ARTICLE: What makes a headline clickable – and what doesn’t?

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The audience has many different reasons to click on an article – or to avoid clicking it, Tim Groot Kormelink and Irene Costera Meijer, both of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, write. 56 Dutch were asked to browse online news as they normally would, and explain to interviewers their decisions to either click or not to click on a headline.

Some of the rationales were consistent with classic news values such as proximity or unexpectedness. Others were counter-intuitive: for example, the authors call “gleeful annoyance” the tendency of some participants to intentionally select headlines that irk them.

In total, Kormelink and Meijer identified 30 considerations that affect the audience’s clicking behaviour. The authors divide the factors into three categories depending on whether they are based on emotion, cognitive process, or practical concerns. Since the reason to click or not to click are so diverse, measuring the quality of news by clicks alone is dangerous, the authors warn.

The article “What clicks actually mean” was published by the journal Journalism. It is freely available online (open access).

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