“What the heck were they wearing at the Grammys?”
“How money can buy you love online.”
“10 ways to survive a plane crash.”
“This one government secret will make you think twice about drinking water.”
“Try getting through these 35 photos without crying a new Nile.”
“Forget what you knew about quantum physics.”
Three of those are direct headlines from last night on a once reputable news source. The other half I made up. So which are which? That’s not important. What do they have in common? They are all perfect examples of what’s called “clickbait”; a sensationalist online advertising ploy designed to attract click-throughs.
I’m getting tired and sad because of clickbaiting (watch this video for a colorful intro and to hear puppets agree with me). I’m tired because it seems as though I can’t escape the reach of this curiosity-driven advertising-in-information’s-clothing; and I’m sad because it seems the only way to prevent clickbait is by unfollowing companies and media sources I’ve appreciated for years. Clickbait marketing has gotten so internet famous, The Onion has gone as far as creating a parody site in response to the type of clickbait generated by sites like Buzzfeed.
Apparently I’m not alone. An Aug. 2014 NY Times articlereported:
“80 percent [of surveyed facebook users] ‘preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through.’”
In a smart move, Facebook is reportedly building a new algorithm to limit the degree to which users are inundated with clickbait. It will also base the importance of an article and the likelihood of it being clickbait by how long users spend reading it. But personally the damage is done. I’ve grown cynical of the new definition of “content” and will continue using it for nothing more than messaging and reminding me of friends’ birthdays I’m too lazy to memorize.
Whether your company takes part in clickbaiting, the lesson can be applied to marketing as a whole; be authentic. Be informative and genuinely interesting. And importantly, don’t let the drive for clicks control the quality of your content marketing strategy.