Odds are you know exactly what I’m talking about: Clickbait, the art of enticing a reader with irresistibly alluring sensationalized headlines and/or pictures.
Using clickbait is a powerful tool for content providers looking to drive traffic to their website and grow the online advertising revenue attached to that. Online ads will only continue to grow in the next decade as people abandon older content formats. Nowhere is this more evident than in news content.
In The Modern News Consumer, a 2016 report published by the Pew Research Center, surveys were conducted to determine how and where Americans get their news. TV still reigns king with 57% getting their news from cable, network or local stations. But a sizable 38% reported getting their news online. Of that 38%, slightly more than half (55%) get their news online while they are doing something else. This shows the power content providers can have in enticing an audience, whether it be on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, or major news websites like CNN or BBC.
In the case of social media, many people end up consuming content from shares from friends and family. And with so much information to scroll through, content providers don’t only need to compete with each other, but with funny cat videos, selfies, status updates and more. Catching the eye has always been a sophisticated practice that combines design elements such as font, font size and colour, but the content is what matters the most.
It’s easy then to see why clickbait is so heavily leaned on, but there are major differences between a clickbait headline and a legitimate eye-grabbing headline. When considering how to use a headline to grab readers, below are some guidelines to follow:
Don’t mislead you reader.
Headline your content with something that reflects and informs its substance. The worst types of clickbait sensationalize, distort and ignore context. Here’s a great example: “When You Read These 19 Shocking Food Facts, You’ll Never Want To Eat Again.”
Don’t lose your reader’s trust.
This is very connected to no. 1. Give your readers some credit. You may fool them once or twice, but your core audience will plateau over time once they figure you out. The bubble will eventually burst, as the once wildly popular media website BuzzFeed has discovered recently.
Don’t forget to prize quality over quantity.
It all depends on what kind of content you want to create. A high quality website offers visitors something they can’t get elsewhere. The example of a company like Slant News, reported to pay $5 for every 500 clicks, will give you writers aiming for clicks, not great content.
Don’t forget there’s more to a story than a headline.
This extends to video as well: “Hillary [Clinton] Caught On Tape Birthing Alien Life Form.” It’s definitely an…ahem…enticing headline, but is there anything beyond that headline in this video? You decide.