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Examples of clickbait headlines on the side of a website.

Clickbait refers to web content designed to entice its readers into clicking an accompanying link. Clickbait frequently appears in journalism and social media sites in the form of short teaser messages or images designed to attract attention. Its primary goal is to generate advertisement revenue especially through striking images and enticing headlines that oftentimes do not match up to the actual content of the piece.[1] Clickbait often encourages users to click on a link by withholding certain information about the article it links to. Often the landing pages of such links are composed of fake news or opinion pieces without supporting research or evidence.[2][3] Clickbait headlines are intriguing and bring readers in just enough to want to click on the link. Because online media outlets rely heavily on page views to generate ad revenue, clickbait is often used to artificially inflate ad impressions. [4][5] Mainstream usage of clickbait has been criticized for misleading users and lowering quality standards in journalism.


Clickbait headline taken from CNN's Twitter feed
Clickbait in early 19th century.[1]
touchdalight clickbait title

Prior to the term clickbait being used, sensationalist headlines were used to amass an audience as early as the 19th century, where political cartoons were displayed to attract the attention of the readers. Similar tactics were also present in early 19th century journalism where provocative newspaper headlines competed for attention. [6] The emergence of clickbait in tabloid journalism [4] as well as its success in rousing interest have put pressure on legacy media due to competition for readers and revenue.[7] Many research studies have been conducted to understand the psychological appeal of clickbait, leading to empirical methods for identifying it.



In response to the spread of clickbait, Facebook has made efforts to improve news feed algorithms to help its users find content that is interesting and relevant by weeding out the clickbait-esque material that often frustrate users.[2] In 2014, Facebook altered their newsfeeds to understand how long users spent on certain posts and articles that have intriguing titles. With this research, Facebook penalized publishers who used 'click-bait' titles to lure users into clicking on their articles. [8] Facebook penalized these publishers by placing their posts at a lower on newsfeeds to receive less attention from users. Facebook has attempted to remove clickbait by measuring the click-to-share ratio of links[4], identifying phrases that are commonly used in clickbait headlines,[9] [10] and identifying clickbait by measuring the amount of time that the user spend on the website after clicking the link. [2] Other scholars have also developed clickbait detection models and extensions to further help decrease how often they appear[1][4] as well as developing tools for analyzing news sources in order to distinguish real and fake news. [11]


Clickbait has become incredibly prominent on Youtube's platform, and with the misleading titles and thumbnails many content producers have been making millions of dollars by exploiting the system's loophole. One ethical concern with clickbait on Youtube is the fact that many of the content creators are targeting early teens or younger. Many critics of the site believe that these creators are taking advantage of their less aware, younger audience, and gaining significant profits through this deception. The content creators most famous for these tactics are youtubers such as Logan Paul, Rice Gum and Ryan Franklin, who have been deemed as "DoucheTubers" by youtube content creator Cr1tikal and many other users on the site.

In a recent controversy, a Youtuber who goes by the name of touchdalight, came under fire for a clickbait video titled, “One Kill = One Clothing With My 13-Year-Old Sister”. This was a reference to the video game Fortnite, and suggests that for each kill he gets in the game, his 13 year old sister will take off an article of clothing. This is a clear attempt to target younger audiences due to the emphasis that his sister is "13". The actual video did not depict his underage sister, but instead a fellow Youtuber that was of age. While the video did not actually contain any illegal content, it sparked a dialogue about clickbait and the current state of Youtube.

In order to combat clickbait thumbnails and video titles, YouTube has incentivized content creators to accumulate watch time rather than views. An editor from DIY Musician explains that YouTube views are easily counted by misleading thumbnails, so their new way of measuring is to count the total amount of time a video is watched. [12] This attempt to combat clickbait has been somewhat effective but has by no means eliminated clickbait from the platform.



Extreme exaggeration of what the content on the landing page will be.

Example:   Cringeworthy tattoos that will destroy your faith in humanity


The omission of important details from title to build suspense.

Example:   “Here’s Why Hillary Clinton Is ‘Deeply Worried’ About The UN’s Damning Climate Report”


Usage of inappropriate/vulgar words and misleading phrasing.

Example:   Putin Punched at G20 Summit.


Overuse of capitalization/punctuation, particularly ALL CAPS or exclamation points.

Example:   EXCLUSIVE: Top-Secret Method allowed a mother to break the world record: 12kg in 4 weeks!


Salacious, disturbing, overly descriptive, or unbelievable subject matter.

Example:   Donatella Versace plastic surgery overload: Waxy face resembles melting candle.


A title that lies about content promised/implied to be on the landing page/article; often requires additional clicks to find intended information or is completely missing from the article.

Example:   Beers Americans No Longer Drink.


Unclear or confusing title to spur curiosity.

Example:   Hands on: Samsung’s iPhone 5 is absolutely beautiful.


Factually incorrect article title.

Example:   Scientist Confesses: “Global Warming a $22 Billion Scam/center"


Articles that entice by challenging intelligence

Example: Can you solve this easy riddle? 95% of people get it wrong!


Internet media company, Buzzfeed, has often been criticized for employing the useful articles. In 2014, they released an article, Why Buzzfeed Doesn't Do Clickbait, explaining why they do not use the clickbait tactic. Several articles have been released, refuting this statement. According to this article, 63% of Buzzfeed's content falls into the clickbait category, defined as content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page by the Oxford dictionary. [13] A popular portion of the content provided by Buzzfeed is the Buzzfeed quiz. An example of some quizzes are We'll Tell You What Cardi B Song You Are Based On These 6 Questions and Choose Seven Celebs To Go To College With And We'll Reveal Your Best Trait. The sole purpose of contents like these are to get the audience to click on these quizzes, once the user clicks the quiz, it is redirected to the Buzzfeed main site where it has news articles and videos alongside additional entertainment. After Buzzfeed experienced a rise in popularity due to the quizzes, news outlets such as the New York Times began to do this as well. Many critics of Buzzfeed do not consider it "real news" and believe that it is the most avid employer of the click bait tactic.

Prevention Methods

Google Chrome

"Stop ClickBait" is an application offered through Google Chrome's services which users can download onto their Google Chrome browser. This extension service works on many websites to identify clickbait posts and articles to prevent users from clicking on them. When the program identifies a clickbait post, the user is notified. This service also allows users to block clickbait content that they have come across once and do not want to see again. When browsing websites, users have the option to report thinks that they think are clickbait to the service for future references. Furthermore, users can suggest when a link has been misreported as clickbait. [14]

Ethical concerns

Clickbait headlines typically aim to take advantage of viewers curiosity.[15][16] These headlines are aimed at manipulating the emotions of the user. Users often report falling for clickbait content as a negative experience. The presence of clickbait in social media has also increased occurrences of fake news. Some have argued that a significant proportion of social media users are uneducated on how to distinguish fake news sources from genuine news sources, which in turn create filter bubbles of misinformed users.

Negative experiences

Negative experiences are created when the user encounters a clickbait and has high expectations than what the article contains.[17][18]. Clickbaits rely on emotions to attract viewers and often create headlines that cause anger, anxiety, humor, excitement, inspiration, or surprise.[19] Upon visiting the article, many people report finding the content disappointing because of low-quality writing and/or content that does not correspond to the title. Clickbait can also lead to frustration because of their frequency of occurrence on news feeds.

Fake news and misinformed users

Main article: Fake News

People are now using social media as their only way of acquiring news and many people do not know how to adequately identify genuine news sources [20] making them vulnerable to believing click baits when they encounter one. Clickbait often take bits of true stories but insinuate and make up other details to make the users react to them and their success is due to the large amounts of views and shares they receive. Clickbait is often hard to distinguish from real news sources because their format is manipulated to resemble credible journalism. Clickbait is notorious for spreading misinformation[21] and if users believe the content of the clickbait chances are they are going to share it with their own network. This further popularizes the clickbait and presents it to a larger number of users who could do the same, creating filter bubbles of misinformed users [22] who are often not educated on how to distinguish fake from real news sources.

Some sites dedicate themselves to sharing blatantly fake news stories, like The Onion[23] and ClickHole[24]. These sites are satirical, but neither of their home pages is clearly marked as such. Their headlines are notorious for clickbait. They also have the tendency to write articles that keep up with world events, so it is easy for sites such as these to be mistaken for credible news sites. This is dangerous for people who do not know that these sites are satire or for people who do not take the time to research their news before believing it, citing it or sharing it online with friends and followers.

Content Management

Clickbait takes up the space that can be filled with content relevant to the original intent of the user going to the given webpage. The same space could be filled with educational articles and posts that would allow readers to learn about new topics and be more aware of worldwide current events. The content that could otherwise be displayed would provide a more enriching experience to the user going to the website due to its relevancy to the users original topic of search. However, our paradigm of website monetization demonstrates our view on creating revenue online through clickbait, targeting advertising and other similar methods of revenue generation. This is opposed to creating donation based websites where the content users see would not include clickbait.


On the content hosting website Youtube, clickbait titles have become the norm in an effort to stand out. Since clickbait abuses human curiosity, videos with clickbait titles or thumbnails outperformed videos that weren't taking advantage of their viewers. Videos that use clickbait to entice viewership on content that likely wouldn't do well without it, thus giving them an unfair advantage over other content creators. Rather than crackdown on these videos, Youtube did very little and clickbait has now become the norm for content creators. This has led some channels to take their clickbait to new levels in an attempt to catch up to others who have perfected the art. Youtuber touchdalight uploaded a video of him playing Fortnite Battle Royale titled “One Kill = One Clothing With My 13-Year-Old Sister”, implying the girl in his video will strip one article of clothing for each kill he earns [25]. Though the girl in the video was above 18 and not his sister, but his channel received a huge wave of backlash for the inappropriate title. This environment of misleading information in a video title encourages smaller channels to make inappropriate choices to try to stand out.

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Potthast, Martin; Köpsel, Sebatian; Stein, Benno; Hagen, Matthias (2016). ClickBait Detection Bauhaus-Universität Weimer
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 The Washington Post website: "What is ‘click bait’ and why Facebook wants to display less of it"
  3. Tech Crunch: "*** is a clickbait ""
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Chakraborty, Abhijnan; Paranjape, Bhargavi; Kakarla, Sourya; Ganguly, Niloy (2016). Stop Clickbait: Detecting and Preventing Clickbaits in Online News Media Cornell University Library
  5. The dirty secrets of clickbait. This post will blow your mind! ""
  6. A History of Clickbait: The First 100 Years
  7. PBS website: "Column: Why click-bait will be the death of journalism"
  9. Facebook newsroom website: "News Feed FYI: Further Reducing Clickbait in Feed"
  10. engadget: "Facebook is ramping up its fight against clickbait"
  11. "False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical “News” Sources"
  12. The importance of watch time and subscribers to your YouTube Channel. DIY Musician. Jun 23, 2015. Web. Apr 7, 2017.
  13. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  15. Curiosity Has the Power to Change Behavior for the Better ""
  16. Wikipedia: Clickbait
  17. Prakhar Biyani; Kostas Tsioutsiouliklis; John Blackmer (2016). “8 Amazing Secrets for Getting More Clicks”: Detecting Clickbaits in News Streams Using Article Informality Yahoo Labs
  18. The Ethics of Clickbait ""
  19. You’ll Be Outraged at How Easy It Was to Get You to Click on This Headline ""
  20. "How We Broke Democracy"
  21. Click Bait Websites and the Age of Misinformation ""
  22. Forget Facebook and Google, burst your own filter bubble
  23. [|"The Onion"]. Retrieved on 20 April 2017.
  24. [|"ClickHole"]. Retrieved on 20 April 2017.
  25. Alexander, Julia. “YouTubes Clickbait Problem Reaches New Heights.” Polygon, Polygon, 13 Apr. 2018,