What an immature tabloidy way to share that article. “Bad news for humans who would like their species to not go extinct…”
— HuffPo Spoilers (@HuffPoSpoilers) May 20, 2014
Twitter spoiler profiles are calling out the clickbait-and-switch approach to digital publishing as provocative, formulaic headlines become the norm among advertising-hungry publishers.
Marketing ploys meant to trigger emotion and raise curiosity are as old as the industry itself, but publishers reinventing these tropes — spawned by BuzzFeed, hijacked by Upworthy and now commonly used by digital pubs like Salon and Gawker — risk credibility as readers cry foul and demand a higher standard.
From one appeal by digital marketer Sam Crocker:
Users everywhere — please think twice before clicking on these headlines.
Whether or not you’re aware, you are teaching our machine overlords (yes they actually learn) that we like this sort of thing. The next time you see an article that you really think looks interesting but has an absurd headline, please do your part and don’t click on it. Avoid the self-fulfilling trap.
The more clicks these outrageous headlines get, the more they will fill your social media feed… and before you know it, your whole life will become the sidebar of shame.
Ex-New York Times tech columnist David Pogue puts it like this in his own spoiler post:
Very occasionally, clicking turns out to be worth it, and you’re glad you bothered. More often, it’s a total fraud, and you’ve just wasted your time. Even at their best, clickbait headlines are shameless hype. At their worst, they’re downright deceptive.
Clickbait, of course, is a scheme to drive up a website’s traffic. It’s a modern spin on tabloid journalism. But it shows tremendous insecurity; if you have a good story, why do you have to overhype it?
Twitter’s spoiler profiles are also cropping up Europe suggesting that the lifespan of clickbait-designed headlines and native ads will likely run its course. Each generation of digital consumers is more media savvy than the last; once people realize they are being played — that the reward promised for clicking is not often delivered — they are less likely to participate.