The Conversation Starter

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Actually, despite my sensational title, what happened next is pretty believable: namely, you clicked on my link. You see, there’s this weird internet phenomena called “clickbait” that’s currently running rampant across the web. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about…

Doctor’s hate her! This 50-year-old woman looks 20 with this one weird trick…

4 Reasons You Should Never Trust ANYTHING You Read Online

10 Insane Truths About Hollywood That Will Destroy Your Faith in Humanity

This Man Found a Stranded Family In the Woods. You’ll Never Guess What Happened Next!

You get the idea. These borderline absurd headlines are typically accompanied with over-the-top images that are wearing a little too much Photoshop. And while these headlines might be tantalizing, I hope you didn’t try to click on any of them. Because I made them up. They aren’t real. In fact, that’s the whole problem with clickbait articles, almost none of them are real. According to Wikipedia, “Clickbait is a pejorative term describing web content that is aimed at generating online advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines to attract click-throughs and to encourage forwarding of the material over online social networks.” In other words, clickbait is when someone writes a deliberately misleading headline so that people will click the link and increase their total online page views.

While it may have drawn its digital roots from the similarly named “linkbait,” clickbait actually isn’t that new of an idea. Even going all the way back to the 1900’s and the invention of “yellow journalism,” writers have used exaggeration, sensationalism and sometimes outright lies to get more people to read the stories they’re writing. You see, while sensationalism can be unethical, Journalism 101 will tell any would-be reporter that if you can’t get someone to read your headline then you have no hope of getting them to read your article. Take that to the extreme and what are you left with? Ridiculous headlines that rarely, if ever, have an ounce of meaningful content to back up their bold claims.

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There are people, however, that argue that clickbait isn’t bad. As long as the content is actually of value to the one doing the clicking, then the headline doesn’t really matter, some would say. The issue, however, is that when every headline is written as if it will drastically change my life in less than 300-words, as a reader, I have no idea what links I can trust and what ones I can’t. And with so few articles actually delivering on their promises, it’s becoming more and more apparent that I just can’t trust any of them!

Is there a solution? Maybe. Of course, when you’re dealing with anything on the world wide web there’s never an easy answer. But, I can think of a good place to start: With our metrics. Currently, page views are used as the most important metric in determining a websites popularity. While many publishers are starting to move away from this, many companies are still relying on page views to decide if their website is successful or not. Largely because of clickbait articles, this metric is becoming more and more meaningless.

Look at it this way, let’s say you post two videos online. One get’s 5 million views, and one gets 100,000 views. The video that got 5 million views, however, only has viewers watching for an average of 10 seconds. The 100,000 view video on the other hand, captivates audiences for an average of 5 minutes. Which video would you consider more successful?

The fact is, if we want a better metric to determine site popularity, we need to look at how long our users are spending on a given page. That, in conjunction with page views, will give us a much more realistic idea of how well our website, our article or our video is actually performing. If you’re looking to improve the quality of your website without resorting to clickbait, maybe it’s time you gave Penna Powers a call.

Do you agree? I’d love to hear what you think. Are you sick of clickbait just like me, or do you like to be inundated with sensational headlines? Let me know in the comments below. And for more information on the history of clickbait, click here.

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2 Comments

  • Latrice 3 months ago Reply

    Cool. My daughter wrote a sci-fi short story in 1995 wherein she talks about what she dubbed ‘Gem Stacks’ which were … drum roll … 3-dimensional memory cubes. I’m a very proud papa. Oh, and she took out a patent on the &#i#a6;8de1&28217;. Ha! … just kidding, relax Micron and IBM.

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