Welcome to the world of clickbait, where a misleading headline over promises and under-delivers. Hopefully you will accept my sincere apologies for using the same kind of headline that many websites use without remorse.
During the last few years, sites such as BuzzFeed, Cracked, Upworthy and even the Huffington Post have enjoyed fantastic success by using this content marketing strategy that is both effective and infuriating at the same time. I am of course referring to what a growing number of people affectionately call click-bait.
This much maligned strategy will concentrate on the headline rather than the article content itself to draw you in and convince you to click on that link to read more. This general philosophy goes against everything you have learned by concentrating on sensationalising, exaggerating over-promising on the content of an article via a tiny headline so you can increase your traffic stats to boost advertising revenues.
Personally, I find incredibly short-sighted that sites can enjoy quick success by constantly under delivering and disappointing their readers, but what do I know, I have used the same technique in my own article, so I’m unable to take the moral high ground this time.
Although the most successful websites online at the moment are using clickbait, how long until we all say enough is enough of this fad?
I must confess that I feel utterly ashamed of myself when I see that familiar controversial headline claiming to contain ground breaking news, only to be left crestfallen in the corner of a dark room repeating “why do I fall for this every time?”
A perfect example of click-bait at its most tasteless and some would call dangerous was a Huffington Post story on Facebook with the headline “Man tested for Ebola in Birmingham” as people clicked the story, it was revealed “but he was tested negative for the virus” making this a non-story but it was too late, because may click was already registered along with my valuable page impression for their advertisers.
However, it appears that I am not alone with my frustrations and the backlash has not only started but growing quickly. Step forward Jake Beckman who has had enough of readers being manipulated so created Saved You A Click to get a little revenge on some of the sites with good old fashioned sarcasm.
Who got the idea for Saved You a Click while working for Bloomberg TV and told DigiDay “I followed a lot of news outlets and reporters, and noticed a long time ago the trend toward clickbait headlines. As the clickbait trend spread past the Huffington Post to the rest of the news industry, it seem to me there was a market for this kind of response. It just felt to me like it could be a funny response to just do the clicking for everyone.”
The websites ethos is simply “Don’t click on that I already did. Saving you from clickbait and adding context” and the amusing Twitter feed has amassed over 131,000 followers this year.
The Huffington Post has also spurned a Twitter account @HuffPoSpoilers whose owner simply states “I give in to Huffington Post click-bait so you don’t have to” as he reveals clickbait spoilers added with a little humour.
There is no denying the benefits extra traffic clickbait can bring and every printed magazine you see on the shelves use very similar tactics, but if the content does not live up to headline, will people begin to turn away from these sites?
Is it a necessary evil or just crass sensationalised journalism? let me know your thoughts