A very worthwhile article, if you're interested in the internet economy and its effect on culture and politics. Consider a generalization of "nerd sniping"; call it Weak Attention Sniping, perhaps: taking advantage of the propensity of most people at some times to be derailed from an activity of real value by some kind of conspicuously curious distraction. The business model of the firm described consists entirely of arbitraging and amplifying WAS, monetized by ads. The content is copied with little or no modification from elsewhere. The only value added, if one can call it that, is early recognition of viral content elsewhere on the web, substitution of more attention grabbing headlines, and more aggressive promotion (mostly via facebook). Real-time data analytics are used to improve click-thru rates and stay ahead of competitors.
Why does this matter? To me the article suggests a lot of interesting questions about psychology, education, economics and parallels between biological and cultural pathogens. More narrowly, the business activity it describes is almost certainly making the internet less useful.
Its part of a larger context of internet practices, incentivized by the ease of copying without attribution and by monetization thru ads, that disincentivizes the production of high-quality content, where higher quality requires higher costs.
It may lower the utility provided by availability of high quality, more difficult to absorb information, by a kind of redirective priming. Suppose there is a story with many aspects, some of them perhaps ambiguous. Yet within it is a curious nugget that can be mined for WAS. Those who consume the out-of-context neural candy, or just see in promoted in multiple places, can gain an erroneous impression of the thrust and value of the larger story, or their own understanding of it, and pass up opportunities to consider it more deeply.