PewDiePie: How about "Surgeon Simulator with Dad?"
ComedyShortsGamer: 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 often considered synonymous with clickbait, has published an article arguing that they don't use it at all.
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" or "Doctors Hate This Man Who Cured X With One Weird Trick!" May invoke Could This Happen to You? or peddle some kind of snake oil.
- 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.
- The thumbnail of the article or video having either some innocuous area of an image circled, having an arrow pointing to said area, or both.
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 led 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. In an offline context, similarly sensationalistic announcements often come from The Barnum ("this next great wonder of the world will astound and amaze you!") or from Lurid Tales of Doom.
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!
- In Lasting Fame, Jerrica's exact words to the question of whether it's fair that The Misfits were snubbed out of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were "You look at their sales and their loyal fanbase, and you can only conclude that no, that's not fair. But not everything is about sales. If the Misfits were snubbed, I can only conclude it's because their history of thoughtless, selfish behavior created a negative impression that still lingers among many of us in the music industry". However, her interviewer, musical journalist Lin-Z, ended up naming the article the much less accurate "HOLOGRAMS MANAGER SAYS MISFITS DESERVED SNUB!"
- 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."
- 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.
- Parodied by TheOdd1sOut. 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.
- Darths & Droids parodied this, by titling their spoof the famous "Luke, I Am Your Father" scene from The Empire Strikes Back 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.
- 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..."
- Buzzfeed Christmas reimagines "12 Days of Christmas" as "12 Weird Things I Actually Got for Christmas":
- 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
- Exaggerated by the Babylon Bee in their article "You Won't BELIEVE What This Clickbait Article Says." The article just describes what the reader's emotional reaction to the article will be without having any actual content.
- ClickHole invokes this with every headline. They even titled a long rambling post "The Time I Spent On A Commercial Whaling Ship Totally Changed My Perspective On The World" which is actually the entire text of Moby-Dick.
- CollegeHumor was one of the first to parody "clickbait" while using that term in their article "If Popular Books Had Clickbait Titles". The disturbing tale of pedophilia described in Lolita is rendered "He's Dating WHO?!?" and The Bible is rendered "This Book Will Change Your Mind About Everything In Just One Thousand Pages."
- The Onion article "How Internet Clickbait Works" describes the process of creating sensationalist content in nine steps, starting with nine days where the brain prepares to have an immediate reaction to "Check this out!" and ending with money mysteriously being earned.
- Rational Wiki's article on clickbait is a Self-Demonstrating Article entitled "This page on clickbait written by a local mom will change your life!!!" The article continues to demonstrate exaggerated titles like that in its headers, which are all in the style of "Mindblowing COMMON EXAMPLES of Clickbait that can't be unseen."
- For April Fools' Day 2015, The Muppets fansite Tough Pigs reinvented itself as BuzzPigs, with articles such as "Your Jaw Will Drop When You See What Happens When We Show Dog City to a Real Dog", "This Fan Theory Will Change the Way You Look at The Muppet Movie" and "21 Amazing Muppet Facts You Definitely Didn't Know Because I Made Them All Up".
- The official site for the NTTV series Elvis And Slick Monty had one site update from co-creator Hyle Russell (profiles of the Last Episode New Characters) be titled, "click here to see jessica and ashley simpson full penetration (18+ ONLY!!!)" Hyle begins the article proper by saying, "Just trying to make the plethora of spambots on our forums feel more at home on the main page for a change."
- SCP Foundation: SCP-3299 is a series of Brown Note internet advertisements that result in various physical or mental changes when viewed. These effects are somewhat related to the headline. For example, reading the affected article titled "This woman's one weird trick will make you younger! Doctors hate her!" will literally make the viewer 20 to 30 percent younger, unless they have a PhD, in which case they will be compelled to develop an angry and "crippling obsession" towards the woman described in the article.
- Film critic Nathan Rabin has a whole category on his website devoted to parodying clickbait, with titles such as "It Turns Out There's a Small, Young Kind of Dog Called a Puppy and I Am Officially Obsessed!" or "6 Random Images of No Special Interest to Millennials Whatsoever".
- 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 states he really wanted to use but didn't because it was too 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).
- 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.
- The Halbek Device was made in Rhodesia to control muzzle climb on FAL rifles. The (generally sober) YouTube channel Forgotten Weapons made a video about it called "Rhodesia made their FALs great with this one weird Halbek device!" This parodies the common "X did Y with this one weird Z" clickbait. One of the top-rated comments provides the standard follow up "Doctors hate him."
- The ProZD video entitled "clickbait" is about a journalist pressured by his boss into turning "Pedro Pascal Joins Wonder Woman 2" headline into a more "tickling" title, progressively becoming "Game of Thrones Actor Joins Superhero Film" then eventually "YOU WON'T BELIEVE".
Journalist: That doesn't mean anything! Why would— and 800,000 people are sharing it on Facebook...
Thomas Dipshit, Facebook User: I mean, it said I wouldn't believe it.
- 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.
- The Gwenpool Strikes Back miniseries revolves around this. All of the covers depict wild things (like her making out with Reed Richards in front of his angry wife) and the solicits exaggerate or outright lie about the contents inside. It makes sense in-universe: Gwen is trying to draw as much attention to her series as possible in order to sell comics and get out of Comic-Book Limbo.
- 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".
- Ralph Breaks the Internet:
- On arriving at eBay, Ralph quickly finds himself pestered by banner ads and pop-up ads, represented by little people holding signs and bugging passers-by with clickbait-sounding phrases like "These Ten Child Stars Went to Prison (Number 6 Will Amaze You!)" and "Sassy Housewives Want To Meet You!"
- The Stinger supposedly involves a sneak preview of Frozen 2 that turns out to be a Rickroll on Ralph's part.
- Parodied in the title of the Class (2016) spin-off novel What She Does Next Will Astound You.
- Sandy Mitchell strongly implies that in the grim darkness of the far future, there is still clickbait. Some of Amberley Vail's additions to Duty Calls are excerpts from planetary news services. One article on the announcement that genestealers are active on Periremunda wraps up with:
IS YOUR NEIGHBOUR A GENESTEALER? 20 WAYS TO TELL! (See page 7)
- 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.
- The "Crazy Cataclysm" official Game Mod for Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead includes a Shocker Zombie that yells "SHOCKING!" headlined based on controversies from the game's GitHubnote and in-game stuff.note
- 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.
- 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.
- BoJack Horseman
- One of the characters 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 season 4 Diane works at Girl Croosh, which seems to be a combination of Buzzfeed and Cosmo with a Straw Feminist twist. The headlines shown in the background of one scene include "Swipe Left On Patriarchy!" and "Chris Hemsworth's Penis Outline".
- 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!"