Oh, ClickHole. We salute you.
In the week since The Onion and A.V. Club launched you, you’ve (rather cleverly. we admit) won your way in to our hearts with your superb parody of the content factories we love to hate and hate to love. By creating seemingly inane and downright dumbfounding content that follows the tried-and-true tropes used by Upworthy, BuzzFeed and the like, ClickHole has successfully lampooned digital media and our never-ending quest to go viral. Highlights include This 43-Year-Old Man Won’t Let Himself Be Defined By Barbie’s Beauty Standards, If I Ordered Fries, Would You Have Any? and 10 Hilarious Chairs That Think They’re People. So, what are the formulaic tactics they’re employing to get the clicks we all crave?
1. Creating tons of listicles with number-driven titles.
We all get that lists are a clear way for writers to organize information, but BuzzFeed alone has created a format that allows for several different list categories: the basic listicle (i.e. 16 Couples Who Need to Stop) definitive lists (i.e. The 18 Absolute Worst Things Overheard at a Private School) and the framework list (i.e. 37 Powerful Photos That Show A Whole Other Side To The World Cup In Brazil). The numbers are more arbitrary, with recent findings revealing that odd numbers get more clicks.
2. Developing pop culture-referencing content that is both niche and generic.
This is all a result of microtargeting to reach a specific audience (like 18 Things Only People Who Hate Camping Understand or 37 Things Only British People Will Find Amusing). Once a reader is in, the article itself is generic enough to likely appeal to all members of that niche group at least somewhat, giving them reason to share.
3. Publishing impassioned op-ed blog posts such as It’s Time to Publicly Execute Ronald McDonald.
Whether it’s tugging at their heartstrings or punching them in the gut, playing to audiences’ emotions is a surefire way to get clicks, and Upworthy writers often pitch more than 25 headlines for a single post to determine the most pause-worthy contender.
4. Building ridiculous and seemingly arbitrary quizzes to prompt sharing.
Of course we know Which City We Should Actually Live In, but that didn’t stop it from getting more than 20mm views. But why? Quizzes play up to our need to recognized by delivering results that feel personal in some way. It’s a low commitment way to know and label ourselves and let our social circles see who we are, too. We share to be heard and to be understood, even if it’s something as inane as Which Hungry Hungry Hippo Are You (Shigemi, the pink one. Thanks for asking).
In truth, it’s smart but more than a little sneaky. Of course, ClickHole is creating satirical content in order to get the shares they parody and have gone to great lengths to build an entire platform around a one-sided joke. But, with tons of media coverage and thousands of comments from the hard-earned crowd on Reddit, the joke is most assuredly getting the laughs – and of course the clicks.
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