By Niki Morock
Did the headline get your attention? Did it make you click? Did you arrive here wondering if I really have some special way of doing things that nobody else knows about? Then you, my friend, are susceptible to clickbait.
Dictionary.com defines clickbait in the following way:
1. a sensationalized headline or piece of text on the Internet designed to entice people to follow a link to an article on another web page.
2. noting or relating to such Internet content:
Clickbait articles contribute to the online visibility of the news website.
You see them on social media all the time – those headlines that promise to spill a secret no one else could possibly know, or the ones that say things like “This year’s will be the brightest meteor shower of all time!” They promise outrageous stories that couldn’t possibly be true, but you click on them anyway because… well… you’re human, and most humans suffer from as much curiosity as cats do.
Why use clickbait?
Websites with ad inventory need to sell ads to make money. Ads are sold either by thousands of impressions or clicks – in this case, usually impressions. The more impressions a website receives, the more impressions they have to sell, and the more money they can make. Clickbait equals dollar signs in the eyes of those who use it.
It used to be that only the sketchier websites used clickbait headlines to entice readers, but more and more, I’m seeing serious news sites using them. Part of the reason for that may be the use of algorithms in software that culls the web for the most popular news stories and automatically posts them. Unless there is a thoughtful human vetting those stories to keep the fake news from being lumped in with the real news, clickbait stories will slip through.
But wait, there’s more!
Why is a digital media director who is in charge of the digital advertising side of an agency writing about clickbait? Isn’t that something a news editor or publisher should worry about?
I am concerned with clickbait because I am concerned with how our clients are perceived online, and the types of websites on which their ads are shown can affect that perception. I look at our live campaigns daily – no matter what size the client’s organization is. I look at the sites and apps where they are serving. If one stands out to me as sketchy and I know that client would not want to appear there, I stop serving ads on that site. There are options in the ad serving software I can use to help with this task, but I will always check behind technology. Sometimes things slip through.
My job is to make sure our clients get the best return on their investment, and protecting their reputation from clickbait is one of the many ways I do it.