What’s Your Click-Bait Headline?

Leandra Medine | January 12, 2016


For Halloween this past year, I dressed up as shitty content. What I did not do is deliver a deep explanation pertaining to what I meant by shitty content. Rather, I just wore an all-brown ensemble and clipped a large list of ridiculous headlines to my sweater. These headlines — the ostensible shitty content — are the precise mechanism that move the wheels of digital media in 2016. They’re manipulative in that they drive traffic (how come no one has ever punned about how much traffic we are supposed to drive when by definition, traffic stops you from driving, for heaven’s sake) under the guise of one thing and then hook you in as something that is often completely different.

Example: Business Insider is murdering the dance floor with the way their headlines are worded, which tend to read like this: “How One Person Drank Cappuccinos for a Year and Was Then Elected President of Bhutan.”

If you’re unfamiliar with that format, surely you can identify with this one:

“I Stopped Drinking Coffee and You’ll Never Guess What Happened to My Body.”

Spoiler alert: nothing happened other than fewer tooth stains.

Or this one:

“What I Learned from Refusing to Clip My Toe Nails for a Month.”

Bloody socks?

These stories seem manufactured as if only to elicit a rise out of the numb minds that navigate through the perpetual scroll of exhaustive news feeds and really make you wonder: what the fuck is your point?

Yet somehow, time and again, it works. We fall for it. We feed into it. Eventually, we even look for it. Call it the response to our collective pursuit for a no-frills, lay-it-on-me approach to cutting through the clutter of all the content that is being shoved in our faces, but my guess is that we’re hanging on to these headlines in anticipation that we’ll learn new things about ourselves to apply to the items on our self-improvement to-do lists. Except, guess what? There’s a better way to do that. Write your own headline.

It’s simple. Isolate one reason you might be able to fancy yourself newsworthy. Harp on that reason.

Now blow it out of proportion and attach to your clause an extreme that will be impossible to ignore.

I’ll go first.

“How One Girl Got Invited to Fashion Week by Wearing Birth Control on Her Person”

That was a cheap shot, I’m sorry. Let me try again.

“Daughter of Middle Eastern Immigrants Stalks Jewish Man from Brooklyn, Forces Him to Marry Her”

One more? Okay:

“I Saved $2,000 in One Year by Cutting my Own Hair and Refusing to Get Manicures”

Okay, you’re up!

Photograph via Vogue Paris; carousel Photographed by Bruce Mozert, 1938; collages by Krista Anna Lewis.


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    By simply deleting the contents of her online shopping cart after some deliberation.

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      This is amazing.

      • THX. I did cheat a bit, though. It was only 51,47 € that got saved by me. In 3 hours. 🙂

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        • MT


    • MT


      • Amelia Diamond

        See above and I’m sorry.

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      I just clicked, CJ. I clicked on a non-hyperlink.

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  • Young girl saves 545$ at MATCHES by doing this one major trick : checking out with her grandmothers credit card.

    Werenotexclusive com

    • Leandra Medine


  • How One Woman’s Grammar Obsession Saved Her from Countless Years of Dating Misery.

  • I’ll admit it…I have a passive aggressive relationship with those type of articles…I’m always expecting some ground breaking thing to happen and then it’s a let down. Yahoo comes out with a lot of them but they always seem so fake. If there are no pictures or video content showing the duration of the change I close the article or scroll down to read the comments. I do have a favorite one I forgot where I saw it: “I dressed like a Kardashian for a week”. It cost the woman over a $1,000 and she didn’t go to a rent-a-center for the gear! It was entertaining! =)

  • Young Woman Saves Thousands on Car Insurance by selling Her Car and Making Others Drive Her.

  • I’m sooo sorry but this is the type of tittle that I always read on Twitter and on Refinery 29:

    1. 10 Breakfast Hacks EVERY Adult Needs To Know
    2. The Real Reason Everyone Was Cringing During The Golden Globes
    3. We Were Just Two Sisters, Joking About Death

    And here my latest post about 2016 trends, inspired on some of the greatest spring-summer ad campaigns.
    Bests, María.

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  • My favourite part of doing journalism at university is spending more time making up headlines like these than anything else!

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