I Did This One Weird Trick, and You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!

Don’t get your hopes up. Nothing happened. The title of this post is an example of clickbait.

While the term “clickbait” is relatively new, the tactics it employs have roots in traditional media and yellow journalism. Clickbait uses over-hyped and over-sensationalized headlines to try and ‘bait’ people to ‘click’ on their content. The video or article or page on the other end typically don’t have the information that one expects, or at least the quality that one hopes to find.

Here’s one that annoyed me recently…

The problem with this article is that the author over-promised and under-delivered. Anyone in business knows that this is not good business.

When can I download Android 6.0 Marshmallow? All release dates REVEALED

In case you didn’t read the article, let me tell you why this title is very misleading…

  • The author leaves out some major Android manufacturers, so this article does not outline them  “All”.
  • They didn’t report a single “release date” but instead gave very vague periods of time, such as “a mere few months after the official release”.
  • Their use of the word “revealed”, and especially their capitalization of it, suggest that the information is a massive secret that was uncovered.

The article in question still does have some valuable information, such as using past company behaviours to predict future outcomes, but to use a misleading headline in order to get more readers is sloppy journalism and such practices should be discouraged.

A much, much better headline would be something like:

Expected releases of Android Marshmallow 6.0 for major manufacturers

Would the original get more clickthroughs? Absolutely. Would readers leave happy and informed? Unlikely. I didn’t.

I’d like to be clear and say that the people who use clickbait to get you to click on their content aren’t necessarily trying to trick you or be deceitful, they’re just not using the best words to describe what they have.

They can’t always be blamed for over-playing their hand, though. The more people who visit their page, the more money they make. In a lot of cases this isn’t out of greed, it’s just about keeping the lights on. Writing a compelling headline is a great way have the numbers that show that your site is doing well.

It should also be noted that images and/or thumbnails can be examples of clickbait as well. Look at the featured image for this post… It has nothing to do with the content, but it would likely draw attention.

Whatever kind of content you release, whether online or in traditional media, try to be accurate and forthcoming to your consumers. They’ll find what they’re looking for on the other side of your links, and they will be happier for it.

Let me leave you with something fun…

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