You’re probably skeptical. It’s hard to imagine online media without clickbait. The truth is it probably won’t disappear, but you will see less of it.
Digital media organisations (read: all media organisations) are moving away from cheap grabs for audiences. While clickbait is all about capturing as many eyes and clicks as possible, outlets are shifting their focus to reaching smaller, more loyal audiences. Here’s why.
1. It’s more sustainable
Clickbait is all about scale. Run a catchy enough headline and audiences from far and wide will flock to your page. But while a big audience is great for your advertising revenue today, you have no guarantee they’ll show up again tomorrow. It’s hard to plan for the future when you don’t know if your audience will still be there.
2. It’s more meaningful
People who visit a site for the first time are less likely to be engaged. Your clickbait audience will have a higher bounce rate and a lower time on page than an audience of loyal fans. Your clickbait audience may relate to your headline, but will they relate to your masthead?
3. It’s better for business
Commercial partners are realising the value of meaningful engagement. Having your ad seen by millions of people on a clickbait story isn’t useful if they’re not on the page long enough to notice you, or not engaged enough to remember. Having your ad seen by an engaged audience next to a trusted masthead leaves a much more valuable impression.
4. We’re less generous with our trust
Everyone is quick to call out #fakenews today. Our most trusted media organisations are now regularly accused of poor journalism or even simply lying, and at the same time, social media platforms are being exposed for their naked greed and moral ambiguity. As we become more sparing with our trust, our loyalty concentrates in fewer publications. This means audiences will be less likely to trust the ‘clickbaity’ headlines, and more likely to turn to their favourite sources.
5. There’s appetite for quality content
The sugar hit of clickbait is starting to ware off. It’s a complicated time in government and in business, and readers want to understand important issues. Lighthearted clickbait serves for quick entertainment, but useful information is in high demand. Outlets that can recognise what their audience wants to know, and can explain it in a relevant way, will be rewarded with loyalty and trust.
6. The algorithm made me do it
Most Australians access their news through aggregates. Platforms like your Facebook newsfeed choose to serve you content based on what you click on. This is based not only on key words, but on trusted outlets. If a media outlet gets you to demonstrate initial loyalty, the algorithms will make sure you keep going back.
The experts say, ‘if you don’t want fake news, pay for real news’. As consumers begin to realise they’re being manipulated in more sophisticated ways – and clickbait loses its lustre – there are real opportunities for brands and content creators who create interesting, genuine, valuable news and information for a more engaged consumer.