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People who like to read news online or browse different social media platforms have already been acquainted with, or at least faced, clickbait. What is it, how does it work, what is its purpose, and is it dangerous?

Clickbait

Clickbait is, essentially, a sensationalistic title with a phrase that urges the user to click on the article to read it.

If you have ever found an article with a title that was along the lines of “… And You Won’t Believe What Happened Next”, “Surgeons Hate Her – Find Out Her Secret”, or “10 Inside Jokes in Films”, that is precisely what clickbait is. It is a bait for you to click on it.

What’s the Point?

Websites are rated according to different criteria, but one thing they all have in common is good traffic. After all, without much traffic, an online business can’t survive, let alone thrive. Having many people visit your website helps you stay relevant, build your brand, earn money through advertising or affiliate marketing, and can even help you if or when you decide to sell the website. That’s why content creators and businesses use clickbait titles.

Why It Works

We, as humans, are curious. It is a survival trait where we try to get as much info as possible. You will notice that news sources that try to be objective don’t have sensationalistic titles. That’s because they often don’t need them – they merely report on events. But, when we see a clickbait title, it sounds akin to what a friend might tell us, like a juicy rumor, a bit of trivia, or some other FUN form of information.

Furthermore, it omits the crucial bit of information, making us click the article to see what the site meant.

The Downside

Clickbait has gotten a bad rap, simply due to the fact that websites that have nothing substantial to offer rely heavily, or even solely, on the title. This is somewhat controversial, as, on one hand, this brings articles and pages with actual content under heavy stigma for their use of clickbait, but, on the other hand, it tells the internet to stop being sensationalistic and provide some actually relevant information.

There are several social media accounts and unofficial movements, like #StopClickBait, r/savedyouaclick, and @SavedYouAClick, for example, where people click on clickbait articles for you to reveal what the article is about, especially if it holds no interesting or relevant information. It, basically, boils down to having an article titled “He Took Two Pieces of Bread and Some Meat and What He Made Will SHOCK You!” and having some of these communities and accounts posting the answer: “It’s a sandwich”.

The idea behind the movement is to stop sensationalism and hype that exist for no reason other than to generate traffic.

Is Clickbait Evil?

Not in itself. It is a tool, like any other, and can be used to promote a brand ethically, or dishonestly. If a website has a lot of great content, concerning news and entertainment, clickbait is there just to get the audience to notice it. If, however, it is a website with no discernable purpose, using bright colors and focusing on irrelevant info with very little actual content, then it is about as trustworthy as a tabloid and the people are right to despise its clickbait strategy.

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