The Huffington Post’s Sexist Linkbait Strategy

August 24, 2010

Created for and originally posted at Bitch Magazine’s Mad World Virtual Symposium

Huffington Post regularly uses women’s bodies as an internet marketing strategy to entice viewers and generate ad revenue.

Linkbait (n.): sensationalized and unrelated images and headlines used to draw viewers into other content on a website, it is often used to generate ad revenue

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Transcript – The Huffington Post’s Sexist Linkbait Strategy

The mainstream media is so full of right wing and centrist news coverage that many of us who desire social change take to the internet to find out what’s happening in the world. The Huffington Post a so called progressive liberal newsblogs that you may have heard of was founded in 2005 by Arianna Huffington. She wanted to create a liberal counterpoint to right wing sites such as the Drudge Report.  I’m all for liberal and progressive news blogs but the problem with HuffPo is they are continually throwing women under the bus. The website is dripping with sexism.  Progressive politics includes issues around racism and sexism, class, disability and sexuality.

According to the Huffington Post is the 36th most viewed site in the US.  It beats out the Wall Street Journal and the LA Times. In order to entice viewers they use a tactic called Link baiting. It’s any content within a website design specifically to gain attention. Linkbaiting is an internet marketing strategy that relies on sensationalism to bring in viewers which then generates more ad revenue.

In this case they regularly show women’s nipples, cleavage and asses in order to entice views, and they even have a section called Celebrity Skin because apparently they aren’t shy at all about their objectification. And let’s be clear now objectification isn’t just showing women’s bodies it’s using women’s bodies to sell something so in this case they’re selling “real” news stories but they are bringing people in by talking about celebrity nipples and which female politician is hotter. They often have images of half naked women right next to the “legitimate” news stories.

Or they will feature a popular news story like the one about the proposed mosque in New York City but they will use a nearly full screen image of a woman’s body stratling a stripper pole. This is fundamentally an issue about racism in America yet they’re using a woman’s body to gain attention. Since it’s a powerful image to use as linkbait, they used it repeatedly on the site over and over and over and over again.

This would of course bother me in general but I’m specifically pissed off at this site because they claim to be liberal and progressive when they are clearly not when it comes to women.

They have categories like Obama, Sarah Palin, economy, housing, Glenn Beck, the war.  And then they have an Entertainment section with categories like celebrity skin, sex tapes Lindsay Lohan, Jersey Shore, and these are all readily and easily available, they show up regularly on the home page yet I have to dig in order to find Women’s Rights tucked away in the World section, which hardly ever shows up on the front page. Apparently women’s rights don’t rise to the level of importance as naked celebrities.

This is even more apparently on their Activism section which is also tucked away and hard to find because the first three featured articles are of half naked women, you can thank PETA for that one.

Because of this it’s not surprising that women bloggers on the site are also treated with a similar disrespect. Although there are female and feminist bloggers on Huffington Post they rarely get featured as news items. So if it doesn’t make it to the front page or the front page of their respective sections it’s going to get very few views because there is so much content filtering through HuffPo everyday.

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting did a study that found that only 23% of featured content was written by women. I know what you are thinking, it was founded by a woman, a powerful woman and yes but Sarah Palin is also a powerful woman and look at how disgraceful she is when it comes to women’s rights. Just because it’s female fronted doesn’t change the fact that it’s structurally and institutionally excluding women from the intellectual sphere and most often only featuring women as linkbait.

The popularity of this site serves to define progressive politics and they’re saying that woman aren’t really included in any substantial capacity. Too often websites like the Huffington Post gets to claim a progressive slant while treating women in ways that liberals would be pretty pissed off about if they saw it on Fox News. Any progressive news site worth following clearly and transparently includes race, gender, sexuality, class and ability throughout the entire site, not just when it’s convenient for their marketing strategy.

8 Responses to “The Huffington Post’s Sexist Linkbait Strategy”

  1. I’ve found myself becoming more and more disenchanted with the Huffington Post in general. I have been noticing more of the linkbait articles about celebrities & get annoyed when I’m just trying to read the news. I’m with you all the way on that. My other big problem with them is that they don’t pay their bloggers. Huffington says she wants to change how news media is — newspapers are outdated, blah, blah — but she can’t even pay more than a couple big-name contributers.


  2. I am glad others also noticed and are disturbed by the sexist linkbait strategy used by Huffington Post.


  3. Nice post


  4. Considering their habit of swaddling Roman Polanski in the finest silks and feeding him Turkish delight, I’m not surprised that HuffPo is anti-woman in general.


  5. This is one of the most clear and concise rundowns I have seen of something that is completely infuriating about HuffPo. I have more or less given up on the site.

    My boyfriend has stopped frequenting the site as he finds it creepy as well. Now if I could just get him to grasp why it is so frustrating when Dems/Liberals in general “throw women under the bus”.


  6. […] On Linkbaiting at the Huffington Post: Linkbait (n.): sensationalized and unrelated images and headlines used to draw viewers into other content on a website, it is often used to generate ad revenue. Anita Sarkeesian, who is amazing, explains why HuffPo’s linkbaiting tactics are against their progressive political agenda. […]


  7. I always thought that HuffPo was kind of cheap, but assumed that it was just in my head. This helped me finally realize that I wasn’t being overly sensitive. Time to find a respectable news source.


  8. […] recently watched this video post on linkbaiting and Huffington Post. Huffington Post regularly uses women’s bodies as an internet marketing strategy to entice […]



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