Clickbait is everywhere! and the science behind it is inherently fascinating to me.
So I thought it would be a cool experiment to purposely succumb to my curiosity and embark on a clickbait adventure. So what is clickbait? Just about any content can be considered clickbait, news stories, blog posts, interviews, infographics, or videos. Most often, clickbait will have these properties.
- Catchy headline
- Funny or memorable images/clip
- Humorous tone, or a statement that evokes a strong emotion
Before I set off on my Clickbait adventure, I had to ensure that I traveled with protection. So I found the closest, most dangerous neighborhood I could find and asked where to buy a vehicle with fake plates, preferably one that also had VIN number scratched off….metaphorically speaking. In reality, that meant installing a fresh copy of Ubuntu via the Red Hat Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) module. The Redhat KVM module is the Linux kernel that allows a Linux based computers to function as a type 2 hypervisor. Thug life baby! My pimped out virtual ride had 22 cpuCores (totally unnecessary), 8GB of ram a 16GB disk drive. The metaphorical fake plates and VIN numbers that I mentioned earlier came curiosity of a Firefox add-on called User agent Switcher. This add-on allows users to change the OS information that websites see when a user visits their site. In my case, I am spoofing my browser to look like Safari 13 running on the MacOS operating system. This configuration was verified by visiting the website “whatsmybrowser.com“. And in if your wondering did I use a VPN? Of course I used a VPN…I never leave home without one. No seriously…I have an app on my phone.
Stop # 1: The red circle of nothing
What was here? Not much. The link took me webpage that had one sentence. That one sentence being an extended version of the same headline that brought me here. Other than that, there was no actual news about the Canal. However, the webpage did contain a plethora of advertisements. The red circle clickbait got my attention by highlighting ummmm nothing! So because I saw nothing, I assumed I missed something and clicked on the link only to discover ads for Pots, Pans, Nike Sneakers, and more clickbait.
Stop # 2: Everyone likes saving money
What was here? Clicking the image above took me to site claiming to reveal 7 Discounts Seniors get if they ask. For starters, the site only listed one discount, and it was related to home insurance. Taking this adventure seriously, I did as the website requested and clicked to see if I qualified. The questionnaire asked for lots of Personal Identifiable Information (PII )except for my social security number. My favorite question was “phone number” I eagerly entered 867-5309! and within seconds I was pre-approved! The top rated provider was unitedstatesinsurance.com. A quick whois lookup revealed that the owner of this site used a proxy service to purchase the domain. This service would hide the identity and contact information of the person, company, or group that registered this domain. A little fishy if you want my opinion. Time to move on.
Stop # 3
1 Carb Tortilla
I like Tacos a lot! When this ad popped into view, I clicked without hesitation. To my pleasant surprise, it was real! Everything about the site was real. The person holding the bag was real, the company was real, and best of all, the Tacos inside the bag was really 1 carb! It turns out that this San Fernando CA based distributor has been actively marketing though social media to promote their new low-carb tortillas. A quick look at the ingredients list showed the first ingredient is oat fiber. Huh? Okay, let’s look that up. Results -> Oat fiber is an insoluble, non-digestible fiber made from grinding the oat hull, which is the shell that surrounds the oat groat (or kernel). Oh I get it! Someone found a way to turn a profit using the thing they were going to throw away when they make Quaker Oatmeal. Brilliant!
So how is my click bait adventure related to Digital Transformation? I think its fair to say that while the mechanisms used to consume news have changed with time, the human physce hasn’t changed much since its initial release. With this in mind, literally and figuratively, news outlets, advertisers, and bad actors have amassed thousands of years of behavioral data. Jeff Hammerbacher, a former data scientist at Facebook, has been quoted as saying “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.” I think Jeff is right but I also think this level of manipulation has been going on forever. Time is money and 3 seconds of your time is collectively worth billions.
If you are so inclined to personally visit any of the sites I mentioned, please leave a message in the comments and I will forward you the URL’s.