Click bait headlines killed this Grandma and you’ll never believe what happens next
You clicked it. And now you probably feel a bit dirty. Because nobody’s Grandma is actually dead (at least not as the result of a click bait headline) and, for a moment, you felt disappointed, you sicko.
And that’s what click bait headlines do to you. They bring out the sordid curiosity that lies within all of us, they use it to win our click and then disappoint us. But by the time you’re disappointed you may even already be looking for something that holds more promise and start clicking content discovery headlines on their website, taking you on an equally disappointing journey of the click bait hell that is any website with “viral,” in its domain name. You’ve now visited their website and clicked on their ads. You generated revenue for them. And they’ll keep writing ridiculous headlines for that very reason.
To quote Dr. Pete (from Mozcon 2014), “content is parody of itself.” (Slide 6, but you should read the whole deck anyway!).
I’m convinced that so much of that is down to click bait headlines. Let’s not confuse ridiculous click bait headlines with well written headlines. We know well written headlines should evoke some curiosity, they should make a user feel compelled to click. But a good headline should also deliver on its promise (although this one certainly won’t – sorry, guys).
So let me save you a disappointing journey of the web today and share 3 ridiculous click bait headlines with you along with a summary of what actually happens. These are all actual headlines (I’m not linking out to the articles, but you’ll find them if you Google them!).
1. Click bait headline: This Grandma sat down behind a drum set. What happens next will blow you away.
A more accurate headline: Grandma sat down behind and drum set and drummed.
As you might expect when someone sits down behind a drum set, this Grandma played the drums. And make no mistake, she plays the drums reasonably well. And maybe you don’t expect Grandmas to play the drums well, so it’s perhaps unusual. But it won’t blow you away.
What will blow you away, though, is the sheer volume of ads. Oh and then the lovely pop up that you cannot close down (easily) until you like their f***ing Facebook page. And that’s why they have so many likes.
Spam. But it probably works for them given sheer volume of content, likely traffic levels and ad-mageddon on their website.
2. Click bait headline: A young man asks a homeless man to borrow his bucket, what happens next will burst you into tears
A more accurate headline: Buskers busk next to homeless man. Nobody bursts into tears.
What actually happens is that the structure of that headline and the volume of spammy ads on this page “burst me into tears.”
The video on the page is, well, fine. Some students borrow a homeless man’s bucket, they bring a guitar along, they sing a song. People donate money. Then some people throw some money in the homeless guy’s hat. Everyone stops singing and we all go home.
And not a single tear was shed.
It was a lovely gesture. But not worth the bloody pop ups and volume of spammy ads on this site.
3. Click bait headline: He knocked on their door and the worst occurred… could this happen to you?
A more accurate headline: Mums teach children not to answer door to strangers in a controlled setting and nothing terrible happened
The worst did not happen. Man sets up a situation – he asks parents to put a camera at their front door and then go upstairs. He knocks on the door and asks children if he can come in and wait for their Mum or Dad. Children let him in. Mums then shout at children and tell them to never answer the door to strangers and certainly not to let them in.
Granted. It’s not ideal. But it’s hardly the worst thing that could happen, is it?
These parents have an opportunity, as part of a controlled experiment, to teach an important lesson. Not exactly the worst thing ever.
So there you go – 3 click bait pieces you don’t to go and watch or read today because I’ve done it for you. Apparently, it’s just how I spend Sundays…