Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Why" headlines and the linkbait phenomenon

"Linkbait" is a derogatory term in new media circles. It refers to pieces of online content that are meant to draw eyeballs, clicks, and external links -- all of which create value in the online media ecosystem. Even though journalism purists decry the racy headlines, slideshows, and other tricks that are characteristic of linkbait, most old media brands now play the game. For instance, SmartMoney, a personal finance magazine, has a website with three "why" headlines on a single morning:

why headlines linkbait

Why all of the "why's"?
  1. No answers are given, which forces readers to click through to the content. This creates more impressions for the banner ads on the page, and also leads to better site metrics that the editor can show his or her publisher at the end of the month
  2. "Why" headlines, when combined with valuable keywords (such as "mutual funds") create long-tail visits that add thousands of additional page views and maybe even some links long after the publication date
  3. "Why" content can be bundled into nice link lists that can appear at the bottom of articles that relate to the keyworded headlines (in this case, "active traders", "Wall Street" and "mutual funds")
Why not?

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