The editor-in-chief of Buzzfeed has claimed his website does not use "clickbait" headlines, saying the technique has not worked since 2009.
In a blog post, Ben Smith said that people often confuse "what we do with true clickbait". But he said this is a mistake, describing the fact that clickbait has not worked for six years as a "trade secret".
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Smith said that a clickbait headline, which "overpromises" a story that "underdelivers", does not work because it attempts to "trick" readers.
He listed an example of a clickbait headline as “Paris Hilton – topless” and compared this with a recent Buzzfeed headline: “A 5-Year-Old Girl Raised Enough Money To Take Her Father Who Has Terminal Cancer To Disney World.”
He wrote that readers “don’t want to be tricked by headlines; instead, they want to be informed by them”.
Smith said: "If your goal — as is ours at BuzzFeed — is to deliver the reader something so new, funny, revelatory, or delightful that they feel compelled to share it, you have to do work that delivers on the headline’s promise, and more.
"This is a very high bar. It’s one thing to enjoy reading something, and quite another to make the active choice to share it with your friends.
"This is a core fact of sharing and the social web of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other platforms.
“The best way to ensure your readers won’t choose to share a story or a post is to trick them.
"Anyone who has spent the last 20 years online knows the specific disgust that comes with a headline that doesn’t deliver on its promise."
He added: "Different people use the term 'clickbait' differently, and it’s sometimes thrown our direction to characterize entertaining web culture content that the author doesn’t like.
"That is something different, a matter of taste. But whatever your taste, nobody likes being tricked. And whatever your goals as a publisher, there’s no longer any argument for breaking promises to your readers."