Editor's note: We got to meet Alex Mizrahi at the L.A. Weekly Web Awards party on Aug. 28. Although he lives in New York today, it turns out the man behind @HuffPoSpoilers is an L.A. native — a guy from San Pedro, no less, who has lots to say about the Huffington Post's Twitter strategy. We decided to turn our soapbox over to him to share those thoughts with a wider audience.
By Alex Mizrahi
A riddle, in a format you'll find familiar:
THIS major media outlet mentioned “Kardashian” or “Jenner” 140 times on Twitter this August.
The answer, of course, is @HuffingtonPost. So how about another one:
Which media outlet mentioned “Obama” or “Kerry” only a slightly greater 162 times in the same span?
Thanks to the Internet, we no longer need to wait until the 11 o'clock news to learn what common household products are killing us. Yet the Huffington Post, your self-proclaimed “Internet newspaper,” uses Twitter like KNBC uses the last seconds of a primetime commercial break. To compare it to high school journalism would be an insult to high school journalists.
Last year, fed up with @HuffingtonPost click-bait and inanity, I created @HuffPoSpoilers.
— HuffPo Spoilers (@HuffPoSpoilers) September 2, 2013
— HuffPo Spoilers (@HuffPoSpoilers) September 4, 2013
Four months ago it took off, and as I near 4,000 spoiler tweets, I approach 30,000 followers. That's a lot people who share my frustrations.
As a powerful and socially conscious media mogul, doesn't it frustrate you as well?
The great irony of your click-bait strategy is, it may actually be counterproductive. I've heard from many people saying they read more Huffington Post than they did before. Perhaps you assume that you shouldn't say a story comes from Colorado because then no one outside of Colorado will click. But the reverse may also be true: if you do mention the state (and not simply “this state”), engagement in Colorado will be much higher and those readers will be more likely to share the link.
And it's an especially egregious public disservice to not include the location when discussing something like, oh I dunno, A PRISONER ON THE LAM:
— HuffPo Spoilers (@HuffPoSpoilers) September 9, 2013
And what about the “stories” you're choosing to promote?
You employ some very smart and talented social media editors with personality and character on their personal Twitter feeds, yet @HuffingtonPost manages to be the lowest of Lowest Common Denominators, relying on the words and phrases so worn-out and bland they've been stripped of any meaning. Ever realize how many things are the best/worst/biggest/cutest/most [adjective] EVER?
Need proof that PROOF keeps being misused?
And I refuse to believe your social media editors choose, of their own volition, to tweet the same stories over and over (and over and over and over) again (by my count the record is five, for this story about a mop).
I assume that somewhere within the chain-of-command between you and your social media editors, a traffic quota was set up, requiring a threshold of click rates and unique views, no matter how many obfuscations or vaguely sexist articles about celebrities wearing bikinis it takes. (Never mind that it's summer and they're at the beach; what are they supposed to wear? And second, could you at least come up with better adjectives to describe said bikinis than “teeny” or “tiny”?)
It may seem like I'm picking on you, but as a progressive myself, I'm a fan of the Huffington Post and of your work. You've spearheaded many great initiatives, such as Girls in STEM and ThirdMetric, and I wholeheartedly endorse your effort to reprioritize sleep.
But @HuffingtonPost is insufferable. It's become the poster-child for the click-bait scourge and damages the site's credibility — and yours, by extension.
Easy to fix, though. Start by banning the word “this,” especially when preceding “city,” “state,” “actor,” and so on — just say what “this” is. Include locations. Quit unnecessarily sticking question marks at the end of tweets. Leave the “teeny bikinis” alone. And enough with all the ellipses already. Make these simple changes, and I become obsolete.
In which case, everybody wins.