1. Given the economics of current professional online journalism and commentary, blanket condemnations of what is conventionally called clickbait are essentially arguments that paid online writing should contract substantially. You don’t have to like clickbait and SEO stuff– I don’t– but if there’s gonna be such a thing as professional writers whose work appears online, at anything like current scale, then there’s gonna be tactics used to maximize advertising revenue. Nature of the beast.
2. It’s true that companies like Google and Facebook have enormous power to manipulate what gets seen and doesn’t online, and thus what generates money, and thus what people produce. And I think there’s lots of little improvements that can be made on the margins. That said, those are algorithmic processes, always will be, and my trust that algorithms can effectively sort high quality content from low is nil.
3. What do you want to subsidize, as a consumer of online media? Some sites just produce the worst kinds of “curiosity gap,” low info, manipulative dross. You should probably avoid those if you don’t think they’re doing good work, and you should particularly not share them. What crosses that threshold is up to you; lots of people praise Buzzfeed’s reported content, for example, and even Upworthy has its defenders. ViralNova? EliteDaily? Uh, less so. If a site pushes out thoughtful, researched/reported pieces which necessarily take time and effort to produce, and they pay for it with clickbaity viral video posts and similar, then I think that’s a defensible strategy. It all depends on the quality of the high-quality content and just how low the lower-hanging fruit dangles. It’s a judgment call. But like I said: just saying no to viral content is not an option for 90% of the publications and writers out there. Share accordingly.
4. If you use AdBlock and you don’t whitelist the sites that you think are worthy of supporting, you’re cutting yourself out of the system of reward that will ultimately determine which publications succeed and which fail. It’s always easy to say that you as an individual don’t have any impact. But thousands or millions of people thinking the same has a big impact on what gets monetized and thus what gets repeated. So think about using that whitelist feature on the sites you admire and respect.
5. Don’t like clickbait, pay for subscription services or donate. Don’t want to pay, don’t complain about clickbait or SEO. Simple.