TRAWLING through Facebook today, I found a paid post by the music news website Loudwire. “Very sad news for Marilyn Manson”. it read, with a link to the site.

“Oh right,” I thought,, “I wonder….” Hang on …. no, surely not. They’re not…. really? Yes they are folks: Loudwire were using the death of the rock singer’s mother, Barbra Warner, as click bait.

For the uninitiated, it works like this: you’ll remember the days when headlines told you what was in a story. Sometimes, they even said things that weren’t, or were barely, in the story. That practice has been getting journalists in trouble for a century or more.

But now, in an environment where no-one is buying papers and journalism is collapsing, the trick is to pique the curiosity of the readers on social media to such an extent that they cannot resist visiting the website being promoted by clicking on the link, hence the term “click bait”.

The number of page views dictates the fee charged for advertising and the fee charged for advertising dictates whether the site is profitable, the reporters get paid and the relevant information is disseminated.

Another post on Loudwire‘s Facebook page reads: “Foo Fighters are full of surprises these days, including one very big one over the weekend! Details here:”

The death of Marilyn Manson’s mother, to the chimpanzee churnalist sitting in Loudwire‘s office, was no different to Dave Grohl’s latest song, video or reality TV show. You just apply the formula: leave out the most important fact and people will come to the site in droves. That’s social media doing its job: you don’t give away that which you are selling, do you?

I complained.

“Guys this is very distasteful click bait. To use the death of someone’s mother to get a page view by withholding information in a facebook post is, at best, a serious misjudgment, and at worst morally bankrupt. Where will all this end?”

And later, also from me:

“Imagine a photo of four kids and a heading ‘one of these children was hacked to death” you gotta click to find put which one, giving the website a page view. THAT’s where this is heading unless some decency is applied.”

My comment was liked 230 times. That made it the top comment, giving it a prominent display on a post that Loudwire pinned to the top of their page because of its popularity. They did not change the tasteless wording of their post; my criticism of it was helping it attract even more “engagement”!

I’ll let that sink in: a media outlet has been called out for immoral behaviour. Hundreds of readers agree. The outlet highlights the criticism without responding to it – because the criticism simply attracts more readers.

That’s the world we now live in. For all the disdain of traditional media, this sort of amoral, exploitative behaviour would have a newspaper, radio station or TV network severely censured. But for social media, any publicity really is good publicity: venom and hate grease their wheels much more efficiently than praise. Websites and Facebook pages simply don’t care; they are malevolence incarnates.

Every person that challenged me in the comments under the Manson story, I engaged. I tried to explain click baiting … over and over again. Louis Minnett seemed to think I was accusing Manson himself of exploiting his own mother’s death by writing and posting the item himself.

Loudwire are in charge,” I responded.  “How stupid do you think I am? That Marilyn Manson goes posting stuff on music news websites? Helloooooo….”

Then I received a response that stunned me almost as much as the post’s crassness. It’s a comment that made me think social media will eventually become an intellectual ghetto, where the anti-social and gormless will be left to canibalise each other in a sort of electronic leper colony.

Jay Padalecki: “ha…..Steve…’re so smart…Steve Mascord for president…..steve posting “stuff” on Facebook. Hellooooooo….”

In other words, if you’re so smart, why are you interacting with idiots like us? Leave Facebook to me and my fellow imbeciles…..”


A QUICK note about this column.

I am 45. I’ve never been married, have no kids, no car, no mortgage. Pretty much everything I have ever done for work, I would have done for free. I am abiding loyal to one person above all others: my 18-year-old self.

I try to make him proud every day. I do not save, I currently do not even pay rent in any one place, let alone own property bigger than that couch I have in storage.

I have an idealistic perspective on just about everything. I expect people to tell the truth, do what’s fun above what is profitable, try to get the most out of life, and be vitally interested in others.

I think I probably revel in my own naivety. I see the world very differently than you do.

Yet all I have ever written about is rugby league and rock music. So this column is about everything else. If you think I’m selfish, say so below and I’ll write a column about it. If you think I’m going to be lonely in old age or that I’m sad or shallow or naive or stupid or ugly or a loser … great topics for the next Living The Dream.

I might not be living the dream. I might be dreaming my life while you’re living yours’ … in which case, you can help me grow up.



  1. Hi Steve,
    I am someone who is constantly struggling with wanting to live a life that reflects my inner values. To live and not try to attain a life that is acceptable by society’s standards. I am impressed and encouraged by the way that you live your life, and share interests in both league and rock music. I just want to encourage you, even though u don’t know me, I reckon u would cop a fair bit of criticism, so please stay true to your truths cause it encourages me (and hopefully others) to do the same.

  2. Steve, This is brilliant. (sorry I didn’t provide any negative feedback to use in future columns)

  3. Re: your life etc.

    The only characteristic I share with you is probably the age. However, your love of rock and RL clearly come through in your writing. Good on you for being true to yourself. And good on you for letting people like me vicariously experience rugby league wherever it might be played in the world.

    I have no idea about whether you’ll be lonely in old age. In fact, I have no idea whether you or I will get to old age. But don’t stop now.

  4. Your one of the best rugby league journalists in Australia. One way to grow is to do attempt to cover more sports, so you can do more to a wider audience. Write about rugby union, AFL, soccer the other footy codes, golf, tennis, soccer, cricket, Olympic games sports, swimming, surfing, and general issues in sports. Some sports journos cross over-well. Bruce Mcavaney, Tim Webster, Dennis Commetti, even Ray Warren he does the swimming. Roy Masters I have noticed now is writing about rugby union articles, Spiro Savos does cricket and rugby union, and Michael Slater does the footy show ex -Test cricket. Diversify wider audience, you’ve been around the news desk seen a lot of sports journos and sports knowledge in other sports more than you probably are consciously aware of, sub-conscious. Have a go, do some rugby articles, go to the rugby world cup and compare it to the rugby league world cup, go to the soccer world cup, or Olympics. Check out rugby sevens. Good luck do some article on travel and tourism, and off the beaten track articles. SMH has good travel writers like Lee Tulloch, and Ben Groundwater. Or have a topical articles blog like Sam De Brito, general issues.
    Have an ask Steve article or Blog. You’ve travelled a lot Europe and pacific islands with footy, you pick up a few tips and info along the way, and in the sports desk.

  5. Interesting thoughts Steve. I suppose the idea situation would be that people (and Facebook page managers) showed some decency, acknowledge they got it wrong and change the post to reflect that. The other hope would be that no one would be willing to advertise with a site that engages with those sort of tactics, so they don’t get any dollars for a clickbait strategy. Like the new column idea too. Gives great insight into the man who we’ve all heard that many times behind the mic.

  6. Go on an African Safari in South Africa and go to cape town there lots to do and check out rugby league/union or go and check out the pyramids in Egypt, or go to South America Brazil for the soccer world cup, or go and watch a rugby/soccer game in Argentina, or places like Cuzco and the Amazon, like the Nat Geo channel travel stuff on foxtel. Or go travel around Asia Thailand,Phillipines,Vietnam,Japan,South Africa,SIngapore,HK. Asia they love Karaoke, and good food.

  7. Mate, you are logical, thoughtful and probably say most often, what people are thinking….. You’re on the money once again! As for the life you live, do what makes you happy- a simple philosophy really but it works. Can you just spend some of that hard earned on some pens cos you are hopeless keeping ’em in your pocket.
    Keep up the good work.

  8. Enjoyed the read and a little insight into your world! 🙂 Looking forward to the next one.

  9. Isn’t Marilyn Manson the same dude as Paul from the Wonder Years? 🙂

  10. I think we see the world the same way Steve . I too have a couch, not in storage though. Don’t forget rugby league, Never stop rockin.

  11. Steve

    What about the 1980’s investigative journalist for the SMH computer section – software piracy …. Ground breaking at the time!

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