Like many people who read articles on internet, whether they are business, software, stock price movements, news, politics, or general social commentary, I have noticed a worrisome trend in the rise of “Click bait” headlines.

 

For whatever reason, negative news gets more clicks than positive news, so time and again we see headlines that highlight the negative news when the body of the article actually reveals positive news.  Whatever your politics you have probably seen this.  If you follow companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Tesla, the number of negative headlines far outweighs the positive headlines, even on days where positive news should dominate.

As SAP emerges as a highly innovative company, launching HANA, Cloud, Analytics, Mobility and other high tech solutions, we too are subject to the “Click bait” phenomenon.  Just recently a blog in the Wall Street Journal.com site http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2014/08/08/many-sap-customers-cant-make-a-business-case-for-hana/ ran with a headline, “Many SAP Customers cannot make a Business Case for HANA”

Certainly this is a provocative headline.  Surprisingly however, upon reading the text, the author cites a survey of the American SAP User Group that reveals …”of 377 respondents asked whether they had purchased a HANA product, just 40% said they had, while 55% hadn’t and 5% didn’t know”.  I don’t know about you, but where I come from a 40% purchase rate for a relatively new product the size and stature of HANA, seems like a stunning success and the headline could easily have read, “HANA gets a spectacular start with 40% adoption rate”.

What wasn’t mentioned in the WSJ blog was that HCL recently conducted a global survey of 100 executives from large enterprises which focused on their current and future plans to deploy SAP applications and infrastructure in the cloud.  http://www.hcltech.com/press-releases/hcl-axon/hcl-research-reveals-39-billion-sap-landscape-could-move-cloud-next-two  HCL’s research revealed, “56% of organizations stated they expect to use SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud in the future”

There are many excellent reasons why companies are moving to SAP HANA, and there are numerous HANA customer success stories, in companies of
all sizes and across all industries and geographies.  There are also many compelling reasons for an organization to adopt HANA.  A good example of this is an article that appeared this week about the State of Indiana’s reason for choosing HANA: State of Indiana Chooses SAP HANA Platform to Help Fight Infant
Mortality
which shows the business case is not always a “dollars & cents” argument. Sometimes it’s good will and sometimes it’s politics. 

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  1. Jelena Perfiljeva

    We might have different definitions of “click bait” but I must ask – Brad, do you actually feel that headline matches the story in this blog?

    At first I was looking forward to reading more about the marketing practices, but then it took a sharp turn into promoting HANA. I’m confused…

    I feel leading with something like “I read a blog that many SAP customers cannot make a business case for HANA and want to help by providing this information” (and posting it in the HANA space) could’ve been a more positive introduction instead of suggesting someone is spinning the facts and rushing to provide numbers from another survey (which, by the way, is not really comparable to the ASUG one).

    By the way, ASUG was able to recognize the lack of business cases as an issue for their members and are currently hosting series of webcasts on that. So maybe we should sometimes embrace negativity?

    Thank you.

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    1. Joao Sousa

      I agree Jelena, I had the exact same feeling. After the first few sentences this becomes less about marketing techniques, and more about how wonderfully HANA has been doing, which is ironic given the title.

      If 40% is good or not depends on SAP, but I would find it worrying that 3 quarters of 55% of customers can’t find a business case, taking into account the amount of push marketing that SAP has been doing around HANA (which has been around for several years now, it’s not “new”). They could have HANA on the horizon, but no, they don’t even have a business case for it. Since the title says “many” and not “most”, I don’t see why the article doesn’t match the title.

      And then you have to know exactly what those 40% bought a HANA product, so the “HANA gets a spectacular start with 40% adoption rate”, could even be more click-bait.

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    1. Tim Clark

      Jarret, pretty sure all these headlines match the actual stories. Are you calling them out for a different reason? Not sure I understand the point you are trying to make.

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      1. Joao Sousa

        I believe the point is that the links that Brad presents as bad examples also have “appealing” titles.

        Basically Brad made a wrong turn when he gave a flawed example (the title he used actually matched the story, even though the spin wasn’t what he would like) so he ended up making a post against “Titles that drive emotion”, which those links ….. well let’s say they follow the same mold.

        Not sure that was the point he was making, but it is the one I am making. I do hate click bait titles, and I’ve started to avoid them. I would never click links with those titles, after some time you start to know better.

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      2. Jarret Pazahanick

        My point is Tim that headline of the story that the author of this blog finds offense with is no more “click bait” worthy than what SAP put out day in and day out in their various communication channels.

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        1. Tim Clark

          I don’t really see it in the examples you cite. As a general rule, most of the content SAP publishes on Forbes stays away from click bait and tries to tell a good story or perhaps let a more general business audience know how our customers use our products or what’s going on at one of our events. Same can be said for this space since most of the content here is repurposed for Forbes. The author of this particular blog post might not have been entirely sure about his objective but still glad to see vinnie mirchandani provide valuable feedback.
          .

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          1. Joao Sousa

            Don’t Blame Baby Boomers For The Zombie Apocalypse – Forbes

            The “Zombie apocalypse” that the article actually refers to is a Jacob Morgan (some person) quote, while the phrase is usually associated with the “Walking Dead” and several pop culture references.

            The immediate reaction of the reader is to think “What do Baby Boomers have to do with zombies? I have to check it!”, but what the article actually talks about is apathy in the workspace. I would call that a sensationalist title wouldn’t you?

            That’s about the headline, which is usually we are talking about when we talk about clickbait, and Brad’s focus. If you want to take into account the quality of the content, then you are putting into question the quality and purpose of the link that Brad used as an example. We can do that, and include the content in the discussion besides the title, but then I find Brad’s example to be even worse. The article he said was clickbait presented accurate data and relevant conclusions, even if they weren’t the one he would have liked.

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            1. Tim Clark

              Joao Sousa, when we’re talking about “click bait” in the world of blogging and digital journalism, it’s usually used to describe a blatant form of trickery via an overabundance of marketing jargon and hyperlinks with very little regard to real information or storytelling. Sensational titles like Don’t Blame Baby Boomers For The Zombie Apocalypse are a fun, irreverent and absolutely necessary way to draw people to your content.

              As I stated earlier, Brad Borkan might not have been completely clear about his intention with this blog post but at least he tried to raise a concern, that perhaps the ASUG article wasn’t painting a complete picture.

              And for the record, The Walking Dead isn’t responsible for starting the zombie apocalypse. That distinction belongs to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead 🙂 .

              [embed width="425" height="350"]https://www.youtube.com/embed/5gUKvmOEGCU[/embed]

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              1. Joao Sousa

                Joao Sousa, when we’re talking about “click bait” in the world of blogging and digital journalism, it’s usually used to describe a blatant form of trickery via an overabundance of marketing jargon and hyperlinks with very little regard to real information or storytelling.

                By that definition you have to agree that what Brad classified as click bait, isn’t click bait at all. Correct?

                And for the record, The Walking Dead isn’t responsible for starting the zombie apocalypse.

                I know, but it’s the most recent and known pop culture reference.

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                1. Tim Clark

                  I don’t think Brad’s post, or the post he references qualifies as click bait. I do see the term being bandied about a little too much lately, especially on SCN, and I don’t see the connection in most cases. Which concerns me. As I stated a few times before, perhaps Brad wasn’t entirely clear on what he wanted to accomplish with this particular post. That said, I am assuming his intent was to bring to light the information, or lack thereof, in the WSJ piece and not to have people like us splitting hairs over the finer points of content marketing terminology.

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                  1. Joao Sousa

                    That said, I am assuming his intent was to bring to light the information, or lack thereof, in the WSJ piece and not to have people like us splitting hairs over the finer points of content marketing terminology.

                    If it wasn’t his intent, then he shouldn’t have discussed the finer points of marketing terminology in the title of the blog. The post is, and I quote “a case against clickbait”. How is discussing what a clickbait actually is, off topic, or “splitting hair”?

                    I can believe that Brad’s intent was not discussing what a clickbait is, but misinterpretation  will happen when you put so much effort on having a creative title versus having a title that accurately describes the content – and that’s what worries me as a blog reader.

                    The Zombie Apocalypse piece could be called: Why can’t Baby Boomers be blamed for workplace apathy? It isn’t that bad, and it would have two advantages:

                    1) I would know what I was getting into, instead of clicking and then maybe, just maybe, find a topic that interested me;

                    2) I wouldn’t open the link and skim the text looking for references to the zombie acopalypse, which takes the focus away from the actual bottom line. I clicked to read about the zombie apocalypse…. where is it?

                    The discussion about the intent, content, structure and impact of titles is not “splitting hair”, it’s actually quite interesting, and I would love it if people like you (a marketing person) would be more open to discuss it (especially in a blog with this title).

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                    1. Tim Clark

                      As a former journalist, and moderator of this space and our Forbes platform, I am looking at/reviewing headlines, stories, copy all day, every day. So I find it an interesting topic as well and that’s why I have been openly discussing it with you and others. So, um, you really clicked on the zombie apocalypse piece expecting to actually read about the zombie apocalypse? It’s clearly a kitcshy title meant to poke fun at a certain demographic, not tips on how to survive a zombie outbreak, etc.

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                      1. Joao Sousa

                        So, um, you really clicked on the zombie apocalypse piece expecting to actually read about the zombie apocalypse?

                        No, and I didn’t click it at first, only after the argument started. I didn’t click it because the writer was clearly not being transparent about the content of the story, so I didn’t reward him with a view. Why should why? I didn”t have a clue what the story was actually about.

                        When I did click, I just went looking for the reference to the “Zombie Apocalypse” to see what was the “joke”  (instead of the actual content). Workflow place apathy? Closed the page. The only thing the writer achieved was wasting my time, and I find myself avoiding links with these kind of titles.

                        This is of course anecdotal, and I’m sure you get a lot of views using these tactics. I’m not so sure you get people to actually read the stories.

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            1. Joao Sousa

              The first is “amazing”. I found out I should buy cards, flowers, and chocolate for Valentine’s day. Didn’t see that one coming….. I refuse to click the second one.

              But I agree that at least the first is a great example of the writer obfuscating the real subject of the blog post with a sexy title. Could be anything in it. Those are clearly the kind of links I don’t touch with a stick.

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  2. vinnie mirchandani

    Brad, I write about innovation and wrote about HANA (before it was so named) in a 2009 book The New Polymath. 5 years later, less than 1% of your customers have adopted it. SAP needs to accept that reality.

    There are many competing choices today. The sw is expensive. It needs significant IT and SI resources, At higher memory loads >4 TB you cannot use commodity chips so hw is expensive. The HEC data center is tiny compared to Google or Amazon data centers and at that scale is expensive. The MPLS connectivity to HEC is expensive. Not enough compelling case studies yet.

    SAP needs to take a hard look at all these realities. Blaming ASUG will not change these realities. That is the voice of your customers – they get to define what is innovation. Not what SAP says or even what I say.

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