Clickbait is a type of content that tries to attract clicks by exaggerating or sensationalising its title and content, usually with manipulative wording, in order to boost online traffic. The goal is typically to increase ad revenue from clicks by drawing more people to the website.
What is Clickbait?
Clickbait is generally defined as headlines or titles of content that are created to entice a reader to click and read the article. Often, these headlines will be sensationalised or exaggerated to grab attention, and can vary in content depending on the source. Some argue that clickbait is manipulative; forcing readers to jump off somewhere else out of curiosity after seeing a headline. Although this is true in some cases, some sources use clickbait titles based on facts, rather than a larger-than-life account of an event. For example, a news headline might say “Special Investigation Reveals Shocking Information”. This could be considered clickbait, but it could be based on a sound truth.
At its core, clickbait should not be feared for potential manipulation but rather inform readers about stories they may be interested in based on the title’s appeal. What becomes important is verifying that the story behind the title is just as true and engaging as promised. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer as to whether or not particular titles are wrongfully manipulating readers, so it is up to each individual user to develop their own opinion and use their judgement when reading articles with catchy headlines.
It’s clear that understanding clickbait can help us become more aware and educated readers. To dive deeper into this analysis though, let’s take a look at the origin of the term and examine how it has come to define online content today.
- A 2018 survey conducted by The Media Insight Project found that 79% of Americans are aware of clickbait in some way.
- According to a 2017 study, clickbait headlines had an average engagement rate of 5.2%, compared to other headline types which had a rate of 3.2%.
- A 2019 study published in Digital Journalism found that 40% of millennials aged 18-35 are most likely to be tricked by clickbait headlines.
Origin of the Term
Having discussed what clickbait is, it is time to discuss the origin of this term. The use of eye-catching headlines to lure a reader in originated as early as the late 1800s due to the increasing adoption of the printing press and mass media. During the 1920s and 1930s, yellow journalism grew in popularity and tabloids such as The National Enquirer began using sensationalised headlines to attract readers. However, these headlines were used with journalistic integrity and based on facts.
In later years, particularly in present times, journalists have started to associate clickbait with unethical practises such as exaggeration and misleading headlines that results in disappointment when readers click an article expecting one kind of content but being presented with something totally different. While some may argue that clickbait has been around since newspapers first came into existence, others insist that these tactics are more prevalent today mainly due to social media sites vying for user engagement by twisting facts or omitting details.
At best, clickbait can be viewed as an effective way to grab attention, although it does have its downsides if used irresponsibly. Ultimately, practitioners need to be aware of the ethical implications for their audience as well as any potential consequences to themselves and their brand in using such tactics. With that being said, it is important to understand what type of clickbait exists before taking advantage of it. With that in mind, let us now look at different types of clickbait.
Types of Clickbait
The term clickbait has evolved over time and so have the different types of clickbait. One of the most popular forms today is ‘headline clickbait’, where a specific headline is used to try and lure readers into clicking on articles – usually focusing on negative or controversial topics. However, this type of clickbait isn’t limited to just headlines; it can also be seen in email subject lines that are carefully crafted to spark curiosity or alertness.
There are other more subtle kinds of clickbait out there too. Social media users have been known to use ‘teaser images’, which are small visual objects that look like something interesting yet don’t explain what is inside. This can be effective in drawing user attention as they may be curious or want to know more. Similarly, some websites use ‘fake news’ stories and images to draw clicks even though they aren’t true.
Advocates for using various types of clickbait argue it entices people to read content they might otherwise not pay attention to, while critics see it as a manipulative and deceptive way of attracting readers. Proponents claim that by providing an enticing initial experience, readers may be encouraged to explore a topic further than if there was no clickbait at all. However, opponents point out that many times these false promises turn out to be empty and can actually diminish trust in the content creator by tricking readers into clicking on something that does not meet their expectations.
Regardless of the debate surrounding its use, one thing is certain – the power of the click will remain strong for the foreseeable future. As content creators continue to push the boundaries of what is socially acceptable and acceptable by search engines alike, it’s important for them to understand their audience and find a balance between creating content worth reading versus making overly sensationalised claims simply with the intent of generating traffic. With this knowledge in hand, we can now turn our attention to understanding how headlineclickbait works and its implications on digital publishing today.
Headline clickbait is a divisive practise because while it seeks to draw attention and curiosity, the misleading nature of such marketing can be seen as manipulative, dishonest, and unhelpful to readers. On one hand, some argue that clickbait headlines usually do what they’re supposed to do: engage readers, pique interest and attract more clicks. Taking a cue from sales techniques, some marketers have successfully used sensational and hyperbolic headlines that have drawn in potential customers. On the other hand, detractors are quick to point out how such tactics are nothing more than a cheap ploy. By crafting headlines to sound more dramatic or scandalous than the actual content, marketers can give readers an inaccurate impression of what the article has to say.
The evidence points to this phenomenon being far from uncommon – research on online news outlets has found that deceptive clickbait titles are deviously common. Yet such headlines are seen as an unfortunate and often necessary evil in an age where internet users expect huge amounts of information in short spans of time. Without grabbing people’s attention immediately, articles risk falling by the wayside in a frenzied space full of competition.
Having explored headline clickbait, we now turn our focus to how it’s entwined with the written content itself. Content clickbait presents its own set of considerations for digital marketers and designers alike seeking ways to maximise their reach without sacrificing integrity in favour of unscrupulous practises.
Content clickbait is similar to headline clickbaiting; however, instead of relying on catchy and misleading headlines to entice readers, content-level clickbait tends to rely on manipulated facts or heavily edited images or videos. Content-level clickbait often times can be found either directly after the headline of an article, or as part of longer articles. The goal of content-level clickbait is to further ensure that individuals remain engaged with the website, blog post, or social media platform by providing misleading information in order to encourage readers to “dig deeper”.
Some proponents argue that this type of clickbaiting does not necessarily distort the primary purpose of an article and can be used for educational purposes. For instance, a scientist could post an interesting fact regarding their research with a teaser such as: “Find out why this new discovery has everyone talking!” This could increase viewership potentially exposing more people to interesting scientific advancements further educating the public at large.
However, opponents contest that information manipulation can have detrimental implications. When people view pieces that contain false facts or heavily edited visuals they may be unintentionally misled into forming misinformed opinions or incorrect conclusions. As such, it is important to understand what types of information are being communicated in stories before embracing them blindly.
Given the potential consequences that come with content-level clickbait it’s crucial for consumers to look beyond what is first presented when reading these types of pieces. While some headlines may offer intriguing narratives, it is essential that individuals take the time to read further and ensure they are equipped with accurate information prior to forming strong opinions on topics discussed. With this knowledge at hand and an understanding of how headline and content level clickbaiting can influence one’s opinion on relevant topics, we can move onto the next section which will explore how these strategies affect consumers.
Affect of Clickbait on Consumers
When it comes to clickbait and its affect on consumers, there are a few things that need to be considered. On the one hand, clickbait can be extremely appealing as it promises something extraordinary or presents content from an out-of-the-ordinary angle. It can cause people to think that they will find something entirely new and exciting in the article or video they are about to watch, which entices them to click on the link. The over-the-top titles and descriptions of articles also stand out in feeds and news streams, luring viewers inside with inflated expectations.
On the other hand, many consumers feel frustrated when clicking on a link that has been hyperbolized or purposely constructed to generate attention. In such cases its discovered that the content delivered is often not as sensational as it was claimed to be. This not only causes disappointment but also breeds mistrust in large media outlets who use clickbait headlines for their own financial gain. Sometimes viewers leave feeling duped and their opinion of publications suffering from regular clickbait is lowered significantly.
This twin-edged blade of clickbait may be why it still remains so popular in today’s media industry. Its effectiveness at attracting clicks continues despite the bad press it receives from disappointed viewers. Weighing up both sides then calls for further exploration into the truthfulness of these headlines and whether or not focusing solely on grabbing attention does more harm than good for both the consumer and content provider.
The Truthfulness of Clickbait
When it comes to the truthfulness of clickbait, opinions often vary. Proponents argue that when headlines contain vague or incomplete information, the reader is compelled to click the link and learn more about the topic in an effort to expand personal knowledge. Further, there are some arguments that because clickbait usually cannot be classified as false advertisements or libellous material, readers who study the content thoroughly can still gain valuable information from it.
On the other hand, many detractors point out that simply because clickbait doesn’t contain incorrect information, doesn’t make it conducive to reliable research. In particular, they stress that clickbait headlines are often hyperbolic and sensationalised – a means of manipulating the reader into believing something more than what may actually be true. Such tactics take advantage of basic human curiosity and have been known to distort facts and mislead readers.
There have been multiple cases when an organisation has deliberately used clickbait titles in order to confuse and misinform consumers with seemingly-legitimate news sources; only after going deeper into the content was the deception uncovered. Additionally, studies have found that people exposed to “fake news” containing high-arousing statements spread misinformation just as much – if not more – than those who were exposed to genuine stories, further attesting to how easily clickbait can trick readers out too quickly accepting a sensational headline as fact.
Though debates on the truthfulness of clickbait remain undecided, this issue is far from over and warrants continued research and examination of how varying levels of truthworthiness influences today’s media and society. Moving forward, it’s important understand how elements of connectivity and virality such as sharing links through social media impact the popularity of clickbait headlines regardless of their accuracy.
How Clickbait Influences Sharing and Popularity
The truthfulness of clickbait is debatable and varies from piece to piece. While some pieces are written with the intention to deceive, others may be slightly misleading but ultimately relevant and informative. Regardless, clickbait’s ability to captivate and engage its readers has a powerful influence on sharing and popularity.
When social media users share content that is visually appealing or grabs their curiosity, it gains traction with their followers. This can lead to the content being shared multiple times, resulting in significant reach and audience recognition for the creator. For example, news outlets often use baiting headlines such as “You won’t believe what happened next” which encourages viewers to click through because they want to know what happens afterward.
The success of clickbait also extends to search engine optimisation (SEO). In SEO, more clicks often equate more traffic which websites prioritise. As a result, clickbait headlines can promote an article’s ranking on Google searches if it draws people in.
Clickbait has undeniable sway over internet traffic; however its influence can come at a cost. Many people feel misled by the over sensationalised headers they encounter while searching online, prompting them to view all types of clickbait unfavourably. This perception will play an important role in how users interact with content going forward, and it is something for internet creators and marketers to consider when creating content for maximum engagement as we enter the next phase of digital media marketing – understanding how users are affected by clickbait.
How clickbait impacts Internet Users
When it comes to understanding the impact of clickbait on internet users, there are both positive and negative perspectives. On the one hand, clickbait can stimulate engagement from users with its eye-catching headlines and often entices them to explore further. Additionally, clickbait content helps spread information quickly across the internet as many people share these intriguing stories with their social networks.
On the other hand, clickbait has come under fire lately due to its perceived inferiority in terms of providing accurate, honest content to its readers. This is because clickbait headlines are often taken out of context and do not fully capture the essence of the story they promote. For example, a sensationalist headline such as “This Guy Set a World Record!!” could in reality be referring to an action that was achieved without actually breaking any such record. Such practises have been criticised by some media outlets as unethical and irresponsible journalism.
The truth is that no matter how one feels about clickbait, it appears here to stay for now. It’s important to recognise that although there are certainly drawbacks associated with it, something as potentially powerful as clickbait can also be used responsibly if done correctly. In order to truly understand the impact of clickbait on internet users, we need to look at how content producers are using this tool in a positive way — such as creating interesting pieces of content that accurately provide needed information or spark meaningful dialogue about important topics and issues. This approach requires a more thoughtful approach when crafting headlines, but if done well can result in creating engaging stories which ultimately benefit everyone who reads them.