Google is known as a search engine, but that is not where they derive most of their revenue. Their business relies on selling ads. Google figured out how to auction ads on the Internet and became one of the most valuable companies in the world based on their ability to broker the sales of ads. They used the metric of impressions or the number of people who viewed the page with the ad to price ads. Each impression costs a small amount, but they quickly add up. By auctioning these small chunks it enabled them to sell the same ad to many people. Each person visiting a sight can be shown a different ad, so it was possible to sell each impression to different organizations.
When Google started auctioning ads, the incumbents, the best known being Yahoo were selling ads on a per month basis. These incumbents would sell banner ads on well known sites for thousands of dollars, but they were not able to work with smaller advertisers or smaller sites. The number of hits was the metric at the time to determine how many connections were made to a site. The hits metric inflated the number of visitors and because of this fell out of favor to the impression. An impression is every time an ad is displayed on a website.
Google’s auctioning system was able to service these smaller dollar clients and quickly surpassed the revenue of the other companies selling ads. Google’s auctioning of ad impressions broke news delivery, since all impressions are treated equally. Ad impressions do not account for the quality of the content or for how long people look at a page. This led to an emphasis on clickbait headlines that get people to click on links even though they immediately leave the page, because this was not the content they were looking for or the headline was sensational and the person wanted to see if it was true.
If a person is tricked into going to an article because of a clickbait headline that impression is worth much less than if you find an article you enjoy. Often the clickbait news is either not true or is sensationalized. Being associated with such a site is actually detrimental to the advertiser as the person may hold them responsible for being tricked.
By treating all impressions as equal and only providing how many impressions you have been given, these ad serving companies have broken the news. High quality content is expensive to produce, while crappy clickbait headlines are cheap to produce. This means that this form of monetization actually leads to less quality content.
It is not just the ad brokering companies that need to find a way to incentivize quality content. The people buying ads need to understand that an impression is not that important if someone sees your ad and immediately clicks off the page or feels tricked by the content that was on the page. This is not a good experience and will most likely lead to the customer having a negative impression of the advertising company.
The fix for this would be to change the model with which ads are sold, impressions should go the way of hits for determining ad prices. A new metric needs to be developed that accounts for the type of content and the length that users spend on the article.