Click bait explained | Glossary | Internet knowledge


A click bait is a headline or text that is designed in an exaggerated or untrue way to entice the reader to click on a link to a website. The method is common for shared material on social media and often plays on strong emotions and uncertainty.

What is click bait?

A click bait is a headline or text designed to get the reader to click on a link. The use of so-called “Click grazing headlines” falls back on a long tradition in the newspaper world of putting headlines that will entice the reader to continue reading the entire article. The difference is that traditional media houses (usually) follow the journalistic rule that the headline should have coverage in the body text. This is not always the case for click grazing headlines.

A sliding scale from withholding information to pure lies

With the breakthrough of social media, this method has been picked up and adapted by new so-called viral sites that take advantage of the digital format and basic human behavior to attract visitors to their sites with click bait headlines. The motive is usually economical – by attracting more visitors, the site earns more from ads on the site.

Click-throughs can be placed on a scale from totally false statements via exaggerations to simply omitting the information the reader actually wants.

Several news sites or other platforms have achieved great success by building their content optimized for dissemination through social media. They are called viral sites and two examples are American Upworthy and Buzzfeed. Both Aftonbladet and Expressen ran their own so-called viral sites Lajkat och Omtalat for a few years in the 2010s. Click bait headlines for these sites, however, are not designed to deceive but only to generate traffic.

If you are unlucky, a startling headline can sometimes lead to a pure scam.

In 2019, for example, the names of several famous Swedish people were used, including Filip Hammar, Fredrik Skavlan and Leif GW Persson, as click bait for items where they were alleged to have invested in Bitcoin. The result was that many Swedes wanted to do the same, but everything turned out to be a scam and many lost money.

Examples of click bait

According to Wikipedia a click bait heading usually contains the following components:

  • a heading consisting of two phrases
  • an emotional promise
  • withholding important information for the reader

Click bait headlines often play on strong emotions such as fear, anger or joy to make us react and are often strongly polarizing. They focus on what we Do not know rather than informing. To get the answer, the reader must click.

Compare, for example, these (fictional) headlines “Can it be dangerous to get vaccinated against Covid-19? This is what the expert says “with” No risk associated with vaccination for Covid-19 according to expert “.

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