Who is able to produce:
Professional – Amateur – Anyone.
For sites that thrive on thousands of click-throughs to content, many authors see the use of clickbait as a means to tap into the human psyche by crafting these eye-catching headlines. Sometimes clickbaiting is also used by journalists. Amateurs can produce good clickbaits occasionally, but great and consistent clickbaiting requires professional skills.
Level of deception:
Low – Average – High – Very high.
“Clickbait” has become a dominant form of online media, with headlines designed to entice people to click becoming the norm. Resisting clickbait is problematic because it is exploiting the neural circuitry that evolved over millions of years. Our brains were not designed to be exposed to the variety of temptations that are found in this hyper-connected world. A more concerning form of clickbait is one that appeals directly to people’s fears, especially as it relates to a threat to a social group to which they belong – emotional clickbait. This form of clickbait serves the twin purposes of inducing excitement by appealing to group competition and being easily spread among online social networks.
Clickbait is a form of false advertisement which uses hyperlink text or a thumbnail link that is designed to attract attention and entice users to follow that link and read, view, or listen to the linked piece of online content, with a defining characteristic of being deceptive, typically sensationalised or misleading (source: https://www.cyber.gov.au/acsc/view-all-content/glossary/clickbait). Clickbait as the effect is also sometimes seen with journalistic headlines which exaggerate or scandalise content.
In some cases, clickbait is simply used to generate income; more clicks means more money made with advertisers. But these headlines and articles can also be used to influence a group of people on social media. They are constructed to appeal to the interest group’s pre-existing biases and thus to be shared within filter bubbles.
Working principle (what and how does it do):
A “teaser” aims to exploit the “curiosity gap”, providing just enough information to make readers of news websites curious, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without clicking through to the linked content. Clickbait headlines add an element of dishonesty, using enticements that do not accurately reflect the content being delivered. The “-bait” part of the term is used in analogy to fishing, where a hook is disguised by an enticement (bait), presenting the impression to the fish that it is a desirable thing to swallow.
Sometimes clickbait is more like bait and switch. That is, we read a catchy headline or link, click it, only to find ourselves enveloped within an ad. There is content when we click on the link, but it is heavily wrapped in advertisements. Thus, the article or video is in actuality a lure that exposes us to the ad, which is the true purpose of the content. When enough people are exposed to the ads, there will be a percentage who become buyers. It works because elsewhere; it would not be used so widely.
Tools have been developed to address the clickbait problem. Clickbait detection has been integrated with browser applications while digital platforms where contents are shared, such as Twitter have updated their respective algorithms to filter clickbait contents. Social media groups, such as Stop Clickbait, combat clickbait by giving a summary of the clickbait article, closing the “curiosity gap”. The research community has also developed clickbait reporting browser plug-ins in order to report clickbait links for further advances in the field based on supervised learning algorithms.
Here are a few tips that might help to resists clickbait:
- Think of strategies outside of when the problem is happening. Come up with some ideas on how to resist clickbaiting when the problem is not happening. Put some of those ideas into place and assess the results. Start with the simplest, easiest to implement strategies. Sometimes even small changes yield significant returns.
- Notice your patterns and replace them with more adaptive ones. Perhaps through a little data collection, you realise that you tend to go down the YouTube wormhole (arguably, a subtype of clickbait) at work later in the day. What purpose is it serving? Maybe you need a break? Is there something else you can do to relieve boredom or angst?
- Consider using some website blocking tools. Many tools can help save ourselves from ourselves. For instance, if we keep checking a particular website for news updates (and get hooked by clickbait), we can install a tool that will limit our access to those tempting sites during periods that we define.
YouTube video on how to spot clickbait: