It really surprised me.
A modern term, just one word, used so simply, but so very dramatically.
You may not know anything about clickbait, but if you’re reading this, then you probably already do. If you don’t, or just like reading dictionary definitions, clickbait is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as:
(On the Internet) content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page
Back in the day (2011-2013), when I was studying journalism at university, I thought there were only two styles of news writing. Tabloid is your popular, run-of-the-mill trashy newspaper or website, where it draws you to the page with dramatic headlines, i.e The Daily Mail, Herald Sun, New York Post. If your tastes are a bit more refined, there are broadsheets, which just state it simply, without any need for red cordial-esque hyperbole, such as The New York Times, The Australian and The Daily Telegraph.
But this isn’t the case anymore.
The rise of the online blogger has led to a rise in clickbait, where news can be accessible anywhere, anytime. We usually just get it from Facebook. I’d mention Twitter, but 95% of Twitter is just authors advertising their greatest book ever, inspirational quotes, and retweets of authors advertising their greatest book ever. But why Facebook? the worried bloggers asked. Why don’t they go to us? Hence the advent of clickbait, originally found in those ads for porn sites and emails from north African “princes”. Websites such as Upworthy, Buzzfeed and Cracked, notorious for dramatic headlines, have tapped into the market. My headline is clickbait. This is more of the same. Blah, blah, go to our website because our news is different…in some way.
If you’re reading this, there’s a high chance you’re a blogger too. You probably use clickbait if you’re worried you’re losing some of your key audience. Maybe you’re not, and just write what you like and/or you think other people like with un-clickbaity headlines to draw potential readers in. However, if you’re a blogger who uses the click-and-bait method, there are a few things to be careful of.
- You aren’t just using dramatic headlines so you know people will click on your link, thus giving you more and more revenue. Remember: People aren’t really consuming what you’ve written. All you’ll do is bring up their desire to prove you wrong.
- Are people really reading what you’ve written? If you advertise on Facebook, most people will read only the headline, and respond just to that, especially if it targets them specifically.
- How many GIFs/pictures are you using? Do they detract from the seriousness, or alternatively the jokey nature, of your post?
But that’s not all. No, that’s not all!
Alright, enough with emulating the style of clickbaits. You probably already get the point.
If you’re trying to make a serious point on an issue, clickbait is not the way to go. Usually, the only way this is employed is to get more likes, thus more revenue. Or it’s just used to incite hatred, and create a huge comment thread a la what you see on YouTube. Remember Godwin’s Law people. Do you want what you’re trying to say drowned out in a sea of Hitler references?
Maybe I’m getting a little off track. Perhaps that’s exactly the point of this blog post, and I’m just being seen as satirical.
Perhaps, it is the way to go. The internet has changed many things, and maybe the way we write is just evolving. Our attention spans appear to be dwindling. There’s so much to see on the internet, especially on social media, that we sometimes miss things. We usually only remember the outrageous, whether it’s important or not. Perhaps you don’t remember what happened on those crazy current affairs shows, but they really were the precursor to clickbait. In the case of broadsheet and tabloid publications, we’re more likely to remember the outrageous tabloid stories about monstrous, psychopathic murderers and tax-evaders dodging the failing judicial system than a story that simply states a killer was arrested.
Just remember: You’re not going to be noticed for your own merit.
This post probably didn’t blow your mind, though. Whatever happens, clickbait is just the natural progression of tabloid writing. If it’s engaging enough, we’ll read it. Flashy headlines and, yes, cat GIFs, these add to the illusion.
As long as we’re attracted to the dramatic headlines, the oh my God you won’t believe what happened and this will amaze you it did it really amazed me style of writing will live on. Whether you like that or not, it really is here to stay.