Clickbait – the Kanye West of content marketing – is insufferable, obnoxious and everywhere. And if you ask me, which you didn’t, we’re better off without it.
Now that the shift from print to digital publishing has meant the coverage an article receives is based heavily on social media shares, clickbait headlines are flooding news feeds all over the internet….
“Watch this video and find out how one woman made £20 bazillion selling homemade cupcakes!”
“You’ll never guess what this guy found in his cat’s litter tray!”
Misinformation in headlines
It’s not just me who’s tired of it either – cheesed off bloggers have been ranting about clickbait for ages, and now even emotionally composed, intelligent people are chiming in too.
In 2014, The Journal of Experimental Psychology published a report titled The Effects of Subtle Misinformation in News Headlines. The report succinctly stated this about the practical role of a headline: “They provide context, facilitating comprehension and constraining interpretation of content.”
There was no mention of misleading readers, outright lying or being utter bilge – three traits I’ve decided belong unreservedly to clickbait. The majority of clickbait headlines are purposely deceptive, and a deceptive headline can impact the lessons a reader takes away from what they read. It influences their thoughts about the content of the article.
Vanity metrics and SEO
Doesn’t that remove any purpose in reading the article in the first place? If not for the fact that someone clicked on it, the article would have no actual reason to exist. And the click isn’t even a quality click, because as soon as the reader opens the article they’ll realise what drivel it is and immediately close it. It’s vanity metrics. What’s the point? As far as I can tell, there isn’t one, certainly not one of any real value anyway.
As if that weren’t enough, clickbait also is bad for your SEO. While articles topped with a hyperbolic headline seem to achieve impressive views, their bounce-rates are through the roof. Anyone who clicks through to an article that has absolutely nothing to do with what the headline suggested isn’t going to stick around to read it. And nor will they think positively of the source.
Clickbait’s attempts to influence readers into reactionary, emotional responses through sad, funny or touching hyperbole flies in the face of what content marketing is supposed to be about. Content marketing is meant to impartially inform, with the view that the reader will then think favourably about the source, building a strong, mutually beneficial relationship over time. Clickbait just panders to the lowest common denominator.
What frustrates me most is that now reputable and respected news sources find it necessary to take part in this pointless practice to remain competitive online, keeping the clickbait carousel spinning round and round. If it doesn’t stop soon I’m going to be sick everywhere.
In the digital age, where clicks equate to success, journalism turns its back on truth in favour of empty sensationalism. Surely this isn’t a sustainable practice?
Nobody likes you, clickbait; even Mark Zuckerberg wishes you’d just go away – the Facebook founder has decided to penalise pages that use it.
Remember, without our clicks, clickbait headlines cease to have a purpose. So, like Kanye, if we stop listening to them, maybe they’ll just go away.