Clickbait – a pejorative term for internet content created for the sole purpose of getting your attention and clicks.
You know: those posts that read “Become a millionaire in 1 year” usually going alongside a photo of Warren Buffet OR the “you won’t believe these exist…” (Yea. They probably don’t) posts.
It’s everything that’s wrong with modern journalism. Pumping our cheap content for the view count. Technically they get more people to visit the site — but where’s the standard? The quality writing?
It’s one thing to write curious headlines when there’s some quality content waiting for the reader on the other end. But more often than not, it either links to a whole different story or carries a few photoshopped pictures or an absurd video.
The truth is this type of content works* pretty well; the average person would repeatedly click through just to feed their curiosity. That’s why you even see some big media companies using them to rise up the internet hall of fame. But you already knew that from those astounding posts that rise up on your Facebook feed right?
People who actually write real content drown beneath the weight of these pointless posts. The internet is one massive war for attention, and sometimes even the best publishers are forced to resort on clickbait to force some attention on their real content.
“I scroll around, but when I look at the internet, I feel the same as when I’m walking through Coney Island. It’s like carnival barkers, and they all sit out there and go, ‘Come on in here and see a three-legged man!’ So you walk in and it’s a guy with a crutch.” — Jon Stewart
Things did change though. Around 2014, clickbait posts were quite more prominent on Facebook than it is now. Since they received large numbers of hits the posts automatically got bounced up your new feeds. But Facebook has changed its algorithms since to battle clickbait in the hopes of providing users with quality, relevant content.
In the article they also mentioned a survey where people were asked about what they preferred on their news feeds; to which 80% said they preferred headlines which helped them decide whether they wanted to click through and read the rest. Another reason why clickbait works, but shouldn’t.
This is just Facebook though. Almost all other social media channels, emails and advertisements carry a lot of clickbait these days. The only real way to stop the trend is for publishers to realized that clickbait stopped working a few years back.
You could say it goes along the lines of “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” for the readers. You do it once and people are likely to remember and avoid your content altogether — even when you have something real to share.
But you know… Sometimes we still get fooled twice.