Saturday, 21 February 2015

We are all click-baiters

Cat in a cannon
Bet this picture made you click

A while back, Buzzfeed published a post on clickbait (Why Buzzfeed doesn't do clickbait). Far from it being a mea-culpa (and why should you apologise if you don't think you're wrong?), it was a bold defence of their content, a firm rebuttal to those who wish to categorise their content as such.

All of which was nearly undone by the first comment underneath - a search query for the phrase 'You won't believe' on their site.

So yes, Buzzfeed, you do engage in clickbaiting. But why are you so ashamed of it? Nobody is above it.

This post is in no way a defense of clickbait - but I feel like, as with most pejorative terms like this, it's being abused by people who don't necessarily understand the model.

Essentially: people want other people to click on their stuff. It doesn't matter whether you're Buzzfeed, Salon or Dave-fucking-Swift from Cannock, whenever we post something to social media, we think we've got something interesting to share.

It's like a campfire: everybody talking around it thinks that they have something of value to add to it. It could be Noam Chomsky, Katie Hopkins, Evgeny Morozov and H from Steps - each one of them wants to say something that makes another person 'click': in other words, think or feel something.

So yes, lots of websites use the tired old 'You won't believe' headlines and sub headers to try and sell a story online. But we all do that. It's social. We're hardwired genetically to do that. If we don't bring value to our tribe, we are cast out. It's really fucking cruel, but that's the way it works in the animal kingdom.

We want people to click with us and on us. If we didn't, then we wouldn't share.