In the race for traffic, an interesting trend has just been brought to light by a study by Nature Human Behaviour. We discover that the use of negative terms in the titles of online publications increases the number of clicks on them.
By analyzing more than 100,000 title variations on the Upworthy site, we find that the consumption of online content is on the rise when it has a negative connotation. Anger, shock, broken hearts, trouble or ugliness are indeed the themes that would attract Internet users the most. The study specifies that for an online article, each additional negative word increases the click-through rate by 2.3%.
As opposed to laughter, beauty and kindness, darkness seems to win out. Of course, you have to be able to take a step back. This type of analysis focuses primarily on the form and not the substance. One can easily imagine this rule applying to miscellaneous facts, or more generally to news intended to become viral on social networks.
Indeed, it is not only the end readers who come into play. Algorithms are also fond of divisive titles, and information identified as such will be deemed more interesting; therefore further pushed into social flows.
Hard to escape it
The use of negative terms and their success are related to two factors. On the one hand, under pressure from shareholders and in a search for growth, the media do not hesitate to encourage Internet users to click, like and share. On the other hand, readers are fond of it, because violent news always attracts more than good news.
In short: the race for the hearing is sometimes sad!