My friend Gonz had some brilliant insight this morning about how Covid-19 is going to affect the clickbait industry. Here’s a link to his original tweet, but I would love to elaborate on this.
Clickbait is a term that bloggers and advertisers use to describe an image or any piece of content that is overly sensationalized and usually doesn’t provide a lot of value.
For example, the image of this article is clickbait. It’s a picture of a ridiculous dog with no relevance to the context of what is being said.
Or this blog title…
You’ll Never Believe The 9 Ways That Cats Make You Millions of Dollars
You know you’re being baited in, but you can’t not click on it. You need to know.
Clickbait exists because of the CPM model of online advertising. A CPM is the amount of money that you can charge per 1000 impressions.
So if I have a blog, and I charge you $15 for every 1000 people that see an ad, I have a CPM of $15. Got it?
The nature of the business incentivizes lots of traffic. The quality of the traffic is irrelevant because the website owner isn’t being paid for quality traffic. The website owner is being paid in proportion to how many people see the ad.
More traffic = more money.
It’s a simple formula and it’s resulted in millions of trash websites creating awful content that we can’t look away from.
Gonz made an excellent foresight in that because of Covid-19, the advertising industries throughout the world may dry up.
Without advertisers, how do bloggers and brand builders monetize their content?
It’s an interesting question.
Gonz makes the argument that in order for brands to monetize, they will need to build a subscriber base. They will need to monetize directly from their followers and the audience they have built.
A byproduct of the subscription model is value. Content creators will need to provide value if they expect people to pay for subscriptions
(If you’re interested, I had an amazing conversation with Hamish McKenzie about this exact topic).
People will need to attract audiences depending on the value they provide. Naturally, the usefulness of clickbait will fade away.
For instance, websites like Buzzfeed appeal to everyone. There is no center. There is no ideal audience member. That’s the whole point. The website needs to speak to everyone because they need as many people as possible to visit the website. Due to their CPM model, more traffic = more money.
But let’s imagine you’re building a media entity about shampoo. In that case, the only people who you will need to attract to your website will be other people who are interested in shampoo.
You could sell ads against this traffic, but it’s a bad business model because the traffic numbers won’t back into a profitable CPM.
Your only option is to sell subscriptions. This way, you can build a legitimate business by having 2000 subscribers that pay you $5 a month. In this model, clickbait is useless because your messaging needs to be directed to your ideal audience member.
It’s all speculation, but I think Gonz is accurate.
I think we will continue to see the spreading out of authority. Every industry in the world will be spread apart. Businesses will start to brag about how few employees they have as opposed to how many. Personal brands and “influencers” will continue to be the catalyst of information and we will subscribe to small independent content creators who we trust and can relate to.