I'm sure Duhigg (the author of the NYT piece) would agree that most neuropsychology research largely shows that readers' attention spans are short and easily influenced by the first few grafs of a story.
In fact, any HN user probably has seen the phenomenon where link-bait-titled stories get hugely upvoted despite the actual body text lacking adequate corroboration.
What the NYT should do next time is have one of its army of prominent site bloggers recap the interesting facets of the story. It's a testament to Duhigg's work that there are many pieces of it that by themselves could make for captivating posts. It's up to the NYT to capitalize on it.
That is exactly what The Economist does. Most of their writers also have blogs, and when the magazine publishes a feature piece, their bloggers add commentary and try to show how the feature is relevant to their beat. It's a great way of letting readers know that they might be interested in a story that they'd never hear of otherwise.
In this case, perhaps the New York Times' political reporters could go into how this sort of behavioral analysis could be used by political campaigns to market their candidates.
(2) The article in question is a feature article in the NYT Sunday magazine which is where they put the long in-depth articles which took months to investigate. These are meant to be Pulitzer Prize level pieces that will get people talking and make a big splash in the news cycle. This explains both the length and the title. There is NO WAY the NYT Sunday Magazine is going to lead with a sensationalist headline like “How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did.“ That smacks of The National Enquirer or something. The title they actually used (“How Companies Learn Your Secrets“) is not THAT bad either - it got me to click on it when I saw it.
(3) Most importantly, I don't see how Facebook Likes can be the sole metric of an article's "success." This weeks NYT Sunday Magazine is just officially coming out today. This is a front page article. Lots of people are going to be reading,talking and emailing it all week. And when they do they are going to send the link to the source and NYT will get the credit.
(4) Lastly, - no evidence is given that the TITLE was the SOLE reason why the Forbes post went viral. It is an interesting topic and the Forbes blogger adequately summarized it, making the post very "shareable." The promotion and SEO strategies of Forbes may also have helped.
So in summary the Forbes blog and the NYT magazine are very different types of publications and it looks like they both succeeded in what they were trying to do.
The question is: how much did Forbes add to the original content to warrant a clickthrough? If nothing of value was added, then Forbes is just jacking clicks.
This is something many subreddits have had to deal with - the many, may spam blogs that simply aggregate links (even if properly attributed) without providing anything of additional value. In the subreddits I frequent we've started banning these, maybe the Internet as a whole should also.
It's amazing how prevalent it is these days to click on a link to read a tiny pithy excerpt of a fuller article. Click on that only to realize that it is also scraped content with no additional value or commentary. You have to get 5-7 clicks in just to find the original, interesting source that actually did any work.
Forbes filtered the article and presented the most enticing part.
Filtering/curation is of enormous value - on the web and in app stores. It's ironic that you post this on a news aggregator site. The corresponding (but perhaps more obviously absurd) argument is what value does Hacker News (or Reddit) add to these stories that HN/Reddit deserve your page views? Just visit all the target sites yourself! Skip the middleman.
I think a better question is whether or not the Forbes article actually took clicks away from the NYT article. I doubt it actually did. If anything the NYT article probably got more clicks than it would have gotten otherwise. Yeah, it sucks that the person who did all the work isn't the one who got the credit, but it's hard to see how they're worse off for the Forbes piece.
I wasn't even aware it was originally a NYT piece; I thought it was original to Forbes.
If you find yourself paginating your summary, you're definitely acting in bad faith.
When you're online, every other website is competing for your time and attention, screen real estate is limited, and good chance you're using an aggregator like HN, reddit etc.
Online, publishers have to go for linkbait Twitter headlines. If the Times doesn't find a way to do it, this is what will happen, and everyone will read their stuff via Huffington Post or Business Insider.
I think it's clear this kind of "news" plays across all age groups and classes, not simply "middle Englanders." Even wealthy elites have their forms of lowbrow entertainment. If the goal is to get readers to click on ads, scantily-clad women work wonders.
Why do you think it strange that a rare example of the UK actually making stuff is featured?
not convinced forbes is capable of a higher level of discourse
The NYtimes.com has 16.3m monthly US visits, Forbes has 10.5m. [Compete] The NYT article has 435 comments (sign of high engagement) v. Forbes' 155.
I'm not sure how he pulled the total FB share data for the NYT article - they don't display that sharing information in the same way Forbes does.
In short, despite the validity of Nick O'Neil's main point - that a more descriptive title and a synoptic treatment can travel well - his rhetoric is more than a little overblown. Details matter, and what the Times article includes is deep context, originality, and above all, diligence.
As far as a regurgitative blog post making anyone's career... ha, I guess? Only if you want your career to be limited to that activity. The Forbes writer knows it - that's why she includes 6(!) links to the original article, as well as a plug of the original writer's upcoming book. Careers are built on respect, and the most valuable quality a writer or article can have is credibility. Otherwise, it's rubbish, no matter how many people buy it.
And, ultimately, the people who you want to respect you will know you make rubbish.
Anybody care to edit the title of the HN submission for accuracy?
Even academics need to grab attention, too, and it's part of the product of the information economy (where there is a surplus of information) and a scarcity of time (i.e, attention).
There are good reasons to have the same information published with different levels of detail, they target different people, and can help lead people who are interested into reading the more detailed versions. For example the NYT wrote a 2 page article entitled "Flaw Found in an Online Encryption Method," which was based on a 17 page research paper. The NYT didn't steal the research paper. I personally think the NYT article on encryption was a scare story lacking in almost all technical detail, but it helped publicize research so people interested in the subject could read the full paper.
Also perhaps a downside of not having Slashdot-style summaries, in that it encourages blogspam. If I find an interesting academic paper that I think HN might like, just submitting it by itself rarely goes anywhere, because there isn't space to explain why I think it's of interest to HN. Oddly enough it actually stands a better chance on Reddit, because you have about one sentence worth of space in the submission title to explain it. On HN, it's better if you reblog the paper with a one- or two-paragraph blurb, catchy title, and then submit that instead of the original paper. People will then complain that you submitted blogspam instead of the original, but most of the time they'll upvote it more than they would've upvoted the original despite the complaints.
The guidelines state:
You can make up a new title if you want, but if you put gratuitous editorial spin on it, the editors may rewrite it.
I frequently write better headlines for items I submit to HN and they are not often changed by the editors.
No reply: https://twitter.com/ryandeussing/status/170337298695720960
It seemed particularly bad to plagiarize a feature article like that, though.
Forbes lists the page views, but it's a metric against nothing as the Times does not.
There's some pretty heavy quoting in the Forbes post (9 paragraphs from the NYT), but it's all sourced, linked and even encouraged to be clicked-through to.
While Forbes did well with the post, I'm not convinced they did any better than the Times (on the web) with it.
Engadget have tags for "New York Times", "NewYorkTimes", "NYTimes", "NYT", "The New York Times" and "TheNewYorkTimes" for the articles they hijack.
In the end, I think the market agrees: people pay real money to read the New York Times, but nobody pays real money to read Forbes blogs.
[from journalistic perspective]
They A/B "test" at the journalist level. They hire several, the ones that write popular / prize winning articles are kept, the others get downsized.
I've got 40-odd news articles in my feed reader waiting for my attention. I'm just not going to spend 5 minutes figuring out how to read any particular article. That doesn't scale and I'll miss out on a whole bunch of the other 39, some of which are probably at least as interesting as the article with the barrier I've got to get past.
I'm not averse to paying for content. I'm seriously considering getting a subscription to LWN.net just so I can read the paid articles a week earlier than I do now. But that's because LWN has proven over a period of many months to have a consistently high quality of reporting, and I find a huge majority of the articles interesting. I'm not sure about NYT's quality of reporting, but even if it were uniformly excellent I'm fairly sure it would contain a lot of articles I frankly don't care about, so I'd still be paying money to sort signal from chaff myself.
Forbes' article is one page.