The Era of Clickbait

by Samuel Huo

Modernity has come with a great deal of strategies to garner public attention. Over time, the press has come to develop new techniques in order to gain views or “clicks” for their articles. Recently, a disturbing trend has surfaced in the form of clickbait. Clickbait is a text or image that is designed to attract users to a piece of media. But how is simply having an enticing title dangerous?

The title of an article is designed to be informative, evoke emotion, or draw interest. A common practice in journalism is to have a title and introduction that draws the reader in. Headline writing is a skill, which media organizations spend a great deal of time in crafting.

Issues arises when journalists sacrifice the truth in order to garner attention. When this occurs, it crosses from a harmless catchy title or image to a malicious misuse of information.

The dangerous in this practice lies in the misinforming of audiences, as many see the title and image, but fail to read the actual article. Even stretching the truth can result in outcries of outrage among those who fail to read a piece. The most common place for click bait is in small advertisements, however, even legitimate news organizations such as The Independent have been guilty of the practice.

In their article, The Great Barrier Reef is almost officially dead, The Independent deceived viewers by stating on Twitter that “the Great Barrier reef has officially died.” Although the actual article goes on to clarify this statement, the initial reaction of many to the title is one of shock and outrage. Many viewers likely didn’t actually read the title and went on to perceive what was reported on Twitter as true.

The Great Barrier reef has officially died https://t.co/Ikn5DBmpGn— The Independent (@Independent) October 15, 2016

A byproduct of this style of journalistic reporting, is the increasing distrust of written media by consumers. Although the content of an article may be engaging, well researched, and informative, having a clickbait title can decrease its legitimacy.

Clickbait articles are a useful tool in attracting viewers to one’s work. Although it is a lucrative strategy, writers should be mindful to maintain their journalistic integrity and refrain from stretching the truth.

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