Chapter Fifteen: Clickbait and Switch
It's the bane of every internet user's existence, but versions of clickbait have been around since the dawn of journalism and media. It's been called many names before clicking was even a thing, including yellow journalism, checkbook journalism, and tabloid journalism. These days, clickbait refers to a headline or image designed to intrigue audiences with sensationalized content so as to generate more clicks. When that headline or image fails to live up to its promise, we call it clickbait.
Ethics Before Clicks Purposefully misleading audiences should generally make any content creator question the "Why?" of what they're doing. However, as clickbait continues to dominate all corners of the internet, we understand the "Why?" all comes back to money that can be earned off of such ill-advised clicks. Unfortunately, for many, that prospect outweighs any ethical dilemma they may be faced with as they hit the publish button. Clickbait is often used to drive visitors to certain websites because creators know this can lead to increasing revenue from advertisers who offer big bucks to appear on highly-visited sites, no matter the quality. With certain clickbait, the likelihood of predatory phishing schemes also increases. At best, clickbait serves as an unfulfilling experience for the clicker, but at worst, it can lead to malware and stolen personal information.
Credibility Before Clicks The hyperbole of headlines and images that bait the reader and then fail to deliver may be good for clicks, at least initially, but it's terrible for a creator's credibility. Eventually, people wise up. They stop being chum and learn to recognize the creators, publishers, and websites that have misled them before. They begin to realize that the article behind the headline could never live up to the expectations being set in the first place. Losing credibility is arguably one of the worst scenarios that any entrepreneur can face. It becomes a domino effect, where first goes the trust, then goes the clients, then goes the flow of business. Purposeful misrepresentation is not a solid, long-term communications strategy for anyone with something of true value to offer, and, after all, isn't that what we should be striving for anyway? We all want to reach wider audiences. We wouldn't be posting on the internet if we didn't. However, resorting to exploitative or sensationalized headlines is a clear sign of giving up, of taking the easy, cheap path to publication and clicks. How much more satisfying would it be to watch our click numbers rise knowing we achieved those milestones with quality content, even if it did take more time? Noteworthy Communications always strives for quality first, in our own content and the content we produce on behalf of our clients. This is the only way to discover our voice, earn a positive reputation, and build a legitimate following. Flashy headlines are great, but delivering on superior content will always win out.