Why ‘Click Bait’ is Not the Answer for Your Online Publication

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Every newspaper editor or publisher wants visitors to his or her website, but at what cost? While most publications provide only relevant online content through their websites, others use an unsavory tactic called “click baiting” in order to draw in readers. Click bait refers to the practice of presenting potential readers with catchy headlines that don’t accurately represent the content they link to.

For example, a newspaper may advertise a headline like, “You Won’t Believe What the President Said About Your Healthcare … It’s Explosive!”. The content would then be a paragraph-long story about how the President was asked how he felt about healthcare reform and he said that he was for it. In this example, the content didn’t deliver on the headline, but the headline encouraged people to click by promising a big payoff.

Why Use Click Bait?

The main reason that newspaper websites use click bait is to draw in unsuspecting web users for advertising. They figure that once you’re on their site after clicking on the bait, they can then bombard you with ads in the hope that you’ll then click on those. Click bait can also be used to inflate traffic numbers to a specific site, making it seem like the newspaper has more organic visits than it really should. In addition, the hope is that you’ll continue reading other stories (and seeing other ads) on the site once you’re there. Many newspapers will provide additional click bait on click bait stories, hoping that you’ll continue to cycle through.

How Does Click Bait Affect Online Users?

While the use of click bait might initially draw in web users, it ultimately hurts your site’s credibility. Once you’ve disappointed a user, it’s likely that he or she won’t click on anything else on your site, but what’s worse, they will likely avoid your site altogether in the future. Couple this with negative word-of-mouth advertising and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Essentially, fooling users does not equal new subscribers.

What’s Being Done About Click Bait?

Other than the newspaper industry policing itself, some social media sites have taken steps to reduce the amount of click bait stories. Most notably, Facebook recently began tweaking its algorithm to measure how long readers stay on links they’ve clicked on. Links that don’t receive long visits are then downgraded and are shown less than links that are deemed to be more popular, and therefore more credible. In addition, the algorithm takes into account how many likes and shares a particular link has when determining its importance.

The Alternative to Click Bait

Instead of trying to lure web users in using click bait, stick to the tried and true method of offering relevant, substantial content and honest headlines. By providing readers with content that adds value, you’re more likely to gain subscribers and protect your newspaper’s reputation. This approach may take more time when compared to using click bait, but in the long run, it will pay off greatly. Newspapers that use click bait may see an initial uptick in visitors, but even then, ad revenue is not guaranteed. These papers will then see a drop off that occurs just as fast as the buildup, and visitors likely won’t return. By sticking to the facts, however, your newspaper’s site won’t have to rely on gimmicks like click bait.

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