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Yellow Press definition

Old an new Yellow Press media. (© Sebra -

Old an new Yellow Press media. (© Sebra -

Yellow Press is a term that refers to low quality journalism that is poorly researched, often with bombastic titles. This refers largely to older print media, but can be used to apply to modern forms such as clickbait today.

The term yellow journalism or yellow press is a derogatory term used to describe journalism that has had no research, that offers little or no valuable discussion or insight and that often uses eye-grabbing headlines in order to get attention and sell more copies. This type of ‘journalism’ may in fact be completely unfounded in fact, or use misleading titles in order to obfuscate the true subject matter. Either way, in this case journalistic integrity goes out the window in favour of a good story that will likely get lots of clicks. While the term Yellow Press might refer to older practices, what is interesting is that similar practices still go on today.

For instance…


Today, the closest thing we have to yellow press is clickbait. This is content that is designed to be as clickable as possible – with crazy sounding titles and promises to deliver more content than they possibly can in reality. Clickbait will typically use headings that leave some air of mystery and that use curiosity to get the reader to click through and read. However, the content within often doesn’t actually answer the question posited by the title!

For instance:

“A Woman Walked Onto a Train With a Baby, What Happened Next Will Shock You!”


“Five Signs You’re Far Smarter Than You Think – Number 3 Will Change Your Life”

These pique the curiosity of the reader but very often they don’t actually answer that question to a satisfactory extent.

Tabloid Press

We can also consider the tabloid press to be an example of yellow press. The tabloids are the papers that are known for covering celebrity gossip stories and ‘real life’ stories that don’t really have a bearing on the life of the reader. They will use shock, shame and scandal to attract readers and often this will involve invasions of privacy and poorly written content. It’s not unusual to see stories detailing the outfits of a celebrity, the weight loss or gain of a celebrity, or a reader who had a child with three potential children.

These stories work on an emotional level – gossiping and sharing rumors is hardwired into the way that our brains work and it’s something that triggers an emotional reaction. We want to make sure that we know all of the latest scoops and that we aren’t left out of the loop in any way. All of this, along with curiosity, causes us to want to read content that we know is poorly sourced and doesn’t offer any real ‘value’.

Why Yellow Press Doesn’t Work

Many tabloids have thrived on this kind of content for a long and they likely will continue to do so. However, yellow press is not a viable marketing strategy for a digital marketer and is not a method that you should consider using. Why not? Of course yellow press works under certain circumstances as we have seen. It is able to make money for tabloid papers because they will print adverts in the papers and their readership is large enough.

However, on the web we have ‘gatekeepers’. These include the likes of Google and Facebook, which to a greater or lesser extent get to choose which content we see. These brands want to encourage users to have the best experience possible (because they are then more likely to come back again) and as such, they are likely to promote content that offers real value.

openPR-Tip: If you provide poor quality content – badly researched, shallow, unsatisfying – then changes to the algorithms that power these platforms will always take more people away from your content. If you deliver genuinely high quality information, then any changes will only be good for your brand.

Not only that, but digital marketing and content marketing in particular, is focussed very much on creating a relationship and establishing trust and authority with readers. This is what then gives that brand or that individual the authority to recommend products and things to sell. This is also what ensures people keep coming back to that site, in order to read more and to get more information.

Finally, high quality content means high quality advertisers. Influencer marketing is a big subject today, and it is something that many businesses are looking into. This is a great way for a website or blog to make an income but of course the best quality brands only want to be associated with sites and blogs that are going to represent them in a positive light. For evidence of what can happen when this fails, you only need to look at the state of YouTube after the adpocalypse triggered by Pewdiepie.