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Baiting for clickbait

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Baiting For Clickbait

Over the past 12-18 months, I’ve begun receiving a lot of splashy, often Insta-related news stories from digital PR firms. The last week’s have included:

— “The UK’s Most Beautiful Waterfalls According to Instagram”

— “Infographic: more than three fifths of UK travellers like to try new foods when travelling abroad”

— “It would cost you a staggering $700 per hour to hire Harry & Meghan’s California villa”

— “Revealed: The Most Expensive Fast Food Chain In The US” (it was Domino’s)

— “The Internet’s favourite Oscars acceptance speech” (it was Leo in 2016)

They always tend to arrive, machine-like, first thing in the morning. As you can see, some are more travel-related than others; I get the sense each just goes to an exceptionally large mailing list with little consideration given to individual journalists’ areas of expertise or likelihood of covering such stories.

Nevertheless, there’s something quite impressive about them, chiefly in how there’s often a crystal-clear angle. Another that came my way, “Design experts reveal Instagram’s top trending living room styles for your next interior makeover”, began by immediately saying “With searches 1,200% up for living room ideas…” – a decent hook. The Oscar speech one was timed with the revelation of 2022’s nominees.

Others – the waterfalls, the fast-food chains; “Sleep experts reveal how to wash your bedsheets” are intriguing, clickbaity lists that you can easily imagine readers wanting to know about.

What all have in common is that they offer an easy – lazy, even – news story for editors or websites in need. Do the public have a pressing need to know “How to help your puppy through separation anxiety as you spend less time at home”? Probably not. But will it get some hits and be oh-so-easy to adapt from canny press release to urgently-needed digital article? You betcha.

For me, personally, these stories are almost always immediately binned as I no longer write my Metro travel-news pages and thus have no need for them. (I’d love to tell you that I was above utilising them in the first place, but that would be wholly untrue.)

The only possible scenario in which I’d use them is if one convincingly (i.e. not an un-independently verified survey of 25 customers) advanced an emerging, surprising – surprise is crucial – trend that I could repurpose for a round-up or feature pitch. So, for instance, had the waterfall story been anchored on news that viewing cascades has been proven to boost libidos or voted the world’s favourite outdoor activity, that may have worked.


What Richard thinks…

“A nice and punchy bulletin of trends ideas from Virtuoso’s American, er, virtuoso, Kaleigh Richter at Alice Marshall.”

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