If you’ve spent any time on the Internet, and more specifically, on social media, you’ve likely seen the headlines: “20 Celebrities Who Grew Up Homeless”, or, “15 Hairstyles You Never Knew Existed”. Such headlines, often associated with sites like BuzzFeed.com, are meant to get you to click, but unfortunately, they very rarely deliver, even on their trivial promises. As a result, they are coined “click bait”, a term used to describe catchy headlines that aren’t able to provide the very content they claim to offer. In most cases, people who click on the bait will be greeted by lackluster content, so you may be asking why a site would post click bait. After all, it doesn’t deliver on its promises … the answer, however, is money.
How Click Bait Generates Revenue
When someone hits on a click-bait link, they will quickly find out that the promised content doesn’t really exist, at least in the form that they were offered, but they will also find something else – a plethora of ads. Advertising is the key to click-bait success, and sites that use such tactics will typically stuff their pages with pop-ups, pop-unders, native advertising, sponsored content, and more.
All of this is in an attempt to get something to catch your eye along the way, even if nothing is relevant. While this tactic may make money in the short-term, it hurts the credibility of sites using it, and ultimately, it hurts the ability to build revenue in the long-term.
Real Journalism Trumps Click Bait
While it may seem tempting to integrate click-bait type content into your publication’s online properties, the fact is that real journalism trumps click bait at all turns. Click bait, and more specifically, a focus on celebrities and viral online trends, will reduce your publication to that of a mere tabloid. People will begin associating your publication with the likes of passing fads, meaning you’re less likely to see sustained revenue and growth into the future.
What’s worse is that there is likely not going to be a way for your print version to keep up using this model. Because Internet trends pop up and die off so quickly, trying to include such content in your print addition will make it seem slow and behind the times, so now you’ll be fighting a losing battle on both fronts. Instead, the solution is to avoid the temptation and focus solely on producing real journalism that targets your readers and their actual interests, not their time-wasters.
How to Avoid Click Bait Publication
One of the surest ways to avoid promoting click bait is to review all source material included in a linked story. As the Internet has grown, it has become easier than ever for a click bait piece of content to be published and republished through various sites, and in the end, linking to a third, fourth, fifth, or even more distant iteration of such content may even make the content appear to be true. Instead, focus on delivering original, solid content from your own team in order to get ahead, protect your publication’s credibility, and grow revenue.