We all hate clickbait. We hate the spamming of Buzzfeed links on our social media. Those lists where we’ll never believe number seven. Or what we’ll never guess about some celebrity. But we all click on them. We all take the bait and proceed to waste minutes of our lives on silly pictures and things we didn’t want to know, let alone guess.
And this is being mistaken for real journalism.
Whilst some news organisations – particularly tabloids – do have a penchant for sensationalising stories and therefore headlines, clickbait headlines are still a rarity within well known organisations. However, some are veering into clickbait territory which is harmful to the reputation of journalists due to the triviality of clickbait stories. It is obvious to most readers exactly what story they are about to see when they use these clickbait links but the contents of the articles are largely unfulfilling of the curiosity they inspire.
Whilst it is certainly clear that clickbait works – after all curiosity gets the best of everyone – I believe the use of clickbait to be a cheap headline. As unoriginal as tactless cliches and the Daily Mail’s stance on immigration, the current problem is that clickbait aims to entertain and draw an audience in too much. The tactics used to attract the audience trivialises the content it leads to making it less trustworthy.
The effects of clickbait and it’s infectious spread across the internet has been exacerbated by social media. We are inundated with links through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. Facebook is better at spreading it than most other social medias due to the separate pages we follow, putting their posts on our news feed. Each meme filed, politically opinionated, and plain ridiculous themed pages are a nest for clickbait links that end up all over our feed. This usually results in caving in to the curiosity or hiding everything from that page in hopes it will go away.
If clickbait could be used in a more appropriate and adjusted form (non sensational but effective in drawing in an audience) then it could be used in a creative and possibly impactful way. It currently as a whimsical attitude attached to it which makes it difficult to take those stories seriously. But it is good for local and personalised stories when used in a softer variety such as Ten things only Bristolians will know, for localised news. It is an effective way to connect to particular members of an audience but not for the wider readers.
Perhaps if our audiences can be sure that we are providing them with real news and information they want, then clickbait won’t be such a tragic part of internet journalism. But in its current state, all it does is remove high expectations from readers and set an overall lower quality level for reading and writing journalistic pieces.