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Beware of the Clickbait! Personalization’s Ugly Cousin

Beware of the Clickbait! Personalization’s Ugly Cousin

Since day one, our goal has been to help our users discover and engage with the most interesting and relevant content on the web. We strive to deliver the stories you want to read while saving you the time and energy of finding them yourself. Over the last few years, we have worked diligently to develop our algorithms to get closer and closer to a truly intelligent personalized content discovery experience. 

Last month, The Verge covered the darker side of content discovery that has been giving a bad name to all personalization efforts. A phenomenon called “clickbait’ has taken the web by storm with what is essentially a land grab for eyeballs and clicks.

Clickbait refers to the suggested links below an organic article that have headlines meant to lure readers to other content. If executed effectively and ethically, there would be no issue. Readers would see similar stories to the one they just read.

But in reality, these recommended links are sending readers to other pages around the web using sensationalism or sex appeal, and often times aggressively advertising a product or service to the unsuspecting reader that lands there. Not exactly what comes to mind when you click on a “relevant” story after reading an article from CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, or the other major news sites who are selling this advertising space alongside their editorial content in an effort to solve their monetization challenges.

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An example of  CNN using clickbait 

The leaders in the industry, Outbrain and Taboola, have scaled their offerings and are serving recommended links all around the web. Outbrain delivers over 150 billion recommended links a month and Taboola connects readers to 3.5 billion links, respectively. But are these clicks valuable? Do they really exist to serve relevant articles to readers? We aren’t so sure.

When you look at the engagement metrics on these types of sponsored links, the numbers tell the true story. While the clickthrough rates on ads like these perform better than traditional banner ads (which practically no one is clicking on), when a reader is redirected to a site they didn’t intend to visit they are unlikely to stay there for very long or connect with the content.

At News360, we believe that personalization is more than just a buzzword. Carefully collecting data about reading habits and social trends helps us recommend the right content to the right audience. We see engagement on our sponsored content offering that is over 20 times higher than Outbrain, because your content is being delivered to a relevant reader who has interests that align with your brand’s message.