the “top ten” most read articles list.
Christin quotes a former New York Times writer named Richard Darnton, who says that in the ’60s, writers at the paper pretty much wrote for each other. Articles were assigned because editors wanted to see them. Little thought was given to the audience, other than to consider what they should want to read. Christin even points out that letters to the editor often went unread.
Compare that to what Will Leitch, then still at Deadspin, which he founded, said five years ago about why he didn’t apply for credentials at sporting events or write from the press box: “The minute I start doing that, I start writing for the other people in the press box.”
Was serving fellow writers and editors better than serving readers? The shorthand for the dangers of giving people what they want is Kim Kardashian, as in: If you give the people what they want, all you’ll ever do is write stories about Kim Kardashian. When I first started working online, in 1996, and we could first see exactly how many people were reading each story, the shorthand was Pam Anderson. Same point.
Yet somehow, two decades later, we have an awful lot of articles about Kim Kardashian, sure, but also quite a few that aren’t about Kim Kardashian. More than ever. As Ingram put it:
Has this transformation resulted in more clickbait and pandering? Undoubtedly it has. But it has also arguably resulted in more content that readers actually want to read, as opposed to producing reams of newspaper articles that no one ever makes it to the end of, just because some random editor thought it was important. And that’s probably a good thing.
“Clickbait” is a slippery term. Maybe we just all know it when we see it. But every use of analytics doesn’t lead to clickbait, and giving people what they want doesn’t have to either. Because one thing any set of analytics worth its salt will tell you the people want is: not clickbait.
The channel went live at 7 a.m. EDT this morning. Here’s the schedule every weekday, all times Eastern:
Hey, wait. Who’s that guy at the bottom there?
That’s right: I’ll be hosting a show called “Content Is King,” where I’ll talk sports and sports media with my guests, including but not limited to Bleacher Report writers. The Opening Night guests are pitcher turned author, broadcaster and B/R writer Dirk Hayhurst, Sports Illustrated media columnist Richard Deitsch and B/R world football FC Garry Hayes, who’ll go over the landscape with us now that the transfer window is closed.
My plan is to post notes from each show, with any links and information that seem relevant, plus the guest schedule for the next episode, on this blog. That will be in addition to the regular morning post. I’d love to hear what you think of any of the shows. You can sign up for a free SiriusXM trial here, but unfortunately Bleacher Report Radio isn’t included.
See you on the radio!
I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. I keep putting it off …
I’m a procrastinator, which you might think wouldn’t mix with a deadline-driven business, but deadlines are life-savers for those of us who like to put things off. If not for deadlines, I’d still be trying to convince myself that I’ll get to that third-grade spelling homework any minute now.
And another day would go by without me getting to it. As Elizabeth Grace Saunders writes in a post on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, Saving Work for Tomorrow Doesn’t Work.
Saunders, a time coach and author, writes:
As an expert in effective time investment, I’ve seen too many individuals procrastinate at work because they think, “I’ll get a lot done later.” Unfortunately, banking on future time rarely aligns with productive results. This mindset leads to unconscious self-sabotage because individuals are not taking advantage of the opportunity to get tasks done right now, and when later comes, they find themselves feeling guilty, burned out, and frustrated. They fall back on their habits to put work off, and it doesn’t get accomplished.
Saunders cites a research study that found a pattern of overoptimism among people given a choice between healthy food or a cookie. If they thought they were going to have a chance to make the same choice again later, they were more likely to take the cookie and say they’d take the healthy choice next time. And then they mostly didn’t.
If you’re the type who promises yourself you’ll get something important done later, Saunders suggests eliminating that possibility. If you schedule something for yourself later, you’ll know you won’t be able to put that work off, so you do it. Another suggestion: Reduce the variability in your schedule. The more flexible your schedule, the easier it is to tell yourself you’ll get to that important task later.
“Choosing to work the same amount each day with little variation on your schedule takes away the mental loophole that allows you to escape from getting things done now,” Saunders writes.
Our friend Roy Peter Clark at Poynter offers a piece of similar advice: Want to avoid procrastination? Impose an early deadline on yourself. If your deadline is 6 p.m., tell yourself your deadline is 4 p.m. If it’s Friday, tell yourself it’s Thursday. If it’s Christmas, tell yourself it’s Thanksgiving. Long deadlines can be killers for procrastinators. Shortening them helps.
Clark says this way of thinking had him turning in a book manuscript almost six months ahead of deadline. I can’t even imagine that. I’ll think about it tomorrow.
Hat tip to the American Press Institute for both links.
You may have heard the announcement yesterday: Bleacher Report is launching a new SiriusXM radio channel next week.
The channel will go on the air at 7 a.m. Eastern time with Dan Levy and Josh Zerkle hosting a three-hour show. Nicole Zaloumis will be on from 10 to 1, Will Carroll and Jason Goff will take it from 3 to 6 p.m., and yours truly will close out the day with a one-hour show at 6 p.m. Eastern.
That show will be called “Content Is King,” and will focus on not just sports but also sports media—which after all is the process through which most sports fans consume most sports. Bleacher Report Featured Columnists will be a big part of the show, though we’ll also have guests from beyond B/R.
We’ve been doing some practice runs, preseason games, as it were, during Bleacher Report’s existing three-hour show from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sirius Channel 92. On Wednesday I welcomed Bleacher Report NFL Featured Columnist Ryan Riddle, FoxSports.com writer Erik Malinowski and Grantland baseball writer Jonah Keri.
I’ll be on the air again Thursday at 1 p.m. EDT. My guests will be Bleacher Report FCs Samuel Chi and Adam Fromal, along with Ryan Spaeder, the man behind the Twitter feed Ace of MLB Stats, which has built a following of more than 15,000 by tweeting out statistical factoids gleaned from the Baseball-Reference Play Index. I’m betting Ryan has learned a thing or two about effective use of social media.
On Tuesday, the On Air light goes on in earnest. Scheduled for the debut of “Content Is King”: Author, B/R baseball columnist and former pitcher Dirk Hayhurst and Sports Illustrated media columnist Richard Deitsch.