Why Everything You Knew About The Media is Wrong

All blogs on the internet operate, more or less, under the same business model. The revenue a blog makes equals price per page-view x number of page-views. And since blogs don’t determine the price of their page views, they try to maximize the number of readers. And since, like any marketplace, blogs are subjected to the Pareto Rule where most of the revenue is generated by a vanishingly small number of players – a blog that isn’t growing (in page views) is quickly replaced by one that does.

So, how do you survive in such a harsh, Darwinian marketplace? Provocation. Use emotionally charged headlines, induce anger or shock. In Trust Me, I’m Lying Ryan Holiday cites a 2012 study that shows that content that induced anger were 34 percent more likely than the median article to make the most e-mailed list. Sad articles, on the other hand, were 16 percent less likely to end up on the most e-mailed list. Stories that are thoughtful, practical, useful, beautiful, or well-written are outcompeted by stories that are loud and angry.

The only way to keep a blog relevant is to constantly produce fresh content. And unlike traditional mediums like newspapers and magazines, there is no limit to how often a blogger can post. The fastest bloggers win, regardless of quality.

Not only do bloggers have to produce content quickly and evoke anger to succeed, they need to share on content aggregators like Reddit and other social media platforms. And here, it’s the same game. Make people angry with your headlines so they click. It doesn’t matter if your article is misleading or not. A click is a click.

Holiday realized that there was a strange pattern. The big blogs were actually using stories that were initially written on small blogs first. So, he used this knowledge to promote his clients, like Tucker Max, when he personally vandalized a billboard, took pictures, sent them to small bloggers, who would then write about it. In little time, the news was on TV.

But this media exploitation scam works for everything, not just Tucker Max. It works for promoting books and to get donations for a charity.

Why are blogs so easily manipulated? The ad-based business model – which some companies like Medium are taking steps to mitigate.

But the subscription models that blogs used to rely on no longer work. With so many different subscriptions (Netflix, Spotify), users are more reluctant to pay for written content. This makes it easy to manipulate poor bloggers who need money. Give them a headline that sensational (sex, scandal, extremism) and they will jump on it. They will promote whatever story you want them to promote for a cheap price.

So, how do you benefit from this personally? For one thing, you now understand why blogs write small and frequent articles. If you want to promote a book, there’s no point publishing a whole chapter on a blog. Break it up into tiny bite sized portions for bloggers and readers.

Make stuff up. If you want to make something small look larger than it is, dress it up with the right language. You can partake in such a system, but it is an ugly one. And its negative effects on the people involved are numerous.

The 21st century equivalent to social degradation is the various dark corners of the internet – online lynch mobs, attack blogs, smear campaigns, snark, cyber bullying, anonymous tipsters, blog wars, trolls, trial by comments. These degradation ceremonies are ways to scapegoat and expel members from a group.

The online media is unreality, a world of exaggerated headlines and hype which has only one purpose – get more views. Of course, this is an oversimplification. Not all news stories are based on speculation. Facts do existed and some are reported. It’s just that, because they are so well-mixed with lies and bullshit, the modern individual, who wants to maintain their sanity, feels the need to disconnect from the news completely. This would be a wise move. If something is happening that is truly urgent, you’ll know about it. Someone will tell you. Otherwise, there are much more interesting things you can do with your time.

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