Did that grab your attention? I must now come clean, and say that I will not be changing your life with this blog post. Instead, let’s take a look at the phenomenon known as clickbait, which (hopefully) drew your eye to this page.
Clickbait is a term used to describe deliberately sensationalist headlines, designed to garner clicks and interactions from readers online. These titles have been impossible to escape online for years now, bombarding us with phrases such as ‘These 5 Simple Tricks…’; ‘You Won’t Believe…’ ; and ‘What Happened Next Will Blow Your Mind…’.
I personally became particularly familiar with clickbait during my time as a football journalist. In my role as a reporter, I was responsible for pushing out as much content as my fingers would allow in a day, with the goal of earning the publication I worked for as many clicks, and therefore as much advertising revenue, as possible. A minimum target of 20 articles per day meant that there wasn’t much scope for creativity or analysis in my work, as I pumped out the latest updates about transfers and injuries all day long.
However, when I did find time to write content that I could be proud of, these pieces would often fail to attract much attention from readers. For example, I spent hours carefully crafting this article about my beloved Liverpool on a quieter day in the office. However, despite my efforts, it received a mere quarter of the clicks of an article entitled Juve signed Ronaldo…and Roma posted this message, in which I merely screenshotted a football club’s tweet and surrounded it with basic information.
This is, of course, an example of the power of clickbait, which feeds off our ever-shortening attention spans. These days, we increasingly consume our news online, and it is rare that we find time to sit down and read through a print newspaper from front to back. This means that each writer is competing against their peers in a battle to win our interest and our clicks, which makes the headline of every article critical.
Journalists cannot, therefore, be blamed for injecting a little hyperbole into their titles, regardless of how frustrating clickbait can be. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that we should stop holding journalism to a high standard. Sensationalism may be unavoidable in headlines, but this is not an excuse for the body of the article to follow suit. Clickbait should instead be used as a vehicle for meaningful and interesting content – this simple trick will change journalists’ lives FOREVER!