How to Generate Traffic (by Offending Everyone)

Wouldn’t it be nice if the most popular, successful articles on the internet were, say, stories about adorable puppies finding good homes?

Okay, those actually get pretty good traction.  How about relevant journalism exploring under-reported issues?  Or even just a well-told story?

Pretty much everyone loves puppy stories.

But the reality of it is that most people save their attention and especially their repeat readership for things that upset them.  Human nature, I guess!  People love to come back to articles like  a Gawker blogger’s insulting recap of her date with a Magic: the Gathering champion or Scott Adams’s misogyney (link is to Feministe‘s coverage, since Adams took the post off his own blog) and leave incensed comments, and comments on comments, and comments on the comments on the comments.  It’s all the adrenal thrill of righteous indignation without any of the risk-taking involved in actually taking action for an important cause.

So, sez I, why fight it?  If the ol’ blog’s struggling, just…get out there and offend a little.  Tread on some toes.  Seem insensitive.  Watch the numbers climb — remember, it’s all about the ad revenue!  Every tic in the “Page Hits” column is real money in the bank!  Only be careful — there’s a fine line between “retweetable” and “too ignorant to bother with.”  You’ll need to put some thought into your thoughtlessness…

  • Pick relatively mainstream issues.  Feminism?  Yes.  Religion and its role in social issues?  Perfect.  The purity of Arayn thought?  Not so great.  Sure, it’ll offend people, but it’ll offend them so much they’ll just go away, and the only regular commentors you’ll get will be neo-Nazis.  Not great conversationalists.  Reel it in a little.
  • Seem blithely ignorant rather than aggressively offensive.  Just pretend you don’t know any better.  You have to seem a little hapless, or people don’t get that teaching impulse that encourages them to leave long, wordy posts detailing the errors of your ways (which other people will then pick apart for errors as well).
  • Abuse evidence.  You should ideally pick a troubling thesis — “Children are Happier when you Beat Them,” etc. — and then back it up with facts that prove some other conclusion entirely.  Leave some glaring holes for people to pick out.  Odds are at least some of your commentors are going to need you to kind of put the ball on the tee for them — don’t make it too hard to spot logical inconsistencies.
  • Read and reply to comments.  Terrible advice, right?  No one should ever read the comments.  But you’ll need the space to post condescending replies.  Be sure to stress over and over again how it’s not your opponents’ fault that they’re wrong.  They’re just not as smart as you.
  • Don’t actually do any of this.  No one was taking this seriously, right?  (Right?)  You don’t want to be the center of a shitstorm of digital indignation.  Most of your traffic will get leeched by whatever bloggers pick the “story” up and pick it apart on their own site anyway.  And do we really need any more cynicism in the world of online writing?

I don’t know.  You tell me, down in the Comments section.  Don’t make me offend you first.

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