Click baiting can reel readers in

People will read useless stories online based on appealing headlines alone

Graphic by Laila Hack
Graphic by Laila Hack

A handful of publications have perfected the strategy of relying on hyperbolic headlines that are sure to reel you in and get you to click their link on your Facebook timeline. Companies such as Upworthy, The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed all utilize this tactic called “click baiting.”

It may seem harmless, but the strategy has saturated the entire industry. Journalists who have poured their heart into their work have fallen to the wayside as some publications have begun to favour high-volume workhorses who can churn out a dozen Starbucks top 10 lists in a day’s work.

Buzzfeed averages about 400 articles per day with a staff of 100 full-time editors; you can imagine quality isn’t the top priority. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have morphed from viable outlets to connect and share with your friends into cash cows for many publications.

I’m not going to lie — I’m often a victim. It’s midnight, I’m procrastinating and all of a sudden something catches my eye on my news feed and I click it. The page loads and I am met with demands to “like” a page before I can view the article. If you have to like a page so you can see an article or watch a video, you’ve been click baited.

If a headline says it will “brighten your day,” be warned — it won’t. By avoiding impulsion, you’ll be able to assess whether the headline is a gaudy ploy or something worthy of your time.

I have a particular distaste for headlines based on, “This video/picture/article will restore your faith in humanity.” The glaring dishonesty only further destroys my faith in humanity.

These companies are making hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising revenue every year based on a marketing scheme that works to hype up readers with gaudy headlines, only to let them down with recycled material that is sure to be rehashed within the next three months.

Not to mention blatant product placement that many readers seem to overlook. Some of these articles include: “Starbucks Secret Menu Drinks You Need To Try,” “How Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme Saved The World” and “How to Rank Your Happiness By Jars Of Nutella.” I understand it’s tempting, but you and I both know too well that there is no way in hell a Crunchwrap is ever going to save the world.

Now to be fair, sometimes you just want to kick it and watch a few Taylor Swift GIFs that are apparently indicative of your emotions during exam season. If you want something light-hearted, indulging in some click baiting is not the worst thing in the world, but when it becomes your sole source of current events, it can become quite a concern. A voting public built purely on Buzzfeed is a terrifying thought to say the least. The best thing you could do is to draw information and news from various sources and conjure up your own interpretation — don’t let someone else write the ballot for you. Be critical of everything you read on the internet.

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