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In Defense of Clickbait

The Internet has a lot of rubbish – some of them justify it by producing ‘clickbait.’ Clickbait, according to Google, is “content, of sensational or provocative nature, whose main objective is to attract attention and to call users to a certain web site.”

You know what I mean, don’t you? It’s the “wow, this tea in your kitchen cabinet could help you lose 20lbs of fat!” which fills your Facebook feed and inadvertently takes you to a food website. Many times we click unintentionally and sometimes we click because we find it incredible. But we do not know that we fall like a fish when it sees the bait.

Firstly, what exactly do we mean by clickbait? The weight loss headlines that are really trying to whip you are definitely up there – and they are misleading. But what about some of the celebrity gossip? Or a video of a basket of puppies? And why do we assume that this type of content is only found online?

Last year Facebook announced that it would end clickbait. Facebook says it will direct clickbait at an individual post level rather than just analyzing bulk posts from a page. It will also examine two distinct signals: whether a headline “retains information” or “exaggerates information separately.”

“People tell us they do not like misleading, hyped or spammy stories,” write Facebook engineers Arun Babu, Annie Liu and Jordan Zhang in a post. “This includes the clickbait headlines that are designed to draw attention and attract visitors to click on a link. In an effort to support an informed community, we are always working to determine which stories may have clickbait titles so we can show them less often.The company will also start fighting clickbait in foreign languages, not just English language version of your service.”

Surely a misleading newspaper headline that really makes you part from your money is much worse than the one that makes you click on a link?

In terms of actual content, we can not see how print magazine history is different from its Internet counterpart. There are so many reasons why the decline of local print journalism is a bad thing.

Yes, people worry about writing their stories and committing them to print. Magazines are painstakingly put together – but doesn’t that get worse when they put that effort into the garbage publication? Just as sites encourage readers to sell advertising space and make money, magazines do the same thing and have done it for years. You can not blame this on the Internet.

I am not advocating misleading headlines in any form, I hasten to add. But why is a short story, celebrity gossip or that puppy video I keep talking about, signs that the consumption of the millennium news has come to nothing?

Online opinion pieces often share more than quick content – because we are able to appreciate different formats. And sometimes we want to consume our news, or entertainment, in small pieces. We may want to devour a Saturday newspaper these days when we have time, but we may also want to come in and out of the news during the week while we wait for the coffee to brew or the toaster to explode.

Because fundamentally, there is a difference between the wrong and right clickbait – the misleading, promising headlines that lead you to click on something totally different and the content you like to read, be it 100 words and a dog video or a 2000 word article.

They’ve tried before – checking how long people spend on a link after clicking on it but found that this method was not accurate enough.

Given another chance, they are changing course and looking at certain phrases, thus inventing a new game that I will call “Clickbait Bingo.”

I’m sure we can make a ‘Clickbait Bingo’ a game with a little imagination. I’ll leave you to have a go of that one…

Hooray. With more of those annoying articles from my panel, I can go back to the Buzzfeed questionnaires, where they imagine my age, depending on the type of fries I prefer – thank God for that.

They all hail the internet, cleaning up their own mess.

How do you feel about clickbait? Tell us on Twitter at @Fuzzable!

Written by Fuzzable

This content has been created by a Fuzzable staff member. We post the latest news and features for you to read every day.


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