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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 18-Oct-15


Sunday 18-October-15

Making every word count: the deep manipulation of 'news' items

You've probably noticed at the bottom of many reputable sites there are further links to places elsewhere on the web with content that you might like or which seem to be news items. Typical headings include 'You may also like', 'Elsewhere on the web' and so on. What you might not always know is that these links are not selected by the website owner -- they are, in effect, paid-for advertisements.

The language used in these links tends to be very carefully created. Typical headings include:

  • Experts shocked as new trick saves online shoppers thousands in UK
  • What man did with useless attic is unbelievable
  • An awesome dad explains the 5 revelations he's had raising 2 girls.

We can look at these and derive the rules used to set them up, including:

  • Arousal words that are designed to stimulate and amplify your emotions.
  • Surprise, shock, amazement and other indications that this is something new and interesting that must be investigated.
  • Suggestions of expert authority, often with experts being amazed or shocked. If experts are amazed, then you will certainly be.

Even solid sites that talk about academic research make use of teasing methods, for example the Psyblog site which uses headline trailers such as:

  • Happiness: 8 Awesome New Facts You Should Know
  • The Daily Chore That Can Increase Mental Stimulation and Decrease Anxiety
  • Brain Most Sensitive to New Memories and Stress At This Stage of Life

What this site does in particular is to suggest something interesting or important for you, but not name it. In other words it states the effect without the cause. This uses the completion principle, where we have a need to complete what is started, including knowing what has been suggested. For you to control your life, you hence need to click through to the article.

The problem with such methods is that when they are over-done, they are off-putting. The authors assume the reader is not that bright and is easily manipulated. But when people feel that manipulation, they are likely to react by avoiding such headlines. If you want to attract people, be subtle or genuine.

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