Tuesday, July 12, 2016



I’d like to talk about clickbait for a few hundred words. But first, let’s start by defining the term:

OK, that was easy! “Content”, and that certainly includes YouTube videos. But it goes beyond that, clickbait is content whose purpose, and pretty much its prime and only purpose, is to encourage visitors to click on it. That’s the clickbait I’m talking about.  I mean, think about the poetic beauty of the word ‘bait’ to catch clicks from fellow humans who are hungry for something stimulating as they habitually peruse the offerings of YouTube; who browse, as unwary catfish sample items from the soup and muck they live in and bite on bits of worm, little suspecting that there’s a hook and line involved.  And that the tidbit they are sampling will most likely not be satisfying. Most likely will leave them feeling like they’ve been tricked and the poorer for having invested a little of their consciousness in it.

And why would people post such content? Well, for 2 principle reasons:  1, to make money. .. after all, a good deal of what’s up on YouTube is there to make the poster money. How that works is a long discussion, but in essence one prime approach is to be paid by YouTube for the traffic one’s posted content  generates, the number of visitors it draws, and that, because there is advertising present alongside the content, at least for part of the visitor’s visit. And Reason #2, for ego gratification. In many ways, Youtube, and similar social media, are like Middle School, a highly populated place in which people feel good about themselves if their presence (or the presence of their posted content) gets the attention of others. And those who draw a great deal of attention often feel that the mountains of agreement they draw from a world of strangers is confirmation of their own worth. And that, too, is a very lengthy discussion that we really can’t get into fully here.

The point in all of this is that YouTube is largely agnostic to the quality of, and especially of the motivation for posting, content. And so, one finds sitting alongside such things as serious discussions about world economics (posted by economists and economic journalists), alongside announcements of health breakthroughs (posted by doctors and public health workers), alongside cultural, educational, and political news and commentary (posted by experts in those fields)… one finds social media junk food (or its equivalent), trash talk, dishonest attempts to garner public attention, media static, and the like.  And this ‘stuff’ is posted by hucksters, con artists, egotists, selfish blowhards, and retards… as well as every sort of digital loudmouth and annoying pain in the ass known to that part of mankind that spends its life online. 
The sheer volume of junk content generated and posted by these yahoos is overwhelming. It’s also fascinating. And further, I think the fact that so many of us simply seem to accept that it constitutes an unavoidable facet of the online landscape and navigate our online lives around it, is more fascinating yet. The minefield of clickbait is something akin to the accumulation of ruts in a poorly maintained highway, one that we all must travel, and for good purposes that contribute to our benefit. And more interestingly still, like kids who enjoy the bumpiness of a ride on some rutted roads, delighting in the occasional up and down, rollercoaster ride, bump as we travel, some probably enjoy a visit or 2 to view some clickbait videos. Not me, of course, but I have it on good authority that some YouTube travelers who aren’t as serious in their social investigations as I, do such things.

Above is a particularly interesting example of clickbait. Not only is it clickbait, but its clickbait that is wrapped up in the mantle of a confession by one of the web’s more prolific and successful purveyors of clickbait. Further, as part of his confession (or is it braggadocio? Or both?) He explains much about clickbait and how it is conceived and its magic worked. Quite a video! Quite a guy!

This video was created and posted by PewDiePie who, as of this writing, has drawn  46,249,937 subscribers  and  12,711,044,070 views (yes, that’s BILLION). And in it he reveals how he and his clickbaiting peers and competitors do it, manage to get so many folks to launch and view their videos.

PewDiePie opens this video with the following statements all of which are delivered in a mock serious, mock purposeful voice.  And yes, this is mildly entertaining, but more importantly, yes, he does reveal all of the little tricks that these YouTube ‘Made Ya Lookers’ have developed and use every day.  Hard to imagine that there are folks who have devoted their entire working lives to quantity without quality.

“Clickbait Video!-   It’s plagued YouTube for years, but you still click on them! - You won’t stop clicking on them!  - I have to Clickbait just to stay relevant!  - It’s gone out of control and I’m here to fix things! - I’m gonna spoil clickbait videos so you won’t have to click on them!  - You’re welcome!  - Yes it was painful! Yes I wanted to kill myself. “
And then we get what is a very thorough behind the curtains view of Clickbait and Clickbaiters. And, yes, this could be seen as something of a bit of contemporary social media education. But it, too, is Clickbait!

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