As you might assume by now, nothing spectacular happened, not to me, anyway. This post is about grabbing attention in social media (and further). Click bait 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 or eye-catching thumbnail pictures to attract click-throughs and to encourage forwarding of the material over online social networks. Clickbait headlines typically aim to exploit the “curiosity gap”, providing just enough information to make the reader curious, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without clicking through to the linked content.
Clickbaits tap into people’s habit of reading headlines on their feeds (be them social media or news-feeds) and they make sure they are that sensational that they receive a click once read/viewed. Most commonly, titles have something marginal to do with the content of the material your are directed to. They are deliberately vague so as not to be dismissed as lies, but in fact they are.
Networks such as Buzfeed or Upworthy are well known for their extensive use of clickbaits, while Facebook has openly declared it is fighting against them. Their algorithm is trying to track clickbaits by analyzing the time spent on the clicked link and the amount of positive feedback the post gets on the platform (shares and likes). Facebook’s fight against clickbaits has been announced around 2013, but I am not sure it worked that well. What do you think?
Here is what 20th century headlines would look like if written today.
|Image credit: xkcd|
Why did they become so common place if they are so annoying? Well, I have three quick possible explanations:
- our decreasing attention span forces content producers to make use of it so as to stand a chance to be viewed;
- with all the marketing and the publicity we are subjected to, deception is less impugned by society to the extent that it became morally acceptable;
- standard monetizing of web traffic has put more focus on the number of page visits than on actual time spent on an internet page and/or the quality of the experience people have on a certain web page quantified through actual user feedback.