The Steelers are set to kick off yet another campaign this Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati, and I simply cannot wait to cover them with honor, integrity and pride all throughout the 2022 regular season.
That’s forever been my mission, of course, but I don’t always hit the mark. What areas do I struggle in? I won’t list each one, but I do know that publishing clickbait articles is one of my weak points. I never thought of myself as someone who would stoop to such levels, but the feedback I often get speaks to the contrary.
The fact that there are innocent Steelers fans out there just minding their own business—walking their dog, doing their laundry, concentrating hard on work—who feel compelled to click on an article against their will...because of me...well, that’s the kind of thing that makes a person reevaluate his or her priorities.
Why do people often charge me with the crime of clickbait? They say I'm motivated by clicks. They say I do it to drive up numbers. They say it helps me make money. That’s right, even though I’ve explained to readers a million times that I get paid a flat fee for my articles—$10,000 per week—they still accuse me of writing sensationalized headlines for profit.
No Steelers writer or journalist wants to be accused of clickbait. It’s like a standup comedian who gets accused of stealing jokes about original topics involving relationships and airline food.
It’s a scarlet letter that marks you for life and damages your credibility.
So how do I fix this problem? For starters, I need to figure out what compels readers to click on articles in the first place. What makes them tick? What grinds their gears? Do they want to click on trendy topics or the ones that aren’t popular—like a three-part feature on the history of long-snappers?
Perhaps I need to figure out what the definition of a clickbait article actually is. I used to think a headline like this: “You’ll Never Guess What This former Steelers Receiver Is Up To Now,” followed by a piece about Darrius Heyward-Bey having lunch at a Primanti Bros, was clickbait.
But the term seems to get thrown around so arbitrarily, that the true definition has become lost on me.
If my headline mentions how classless Steelers fans were for booing Mason Rudolph during a preseason game, and then I follow that up with an article about why booing Mason Rudolph during a preseason game was classless, that’s considered to be clickbait.
If my headline alludes to Steelers fans feeling threatened by the idea of Rudolph ultimately earning the starting quarterback job, and my article talks about the same thing, that is also considered to be clickbait.
Apparently, any article involving Mason Rudolph, a figure so polarizing that a straight-up BTSC news piece published on Monday about the Steelers' latest depth chart tallied 184 comments—mostly about Mason Rudolph—is considered to be clickbait.
What’s the solution? How do I proceed from here?
Total transparency in the titles, that’s how.
Here is your typical headline from me moving forward:
“Local Area Professional Football Team, The Pittsburgh Steelers, Would Be Wise To Trade For This Valued Player, (insert the actual name of player here), To Shore Up (list position he plays here). Some Organizations Still Know How Business Is Done”
I honestly think the readers will be more welcoming if I am truly sincere with my headlines and my reporting; that’s how I plan on conducting my business in the future.
Having said all of that, I will still try to stir the pot all throughout the Steelers' 2022 regular season.
You know, for clicks.