Clickbait is a pejorative term for web content whose main goal is to entice users to click on a link to go to a certain webpage or video. Clickbait headlines typically aim to exploit the "curiosity gap," providing just enough information to make readers curious, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without clicking through to the linked content.
From a historical perspective, the techniques employed by clickbait authors can be considered derivative of yellow journalism, which presented little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead used eye-catching headlines that included exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism. For sites that thrive on thousands of click-throughs to content, many authors see the use of clickbait as a means to tap into human psyche by crafting these eye-catching headlines.
By 2014, the ubiquity of clickbait on the web had begun to lead to a backlash against its use. Satirical newspaper The Onion launched a new website, ClickHole, that parodied clickbait websites such as Upworthy and BuzzFeed, and in August 2014, Facebook announced that it was taking technical measures to reduce the impact of clickbait on its social network, using, among other cues, the time spent by the user on visiting the linked page as a way of distinguishing clickbait from other types of content.Ad blockers and a general fall in advertising clicks also affected the clickbait model, as websites moved towards sponsored advertising and native advertising where the content of the article was more important than the click-rate.
Clickbait has also been used to political ends, and in this respect has been blamed for the rise of post-truth politics. Katherine Viner, editor-in-chief at The Guardian wrote that "chasing down cheap clicks at the expense of accuracy and veracity" undermined the value of journalism and truth. Emotional subjects with stark headlines are widely shared and clicked, which resulted in what Slate described as an "aggregation of outrage" and a proliferation of websites across the political spectrum - including Breitbart News, Huffington Post, Salon, Townhall and the Gawker Media blogs - which profited by producing shareable short-form pieces offering simple moral judgements on political and cultural issues.
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