YouTube has an enormous “clickbait” problem, and everybody knows it. Even the biggest channels around constantly rely on totally misleading thumbnails and titles that trick you into clicking on terrible content.
The most infamous form that this trickery takes is when a thumbnail uses a bombshell of a woman, or when a title promises something sexual, only to never really deliver on it in the actual footage. Oh, but that’s just one the many, many ways YouTubers get you to click. In a new video, YouTube’s biggest star walks us through some of the worst clickbait you can find on YouTube, and it is a hilarious watch:
“[Clickbait has] plagued YouTube for years, but you still click on them,” Pewdiepie said. “You won’t stop clicking on [clickbait]. I have to clickbait just to stay relevant.”
It’s comments like those that make the video so great: Pewdiepie isn’t just roasting other YouTubers. Pewdiepie also has a sense of humor in pointing out that he, too, is a part of the problem. We all are, really.
Some of the forms of video clickbait Pewdiepie touches on:
- “Literally question mark in title = not true, don’t click on it,” Pewdiepie says. “Actually I pull that shit all the time.”
- Titles that are entirely in CAPSLOCK.
- When a YouTuber teases a big but vague life change, it’s probably never what you think it is.
- When a YouTuber “teases” that someone might have gotten hurt or died on camera, especially when it is in relation to a prank video. The best example Pewdiepie uses is of video with the title “MY FRIEND DIED BECAUSE OF ME!” and it just turns out to be a woman talking about Jesus. “This really did happen...thousands of years ago.”
- When a YouTuber uses a bloody thumbnail, only to reveal it’s actually just make-up. Gotcha.
- When the title makes it seem like the YouTuber is going to answer a very personal question that really, is nobody’s business in the first place.
- When a video promises the cringiest anything.
- When something has “EXTREME” in the title.
- When a title has some variation of “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS” or “YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS” or “HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?” - basically, anything with vague incredulity.
“Clickbaiting: almost everyone does it,” Pewdiepie said. “If you don’t do it, you’re not going to get views. I can spend days on a video and it will get less views than a video that we shit out for ten minutes that has a better title. YouTube is really unfair in that regard, and what it leads to is good content sometimes getting buried by ‘clickable’ content.”
Pewdiepie suggests that a way of combating this problem is by spoiling the actual content of the video. Certainly, that’s what Twitter accounts like @savedyouaclick try to do, though that’s primarily for the written word. In this specific way, I’d say that YouTube is actually lagging behind other types of media. While websites certainly do rely on clickbait, it feels like the “golden era” of Upworthy-like headlines has come and gone.
There is a reason for that internet-wide editorial shift: in 2013, Facebook announced a change to its algorithm that would put more emphasis on “high quality content.” This was a tweak that would go on to crush the traffic of some of the biggest clickbait offenders on the internet. Obviously, there are still many remnants, but it is nowhere near as bad as it used to be.
YouTube’s algorithm on the other hand seems to give no fucks about the quality of a video, so long as you click on it and continue watching for a good amount of time. Maybe one day that will change. For now, videos titled stuff like HOT DOG CHALLENGE: I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS EXTREME SEXUAL DEATH will continue to accrue millions of views.