Unfolding the Clickbait: A Siren’s Call in the Attention Economy

Wenping Zhang, Qiqi Jiang, Chih-Hung Peng

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


The media consumption moving online was supposed to enable people to access information more effectively, instead, to some extent, people were yet overwhelmed. Clickbait, defined as “(On the Internet) content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page” (in Oxford English Dictionary), prevails and restrains people re-trieve their desirable information effectively. In this exploratory study, we proposed two intriguing research conjectures, i.e. how rhetorical features in the clickbait influence the visiting traffic to the publisher at different levels, and attempted to understand the antecedents and consequences of the prevalence of clickbait. In collaboration with a leading digital media company, we longitudinally collected a massive dataset in 2017. To test the research conjectures, we designed and developed a series of text mining methods and applied econometric analysis for empirical validation. The findings revealed 1) the rhetorical characteristics (hyperbole, insinuation, and visual rhetoric) could entice individual to click the baited headlines, 2) there was a quadratic (inverted U-shaped) relationship between number of clickbait posted by publisher and its visit traffic, and 3) such non-linear relationship was moderated by publisher’s age.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationECIS 2019 Proceedings
Number of pages15
Place of PublicationAtlanta, GA
PublisherAssociation for Information Systems. AIS Electronic Library (AISeL)
Publication date2019
ISBN (Print)9781733632508
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event27th European Conference on Information Systems: Information Systems for a Sharing Society, ECIS 2019: Information Systems for a Sharing Society - Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 8 Jun 201914 Jun 2019
Conference number: 27


Conference27th European Conference on Information Systems: Information Systems for a Sharing Society, ECIS 2019
LocationStockholm University
Internet address
SeriesProceedings of the European Conference on Information Systems


  • Clickbait
  • Text mining
  • Rhetoric

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