Journal of
Media and Communication Studies

  • Abbreviation: J. Media Commun. Stud.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2545
  • DOI: 10.5897/JMCS
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 232

Full Length Research Paper

‘Clickbait-style’ headlines and journalism credibility in Sub-Saharan Africa: Exploring audience perceptions

Judith Flora Wanda
  • Judith Flora Wanda
  • Department of Mass Communication, Faculty of Social Sciences and Mass Communications, St. Augustine University of Tanzania, Tanzania.
  • Google Scholar
Baraka Samson Chipanjilo
  • Baraka Samson Chipanjilo
  • Newsroom Department, Faculty of Social Sciences and Mass Communications, Mwanainchi Communications, Tanzania.
  • Google Scholar
Gregory Gondwe
  • Gregory Gondwe
  • Department of Journalism, Faculty of Social Sciences and Mass Communications, University of Colorado-Boulder, United States.
  • Google Scholar
Joseph Kerunga
  • Joseph Kerunga
  • Department of Social Transformation, Faculty of Social Sciences and Mass Communications, Tangaza University College, Kenya.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 20 September 2020
  •  Accepted: 25 February 2021
  •  Published: 31 May 2021


In the proliferated age of technologies, the field of journalism has been faced with several challenges that have inevitably pushed journalism practice to unpreceded heights. Overtly, journalists have resorted to various strategies to compete with various media platforms such as social media and other citizen journalistic strategies. Journalists have also resorted to the use of advertising/strategic communication methods to spice up their news stories and attract a large following. Particularly, journalists now use clickbait styles to draw more readership of their own stories. While this has been perceived as a pitfall for journalism, others have argued in favor of these strategies suggesting that they have no effect on the credibility of the media and journalism at large. This experimental study, therefore, set out to understand how the audience perceives clickbait-style headlines in relations to media credibility. Particularly, the study examined whether the Zambian and Tanzanian online news consumers observe the same distinction in the credibility of news content alleged to exist between clickbait and traditional news reporting, and whether perceptions of clickbait headlines lead to lower credibility for news articles. The findings suggest strong statistical evidence that clickbait headlines pose negatives effects on the perceptions of journalistic credibility in Zambia and Tanzania.


Key words: Journalism credibility, clickbait, news wire-copying, online news consumers, Zambia, Tanzania.