The Limits of Clickbait panel, subtitled “How far is too far?”, took place on Friday at Summer in the City 2018 in Panel Room B. It featured Luke Cutforth, Jazza John, and Lucy Moon, and was moderated by Taha Khan.
Clickbait is something that can be defined in a few different ways, so the panel began by chatting about their differing definitions of it. While Taha defined it as creators using misleading titles, Luke described it as when a creator doesn’t deliver on a promise they’ve made. “You gain views [and] you gain revenue without actually having to give anything back,” he explained, emphasising the importance of trust. Using a fishing analogy, he compared it to bait used to catch fish, with Jazza joking that “you can tell Luke’s a vegan”. Taha elaborated on the idea that clickbait relies on trust – for example, if a creator who doesn’t usually use sensationalised titles starts to, it could be considered clickbait.
With the conversation turning to Shane Dawson, Jazza referenced his recent series on Jeffree Star. Taha mentioned that if Shane were to suddenly stop using sensationalised titles, for example Me and Jeffree Star, he would consider it to be akin to clickbait as his viewers would see it as out of the ordinary. Lucy suggested that the format of these videos is a form of clickbait since the viewer is expecting the learn The Truth About Jeffree Star, as the video is titled, but it doesn’t ultimately give us an answer to this.
Taha asked the panellists if they’d ever changed a title after using clickbait, and all of them admitted they had. Luke told the story of when he queerbaited his audience, using the title Coming Out to announce his relationship with Emma Blackery which, after chatting to Jazza and other friends, he realised was misleading. Similarly, Lucy mentioned a video with Hannah Witton which she titled The Girlfriend Tag. Jazza sheepishly spoke about a video he made discussing the potential of the age of consent being lowered to 13, which he titled Sex at 13 and used an image of a “scantily-clad lady” in the thumbnail. He mentions regretting it about ten minutes after he posted the video.
A question from the audience prompted a discussion of “how far is too far?” with Lucy joking, “Watch my new video!” Luke mentioned that when a creator is “capitalising on something that’s genuinely important” – for example, LGBTQ+ people being able to find genuine coming out videos – they’ve gone too far. However, some creators use clickbait in order to compete in their field. Lucy used Will Lenney as an example, and also mentioned Casey Neistat, who she said uses clickbait in order to succeed in a sea of daily vloggers.
The conversation shifted to what YouTube has done to combat clickbait, with Jazza mentioning YouTube’s focus on watch-time which has combatted misleading clickbait but caused issues for creators who can only make short-form videos, like musicians and animators.
An audience member asked whether clickbait will eventually die out, with Lucy answering that she thinks it will evolve and that, two years from now, clickbait will be “wildly different”. She also mentioned that titles may eventually become redundant, with many viewers getting used to a creator’s weekly format and knowing that they have an interest in it. Jazza elaborated, saying that viewers may “adjust their viewing habits”, and Taha described clickbait as “for the roaming audience” while subscribers of a creator may have a better understanding of what to expect.
The panel disconcertingly ended with Jazza shouting “ballsack” as he revealed that the panellists had competed to surreptitiously insert certain words into the panel, and he had been unsuccessful.
Photos by George Yonge.
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