Hey you there! Yeah, you, reading the Internet! Look over here!
I know you want to read the news or check out the crazy antics of America’s cats, but you’ll have to wait for a moment while I draw you into my website with headlines about items I know you’re interested in reading about.
The actual articles probably won’t interest you, but the fact that you are looking at my website is a big win for clickbait, which has gotten a bad rap.
Merriam Webster defines clickbait as “something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink, especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.”
But doesn’t most of the Internet have dubious value or interest? I would be honored if the value of my website would be upgraded to dubious.
I understand that headlines about foods that can make you feel younger and happier and new, improved secrets to feeling young and happy may disappoint some readers who just feel old and cranky after reading the actual articles, but I like the glimmer of hope that the clickbait headlines provide. You know it’s not going to be real, but for a moment you think, “Maybe there’s something to this. I will check it out.”
Also, while we act like clickbait is this new invention, it has really always been with us.
Don’t you think, for example, that some cavemen probably put up some fake cave drawings just to get people to visit their caves? You know some of those cave people weren’t as good looking as they pretended to be in their paintings. And I bet half of those paintings of them killing large animals were just fake and they really just killed squirrels or something like that.
Along the same lines, maybe no one can figure out the meaning to Stonehenge because it was some annoying click rocks put together just to get attention.
And haven’t crazy headlines in tabloid newspapers, ads in the backs of comic books and even television newscasts acted as different versions of clickbait? “Will bologna sandwiches make you smarter? Tune in to the news at 11!”
If you watch CNN or any other news channel, you’ll notice how they always claim there is “Breaking News!” that you have to watch, although usually the click news they are reporting isn’t breaking at all.
And if you take it a step further, clickbait is really just like honking at people when you are driving or waving at the camera if you are in a crowd on television. You don’t really have anything to offer, you’re just trying to get attention.
So, I think we should celebrate clickbait. It’s not easy to get people to look at your website content (trust me) and these clickbaiters have come up with some pretty interesting headlines over the years.
For example, I am often interested in these types of headlines:
What does that tv star from 20 years ago really look like? My guess is older, but the clickbaiters think that I won’t believe it and I am often tempted to click. What does Alf look like today anyway?
What did someone who once allegedly predicted something correctly say about the stock market? I am a little curious about this, too, but my stock portfolio mostly includes those old comic books I mentioned above, so I don’t think I will click on those links.
Those headlines have some general interest, but I think there’s a much better future in nickbait headlines like:
- Check out what this crazy sports star did now! You won’t believe it! –
- The greatest sports story that has never been told, until now! –
- Lose weight fast!– (Note: Don’t try to lose weight fast. It doesn’t work.)
All in all clickbait can be a valuable tool and also a stupid waste of time, much like the rest of the internet. And while many question its value, the fact that you actually read all of the way to the end of this article tells me that it works better than I had realized and that I should study this topic more thoroughly.
First, though, I really need to see what Alf and the other television stars from the 1980s look like today. I bet that will be awesome!
Note: The clickbait in this article provided no monetary value as these articles are not making me fabulously wealthy, yet.