This headline is BULLSH*T: How Click Bait Headlines Have Become Our Worst Nightmare

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You’re guilty of it; you know you are. You see a headline in your daily newsfeed that sounds controversial or so off-the-wall that you just can’t resist.

“How this Kim Kardashian lookalike is building the next great app”

This is click bait.

My personal favorite publication for finding these types of headlines? BuzzFeed. And it seems I’m not the only one. According to Quantcast from May 15 – June 13, 2016 BuzzFeed had nearly 440 million global visits to the site.

Buzzfeed has led the way for other news publications looking to get in on the “click action” and completely revolutionize their publishing practices. There are also quite a few publications that actually change the headline every few hours to see what works best.

But, how many times have you clicked on the link only to be disappointed with how the content didn’t match its title?

In the PR industry we are seeing this more and more. As more reporters are eager for the fleeting fame of a viral headline and freelancers are being paid by publications on a “per click” basis, this has become commonplace. Not to mention the pressure put on staff reporters that just want to keep their jobs. It’s a problem. I say problem because most of the time these titles turn negative. In fact, according to a study by Outbrain the average click-through rate on headlines with negative superlatives including “never,” “bad” or “worst” was an overwhelming 63 percent higher than positive ones (“always” and “best”).

Every PR professional can attest to this. You wake up to a client Google Alert and the headline is negative. You have a mild heart attack and start thinking about what you plan to tell the client when they call you at 7am. That is until you actually start reading the content. “Well, this isn’t so bad.” But try to convince a client of that. The headlines are all that matter, or are they?

Is it time to start expecting these click bait headlines more and just alter our approach? I’m going to go with what the amazing Bradley Cooper did in his Oscar-winning film and find the silver lining.

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  1. The more clicks the article gets the more people that read it, the more people that have been exposed to your brand.
  2. Thinking in the “click bait” mindset can actually get you some great pitch ideas.
  3. Let’s just face it…they are entertaining as hell.

The fact of the matter is that this is the new world order, and just like everything in PR, it will continue to evolve. Do I see this going anywhere anytime soon? Absolutely not. Sex sells, and so do catchy headlines.