The use of alluring headlines, or clickbait, to tempt readers is not new, but a recent study found mainstream media are increasingly active participants in the practice.
The research found 33.54 percent of headlines from mainstream media could be considered clickbait, while in unreliable media it’s 39.26 percent. The results indicate that clickbait practice is most common in conjunction with celebrity, entertainment or lifestyle news.
Two researchers—Md Main Uddin Rony and Naeemul Hassan—from the University of Mississippi along with Mohammad Yousuf, from the University of Oklahoma, analyzed 1.67 million Facebook posts created by 153 media organizations to understand the extent of clickbait practice, its impact and user engagement by using their own developed clickbait detection model.
In response to questions from NewsLab, Hassan indicated mainstream media were defined as the 25 most circulated print media and the 43 most-watched broadcast media. Unreliable media included 85 conspiracy, clickbait, satire and junk science media organizations as cross-checked by two separate sources.
The study reveals that broadcast-type media has higher percentage of usage of clickbait practice than the print media and non-news type broadcast media mostly contributes to that finding. It also found a higher percentage of clickbait practice by unreliable media.
So, how are the researchers defining clickbait?
“The term refers to a form of web content that employs writing formulas and linguistic techniques in headlines to trick readers into clicking links but does not deliver on promises,” Hassan said.
The research found that non-clickbait headlines highlight topics of collective problems, such as public policies and civic affairs. Unfortunately, Hassan says a newer round of research shows that there’s even more clickbait out there now.
“Our later assessment found evidence of growing practice of clickbait use. For example, in print media, the percentage of clickbait use was 19.46 in 2014, 23.73 in 2015, and 25.37 in 2016.”
To read the full text of the study: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1703.09400.pdf.
Rony, Md Main Uddin, Naeemul Hassan, and Mohammad Yousuf. “Diving Deep into Clickbaits: Who Use Them to What Extents in Which Topics with What Effects?.” Proceedings of the 2017 IEEE/ACM International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining 2017. ACM, 2017.