This article contains an image of a naked chick. (Is this clickbait? Don’t click!)

You clicked!

Good for you. This curiosity of yours signals a hungry mind that will lead to your success.

Now for the promised picture of a naked chick:

Picture credit: Галина Ласаева @ Pexels

Disappointed? Bl**dy clickbait.

What is clickbait?

According to the authority on the English language, Urban Dictionary, clickbait is “a link which entices you to click on it”. It is “intentionally misleading” or “crassly provocative”. Clicking it will “cause disappointment”. 

Based on this definition, let’s do a quick test. Fine, the naked chick thing was clear-cut clickbait. But what about the following two headlines? In your opinion, are they clickbait?

Article 1

Headline: “This Girl Didn’t Know What’s Inside Her, Not Until They Cut Off Her Pants! Shocking!

Content: She was pregnant but didn’t know it, not even after the baby’s head came out of her in the ER.

Article 2

Headline: “This Guy Did The Coolest, But Possibly Most Illegal, DIY Project Ever. The End Results? Genius.

Content: It’s about moss graffiti. Basically, using moss to create graffiti. 

The two headlines were technically true, albeit sensationalised. So yay or nay? (I don’t know the answer. I’m trying to cheat off your answer.)

Picture credit: Olya Kobruseva @ pexels

Seriously, what is clickbait?

As you may imagine, different people have different opinions on what clickbait is. 

Journalist Nellie Bowles, writing for The Guardian noted that a tech mogul would generally label anything unflattering she writes “clickbait” and anything flattering “finally some real journalism”. Hahaha.

I personally prefer this controversial definition of clickbait is: writing stories that people want to read

Any of the above definitions of clickbait could be correct.

But since the laws of language depend on the majority opinion, let’s define clickbait as sensationalised headlines with content that under-deliver.

Are overly sensationalised headlines (clickbait) sooo bad?

The potong stim feeling as a reader is not pleasant. I mean, imagine a headline that reads “Chris Evan’s Full Frontals” that turns out to be Chris Evans dressed as Full Frontal from Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn. I’d flip a table.

It’s also bad for the platform because posting misleading clickbait is akin to crying wolf. There are only that many times one can capitalise on the reader’s FOMO before gaining the reputation of a clickbait mill, which readers tend to avoid. Understandably, people don’t like the whiplash.

In my opinion, the worst kind of clickbait is the kind that unfairly paint another person in poor light, all in the name of clicks. The perfect example are the tabloids — they have blood on their hands.

Picture credit: Kelly Sikkema @ unsplash

Given its poor reputation, why do people post clickbait anyway?

For the clicks, of course. Publishers do it because their clicks determine their worth. Literally. Their page views translate directly into financial gains.

For the rest of us, we post on the Internet for engagement — likes, views, shares, clicks! Even if you’re not gunning for a maximum amount of exposure, you want at least some engagement from your target audience.

So how do we toe the line when churning out click-worthy content without being clickbait?

Especially in this attention economy, the fight for clicks is a bloodbath. When a viewer scrolls, they don’t know how kickass the content is; they only know how engaging the headline is. A content creator has only precious seconds to win your click with their headline, hence the clickbait.

Given the click economy, maybe clickbait isn’t all bad?

Assuming that nobody is unfairly hurt in the process, maybe clickbait isn’t completely bad after all. At least clickbait gives the (actually reasonable) content a chance.

If you’re here, my clickbait-y title worked.

If I’ve managed to keep your attention until this point, boy, am I surprised since I’ve done nothing but ramble.

But ultimately, my headline was the reason you clicked into this article. Based on the number of views I get on this article, I’ll know how well (or terribly) I write clickbait. 


Chow Ping Lee is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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*The views expressed are those of the author. If you have any questions about the content, copyright or other issues of the work, please contact Newswav.

Chow Ping Lee
Author: Chow Ping Lee

My guiding principle: The mediocrely courageous live a long, happy life.