04 April 2012

Linkbait, Samantha Brick and the Canny Mail Online Team

The recent news of Samantha Brick and her tale of beauty as a burden caught the imaginations and reactions of the nation through the power of social media. In less than a few hours Samantha’s story about the pain of being beautiful had been discussed, ridiculed, condemned but most crucially distributed and read by millions. ‘Samantha Brick’ trended on Twitter for two days in a row (to date) with further spin off stories designed to capture even further readers. So big was her news that it even eclipsed the story of James Murdock resigning from BSkyB.

As the dust settles and her story becomes tomorrow’s fish and chip paper, the question can be asked that maybe the Daily Mail and Mail Online team are a rather canny bunch. Already at the helm of the UK’s biggest newspaper website (91 million unique users per month), the Samantha Brick story is likely to see a sharp spike in that figure – as readers from other sites and papers all converged to the Mail Online site to read the story and vent their opinions.

However the technique used, Linkbait, is not a new one – but the Mail Online may have hit a sweet spot with this particular story. Link bait is any content or feature, within a website, designed specifically to gain attention or encourage others to link to the website. With this story the viral aspect was huge – circulating through Facebook, Twitter et al like digital wildfire. As the story snowballed, those in charge of the advertising revenue for the Mail Online site must have been smiling like Cheshire cats. Whether the story itself was a hoax or genuine isn’t the point – it’s a canny tactic to drive traffic, using provoking content to a news site that’s already huge. If there is a Press Award for ‘Best Use of Linkbait…’ the Mail Online has it in the bag.