There’s a new kind of clutter littering Web pages. It’s not just the obnoxious “Refinance your mortgage” ads plastered atop and alongside articles. It’s also not just the animated nonsense that floats by as you’re trying to read.
It’s the article itself.
In the never-ending quest to get page views, the choices writers and editors are making to attract eyeballs and drive traffic are creating a new breed of low-brow, gimmicky disposable content. At its best it adds little insight and at its worst amounts to a slimy bait-and-switch (catchy headline, nothing to say in the article).
It’s the new clutter. The article itself has devolved into a flashing, animated pile of fluff. The casualty of the rat race towards ad impressions isn’t just crappy layout and thoughtless art direction. It’s awful and useless content. The formula is pretty straightforward: catchy headline, hot topic of the day, add a dash of controversy, stir into a gooey mixture and bake for ten minutes. Even better: take a jab at someone who’s on top: Apple, Facebook, etc. People love to shoot Goliath (or at least shoot in his general direction).
So where’s the good writing on the Web? It’s everywhere else. The interesting new perspectives and provocative thinking isn’t coming from Gizmodo and Silicon Alley. It’s the blogger I’ve never heard of that is blowing me out of my chair these days. They’re not writing with a hidden agenda. They’re not following a Gawker Media Formula For Success (internal guidelines that must exist).
This type of clutter only goes away if business models change and the mechanisms for determining success change along with them. There are too many good writers producing clutter on the Web today.