Last week brought the first teaser for Rihanna’s upcoming album Anti, her first full-length record in nearly three years. It also brought the first “review” of Anti, which was especially strange because the record hasn’t leaked and doesn’t even have an official release date. But that didn’t stop a twitchy computer algorithm at Yahoo from releasing this incomplete Mic piece about Anti last Friday, riddled with blanks yet to be filled in.
It’s not shocking that a new-media outlet would prepare a skeleton of a draft in advance of a major new pop album — print publications have done similar things for obituaries and expected news stories for decades. What’s interesting (and funny) about Mic’s review is that the pressure here isn’t about print deadlines — it’s about Google. Very soon, a number of people are going to be searching “Rihanna Anti download,” “Rihanna Anti lyrics,” and “Rihanna Anti streaming.” Mic knows this, as evidenced by its cynical, SEO-friendly headline, and it would like to scoop up as many of those wandering Googlers as possible. Those people, and (perhaps more important) Google’s algorithms, will be hungry for data about [LYRICS] and [FEATURED ARTISTS], and will probably appreciate a helpful [HYPERLINK TO RAPGENIUS]. This is clear.
It’s embarrassing to see the current media dogfight over scraps of internet traffic laid bare in this way, but not as embarrassing as the blanks to be filled in about Anti’s lyrical content. Although no one’s heard the record, Mic is betting we’ll see an “edgier, freer” Rihanna — probably a safe assumption after the video for “Bitch Better Have My Money,” and of course, the unforgettable line [LYRICS] from [TRACK NAME].
Chris Riotta, the Mic staff writer whose byline appeared on the piece, realized his Mad-Libs-style prewrite could look a little strange to anyone who’s not familiar with the race to cover breaking news for the valuable unique visitors of the internet, and wanted to make clear that this was not a review:
In this case, it’s the machines, not the humans they will inevitably replace, that are to blame:
“Some stories on Yahoo, including this story by .MIC, are selected and published by an algorithm. The story was immediately removed after the error was flagged,” a Yahoo spokesperson said.