When I started following @SavedYouAClick last summer, I thought the idea was amusing but didn’t take it seriously. Jake Beckman, the man behind the account, was on a crusade to eradicate clickbait by spoiling headlines that said things like “You’ll never believe…” or “And the baby’s gender is…” or “The best way to retire early.”
Crap like that. And, let’s face it — it is mostly crap. So Beckman set out to expose any headline that attempted to draw in readers with a question or that juicy hook they just couldn’t resist — even if the result was wasting only a few seconds.
Anyway, I somewhat understood where Beckman was coming from. It irritated me when I’d see outlets trying to trick me into clicking, and I’d often withhold a click out of principle.
But at the same time, I didn’t necessarily agree with the concept.
Didn’t Beckman understand we needed readers to click on our stories? The entire Internet economy was based on people reading, and sometimes readers need a nudge to take action. No clicks? No job. And media outlets had to do what was necessary to draw people in.
Or so I thought.
But in May, Beckman had an exchange that really hit home with me. It started with this:
“i really hate it when tweets are like WATCH this or LOOK at this just tell me what it is and i’ll decide,” he tweeted.
A user then responded with this:
@SavedYouAClick but when data shows they will get more clicks, why wouldnt you do it as a social media mgr?
— Jadd (@Jaddams) May 7, 2015
Beckman’s answer was perfect:
Think about that for a minute. Because you respect your audience.
Someone has chosen to follow you on social media. In a quest for followers and readers, that’s no easy task at times. And to repay them, you constantly tease people into clicking in search of information that could easily be said in a 140-character tweet or a Facebook status update.
First of all, if the content is that flimsy and there’s no other meat to it aside from that little nugget or detail you’re withholding — does it really deserve to be clicked? You’re intentionally wasting people’s time in order to get a few hundred more clicks which don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
Beckman is right: We should show more respect to the readers than that. Even if the data is discouraging when it comes to what people really want to read, we should tell them what the story is about, and if they want to read more? Hey, they’ll click.
If you give readers that courtesy, people might actually be more likely to give regular clicks. Personally, I’d appreciate a writer more if they told me what I was getting instead of luring me into it.
The news is not a game. I don’t want to guess. I want you to tell me. — Saved You A Click (@SavedYouAClick) June 2, 2015
As journalists, our job is to inform. Ideally, that shouldn’t be done in a cheap way. So over the past few months, I’ve gone almost completely away from making readers guess in tweets. I’ll spoil my own stories or even tweet a picture of a relevant quote because I want people to know what they’re getting.
Has it cost me clicks? Honestly, I haven’t really seen a difference in my bit.ly numbers (which I monitor closely and am kind of obsessive about). Of course I’d prefer more people read what I write, but at what cost? If the topic doesn’t interest them, the solution isn’t to force someone into a click so they scan the page for three seconds and then press the “back” arrow, feeling foolish after falling for the trap.
Respect your readers. Respect your followers. Maybe you’ll lose a few thousand clicks in the short term, but it’ll enhance your credibility and the appreciation from your audience in the long run.