I’ve been working in online media for over a decade now. In this period, I’ve noticed how difficult it is to secure both visitors and advertising, regardless of the quality of your content. Fresh scoops and informative articles don’t often cut it anymore, hence the constant and desperate resort to clickbait articles.
As per Oxford Dictionary’s description, clickbait is “content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page”. While interesting titles and top 10 lists are often miscategorised as clickbait, the danger lies in content whose narrative is intentionally geared at triggering the audience to increase the reach of the piece. It’s basically trolling your readership so that the outrage results in more engagement.
In an era when “fake news” is screamed at the media, this is extremely irresponsible of publications to encourage this practice. By allowing journalists and bloggers to write factually inaccurate or intentionally contrary pieces, you’re losing the faith of the audience in the long run. Sure, the antagonism has immediate rewards in terms of views and ad revenue, but at what future cost? You’re only as valuable as your reputation; once that’s gone, it’s curtains, pal.
Now, I’m not saying negative criticism or opinion columns should be banned—quite the contrary. Publications need to be honest and unafraid of having unpopular opinions, as long as the facts back up the statements. Also, when you’re wrong about something, own up to it. Don’t turn around and tell people to stop being trolls and blame the Internet culture. It makes you look like a petulant toddler.
I agree that publications need to find interesting and innovative ways to draw traffic to their websites. SEO is changing all the time, and it’s tough to swallow that not every published piece will generate revenue and views. That said, there’s no reason to wonder into the dark art of clickbait.