As we all slip further into the widening maw of the Internet, I’ve noticed a growing trend where bloggers and other self-proclaimed journalists tend to leave their integrity at home, citing memes and top ten lists as legitimate content; the only worse offender being those who make brief, highly-opinionated fluff articles and try to pass them off as actual content. Folks, not only is this 21st-century digital sensationalism, it’s shitty sensationalism. If you’re going to trick me into reading your ramshackle of an article, at least throw in a few laughs. With this article, I’m going to prove to you that writing passable content is not only doable, but is entirely possible without any sort of preparation.
(Writer’s note: I’ll try to keep the pay-per-view language to a minimum, but I make no promises.)
Tip #01: Make sure your article is worth reading (and writing).
If someone else wrote on your subject, would YOU bother to read it? If not, don’t write it. With the Internet becoming increasingly saturated with content — most of which is instantly accessible — you don’t want your article to be just another reason people like me feel it necessary to procure hip waders while scouring for actual, worthwhile content. Regardless of what people are doing, folks hate having their time wasted, especially if it’s not a necessary task. All too often, I find myself being sidetracked by an article on Yahoo when I go to check my mail, and I wind up saying this out loud…
Tip #02: Don’t give your article a misleading title.
Quite possibly the worst offender of this rule is the tablature website Ultimate Guitar. If your intention upon visiting this site is simply to learn how to play songs, you’re safe. However, the news section of the site (if you can call it that) is the hard rock version of TMZ. I’ll give you an example: I recently clicked on an article titled “Billy Corgan to Judge ‘American Idol’?” I went into that article expecting a decent amount of fluff with some sort of nougat core of truth. Boy, was I ever mistaken! Nowhere in that article did I find any sort of quote where the Smashing Pumpkins frontman said he would want to do such a thing; he merely states they need a counterbalance of alternative influences in the show’s content. A more appropriate title would be “Billy Corgan weighs in on the state of ‘American Idol’.” Such a title would garnish just as many readers without making them feel like they’ve been duped. Remember how I said people hate having their time wasted? There’s one thing they hate more, and that’s feeling like they’ve been tricked, especially on a site like UG, where a reader has to click past a full-page ad before even getting to your article. Your title should be an exciting one-sentence summary, not a fucking red herring.
Tip #03: Be oh-ridge-un-ull.
If you’re going to be writing on a subject that could be classified as current events, make sure you’re not tardy to the party. Again, Yahoo is a pretty big offender in this department. Yesterday (Friday, March 16th), I noticed an article on Yahoo about the cinnamon challenge, as if it were a brand new craze that hasn’t been around for at least five years. Knowing Yahoo’s track record, maybe we’ll have the scales torn from our eyes in 2015 when Yahoo tells us all about planking and dubstep. Don’t be like Yahoo. If you want to go somewhere that has consistently fresh and non-misleading content, visit Reddit.
So there you have it: Make it worth the effort, don’t trick your readers, and don’t regurgitate what they already know. Frequent violators of these rules will eventually find themselves ostracized, ignored, and seen as pandering morons. Even if your article lacks literary quality, it’ll still surpass the aforementioned articles if it follows these rules. And again, unless you’re covering some sort of horrific event, some humor in your piece will never hurt you. Your readers aren’t idiots, but a poorly written article devoid of journalistic integrity with your name on it will say otherwise.