I've been wanting to write about this since I started writing for Moviepilot, and subsequently Creators, back in January of this year. That being said, I've been a long time reader of Moviepilot articles since July of 2014, so consider this an open letter to everyone involved in the writing process and publishing of articles:
Fellow Creators whose ideas get bounced around and thrown out for all the world to see every hour of every day; Moviepilot Staff, whose guidance help Creators every day; Readers whose comments seek to praise an author, continue the dialogue an article starts, or just cut down an argument that's been established, I invite you all to at least consider what i have to say for a few minutes.
The Roots Of Clickbait (And How To Avoid It)
If you're not sure what clickbait actually is, it's essentially any article that claims to be wildly spectacular and instead delivers false information or generally known information. I could sit here and list off sites that are well known for this, but it should be relatively easy to find them based on the titles you find.
This graphic does a great job of showing the most common elements of a clickbait title to help explain what they usually involve. If you want more information on clickbait as a marketing strategy, you can look here. That being said, it's an extremely efficient marketing strategy that targets people who don't have Adblocks (which would be most users of the Internet) for the purpose of generating ad revenue. Some people will most likely come back out of support for the content, but more often than not, it's an occasional page that pops up somewhere as a one time grab.
However, I'd like to return the focus to Moviepilot and its ever growing number of sister sites. Each site has a page, or several in the case of Moviepilot, and those pages are used to promote articles from Creators and staff writers. If you've ever looked at the comment section of these promotional posts, more often than not you'll find comments alleging something negative against Moviepilot and its promotion of articles. So, I'd like to clarify that Moviepilot does not specifically recommend that people write about certain topics nor do they expect writers to use clickbait in their titles.
This of course does not stop a writer from creating a clickbait title, nor does it stop the people who I will refer to as "clickbait heroes" from jumping into the comments and explaining what's so shocking or surprising or interesting about the article. If you're one of those people that happen to be reading this article right now, thank you for your service. It's a small act of kindness, but it's appreciated nonetheless.
The Ethical Dilemma
My intention is not to create a black and white picture here with clickbait being right or wrong. My intention is to garner a better understanding of the interworkings of the writing process associated with Moviepilot. I've seen a lot of misconceptions from people who operate on the outside of the process and I understand their position because I spent a few years in their shoes. I attempted to address those issues above, but I still have not underlined a crucial question: why would someone use clickbait to boost their views?
Obviously, it's a marketing strategy as I addressed above; however, there's more to it than that. Staff writer payment is dictated by a set salary regardless of the clicks they get from articles (straight from an actual staff writer), yet it's no trade secret with how payment works as a Verified Creator. After reading the Terms and Conditions thoroughly (because I like to know what my contracts state), I discovered that payment is granted on a monthly basis so long as the Creator receives 100,000 total reads or more for that month. I was under the impression that your total reads contributed to a monthly payment which in retrospect doesn't make a whole lot of sense. However, this also explains a person's supposed "need" to use clickbait as a view booster.
As I said before, I've been writing for roughly six months now and I understand how difficult it can be to have an article take off. There's no guarantee any article you write will make its way to a Facebook or Twitter page sponsored by a Moviepilot site, but each and every article you create will appear on the homepage of Creators.co and the Creators section of Moviepilot's various sister sites. The mentality behind clickbait would then be that if the article's title really strikes a cord with people, it has a better chance of being promoted. That's no secret, but that doesn't stop people from using clickbait to generate a strong title and subsequently lure people into reading the article. However, given how much discouragement goes into preventing clickbait, articles that get promoted actually undergo a process wherein they're evaluated for quality. It's more of a nomination process wherein an article is set up to be promoted almost immediately after it's published even though the process can take some time to get the article ready for promotion. So yes, there is a team of people that read articles before they get promoted. No, that does not mean that this team picks articles for the specific purpose of generating clickbait based ad revenue. This simply means that someone on the team felt the article would get people's attention and had content worth sharing.
Another point I want to raise while I'm here is that the promoted article titles are not necessarily the titles of the articles themselves and that can make a world of a difference. Speaking from personal experience, it's clear that people will comment without reading because they're turned off by the title. That's their right and I'm not speaking against that, but I am asking that you consider reading and consider that there's most likely a Creator behind that who put a lot into that article - hours compared to the seconds it took for you to hammer out something hateful. As an example, you can find the actual article here and compare it to the title that got promoted. The promoted title sounds more like clickbait and hurts the writer more than it does Moviepilot's reputation, so keep that in mind for future reference. Again, I've been a reader for two years now and have noticed that this situation is far less common compared to how it used to be.
If you've made it this far and haven't posted something hateful about me being paid to write this or indoctrinated into the system, thank you for respecting me as a writer and taking in all that I have to say. I'd like to just summarize my key points so that those of you that scrolled on through (I'm guilty of it too sometimes) can get the "too long, didn't read" version:
Now that we've got all that out of the way, maybe a few more people can start some constructive and insightful dialogues about their work instead of having the excitement of a promoted article be diminished by hateful comments. Once again I'd just like to thank all of you who took the time to read this and consider what I have to say.