Click Bait

Something I deal a lot with with designing art for our channel is trying to attract new viewers through polished thumbnails. Since adding thumbnails to our major let’s plays, the channel has has a considerable increase in interest. It helps with new series that stray away from the original content on the channel as my partner and I are trying to branch our content out. And at this point, there is a notable difference on views and interactions on videos with custom thumbnails vs. those who don’t have any (with one or two exceptions).

Thumbnail design is nothing new. It’s been around so long that we’ve gotten to the point of having counselors on the subject. Not that I can afford a counselor for the channel just yet, but it shows how central designing thumbnails have become to success online. For both people who take the medium seriously and want to actually spread what they say there are, to people who take advantage of trends and create the namesake of this post, click bait.

In a way, everyone is creating a little bit of click bait. As people with an online presence, part of the job is generating more attention. People aren’t going to click on something they find dull or unentertaining, even if the title is honest about what the video actually contains. Videos with the most popularity tend to have eye catching thumbnails and titles that peek viewers’ interest. That doesn’t mean these videos always actually pertain to the content that title suggests.

With the conversation of interfacing, I think it’s important to understand the balance between these two sides of the spectrum. Because if you want to get anywhere faster than several years, then you’re going to have to be a little click bait-y. A lot of the videos on the channel are named after completely random and nonsensical things either Taegen or I say in them. It tells the viewer nothing about the video, but they’re interested. It’s important though not to take that too far and just go in an entirely different direction than the viewer is expecting, because then you damage the relationship between you and your audience.

Thus far, the happy medium I’ve found is confused honesty. Every video on my channel will tell the viewer what game they’ll see by the title. They’ll be able to tell which one of us, if not both of us, recorded the episode from the thumbnail. As for the rest of it, there’s no guarantee what they’ll see. The rest of the video is a mystery. So far, we’ve generated 853 subscribers (as of writing this) using this method. So, you can see a little bit of the click bait in the formula, but as a whole, the channel retains its integrity with its interface.

– Amelia


2 thoughts on “Click Bait”

  1. It’s easy to look down on click bait, but I think what I generally imagine click bait to be is not quite the same thing as what you describe as being so essential to exposure as a YouTuber or any other kind of internet personality. I’ve unsubscribed from YouTube channels because every video started to be bad click bait, and even that’s nowhere near as bad as the click bait I see people share–and occasionally parody–on Facebook. I think a large part of actually baiting clicks is making your click bait not seem like click bait. You talk about not leading your audience completely the wrong way, but having there be more for them beyond the link. I think the key is making people want to see more without creating the sense that you’re deliberately withholding anything, which it sounds like you achieve fairly well. Your audience doesn’t know what they’re going to find when they watch the video, but you’re not dangling it in front of them like some of the bad click bait out there.


  2. Amelia, I loved reading your perspective as the person who CREATES the videos/thumbnails. As someone who doesn’t create online content that is meant to be read/clicked on, it’s interesting to see what goes into it from your side. And, to be honest, I haven’t thought of thumbnails of YouTube videos as being a part of the click bait. I think you’re right, though. However, this leads me to wonder further if click bait could be hurting more than helping. At what point do interfaces become deceptive? Is there an ethical responsibility those who publish content online have to be truthful to their audiences of the content? I’m inclined to say no, but I’m not sure why…
    Great post!


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