Clickbait: logo with tag Imagine More

Clickbait: Nothin' to See Here

by Linda Jenkinson

Josh Benton of Harvard’s Neiman Journalism Lab defines clickbait as
Noun: "Things I don't like on the Internet.".

There is little to like about clickbait. Clickbait is a headline that generates a momentary rush of excitement that ends in a rapid letdown. This “bait and switch” tactic corrupts information, and leads to insipid websites and blogs filled with picture galleries with no content except short, vapid blurbs of text.

Clickbait links are full of promises such as, “You’re gonna love this ...” or “Social Media is exploding over this ...”. You’ll find nothing of substance when clicking these links. The only explosion you’ll notice will be your own disgust. While the banality of this clickbait is annoying, mainstream media has come up with an even more irritating sort of clickbait. Print media has found that they can no longer pay their bills by selling print media only. What they need to understand is that they cannot sell their online products in the same way they sold their print newspapers and magazines.

Carnival Sideshow
“When I look at the Internet, I feel the same as when I’m walking through Coney Island. It’s like carnival barkers, and they all sit out there and go, ‘Come on in here and see a three-legged man!’ So you walk in and it’s a guy with a crutch.” Jon Stewart

Some high-profile publications use free social media platforms to link to their content, yet they block visitors from reading it unless they buy a subscription. Some websites offer several free visits and then cut off access to their content. While I may have entered your parlor, Mr. Spider, I will escape your web.

These print publications are Internet marketing with a print business model. A subscription to a print publication lets you read an issue from cover to cover. This is not what the Internet visitor requires. Internet visitors are following a particular story or researching a particular topic. It is foolish to pay print subscription prices to read an article or two.

Print media would do well to adopt similar sales models to those of stock photo websites. Many stock photo shops offer a monthly subscription but also offer the option to buy credits for those photos of interest to you either singly or in lots. With a little innovation and adaptation, print media could do the same.

The best way for web visitors to avoid clickbait is to not click on it. The Irish say, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” The way to squelch clickbait is to stop visiting sites that fooled you the first time around.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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