How To Kill Clickbait Once And For All

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Clickbait: The Internet Version of Bait & Switch

Clickbait: you know it, you hate it, you wish it would go away. Every day well-meaning friends and family members share links with headlines like those shown below:


And you think, “My friend or family member wouldn’t have shared this if it weren’t “one of the most brilliant things I’ve seen,” going to “destroy” me, give me “chills”, leave me “speechless” or amaze me with whatever the girl has to say or with whatever happens when the bird starts to hatch.” Let me spare you the time and disappointment.

The guys in the plane fly shelter dogs to new homes. Grandma gets to see YouTube clips of herself performing as an entertainer in her youth. The baby bird hatches. The girl with facial deformities wrote a letter saying she felt hopeless, and help and support came pouring in from across social media. The house is supposedly haunted. At 4:05 the talent show competitor—a magician—does a magic trick. None of which is stunning, gave me chills, rendered me speechless, destroyed me nor even resulted in mild surprise of the, “Huh. So that happened,” variety.

But if you, like thousands to hundreds of thousands of others, actually clicked through on any of these stories yourself, all you’d get is a heaping helping of disappointment and feeling like you’ve been tricked and cheated. Because you HAVE been tricked and cheated, and the reason is that these sites make their money on ads. The more site traffic they can show to advertisers (whether it’s legitimate traffic from people who actually like the site, or bait and switch traffic from people who were tricked into visiting), the more they can charge for their ads, the more ad networks they’re invited to join, and the more ads they can show to site visitors.

By sharing these clickbait links, your friends and family members are helping to perpetuate the scam. Anyone who clicks those links is doing the same.


Be The Kid Who Tells Everyone The Emperor Has No Clothes: Spoil The Bait, And The Scammers Lose

Every so often, one of these stories actually IS useful, amusing, surprising or interesting, and worth sharing. But when you DO choose to share a click-baity story, be sure to tell your friends, family and followers what the big reveal is right up front, so they can decide for themselves whether or not it’s worth their time and trouble to click through.

Consider the cheap/haunted house story. Maybe some of your friends and followers are truly interested in stories about haunted houses and will still want to click through, but everyone among them who doesn’t believe in ghosts and is actually just looking for real estate purchasing tips will be very glad you didn’t waste their time.

Clickbait only works so long as people are tricked into clicking through on deceptive headlines. By assuring the reader that he will be “shocked”, “amazed”, “destroyed”, “in tears”, “enraged” or have some other, equally exaggerated response, the clickbait headline writer instills a fear in the reader that if he DOESN’T click through, he’s missing out on some essential information. About 95 times out of 100, it’s a total lie.

If people knew it was a lie up front, they wouldn’t click through. If people stopped clicking through, clickbait sites would stop cranking out clickbait headlines and find a more honest way to draw site visitors—with genuinely useful, amusing, surprising or interesting content.

Clickbait sites make it much harder for legitimately helpful and informational sites like Digital Media Mom to attract site visitors, because the scammers’ high traffic makes them rank higher in search results and their daily flood of deceptive shares and posts pushes legitimate site shares and posts to the bottom of everyone’s news feed, home page, Twitter feed or whatever, where they’re not as likely to be seen in the first place.

Don’t be a party to the scam. Share clickbait stories sparingly, and when you do, spoil the bait in your post.

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Fire Tablet Tip of the Week: Where Are The Amazon Instant Video Bonus Features?

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