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Fictional examples of chumbox-style thumbnails and captions

A chumbox is a form of online advertising that uses a grid of thumbnails and captions to drive traffic to other sites and webpages. This form of advertising is often associated with low quality clickbait links and articles.[1] The term derives from the fishing practice of "chumming", the use of fish meat as a lure for fish.


A chumbox is a form of advertising associated with outlandish clickbait headlines and low-quality links.[2] Publishers often include chumboxes on news websites because the companies behind them provide a very reliable source of revenue.[3] They often have the label "Around the Web" on top of them.[4]

John Mahoney popularized the term in 2015. On The Awl, he wrote a "taxonomy" of types of chumbox headlines, such as miracle cures, celebrity and sexual clickbait.[3][5] When Reply All co-host Alex Goldman visited the offices of Taboola, one of the leading chumbox providers, their CEO and founder Adam Singolda told him that he had never heard the word chumbox and instead called their advertisements "recommendations".[5]

Content analyst Ranjan Roy identified five examples of websites that chumboxes may redirect to:

  • a Yahoo search result. Yahoo pays the company for redirects to their website, and the company pays the original website for clicks;
  • deceptive affiliate marketers. For example, an anonymously registered insurance website with no contact details;
  • chum content hidden in hard-to-find places on completely unrelated websites,
  • an advertisement-heavy slideshow of celebrities, or;
  • a legitimate advertiser.


While earlier uses exist, the term chumbox—from chum, or fish bait—was popularized by a 2015 article in The Awl written by John Mahoney.[3] In the early 2010s, the web advertising companies Outbrain and Taboola emerged as the leading providers and chumbox advertisements became ubiquitous on news websites, including on outlets such as CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.[4][6] By 2016, chumboxes were present on 41 of the top 50 news websites.[5]

By mid-to-late 2016, some websites were re-thinking the use of chumboxes due to the negative effect such low-quality links and content had on their brands, despite the additional income from such links.[7] An analysis of images used in advertising of the kind found that 26 percent used sexually suggestive or "interruptive" images; often the ads had no relation to the article content, and on occasions were inappropriate or offensive, such as one titled "Meet the Women Making Rape Jokes That Are Actually Funny," placed under an article about teenage rape.[7]

ChangeAdvertising.org's "Clickbait Report" analysed 50 high-rank news sites and found that over 80 percent were using such ads, the majority from Taboola or Outbrain. Many were found to be confusing or misleading in their purpose.[7][8]

An analysis of images and headlines used in such adverts found a number of basic archetypes used: a sexual image in association with location-based advertisement; reverse-aging (skin) treatment, or "miracle cure"; body shock images (e.g. triggering trypophobia); celebrity-gossip-based; tattoo-based images, including those simulating body horror or orifices; images of pills; and weight loss.[1][9]

Microsoft have been criticized for inserting chumboxes inside versions of Windows and Microsoft Edge, showing "tabloid news" content in search or on the desktop.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mahoney, John (4 June 2015). "A Complete Taxonomy of Internet Chum". The Awl. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  2. ^ Petit, Zachary (2 February 2023). "The chumbox is still the dirty design secret of the internet". Fast Company. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  3. ^ a b c Benton, Joshua (3 October 2019). "A merger of chumbox-mongers might leave publishers a little bit poorer (and their websites a little less revolting)". NiemanLab. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  4. ^ a b Newton, Casey (22 April 2014). "You might also like this story about weaponized clickbait". The Verge. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  5. ^ a b c Tiffany, Kaitlyn (8 May 2019). "A mysterious gut doctor is begging Americans to throw out "this vegetable" now. But, like, which?". Vox. Retrieved 20 March 2024.
  6. ^ de la Merced, Michael; Hsu, Tiffany. "Taboola, Purveyor of Clickbait Ads, Will Go Public". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  7. ^ a b c Maheshwari, Sapna; Herrman, John (30 October 2016). "Publishers Are Rethinking Those 'Around the Web' Ads". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  8. ^ "The Clickbait Report". ChangeAdvertising.org. 2016. Archived from the original on 7 October 2019. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  9. ^ Young, Nora (7 October 2016). "Diving into internet "chum?" Yes, it's as bad as you'd expect". Spark. CBC News.
  10. ^ Avram Piltch (26 March 2023). "Get Off My Desktop! Windows Needs to Stop Showing Tabloid News". Tom's Hardware. Retrieved 3 June 2023.