Let's fix the internet's headlines! (And prove our #vergelove)

The Problem

Hey all, so lot's of people, me included have been dishing some tough love towards The Verge crew as of late. We love the site, it's story, and the awesomeness of the people that brought it into being but sometimes editorial decisions that seem to be guided by revenue generation make us sad pandas.

One of the specific pain points about The Verge as of late is the headlines. Clickbait. Sensationalist. Misleading. Dumb. These are words people have used to describe them. I think the most important descriptor however is upworthy-esque.

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via ianservin.com

What is Upworthy? Well, this is repeating what many already know but according to wikipedia:

Upworthy is a website for viral content started in March 2012 by Eli Pariser, the former executive director of MoveOn, and Peter Koechley, the former managing editor of The Onion. One of Facebook's co-founders, Chris Hughes, was an early investor.

If you know anything about anything, the site is hugely successful. A key part of Upworthy's success is dramatic and click-getting headlines. I think it's fair to hate on them because they're not particularly informative, but one cannot deny they are effective in driving traffic. For sites that offer free content and use advertising for monetization, traffic is what they need to stay alive. Sites like The Verge.

If you want to do some reading on the Upworthy way of framing content that is getting oh-so-popular, I would encourage you to check out these two slideshares:

http://www.slideshare.net/Upworthy/upworthy-10-ways-to-win-the-internets

http://www.slideshare.net/Upworthy/how-to-make-that-one-thing-go-viral-just-kidding

The solution?

So now that we see why Upworthy and that style of headline works, and we know why organizations think they need to adopt the Upworthy style, what next? Are we resigned to live in a world with headlines full of superlatives and fluff?

Nope.

Let's fix the internet's (and The Verge's) headlines.

We're all smart cookies and we love Teh Verge and all friends of the 'Net. Let's put our smart heads together and brainstorm how we can help The Verge drive traffic without making dumb headlines that piss people off. Is it possible? I don't know, but I sure hope so. As a multimedia producer myself, I work both on the commercial (marketing) and the journalistic (not marketing) side of things and I can see that good content can coexist with popularity and engagement on smaller scales. It makes sense to me that it should work here, but maybe there are some specific strategies that could help it along.

What do you think? How can sites drive clicks and shares without vapid headlines?

(oh, and of course let's keep it constructive and civil, it's nice The Verge gives us a place to chat about The Verge and be critical so let's not abuse the privilege)