Diving into internet "chum?" Yes, it's as bad as you'd expect.

Those square boxes with tantalizing headlines aren't just clickbait.
An example of an internet chumbox. (Screen capture from The Awl)

A chumbucket is not a pleasant thing for anything except a shark. And when the rotting fish, guts and other bio-waste in the chumbucket are dumped overboard, nearby sharks have a tendency to go into a feeding frenzy.

They start to chain themselves together until you find yourself in a never-ending funnel of the stuff.- John Mahoney

John Mahoney, a writer who's been examining internet advertising, says many pages now feature the web equivalent of a chumbucket: a grid of squares, often featuring gross pictures that promise you a miracle cure, a way to reverse aging, or hot gossip about a group of celebrities.

The ordering of the boxes, at first, appears random. But John says they're not - they're carefully crafted to match images of skin, vaguely edible vegetables, and other elements that create a response that is "deeply limbic," he says, implying that we have an almost autonomic desire to click on them

And if you click on one, of course it's an advertisement (which you probably knew, even though you still clicked). But it's worse than that -- it's like diving down a chumbucket rabbit hole. Each page has dozens more ads that create the same response. "They start to chain themselves together until you find yourself in a never-ending funnel of the stuff."

Now, it's hard to find a news page that doesn't feature a chumbox, and several large advertisers, like Outbrain, use them extensively. "You see them on CNN, you see them on Fortune... they're just everywhere -- and clearly making a lot of money."


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