Baiting the Hook with Originality

Remember that old song, “Charlie Brown,” by The Coasters? “Why is everybody always picking on me?” What woman hasn’t heard this line: “They boys only pick on you because they like you.” We all know that’s mostly not true, but now and then…

Well, you have to admit it’s fun to sit up high in the sweetgum tree, lobbing tiny, spiky, medieval maces at unsuspecting innocents down below, and it sure doesn’t mean you don’t like them.

 

I like Mitch. He’s a good sport. He can hang out in my tree fort and lob his own sweetgum balls, if he can bring himself to climb past the squirrels. A fellow blogger with a good heart and just enough of a “mean streak” to be honest and funny without being cruel, Mitch knows that “picking on” a fellow blogger (as opposed to siccing the dogs of the Internet on him with the intent to destroy him utterly) is a time-honored tradition and a great cross-promotional blogging tactic. We can’t just have everyone agreeing with everyone all the time, now, can we?

Doesn’t a link back to the original post suffice, unless we have something to add to the conversation or a point to debate?

About a year ago, Mitch went off on the topic of misleading post titles – another time-honored Internet tradition, best served with a generous, greasy helping of spam. Why do misleading, click-bait titles exist? Aren’t they annoying? Apparently, like spam, they work.

We all know that the best way to combat the illegal drug trade is to get rid of the demand; it follows that the best way to get rid of misleading, click-bait headlines is to convince everyone not to click on them. Good luck with that.

You’re fighting human psychology; I’d suggest working with it, rather than against it, and offered up a few ideas in, “Posts Not Turning Heads? Try On 25 Headlines to Find Your Best Fit, Every Time.”

To Mitch’s point, “It’s okay to write Upworthy-style titles, now and then, provided you deliver on the promise and don’t annoy the reader who falls for them. A clever title that doesn’t provide a clue about the content of the blog post won’t bring in interested readers in the first place, but a too-clever title that misleads readers into clicking, then fails to deliver, will mean lost and grumpy readers.”

I offer a framework and a checklist for a successful blog, but suggest striking a balance between predictable and fraudulent. It’s tough, but worthwhile, to write an intriguing headline that also delivers what readers expect.

Mitch also argues for originality. Others call for more creativity. But it may be helpful to make a distinction between “originality” and “creativity.” According to the author of the blog ad verecundiam, “All originality is creativity, but not all creativity is originality.” That may be overly broad; by the author’s definition, about 99.999% of everything we could come up with is derivative, interpretive, building on whatever primal building blocks inspired us. Further, we might never know who came up with an original idea first, where two people arrived at the same conclusions and produced the same work independently of one another. Disney’s “Cinderella” would be creative, but would specific character inventions be original? I would argue “yes.”

When it comes to blogging, I would settle for a blogger’s own interpretation of a topic, infused with a liberal dash of personality. I’d settle for darned near anything but blatant plagiarism and paraphrasing that wouldn’t impress a fourth grade Language Arts teacher.

Mitch has high expectations, overall; I’m learning to pick my battles. If you want to use common titles and headings, be my guest. There is a certain value – and I do mean from a reader’s standpoint – in being able to identify and locate information. Call this “SEO” if you like, but I’m more interested in optimizing search for human beings. Ask yourself: “If I were looking for exactly this information, how might I search for it online?” Go to Google and search for it. Then look for other ways other readers search for it, but first put on your own reader hat for a second. Work those phrases into your text.

Consider, before sucking readers in with a click-baity, Hooverish title: Do you have something to add to the discussion, or would your reader be better served by links to others’ blogs and articles? Are you serving readers or just trying to trick them into clicking your ads? It’s okay not to blather on about the same ol’ stuff; there is real value, to readers, to fellow bloggers, and to you in sharing your own carefully curated, useful links to solid info, clearly written by other bloggers who will appreciate a link back.

 

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
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7 thoughts on “Baiting the Hook with Originality”

  1. First, let’s make sure we tell the people that I’m not the blog author who wrote that “originality vs creativity” line. lol You’re also the one who wrote the thing about grumpy readers; I had to make sure I didn’t say that. 🙂 It’s also intriguing that you used a Disney example when they’re being sued by someone right now over Zootopia.

    Second, I guess today’s my day to both be picked on and applauded; if only I could get those kinds of odds at home.

    Third… I hate clickbait titles that don’t deliver. I also hate people who consider themselves offering up information that’s either copied or outright false and unproven. I overlook most of these things because, frankly, there’s way too much of it laying about, but every once in a while I have to call someone on the carpet… kind of nicely (I’m still somewhat nice when I’m mean lol).

    Fourth, did you check out that link I shared with the post I was commenting on? Wasn’t that some of the most irksome “writing” you’ve ever seen?

    1. Yes, if I hadn’t been intrigued by WordPress’s ATTEMPTS at embedding URLs, I’d have hyperlinked the right anchor text and that would’ve been clearer, Mitch (who said what – I’ll edit that). Now why would a friend pick on a friend without also giving applause? Wouldn’t that be silly? 🙂

      I did read your post back when you posted it, and was surprised, too, not to find a comment from me on it. Yes, I saw that blog. There’s so MUCH “irksome writing” out there, though, that I’ve gone…what’s that Febreeze commercial say? “Nose blind”? Mind blind, maybe.

    2. I’m always surprised when you talk about “hating” anyone or anything. I picture you more as mildly curmudgeonly, reserving actual “hate” for more egregious perpetrators of injustice and evil.

      I’m annoyed by click-bait titles mainly because they prove to me, time and time again, that I can be suckered in even when I know they’re going to frustrate and anger me by dragging me through 40 clicks worth of nonsense or fail to deliver the promised punch. I don’t “hate” the people who regurgitate others’ stale content as if offering gems of wisdom to the world; most of them are inexperienced kids or ignoramuses. They know nothing of copyright or plagiarism. You can explain it to them, and they’ll try a bit harder, but it may take ten or more tries and either they’re supremely disingenuous or they genuinely don’t GET it. I could hate the disingenuous ones, but it’s hard not to just pity stupid.

      I still go after the ones that just openly STEAL stuff, when I find them. But most of them are so inept at coming up with anything original OR creative that NO ONE can find them when they steal other people’s stuff. People are too busy reading more of the original author’s material. Some days, it’s hardly worth the time to type “DMCA” let alone pursue a full take-down.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…You Need Kibbles for Your Pet Peeves?My Profile

      1. There are lots of things I absolutely hate. Some are justified, some aren’t. I hate bugs with a passion. I really hate racists, men who beat women or children, people who hide behind their religion to justify their treatment of others, people who take advantage of others, two-faced people, phonies… that ilk. I use the word hate for things like what I wrote before but that’s actually more irritation instead of hate, but hate’s only one syllable so it’s easier to say. lol

        I had my period of filing DMCA’s all over the place. Once I added my copyright notice I stopped worrying about it since I figure if it’s on anyone else’s site that sucker goes with it, and others will know the poster is a lousy thieving piece of skunk manure (it has to be bad if skunks already smell bad lol).

        Meanwhile, now all you have to do is update your CommentLuv! 😀

  2. Actually, that doesn’t seem to be the problem. None of my sites will work with CommentLuv here. I did a bit of research and what I found is that your host has probably blacklisted my hosting company for some reason. Sniff!!!

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