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Hughes blog post: I Wrote This Blog Post To Communicate A Message. But What Happened Next Will Blow Your Mind.

24 April 2014    

If you’re active on social media, the headline of this article will no doubt sound familiar to you.

Sites like Upworthy and Distractify have turned “click bait” into an art form with their overly dramatic and enticing headlines. There are actually two articles on Distractify’s front page today, above the fold, that promise my “mind will be blown” by their contents.

As editor of, Rob Manuel, put it on Twitter: "Despite so many promises I can't think of one instance an article on the internet has blown my mind."

These sites use their headlines to demand an emotional response from their readers – be it inspirational, educational, funny or shocking. (As an aside, it annoys me no end that these sites write their headlines with a capital letter at the start of each word. Drives. Me. Crazy.)

However, while some see these styles of headlines annoying, there’s no denying that they work. Their impact is seen all over Twitter and Facebook as people are attracted by the headline and then share the content on their newsfeeds. I read a Facebook comment this morning from a user who received 10 times the traffic on their blog post when they changed their headline to be in the new provocative style (here’s the original post, and then the re-post).

Australian-based Mamamia has perfected the art of click bait – with headlines ensuring never to give away the story. You HAVE to click to find out what the headline is leading to. I must admit I enjoy the Twitter account Mamamia Spoilers (inspired by HuffPoSpoilers), who claim they are “Giving in to the Mamamia click bait so you don't have to”.

What does this mean for traditional news sites? They too are moving to change the way they present their content to ensure the headline is as alluring as possible. While not quite going all the way to the “blow your mind” type headline, AdelaideNow’s “Thirty ways you know you're a South Australian” is heading in that direction. Not only that, but they have search engine optimisation to consider too: saying “[Celebrity] dies: found dead” covers off people searching Google for both “[Celebrity] dies” and “[Celebrity] dead”.

I’ll be keeping an eye on the evolution of the headline – I think it’s a fascinating example of the way media is changing for the online environment. And meanwhile, it looks like I’ll continue to be sucked in. When looking at Upworthy and Distractify to write this blog post, I struggled to not click on multiple headlines as I scrolled down the page. See you after I’ve been tempted by “The 60 Most Powerful Photos Ever Taken That Perfectly Capture The Human Experience”… 

- Kate Potter