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Reading This Article Will Bring You To Tears

For many, it was the vision of Batboy in the newsstand of the grocery checkout line that was the precursor to the now ubiquitous clickbait headlines we all know from reading the web.

Clickbait (also known as Linkbait) is the art of coming up with teaser headlines you just can’t resist from clicking on. Usually leading you to worthless or nearly worthless information on the other end.

Clickbait headlines can be so compelling, they’ll drop your jaw. Or maybe even leave you speechless.

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They generally lead you to revealing information they don’t want you to know. A simple trick that’s sure to blow your mind. A picture that will leave you wondering which Kardashian’s dress left little to the imagination. Or how eating pancakes every day for 7 days can make you a millionaire.

These headlines will make you laugh. Cry. Even shock you. And there are sure to be 5, 8, … maybe even 10 reasons you’ll want to share them with everyone you know.

The end of journalism as we know it?

Not surprisingly, it looks like clickbait is taking its toll on traditional journalism, sucking the life out of mainstream newspapers along with profits, salaries, and morale.

According to the PBS NewsHour, “Click-bait is rarely newsworthy, but it does attract eyeballs. The assumption seems to be that audiences might stay for the ‘serious’ content after gorging on the fluff.”

Why you should wash your hands non-stop.

Among the tricks linkbaiters employ is to present a picture of something that looks oddly grotesque or in this case OMG REALLY DISGUSTINGLY GROSS!

clickbait gross

Just try to look away. Yep, this pic is probably in the clickbait hall of fame. What in the world can it possibly be? The special at Denny’s?

The decline of the dancing mortgage ads.

Somewhat of an off-shoot to pure clickbait headlines are the visually-arresting dancing mortgage ads. Who hasn’t seen these ads dancing in the sidebar of every major, and not-so-major, news website out there. Sadly, they seemed to have fallen out of favor lately. Or perhaps I’ve finally become immune to their existence. Either way, I’ll take it. But I must admit, this video has a groovy beat to it.

Did they laugh because he couldn’t play the piano or just because he sat down at the piano?

Oh, and if you think linkbait is the stuff of the internet age, check out this famous ad from 1927.

classic clickbait article example

Is there a technical explanation for all this?

Glad you asked. Here’s how TechCrunch describes clickbait:

“Clickbaiting is the intentional act of over-promising or otherwise misrepresenting — in a headline, on social media, in an image, or some combination — what you’re going to find when you read a story on the web.”

The art of a clickbait headline.

Okay, now that you have a general understanding of what click/linkbaiting is all about, it’s time for you to show the world you have the wherewithal to flood the web with the kind of break-the-internet prose that will stop the marauding masses in their tracks.

To show you how easy this is, I’ve taken three actual headlines from a CNN.com home page and transposed them into scintillating, can’t-avoid phrases that can distract and cause even the most diligent readers’ eyeballs to fly off topic.

REAL HEADLINE:
John Mayer Celebrates a Year of Sobriety

CLICKBAIT-ED:
What Pampered Celebrity Songster Can’t Find His Hooch?

REAL HEADLINE:
Why You Should Wash Apples

CLICKBAIT-ED:
3 Ways Apples are Out to Get You

REAL HEADLINE:
Jeff Glor Named Anchor of CBS Evening News

CLICKBAIT-ED:
Who the Hell is Jeff Glor? <— Sorry, that was more of a personal statement than a rewrite.

Okay, by now you’re impressed with how effortlessly and flawlessly I was able to transform otherwise ordinary headlines into the pantheon of Batboy-worthy, sensationalist rubbish.

Now you try!

You too can be an expert in clickbait authorship. And you can do it without even thinking! That’s right. Instead of massaging your grey matter, you can simply enter a topic to exploit using the online Linkbait Generator! Just click here to enter a term and the Linkbait Generator will do the rest.

In my test, I entered “Lady Gaga” and generated a few of these interesting morsels:

  • 8 deadly uses for Lady Gaga
  • 9 reasons you can blame the recession on Lady Gaga
  • 7 things Lady Gaga has in common with Lady Gaga

(That last one sounds like an algorithmic error.)

This concludes all the information about clickbait they don’t want you to know about.

And now, the video no one wants you to see again.

About The Author

John Parrish
John Parrish is Vice President, Creative Services for Marketing In Color and has worked on brands such as Outback Steakhouse, Madico Window Films, Pitney Bowes, Progressive Auto Insurance, Edwards (United Technologies), Kash n’ Karry Food Stores, Home Shopping Network, The Villages of Florida, CareCredit, Dollar Rent A Car, Super Kmart, and dozens more.
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