Admit it. We have been “victims” of click baits. What makes them so irresistible?

Wikipedia - Click Bait

Click Bait is a pejorative term describing web content that is aimed at generating online advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines to attract click-throughs and to encourage forwarding of the material over online social networks. Clickbait headlines typically aim to exploit the “curiosity gap“, providing just enough information to make the reader curious, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without clicking through to the linked content.

Although I’m not a big fan of writing click-bait style blog post titles, it is a proven fact that they work. Most of the time I just write whatever that comes to mind. Once in a while, I do write them for fun just to see the impact. Oops.

There are plenty of articles written about click-baiting and if you’re interested, the “fixed formula” used to write them. To me, there are typically two types of them.

Type #1 Click Bait

The first type of click bait plays with numbers and typically has the form <insert number> things you <insert dramatic adjective and purpose here>.

Example
10 Must-See Investing Tips Everyone Can Use To Make Insane Amount Of Money

A tangible and fixed number is great. You thus know how much you are going to get and benefit from before reading it, even though you don’t know the “what” yet. However, I generally don’t write any click baits of this type but I’ll admit I do succumb to it by reading them on a daily basis. Who know? Maybe I’ll write a fun one on this some day.

You will never see this type of headlines on New York Times, for example, but you will see it everyday on Motley Fool SG. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing Motley Fool SG. On the contrary, I quite like some of their writers!

Type #2 Click Bait

The second type plays with feelings and emotions plus a mystery factor. The headline statement can be a situation or an event with a direct/indirect mystery element and prompts you to ask why? Curious? Once hooked, you simply have to know.

Example
My Net Worth Is Only 5-Figure And I’m OK With It

Firstly, why is my net worth so low? I left it subtle and left out the question of why deliberately. The reader is supposed to subconsciously realize that the nagging cliffhanger is why I’m OK with it. Most people don’t think much about it but curiosity is aroused. Of course, I can make it easy and write “My Net Worth Is Only 5-Figure And Why I’m OK With It” – but hey, it is my blog and I can do whatever I want!

Why Click Bait Works

As implied in the Wikipedia article, the curiosity gap is the main mechanism by which click-throughs are encouraged. The key is to make the reader curious.

But sometimes, the deeper implication is the fear of losing out that motivates the click-throughs. How long does it take to read an article like “10 Must-See Investing Tips Everyone Can Use To Make Insane Amount Of Money? Less than five minutes, perhaps? What is the possible loss if I don’t read it – maybe thousands or *gasp* millions of dollars?! More often than not, the reader is inclined to make an exchange of a tangible amount of time like five minutes for what could be a greater amount of benefit the article could provide.

Click-baiting does not only happen on the web (for page views and traffic obviously). Have you noticed get-rich-quick seminars employing the same tactics?

Stock Market Says Do Something!

Everyday, the stock market is bombarding investors with click baits that beg for actions to be taken. Marco Polo Marine terminating contract with Sembcorp Marine? Saizen REIT to be acquired? Capitaland Mall Trust to redeveloped Funan DigitaLife Mall? Positive news or negative news, it doesn’t matter.

Depending on your investment strategy, you may or may not need to be aware of such stock market information. For index investors like myself, we are humans after all, and only the select few among us can claim to be totally immune to the noise generated by the stock market.

Just like we can’t avoid click-bait headlines when surfing the internet or browsing Facebook, what we can do at the very least is to be aware of a click-bait headline. Many times, we can and will click on them.

To fight against the stock market click-bait, my simplest solution is to avoid/ignore the irrelevant signals that it is sending me. I uninstalled my stock-ticker app on my smartphone. I voluntarily restricted access to the value of my portfolio.

See no evil. Hear no evil. Do no evil. I can’t click on a click bait when I don’t see one.

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