It may appear a wild contradiction for someone at a site like this to complain about the practice of click-baiting for page views. And it would be a contradiction. We do depend on traffic numbers here at RS; we’re all sidewalk ropers trying to lure pedestrians inside the skin emporium. Which is why I am not complaining about the practice. But when it comes to the entertainment press there is a problem related.
Many times when I have watched a deplorable movie, or sat witness to a marathon Hollywood awards show, it is commented that I did such so others do not have to suffer. In a similar vein I am required to rake through the voluminous amount of press and media concerning the the film and entertainment industry. The sheer volume of outlets means this frequently requires a very dense filter.
Over the years I have become inured to the desperate ploys (though sometimes their efforts do manage to garner a reflexive link activation). A large reason is that so much of the movie reporters and bloggers resort to generating pieces that contain little hard news. Years back it was recommended that I follow a particular writer in Hollywood (who’ll remain unnamed), because he had so much inside information which could be useful.
For a period I was impressed. Daily this writer had new and breaking information about films in development, from casting announcements to production details. My eyes would dart anytime his “Exclusive” headline appeared. But over time I came to realize that so much of his reporting was not based on hard facts. I first noticed it when a named actor was placed into a starring role of a film; this was a slot the writer had previously announced was going to a different actor. I checked back and found his original article.
As detailed the studio had actually been “in talks” with that other actor. Turns out nothing concrete had been settled, it was only the two parties testing the waters for a deal; yet the writer was able to insert his “Exclusive” being first to announce the studio interest. I began to watch his reports with more discerning eyes and learned a large percentage of his pieces were this type of reporting.
Any time a studio took a meeting with a performer it was declared “a scoop!” If a script was being shopped around town it was announced “you heard it here first!”. He could declare a film had an announced budget of somewhere between $100-150 million, but that 50% margin of error was somehow EXCLUSIVE information. I eventually dispatched the writer from my feed, given 80% of his headlines should instead carry the banner “Inconclusive”.
The internet is basically a sea of entertainment sites. The multitude of outlets creates more – and worse – of the same vacant coverage. That swollen amount of movie sources, and the numerous writers working therein, means competition for eyes is intense. The desperate attempt at getting the click-through is frequent, and often leads to nothing at all. Even larger movie sources and legitimate news portals resort to this reliance of non-content headlines.
A prime example was seen in Collider. Relying on the massive interest in the upcoming “Avengers: Infinity War”, one headline lured eager fans with supposedly an insider’s viewpoint. James Gunn, the respected director of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise, has seen an advance screening of the new film. Collider seemingly had an exclusive.
“James Gunn Has Seen ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and You’ll Never Believe What He Said” blares the headline, with a treble hook attached. I could feel the muscle-memory twitch in my finger, even as my mind was putting the brakes on things. The baiting here was obvious. They even built up the hype within the piece.
On the other hand, Gunn isn’t really one to BS his fans so his reaction here has value. And, of course, it’s literally the only verified reaction we know of to this super secret movie, so that in and of itself makes it noteworthy.
Except it was not noteworthy. It was barely a reaction. There was no sit down interview. They did not get “verified” info by interrogating the director over his professional assessment and artistic impressions. They never even spoke to him. Collider spent hundreds of words … to repost a Tweet.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) March 22, 2018
That is it. That is the entirety of the thrust of the article — retweeting Gunn’s ONE WORD reaction to the movie. Hell, the title of the article alone was fourteen times longer than Gunn’s insider “revelation”. And not only did the writer deliver nothing of consequence, he completely contradicts his own carnival barker hysterics with this line: While this reaction is encouraging, it’s kind of like, “What did you expect?”
I don’t know, I guess I expected something more than just a company worker’s four syllables, raving about his studio’s release on which he worked directly. This means not only will I in fact believe what James Gunn had to say, the writer does not even believe his own hyperbolic hyperventilating delivery.
Even a news source like The Guardian is not above these tactics of hyping a content-free effort. The upcoming summer prequel “Solo: A Star Wars Story” has had a fair amount of production drama appearing in the press. This is the usual noise for a big budget fanboy epic, but the paper tries valiantly to make this all cause for panic.
The production has endured a change in directors, an early trailer release was met with pushback from fans, and there was a report the lead actor Alden Ehrenreich needed acting coaches to aid him on set. Except, while the removal of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (“The Lego Movie”) as directors sounds bad, replacing them with the esteemed Ron Howard has to be seen as a step up. The negative trailer reaction is standard fare with die-hard fan-boys online.
As for Ehrenreich’s skill problems? These were based on anonymous reports from the set, and seem out of phase with the performer who has worked with Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, and The Coen Brothers. If anything it could be a case of an art house performer learning how to channel an iconic sci-fi character.
Next, after stoking drama about possible failings of a film not released for another seven weeks, writer Ben Child equivocates by citing other films with reported troublesome productions that went on to be hits. Then after questioning his own proposition Child manages to neuter his entire piece thusly:
“The point is that we need to wait and see how Solo crystallises into its final form rather than judge it based on reports.”
There you have it. After waving his arms and running for the lifeboats he dilutes everything to meaninglessness by essentially saying, “It may all may mean nothing, so I guess we’ll find out??? But Hey, Thanks for clicking!”
This is the nature of the movie writing business. They lure, cajole, and entice what is actually an empty room. After they draw you in and lead you down hallways once you part the curtain and step inside you are greeted by a door with an EXIT sign.