An open inquiry about “linkbait”

I used to be a freelance copywriter. I get it. I’ve studied Hopkins, Ogilvy, Caples, Carlton, Kennedy, Halbert, and all the direct response greats. They were huge on the gimmicky headline. These guys hailed from the day of the sales letter. And those headlines (yep, you know which ones I’m talking about) straight up got people to read their long-ass 20+ page sales letters and put their credit card number down in ink on the dotted line at the very end.

This was one thing when you got a letter once or twice a month — maybe.

These were real shockers…

How to Make $17,756 in 3 Days While Sleeping

The Truth About Your Tap Water (And How It’s Killing You And Your Entire Family)

Why Your Love Life Is Sucking Donkey Balls (And How This 18-Year Old Computer Geek Got Laid 47 Times in 30 Days)

But now we have the internet.

And they’re f*cking everywhere.

I write this as a sincere question to the Medium/greater interweb community. Please note this post up and give me your honest thoughts. This will help all of us to shed some light on this topic that I know, no one likes to talk about.

We wouldn’t want to sound marketing un-savvy would we?

I digress…

So I’m not talking about lame people who write crap content under spiffy headlines to get a click. We already know they should be vaporized. That’s not the issue here.

I’m talking about the sincere content creator who gives a shit about what s/he is writing about and cares deeply about his/her audience.

Should we use — I hate to even say ‘linkbait’ in this situation, because what we write is (hopefully) really good — “gimmicky” headlines?

See, I LOVE it when I see people get mass amounts of traffic without using gimmicky headlines. But could they reach even more people if they did? Are they cheating themselves out of audience members while depriving strangers of their awesome content?

I also see a few of my favorite content creators using them. It makes me cringe a little, but I get the fact that they’re only trying to get their (awesome) content out to more people. How can we blame them?

But then the question enters:

What about when you already have a gajillion followers? Is it time to dial down the gimmickyness of your headlines then? Is it cool to give it a break?

I love the point of writing to your readers. Not to your non-readers. So when you have a sizable audience, do you risk pissing off your regular readers who may be tired of your gimmicks?

This is something I always go back and forth on. I, personally, try my best to not use over-the-top gimmicky headlines, but I know that more people would probably find my stuff if I did. Which would be pretty cool. For both of us.

It just doesn’t feel right. I dunno. Whattdyou think, people of Medium? Marketers and non-marketers alike. What are your thoughts?