written by: Leung Yue Hoi, Catherine

In today’s information overloaded digital world, audiences are craving for viral content to keep up-to-date. There are unlimited posts flooding on the internet timelessly, with headlines that promise to blow your mind and to change your viewpoints. (Griner & Griner, 2017) Clickbait headlines are frequently used to generate more clicks to external links, and thus, many media companies rely on it to gain customer visitation to their platforms, which result in higher revenue.

For example, a headline of “Baby Ducks See Water For The First Time-Can You BELIEVE What They Do?” This exaggerated headline took advantage of audience’s curiosity and exploited their desire to know to generate more hit rate. In fact, it was just a video showing those ducks gently slipped into the pool. (Sult, 2017) According to the information gap theory of curiosity, there is a gap between what we already know (“Known”) and what we want to know (“Unknown”). When people notice that there are missing information, it triggers a strong desire to fill the gap, due to the human nature of curiosity. (Golman & Loewenstein, 2016) Therefore, audiences cannot resist clicking when seeing misleading and exaggerated headlines.

There is a growing trend for businesses using clickbaits content marketing to attract audience attention in a hope to engage potential customers. Take Hong Kong’s WeMedia 01 (HK) Limited (HK01) as an example, majority of their posts use clickbait headlines. Other online magazine such as Weekend Weekly is also embedding commercial feeds into clickbait headlines for profit. A post with headline mentioning the importance of wearing bras during nighttime redirects readers to an online lingerie fashion store.

The overwhelming amount of annoying clickbait headlines are resented by readers who refuse to receive posts that deliver unrelated content with attractive titles.

Two social media giants have shown their awareness of suppressing clickbaits. On August 2014, Facebook announced to reduce clickbait by using the algorithm net. (Cohen, 2017) In order to provide users posts that most relevant to them, Facebook decided to reduce the priority of the pages that consistently post clickbaits in newsfeeds. There are algorithms in place that able to determine what the commonly used clickbait phrases. (Peysakhovich & Hendrix, 2017) Also, headlines that withhold compelling or overemphasized information will be automatically reviewed and lowered its chances to appear to users (Cohen, 2017). Facebook also promise to continue halting clickbaits by expanding the mechanism to different languages overtime. Snapchat has joined in to revise its guidelines for contents in its “Discover” section recently, reminding partners to avoid posting photos with no news or editorial values. (“Snapchat updates guidelines to battle fake news”, 2017)

Two leading social platforms have responded by limiting clickbait headlines. The actions taken to halt clickbaits by social media gurus are no doubt an alarm to online media organizations that relies on it for advertising revenue.

Is clickbait dying or is there still room for it in modern marketing?

As a matter of fact, Facebook relies on paid sponsored ads by partner media (We-Media 01 is just one example of many) for profit. The paradox is gurus like Facebook rely on promotional commercial feeds from sponsored media for profit; and at the same time need to find ways to cope with users’ complaints.

I figure the tactic of clickbaits is perhaps heading towards the end of an episode. The practice is probably pushing potential customers away instead of engaging them. It is also an essential code of practice for media organizations (online or offline) to provides news with headlines related to the content shown without misleading readers. I am sure there could/would be more creative ways for advertising sponsors to talk to customers. If not, what competitive edge is the highly acclaimed digital marketing has over traditional advertising.

Cohen, D. (2017). Watch Out, Clickbait: Facebook Is Coming for You (Again). Adweek.com. Retrieved 8 October 2017, from http://www.adweek.com/digital/clickbait-facebook-news-feed-may-2017/
Cohen, D., & Cohen, D. (2017). Facebook Wants to Rid Your News Feed of Clickbait. Adweek.com. Retrieved 8 October 2017, from http://www.adweek.com/digital/clickbait-news-feed/
Golman, R., & Loewenstein, G. (2016). An Information-Gap Theory of Feelings About Uncertainty. Retrieved from https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/sds/docs/golman/Information-Gap%20Theory%202016.pdf
Griner, D., & Griner, D. (2017). Can You Spot the BS Headlines in This Clickbait Quiz?. Adweek.com. Retrieved 8 October 2017, from http://www.adweek.com/creativity/can-you-spot-bs-headlines-clickbait-quiz-154858/
Peysakhovich, A., & Hendrix, K. (2017). Further Reducing Clickbait in Feed. Newsroom.fb.com. Retrieved 8 October 2017, from https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2016/08/news-feed-fyi-further-reducing-clickbait-in-feed/
Snapchat updates guidelines to battle fake news. (2017). ETtech.com. Retrieved 8 October 2017, from http://tech.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/internet/snapchat-updates-guidelines-to-battle-fake-news/56754897
Sult, R. (2017). Baby Ducks See Water For The First Time — Can You BELIEVE What They Do?. LittleThings.com. Retrieved 8 October 2017, from https://www.littlethings.com/baby-ducklings-backyard-pool/