Clickbait in the 1970s and its continuation today

Clickbait in the 1970s? Was there even anything to click back then? Ok, maybe not. But sensationalism has been around for a long time, sometimes referred to as ‘yellow journalism’ when it comes to the press.

Take a look at the image above. What sticks out to you, other than the questionable ad offering you an exciting, romantic look anytime? “DON’T READ THIS…” on a page full of ads is there to grab attention. Just as it did then, these tactics work today in the form of clickbait; so much so that clickbait is a multi-million dollar business.

Taboola and Outbrain, the digital advertising companies responsible for some of the worst clickbait on the internet, made revenues of around $300 million and $200 million respectively per quarter. Often casual readers wonder why reputable publications have highly questionable ads following their articles titled, “You won’t believe what this celebrity looks like now” or “Stay at home mother discovers weight loss secret. Dieticians are shocked!” The reason is…. because they work and bring in ad revenue.

This has spurred the creation of a specific type of website called ‘made for advertising’ sites. They offer little substance in the way of content and bombard visitors with ads. Marketing Brew reports that advertisers spend around one-tenths of their budgets on these clickbait sites.

The method is a basic form of arbitrage. These sites don’t bother with search engine optimization. Instead they pay for traffic through platforms like Twitter, Taboola and Outbrain and more than make up their expenditure through the ads on their sites.

The ad shown above was published in Sub-Mariner, Issue #69, 1974, the cover of which can be considered a clickbait equivalent!

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