Untruthful, Unhelpful, and Unethical Practices Regarding Headlines

First off, let me start this post by saying that on the whole The Verge is an amazing, and innovative site. Longform pieces, videos, and reviews (in my opinion at least, I'm sure there's some contention on this point based on past Lumia reviews) are all both unique and trailblazing in an online field that was previously dominated by blog type sites. However, you guys have to get some of these headlines under tighter control.

Sensationalist headlines I can live with, although prefer not to, but as of late, I've seen more headlines that are not misleading, but straight-up untrue. Take for example the article today on the Harvard bomb threats entitled "FBI agents tracked Harvard bomb threats across Tor". When I first read the headline I thought, "Wait the FBI has the computational power to backtrack across the Tor network? This is huge and game-changing! Imagine what other kinds of encryption they must be able to break, if they posses the required computational power." This might be a little sensationalist on my part, but you get the idea, the headline implies that the FBI was able to backtrack through Tor to identify the person who emailed in the threat.

Now what did the FBI actually do? Nothing of the sort. The article even says so. This was not a lack of understanding on The Verge crew's part, but rather a ploy to get pageviews on the article. No, the FBI merely caught the guy doing good old fashion detective work.

Update: Please see gesteves' (Front-End Engineer) comment below on how the New Articles dropdown functions.

Now my second point, the "New Articles" section, recently I've noticed that the headlines in there seem to be purposely cut-off to leave the most important part of the headline out. Now I can't definitively prove that's happening on purpose, but it feels like I've been noticing this more and more in the past couple months. Allow me to illustrate:



via dl.dropboxusercontent.com



via dl.dropboxusercontent.com

Notice something? That first headline fits perfectly in the allotted 2 lines, yet the other one contains ellipses despite only using about 1/3 of the second line. "Okay, that's fine," you might think, "Maybe the next word is really long so it has to be truncated. Maybe the headline is really long and it won't fit on 2 lines, so they chose to truncate it there because that's where the truncation would make the most sense." Well then, what's the rest of the headline? "Hole". That's it. The full headline is "$19 million might produce the first ever image of a black hole". Are you trying to tell me that the word "hole" couldn't fit on the rest of that second line? I call bullshit.

This practice causes people to click on the link to see if they want to read the article at all. "What are they taking a picture of? Black what?" Suppose I don't care to read about black holes. Well, you forced me to click the link to see if I ever wanted to read the piece in the first place. The whole purpose of the New Articles section is to easily identify the new articles that you actually want to read, and you've taken that away for so many of the articles that you post.

Both of these practices are seem very clickbaity to me. For people that care so much about user interfaces, showing information that is helpful, that you care about (see the conversation that took place about the Android Twitter redesign on the latest Vergecast) you don't seem to care much about this for your own readers. I can handle sensationalist headlines, but ones that straight-up contradict what is written in the article are unacceptable and unethical in my mind. Truncating headlines is annoying and a time-waster. C'mon guys I know you're better than this! As I stated above your longforms and videos prove that you are. Let your good work drive the pageviews, not these annoying, and misleading practices.