A few weeks ago, I got this feedback from a longtime reader who was concerned about Offbeat Empire posting a lot of “archival material with clickbait headlines.”
She’s not wrong! Offbeat Bride and Offbeat Home & Life each publish two or three new blog posts a day, and then from 11am – 8pm PST, their respective Facebook pages are a steady stream of links to archival posts.
Whether or not the titles on these posts are clickbait is a little subjective. I think of clickbait as manipulative and forcing your hand (ie “This bride got left at the altar — YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT SHE DID NEXT”), but the truth of publishing is that a huge portion of a publisher’s job is what’s known as content marketing. How do you make sure that people who are interested in your content A) see it and B) are interested enough in it to click through to read it? People do NOT want to leave Facebook, so it’s a significant challenge. More about this: Every Major Website Clickbaits, But Not as Much as You’d Assume.
Hooky, click-worthy titles are a critically important part of my editors’ jobs. Why, just this morning I had an editor retitle “DIY wedding invitations: the design software that gets the job done” to “10 design programs to use for your DIY wedding invitations (including 5 FREE ones!).” Titles and lead images are workshopped heavily behind the scenes — content marketing is important editorial work, and I push my staff pretty hard to make sure that each post has an image that translates well to social media thumbnailing, and a title that’s compelling and click-worthy.
Interestingly, while the term “clickbait” is new, the concept of writing hooky titles to sell content is very, very old. What do you think magazine covers are for? Clickbait is the digital version of EXTRA EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT IT, and it’s as old as print media.
I also think the word clickbait has gotten a lot of media attention recently, and everyone wants to talk about it. I’m noting a sharp uptick in Facebook commenters wanting to workshop our post titles. In our current information economy, readers are so soaked in media all day every day that they’re generally more savvy and more vocal about what they think works, and what they don’t like.
This is great, although can sometimes exhaust my editors… after one recent round of “commenter would like to suggest a better post title,” an editor sighed “These are all nice ideas, but I don’t come to where you work and knock the dick out of YOUR mouth.” Hilariously, when we ran a more literal title recently, we even got feedback that it sucked because it gave away too much of the post’s story. HA! There’s no winning.
But getting back on topic, yes: my editors write and share posts with titles that hopefully interest readers and lead them to want to read more. Is that clickbait, or content marketing? Where do you draw the line? Where should WE draw the line?