Video Marketing

What Does ClickHole’s Success Means for Click Bait Video?

Shawn 07.02.2014

“Because all content deserves to go viral.”

That’s the ridiculous motto driving ClickHole – the Onion’s new satirical, media parody site – and if you don’t think that motto is hilarious, you’re not alone.

Clicks Are King

Click BaitThe site’s viral video marketing tactics and click-bait headlines lampoon popular “new media” sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy, but also seek to address the growing trend of “yellow journalism” from even more reputable news outlets like the Huffington Post and

In typical Onion fashion, ClickHoleholds a mirror up” to the inane pandering content that so many publishers create, by creating their own inane pandering content.

This eight-year old’s adorable indictment of click bait is as heartwarming as it is accurate:

What This Adorable Little Girl Says Will Melt Your Heart

The problem is, the videos are working too well.

ClickHole has only uploaded thirteen videos to their YouTube account, but one (my favorite) already has over 750,000 views.

The video in question? A stick of butter melting on a countertop. Video duration: 3 hours.

This Stick Of Butter Is Left Out At Room Temperature; You Won’t Believe What Happens Next

Needless to say, the first few weeks have been entertaining, but what ClickHole represents is a concerted shift away from digital junk food, back to quality content. And they’re not alone.

Can I Have Your Attention Please

Click BaitEven Upworthy – credited with the perfection of the click bait headline – is fighting against diluted video marketing content.

On June 23rd, they released open-source code that helps advertisers distinguish between content that’s “actually engaging” and content targeted toward pageviews, social shares and other “blunt-instrument” metrics.

Daniel Mintz, Upworthy’s Director of Business Intelligence sums up the mindset:

“It’s easy to game clicks. What we’ve seen are the really negative results of that.”

The problem is that CTR is easy to measure, so it gets advertising dollars, even when it doesn’t accomplish any sales or marketing objectives. The solution to this paradox is a new metric simply, attention minutes.”

Upworthy’s revolutionary yardstick is surprisingly similar to the recent Hummingbird update which includes “dwell time” as a significant ranking factor.

Dwell time measures the duration users spend on a page after clicking through from SERPs. It aims to penalize low-quality content and misleading headlines by not just tracking bounce rate, but also it’s opposite – engagement. Low dwell time equals lower page authority, and is just one of many new features that make Hummingbird the so-called “quality” update.

The only problem with Upworthy’s attention minutes is how well their code measures true engagement. It’s hard to swallow the red pill when it comes from Agent Smith (you know, the guy in the suit), and the history of CTR metrics is a surprisingly machiavellian landscape.

Click To Learn About the History of CTR

Click Bait Content“Clicks” have been a headache for internet marketers since 1994, when one direct mail marketer, Ken McCarthy, somehow made CTR the only metric that mattered. Some might argue that overvalued CTR metrics are single-handedly responsible for flashing pop-up banner ads, spam, and pretty much everything else that you hate about the internet – like click-bait articles. So thanks for that, guys.

But things are getting better. Kind of.

In a recent Contently article, “The Pageview’s Reign of Terror is Ending, but Will We Elect Another Dictator?” Buzzfeed’s Director of Data Science (aka “viral media wizard”), Ky Harlin points to “engaged time” and “scroll depth” as two metrics to keep an eye on. His co-panelist at the Contently Summit, Aniq Rahmen – President of advertising analytics company Moat – also noted:

“Sites that have good content—[with people] spending time on the page, scrolling down on the page, etc.—tend to have better ad performance as well.”

For a more in-depth look at how CTR created the modern “attention web,” read Chartbeat CEO, Tony Haile’s scathing piece in Time. It’s a great primer for understanding how people really consume content (read: they don’t), and it will change the way you create your next video.

And yes, I understand the irony of that last sentence.

Even with the shift away from CTR and pageviews, tearing eyeballs away from listicles and videos about nothing is going to be an uphill battle. Onion Managing Editor Ben Berkeley, notes:

“These click bait sites have the unique things they do, and they do these things quite well,” … “On the other hand … maybe they’re the worst thing that ever happened to humanity.”

Treating the Viral Video Epidemic

Click Bait VideoWhat’s really under the microscope at ClickHole is the concept of virality – especially for poorly produced video content. Content marketing has exploded, and there is an inevitable vacuum of quality content – a vacuum currently filled by listicles, celebrity gossip, quizzes, and pandering video, not meant to communicate ideas or even to entertain, but merely scrounging for clicks.

But that won’t always be the case.

Search algorithms are changing, and it’s not hard to see why Phil Nottingham, one of the foremost video marketing minds in the industry today, urges his clients not to measure views.

His big takeaway, from a recent talk at the first annual WistiaFest:

Before creating a video, fill in the blanks: “The purpose of this video is to ____ the audience to ____.”

The point of creating video content is not to go viral, but to accomplish objectives. Does your video:

  1. Create leads
  2. Increase sales
  3. Improve your site’s SEO
  4. Strengthen your industry reputation
  5. Educate consumers
  6. Reinforce company culture

Or is it merely content stuffed into an appealing, clickable package?

Clickable On Purpose

In March, Kendra Eash at McSweeney’s – another humor site – wrote a poem titled “This is a Generic Brand Video.” The vague meandering corporate doubletalk was so engaging that Dissolve – an HD stock video footage company – made the poem into a corporate video to poke fun at how easy it is to make a worthless corporate video.

Over 1.5 million people have seen it, but more importantly thousands of those viewers now know where they can buy stock footage for their own videos.

While the video may look like more click bait (and it kind of is), Dissolve’s video actually accomplishes what it set out to do (hint: it promotes a stock video footage company). Read the last line of this article if you have any doubt.

In a sea of sameness, Dissolve made something thoughtful and unique.

And that’s what ClickHole is striving for. Keep your eyes peeled because you won’t believe what happens next.

Click this link and find out if one of our videos can help you lose that last five pounds.


Born in Southern California, Shawn grew up surfing, eating In-N-Out, and growing his hair long. After graduating with a Liberal Arts degree from CSU Long Beach in 2005 he left the crowded freeways behind and spent the better part of a decade traveling the world living for stretches in Rome, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and Brooklyn. He writes novels as well as copy, loves learning keyboard shortcuts, and plays his grandpa’s old lap steel guitar. You can hear his band at

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