What is Clickbait? - BlueBird Dictionary

It seems unclear when the word “clickbait” was first used. It was officially recognized by Webster’s Dictionary in 2015. Webster’s claims it was first used in 2010 but Gizmodo traces the practice back to 1888.

Language is a living and evolving organism and new words enter our daily vocabulary all the time. Often we use words that we might not fully understand but because they are used so often we are too shy to ask.

Clickbait is such a term.



(On the Internet) content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page:  these recent reports of the show’s imminent demise are hyperbolic clickbait [AS MODIFIER]: a clickbait article
On Wikipedia I found this definition:
Clickbait is a pejorative term describing web content that is aimed at generating online advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines or eye-catching thumbnail pictures to attract click-throughs and to encourage forwarding of the material over online social networks. Clickbait headlines typically aim to exploit the “curiosity gap”, providing just enough information to make the reader curious, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without clicking through to the linked content.
I see clickbait as “false advertising” because the title or headline of a piece of online content promises one thing and what you get is something else.
Often we see this in headlines and Social Media posts that seem really interesting. When we click on the associated link it turns out the content is about something totally different.

Clickbait is not to be confused with awesome headlines

Some clickbait can be unintentional and caused by someone’s attempt to write an awesome headline. You could argue there is a grey area - some headlines are a little sensationalist and the content you are seeing has some relevance to it. This is a danger in writing headlines and in today’s flood of content it is almost understandable that some people go overboard. Similar to spam there might be cases where we see differences of opinion.

Clickbait can be dangerous

The motivation behind clickbait is mostly greed. Unscrupulous advertisers want to seduce us and will lead us to a website we would never have visited to sell us something we certainly don’t need.
But often these websites also include nasty malware. Malware is a piece of software that can get into your computer and do damage or even spy out personal information. Check out my friend Cate’s column about how to protect yourself.
I still fall for it 🙂 every once in a while I click a headline that sounds too good to be true and get caught on a spammy website. Fortunately I regularly scan for viruses and malware so nothing bad has ever happened.
If you are ever wondering if a story you see on Facebook is clickbait you can check Snopes or Hoaxslayer.
Have you ever fallen for clickbait? How did it feel?
Would you like to learn more about a term you see or hear all the time? Let me know in the comments
I am the the founder of BlueBird Business Consulting (formerly Tweet4Ok). My focus is on Social Media strategy and education. My blog covers topics ranging from how-to social media posts to more general topics of concern for a rapidly changing digital world. Favourite quote: “To succeed in the business of the future we have to become the very people we are trying to reach” ~ Brian Solis


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