59% of you will judge this article without reading it

Posted on April 4, 2017

 

Ah, so you’re reading it? Consider yourself one of the discerning, the progressive, the minority!

Believe it or not, various studies have suggested that most people find the headline or title of an article to be enough. For example, a 2016 study by a team at Columbia University has estimated that on Twitter, 59% of URLs that are interacted with are not clicked at all. Seemingly fewer are interested in reading the full story before coming to their own conclusion.

The title fight

Writers have always strived to hook readers in with their creative, witty, shocking and sometimes misleading headlines. How often have you heard somebody simply look at the front page of a newspaper, see the headline and express an opinion without reading it?

With social media sites like Facebook and especially Twitter, content creators only have a few words with which to get a chain of interaction started. This has given rise to the term ‘clickbait’ – online content of little value created with the sole intention of getting people to click through to it.

Viral content sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy have been described by this derogatory term, but even traditional and respected sources are not averse to employing ‘clickbait’ tactics.

Egging readers on

A couple of weeks ago, the Liverpool Echo ran an article titled ‘The reason why ‘Easter’ has been DROPPED from eggs across the UK’. This is the sort of story that always gets people talking, and it’s received 3,198 social media shares at the time of writing – not bad going at all in the space of a fortnight.

However, on reading the article, it doesn’t really deliver on what the headline promised. No information is given on why ‘Easter’ is being removed from the packaging of chocolate eggs, and in fact a Nestlé spokesperson denies it’s a conscious decision at all. I hate to use the term, but it’s arguably ‘fake news’, and you can see most of the comments on the article itself are deriding it:

So, is this article a success or not? It’s certainly socially effective, but by the standards of a respected regional newspaper, it’s journalistically lacking. It’s catering to the 59% and neglecting the 41%.

In business, we should remember that a minority can be powerful, and upsetting them can be harmful. On review sites like TripAdvisor and Yell, it’s often the poor reviews that we heed the most.

A minority can make the most noise and hold the most influence. By all means reach out to the majority with catchy, shareable headlines and enticing feature images, but forget the 41% at your peril!

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.
John Murray
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