Oxford dictionaries describes click-bait as “content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page”. It’s those articles that have headlines like “You’ll never believe what Kim Kardashian did” or “Nicki M’s Paris Fashion Shocker”. Websites like BuzzFeed, Perez Hilton, and UpWorthy are notorious for this type of media and with Buzzfeed gaining revenues of $167 million in 2015 its an important concept to understand.
Click-bait or more humbly known as ‘content marketing’ has transformed the way media that new media is consumed. But why is click-bait important? If people are so frustrated with it why does it still exist?
In an article published by Marketing Insights written by Marguerite McNeal, she discusses the psychology behind this new type of media. The information gap theory of curiosity tells us that there is a disconnect or mental gap between what we know and what we want to know. When we see such sensational headlines, it peaks our natural curiosity and once we click and find out what that “secret” is, that gap is filled and curiosity is satisfied.
This Youtube video explains the theory further and why it has such a strong presence in our world.
Now its difficult to quantify if there is an actual profit or monetary advantage when click-bait is used, however the numbers don’t lie. In an example highlighted by McNeal the same YouTube video, advertised with modest vs click-bait titles garnered 1 million vs. 17 million views.
However this leads to the frustration of consumers and content creators alike. Why? Many of these articles don’t actually contain substance are only meant to keep their viewers for a 15-30 seconds, whereas sources of credible factual information that don’t utilize the click-bait tactics have hard time finding internet traffic and views to their website.
But those opposed to ‘content marketing’ state the the consequences of click-bait without any substance or value has negative long term effects for revenue and viewership. In order for content creators to create a long term relationship with their viewers, it is necessary to add substance to what is being published otherwise consumers feel disappointed and mislead. Furthermore the old adage ” first impressions are everything” truly holds its weight in these scenarios. It has been shown that consumers don’t trust the credibility of the sources that utilize click-bait for the sole purpose of web traffic. Additionally the lack of content deteriorates the brand reputation in the consumers mind and makes the consumer less likely to visit the websites for future purposes. BuzzFeed and UpWorthy both write about current events and BuzzFeed even has its own News section, however, since the reputation has been muddled by their extensive library of surveys to “figure out what flavor of potato chip you are”, people will not and do not trust the validity of their news reporting. Additionally YouTubers who mislabel their titles with stories like ” I ALMOST DIED” are finding commenter backlash for misleading their subscribers are are experience a decrease and/or stagnation in both following and viewership because of it.
But do I see click-bait losing its presence in the future? Absolutely not.
People will always be curious and not all click-bait tactics are all bad. In order to gain viewership of your content there needs to be some attention grabbing element in order to captivate your audience. Furthermore blogs like this one contain tags, links, and other visually stimulating media in order to create traction.
Therefore my two cents on the matter of click-bait would be: Don’t be afraid to use the attention seeking methods in order get people to view your content. However, HAVE CONTENT. Be informative, and use credible information.