Clickbait Gag

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/roguetoponethingsyoudidntknow.jpg
Obnoxious yellow text and red arrows? Better click it.

ComedyShortsGamer: Alright, what should we name this video, guys? We gotta come up with a title.
PewDiePie: How about "Surgeon Simulator with Dad?"
ComedyShortGamer: Fuck you, we're naming it "What Would YOU Do—" [beat] "Extreme."

Clickbait is a term used to describe attention-grabbing, over-the-top, misleading headlines, thumbnails, and content intended to induce clicks from internet users. For the purposes of this page, however, we'll only be listing and discussing parodies and In-Universe gags about Clickbait.

Why? Well, Clickbait's definition is a source of complaining on par with any Flame Bait. Read literally, "clickbait" is something of a non-sensical term. Every title is, by definition, clickbait. Every writer wants you to read their work, and titles are designed to grab the reader's attention and entice them to read the story. Even the most hard-boiled reporter writing on the driest subject matters wants readers- financial journalists aren't reporting on international monetary policy for their health.

As such, the question of whether a work qualifies as clickbait is often the subject of intense debate, and we don't want anything to do with that argument. For example, even Buzzfeed, a website synonymous with Clickbait, has argued that they don't use Clickbait at all, according to their article "Why Buzzfeed Doesn't Do Clickbait."

Even if defining and listing actual Clickbait can largely depend on subjective Audience Reactions, finding an attempt to play with the trend intentionally is feasible. If someone gives an example of Clickbait, it will often fall into one of these types:

  • Obnoxiously contrarian "takes."
  • Hysterical Listicles — for example, "The Five Most Crazily Overrated Movies YOU Love!"
  • Over-the-top teases that promise life-changing information at the end of a story — for example, "What This Mother Did for Her Child Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity." May invoke Could This Happen to You? to play off paranoia.
  • Blatantly inaccurate headlines, especially those that promise sexual or scandalous content.
  • Truncated long titles with no tooltip, so even the ability to read the entire title requires clicking the link.

Why did these cheap templates become popular in real life? Well, many online creators make their money by selling space on their web site to advertisers. The more visitors a site gets (the more people who click on their content), the more advertisers are willing to pay to place their ads on the site. This means that finding ways to bait people into clicking becomes the crucial business consideration for a content provider.

Since making exceptional content is hard and expensive, creators look for shortcuts. They use sensationalistic, attention-grabbing titles and opinions to grab clicks, often from readers who are intrigued or outright appalled by the title or whatever visual they have to click on.

With time, the public has become aware of these tactics and they've been labelled "clickbait" since at least 2006. This ubiquity has lead many creators to discuss clickbait more openly and use the obnoxiousness of Clickbait as a source of humor. Since Clickbait thrives in Web Original content, those creators tend to discuss these tactics the most.

This is related to other tropes dealing with advertising and attracting viewers: Never Trust a Trailer (which is about misleading marketing in general), Superdickery (a misleading marketing tactic where heroes look like villains), Lady Not-Appearing-in-This-Game (where a sexualized woman is used to advertise a game she isn't in), Wolverine Publicity (where a popular character is used to market a product they aren't central to), and Advertising Disguised as News.

Because of the controversy involved in serious examples of Clickbait, list In-Universe Examples Only.


You won't believe the shocking list a group of tropers made of these examples!

    open/close all folders 

Web Examples

    Podcasts 
  • The Plumbing the Death Star episode "What Kind of Job is Journalism for a Superman?" concludes that Clark Kent would best be employed at Buzzfeed, because then he could write low-effort articles with obnoxious headlines like "16 Things You Think X-Ray Vision Doesn't Work On That It Totally Does" or "If You Were a Kansas Kid You Would Remember THESE."
    "It's sad because you know Superman would never realize that that's not journalism."

    Web Animation 
  • B Happy is built on this trope with its Click-O-Rama feature, in which viewers determine the outcome of the story (as well as other tidbits throughout) by being presented with multiple choices to click on. Sometimes this trope is played straight such as Episode 1, which features a Click-O-Rama option to win millions of dollars, only to be taken to a screen saying, "Server is busy." The outcome of Episode 1 and Episode 3 also play this straight.
  • Brain Dump parodies the concept of clickbait a few times, with one episode claiming that Rogue One was discreetly pushing some sort of pro-choice agenda, only for Max and Goofball to end up spending half of the episode arguing back and forth over Grandma Brownie's Chocolate Chunker Wunker Bunkers (Now with even bigger chunks of chocolate chunks!). The other half is Max complaining about some Fridge Logic surrounding the practicality of Astromech droids before realizing he should have thought about the title better.
  • FreedomToons: Parodied. Most political content on YouTube, especially if it's ripped from the original source, tends to be advertised with hyperbolic titles such as "X Destroys/Humiliates/Schools Y". FT's cartoon "Ben Shapiro DESTROYS Liberal" actually makes true on its claim by depicting the host of the Daily Wire incinerating a left-wing college student who annoys him with Eye Beams.

    Web Comics 
  • Darths & Droids parodied this, by titling one comic page in a common clickbait format: Page 1151: "All They Did Was Have a Chat Over a Bottomless Pit. You Won't Believe What Happens Next".
  • Dinosaur Comics has a strip about a man named Jim, who reacted to headlines as clickbait writers expected everyone too. So, he literally could not forget these five facts about cats, he reacted to this video you could not believe with the Platonically perfect skepticism, and number 6 blew his mind, making him a wholly new man. The dinosaurs agree he sounds awesome, even if he would be a great assassin.
  • xkcd
    • Buzzfeed Christmas reimagines "12 Days of Christmas" as "12 Weird Things I Actually Got for Christmas":
      "12 best drummers of all time.
      11 pipers whose jaw-droppingly good piping will make you cry.
      You won't believe what these 10 lords leap over."
    • This strip reimagines twentieth-century headlines if they were written to get the most clicks in the internet era, resulting in such classics as "Most Embarrassing Reactions To The Stock Market Crash [gifs]."
    • Campaign Fundraising Emails, among various sensationalistic and only vaguely-relevant ledes, has one particularly clickbait-y introduction that happens to be completely irrelevant:
      "Have you seen this video of the squirrel obstacle course? Incredible! Anyway, I'm running because I..."
  • Paranatural parodies this with several article titles visible on the side of this internet browser.
    This Fool Puppy Fell Into A Sewer. What Happens Next Will Warm Your Heart
    This Incredible New Medicine Will Lower Your Credit Score—And Warm Your Heart
    Top 10 Weird Tricks You Won't Believe Will Happen Next Will Warm Your Heart

    Websites 

    Web Videos 
  • Parodied in "How To Lose Weight In 4 Easy Steps!", which starts out looking like it's about broad tricks to lose weight until the third step begins to detail the life of an insecure man recovering from a harsh break-up.
  • In Barshens, there is a recurring feature called Sharticles. In that feature, Stuart and another presenter, usually Barry, look at 'slow news' publications. When the articles aren't reporting on completely trivial matters (IE - a church stacking their chairs in a different manner), they branch into this. Specifically, one article suggested that Justin Bieber visited the small town the article was from, but the text of the article made it clear that Bieber's private jet had only flown over the town.
  • critikal compares YouTube clickbait to the programming of the Discovery Channel in a video-long Take That! called "Phelps vs Shark," which is about the misleading marketing leading up to Michael Phelps' race against a computer-generated shark.
  • Four Ams And Hog have The Clickbait Song, whose lyrics consist mostly of clickbaity titles.
  • h3h3productions video "Why Is this Video on the TRENDING Tab???" accuses YouTube of encouraging the use of sensational titles over actual content, specifically by taking apart a fake prank video that trended. It even includes a black-and-white, slow-motion sequence where Ethan tries to resist clicking on the video, but since it says "MUST WATCH," he physically has to click the link.
  • One of the videos from I Hate Everything is titled "5 Epic Ways to Be a YouTube Celebrity!" It even has a check-mark in the title. The thumbnail has PewDiePie, Markiplier, a hot chick's face, and another hot chick's booty surrounded by a red circle with an arrow pointed at it. In the video, Alex discusses clickbait and various tactics that some YouTube channels use to garner clicks, such as everything in the title of his video as well as what he put in his own thumbnail.
  • Jacks Films
    • The video "I Have Something To Tell You" has a thumbnail with the creator on the verge of tears and opens with him struggling to speak as he tries to admit something... before he says he created the video title and faked crying to emotionally manipulate the viewer into clicking the video. And then he raps about it.
    • "The CLICKBAIT Game" has Jack list all of his fans attempts to make clickbait titles out of everyday situations like "I ate Chinese food." From that simple challenge, we get divine listicles like "DOES CHINESE FOOD MAKE YOU GAY?", "MY BEARD GOT DRUNK (THREESOME!?)", and "why im shutting down my channel (not clickbait)."
    • "YIAY 354" features fan-made thumbnails for Jack's videos, most of which exaggerate Clickbait staples like light nudity, giant red arrows, promises of face reveals, guilt-tripping, and the obligatory (not clickbait) text. The thumbnail that he loves the most is one that says "Youtube DELETING THUMBNAILS?", which he would use if he didn't want to be sadistically manipulative.
  • One of the Joueur du Grenier's videos ended with asking people to subscribe to their new channel by clicking the link. Several fake ads then appeared ranging from "Subscribe and become a hero" (a bunch of kittens in a field), "What the Cut episode 36", "Free Money", "Meet girls in your area" (JDG in a bad Hatsune Miku cosplay), and "Increase your Penis" (Dr. Robotnik).
  • Parodied by The Odd1s Out. One of his videos is titled "DO CLICKBAIT TITLES AND THUMBNAILS ACTUALLY WORK?!?!?!", and its thumbnail is nothing but the words "CLICK ME" over a rainbow background. The video itself is simply a 1-second clip of James saying "Yeah, apparently." in response to the video's title.
  • The announcement video for the end of PBS Idea Channel has the description "(NOT CLICKBAIT), as the kids say." This is a parody of the trend to use all-caps and claims not to be clickbait as a tactic in clickbait, with the irony being that the video is not clickbait and Idea Channel really was ending.
  • PewDiePie parodies, discusses, and criticizes the practice in "YOU WONT BELIEVE THIS CLICKBAIT (PewDiePie React)", by looking through a variety of videos with clickbait, spoiling the fact that their titles don't reflect the content, and then ending with a brief Author Filibuster on how clickbait is necessary to succeed on YouTube, even if it isn't ideal.
    "I can spend days on a video, and it can get less views than a video we shit out in ten minutes... that has a better title."
  • The Philip De Franco Show's "Clickbait Clickbait, Suspending Hypocrites, and Saying Goodbye to SourceFed" features a discussion of clickbait when Phil mentions a cosplayer solely to put her in the thumbnail. He questions if it's really clickbait if he discusses it in the video and ends up astounded by how many times he's said the word until he jumps into the video's actual content.
  • RedLetterMedia has mocked the use of flashy titles and thumbnails to compensate for shallow content in videos about the Star Wars franchise. So far, they've parodied this in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens Clickbait Video!", "The top ten things YOU didn't know about Darth Vader's suit!", and "Star Wars Rogue One Trailer Breakdown No. 6,387."
  • Saberspark discusses the nature of clickbait in this video (And for bonus points, the thumbnail was of Lapis Lazuli dressed as a Playboy Bunny).
  • After GameXplain was accused of clickbait while covering a rumor about Shovel Knight in Super Smash Bros., their followup discussion featured a tacky title and the word "click" literally put on the thumbnail.
    "Digging into the Smash Bros. Shovel Knight Rumors (Insert Clickbait here)"
  • Most Valuable Gaming has a video literally titled "Mew2King says Water (Clickbait)".
  • The YouTuber Alpharad periodically releases videos (first one here) in which he uses images sourced from Google to photoshop fictional clickbait thumbnail images based on suggestions submitted to him via Twitter. Images of Kate Upton are frequently included as part of these.

Non-web examples

    Anime & Manga 
  • In episode 8 of Magic of Stella, Yumine clicks an article whose title was about the retirement of one of her favourite voice actors, but turns out to be a restaurant advertisement.

    Comic Strips 
  • Parodied by the Belgian comic strip Le Chat, where the titular cat lifts his newspaper so we can see the entire headline, going from "Jacques Chirac Beats His Wife" to "Jacques Chirac Beats His Wife At Scrabble".

    Literature 
  • Parodied in the title of the Class (2016) spin-off novel What She Does Next Will Astound You.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the How I Met Your Mother episode "Spoiler Alert, Barney gives Marshall a disc link to what he says is software to find his password to be able to see if he passed the bar exam, instead it's a cat video that Barney has been trying to get him to watch.
  • The Last Week Tonight with John Oliver segment on Journalism ends with a spoof of Spotlight where the cunning investigator finds opposition in his click-bait minded management, which wants him to focus on click-attractive topics like cats who look like raccoons.
  • People of Earth kicks off with a shady journalist interviewing a group of "alien abductees" in order to get out a story with a wacky headline and no real substance. His co-workers even compliment on finding such great clickbait, although the comedy of the show comes from the fact this vacuous clickbait turns out to be true.

    Music 
  • Lemon Demon's song "One Weird Tip" parodies both this and spam email ads.
    AND YOU CAN OWN YOUR NAME . NET
    WITH ALL THE ACTION YOU ARE GONNA GET
    WITH SELF-HELP TALKS ON CD-ROM
    AND ONE WEIRD TIP DISCOVERED A MOM

    Video Games 
  • This is played with in Pewdiepie's Tuber Simulator, where if you activate "Clickbait", the number of views on a published video will double for 24 hours or longer.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Internet" sees an Anthropomorphic Personification of the World Wide Web defend itself by directing time-wasting content like "100 Funny Animals in Hats" and "Top 100 Fails of All Time" at its enemies, who proceed to waste tens of hours trying to resist the urge to keep clicking.
  • One of the characters from BoJack Horseman has an ex who works at Buzzfeed and exclusively writes articles with countdown articles with presumptive titles like "Five Shocking Facts From New BoJack Book." One episode, he spends a week writing an article called "Nine Jokes From the '90s We Haven't Stopped Laughing at," only for it to turn out he's been writing gibberish for a week and only intends to put actual words in the article right before submitting it.
  • In the South Park episode "Sponsored Content," a man reading an elementary school newspaper is shocked to find news and not be sucked into clickable slideshows and top 10 lists. Remembering looking for news online, he imagines himself running in a void being bombarded with Buzzfeed articles, GEICO advertisements, and vague titles that promise that you will react emotionally.
  • We Bare Bears: In "Panda's Sneeze", there's a Spinning Paper segment done with cell phones and laptop computers showing articles about Panda's viral video. One of them features a Buzzfeed parody with secondary links like "20 Struggles That Toad Owners Have" and "Little Girl Drinks Water, You Won't Believe What Happens Next!"

The one heartwarming stinger fans discovered at the end of this article will restore your faith in humanity!

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ClickbaitGag