Okay, say you’re a writer at a slowly dying newspaper with a tiny print circulation, and you’re trying to think of a way to make a splash with an article. You’re going to want to make sure you get a lot of pickup on the Internet, driving traffic to your page. Right? But that’s not enough — you’re also going to want to make sure that the conversation lasts beyond the morning your story goes live, so that it really endures. How to make sure the Internet keeps talking about your story … hmmm. Make it into a debate! And, and! If you make the debate about the people you want to be linking to your page, the bloggers, their egos will ensure it stays alive as they huff and puff over it.
How exactly would you go about doing this? Well, let’s take some cues from Dan Duray’s trend piece in today’s Observer, “The End of Blogging.”
First, you begin with a made-up premise, in this case, that nobody wants to create or read blogs anymore. Don’t worry about statistics or research, just talk to the people who write or edit the five websites you read from your laptop here in New York City.
Second, write an overreaching mission statement based on one piece of evidence. It would help if you make a very narrow definition of a very broad term, like the word blog. In this case, something like … “Whatever blogs have become, there seems to be universal agreement that the format that made them ubiquitous — the reverse-chronological aggregation accompanied by commentary — is not long for this world, and [Gawker’s] scoop-friendly redesign would seem to be the best evidence of that.” See what he did there?
Third, make generalizations that vaguely insult the people you’re writing about. (Remember, these are the people you want to link to your story, so the more underhanded the better!) “The astounding amount of traffic passed to Web sites from social networking would seem to discredit the idea that people actually like having their news surrounded by lame jokes,” would be one good thing to write. “Also indicative of this is the strange occurrence of aggregation-only Web sites — blogs that have been stripped of their writing” would be another.
Oh, And: It would be really great if you could quote people saying things that contradict your thesis, but then write as though what they said supports it. Like when Choire Sicha praised his employee Edith Zimmerman to Duray by saying, “She’s not aggregating blog posts about the thing that just came down the wire. She’s making things, and I think one of the mistakes that a lot of blogs make that kind of dead-end them as blogs is covering the same thing that everyone’s covering instead of like creating things and stopping to make stuff.” See, Zimmerman’s website, the Hairpin, is a blog. But it doesn’t fit the rubric of blogs you’re talking about here, so you can take Sicha’s point and make it whatever you want.
Finally, if you can piss off Rachel Sklar and Rex Sorgatz, it means you’ve done particularly effective work. And if you’re able to refer to Awl founder Alex Balk as though he’s Seymour Hersh, well, you’re pretty much a master at the craft of linkbait.
Simple enough, right?
The End of Blogging [Observer]