Facebook is set to purchase Drewchial.com, a blog best known for entries on the burdens of self-promotion, in a $1 billion acquisition. Though the site was created to promote the unpublished works of Drew Chial, Facebook plans to use it as an extension of its platform.
In a conference call with shareholders, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive officer said, “The next frontier of social media is self-deprecating self-promotion and Drewchial.com is at the forefront.”
Baffling analysts, Facebook sees something that’s crucial to its business.
On his profile page, Zuckerberg outlined scenarios where other authors might adopt Chial’s methods, launching smear campaigns against their own work, calling themselves out in a feedback loop of what he calls, “meta media criticism.”
“Imagine getting away with clogging your friend’s feeds with links, because you’ve already blasted yourself for doing it. That’s the kind of experience we’d like to share with the general public.”
This risky purchase is just one of the many bewildering tactics Facebook is using to stay ahead of the competition.
Staggering into the office in sunglasses and a bathrobe, Zuckerberg addressed his developers, “Every aspect of teenagers’ lives are filled with commercials; from the military murals stretched across their lockers, to the Hotpocket coupons in their health books. They tune ads out, skip them on YouTube, block them with plugins. Backhanded brand awareness is the best way to snag those cynics.”
Kicking his chair out, Zuckerberg wobbled to the whiteboard. He lifted a lever in the shape of a dry erase marker. The board spun around revealing a fully stocked bar. Climbing up on it, Zuckerberg pulled several bottles off the top shelf, hopped down and mixed himself a martini.
Swirling the concoction, Zuckerberg took his seat. “Advertisements aren’t cool, but making fun of them is. Drewchial.com comes with its own ridicule built in.”
Downing his drink in a single sip, Zuckerberg slapped the table, “I’m talking about millennials, bitches. That demo is my shit.” Then he collapsed.
The acquisition is a huge advance for Drew Chial, who at the time of this writing, does not have a published work to his name. Chial, a self-declared introvert, was surprised to find the social network showing any interest.
“I’ve come to accept that Facebook works in mysterious ways.”
Chial says he plans to use the money to host a martial arts tournament on an island far from the United Nations and their “meddlesome human rights regulations.”
Financial analysts are critical of Drewchial.com’s low reach, low views, and lowbrow humor. They’re concerned by the site’s inconsistent subject matter.
One analyst said, “I don’t get it. Does Drewchial.com promote a humorist or a horror writer? Sometimes it offers writing advice, sometimes it’s just journal entries on how this sad sap can’t score. Where’s the hook? How does the author plan on retaining visitors?”
Flicking off a limo driver, Zuckerberg said, “To truly appreciate Drew’s genius, you have to look at the traffic he’s not getting.”
Unzipping his fly, Zuckerberg urinated on a fire hydrant. “I just wanted to snag his site before Google or Apple got their grubby little hands on it.”
Facebook does not yet have a business model for Drewchial.com. Chial says he plans to post entries openly complaining about the transition so that his audience can still respect him.
His next article “The Self Righteous Sell Out” promises the same high caliber hypocrisy, and shameless selfies, his audience has come to expect.
Why writers shouldn’t succumb to Viral Envy. Why bloggers shouldn’t try to become BuzzFeed, and why getting everyone’s attention is a waste of your time.
There’s a condition going around the writing community, with the power to debilitate an author’s creativity. Systemic of the internet, the higher our public presence, the higher we’re at risk. Inflaming our sense of rejection, it weakens our ambition. Its chronic symptoms, attack artistic momentum. Advancing into its final stages, it has us questioning why we fill our pages.
The warning signs a writer suffers from it include:
* An overly harsh response to lighthearted links.
* An open disdain for their Facebook feed.
* A history of Twitter fits.
* An outright dismissal of the value of social media, even if their careers depend on it.
The condition is called Viral Envy. It occurs when a writer is stricken with jealousy for over shared items of poor quality.
As avid readers, we know good writing when we see it. We are mavens of our selections, curators of our content, stewards of the written word. Our reading lists are hard venues to get into. We seek the best compositions for dinner party conversations. We seek sources to cite in our arguments. We seek eloquence to challenge our intelligence.
Despite every passing fad’s persistence, we’ve built up a resistance. We have an immunity to the whims of the community. We’ve been inoculated to the link they’ve baited. No sensational headline is going to steal our time. No slideshow will make us work slow. While our friends treat captions as the height of conversation, we see viral content as a sign of the world’s descent.
It offends our intelligence to think that journalism is dead, that editorials reign instead, that clickbaiting is the new norm, that tiles full of tiny articles are a threat to the long form. Blogging our deepest thoughts, we see Buzzfeed black holes as competition. Every lunch hour, every commercial break, we’re vying for reader’s attention.
When a viral video of models making out, contaminates our feed, we fight the urge to say, “If you like watching two strangers kiss for the first time, then you’ll love pornography.”
We’re tired of logging onto the lowest common denominator. Comparing our efforts to these shameless campaigns, we’re shocked to see them do so much better. We covet their comments, lust after their “Likes.” We’re ashamed to want their shares. We’ve got a bad case of viral envy.
Is there a cure?
Weakening their immune systems, some writers become part of the problem.
Why Going Viral isn’t a Good Goal
The pathology of a web published pandemic is to spread. It’s simple, light, airborne. Readers pass the link along without analyzing it on a molecular level. Attribution rarely leads back to patient zero.
Viral content is indiscriminate. The infected are never targeted based on their tastes. Its made to spread to the most eyes, not necessarily the right ones. It doesn’t care about building relationships or reader loyalty. It’s a quick shot to the stat counter, at the detriment of regular subscribers.
Moving quickly through the brain, thought viruses are easily forgotten. The net is littered with the pus of these so-called phenomenons. The infection passes too fast to leave traces it was ever there. Audiences will find a treatment for their boredom, but not a lasting cure.
If your goal is to self-publish, you want to develop a readership, not coax wayward netizens out of a few clicks. Viral content rarely leads to a second outbreak event. Developing antibodies, the infected’s concentration is inoculated against repetition. Memes, macros, and microorganisms plague the net. Everybody’s been exposed. Everybody’s gotten over it.
There are a lot of things you can do to get the Internet’s attention, but they don’t always translate into sales on Amazon. Ask yourself: am I writing with my own voice, or one I think the world wants to hear? How will this animated Gif get me new readers? How does this captioned vid cap further my career?
Wait, hold on, my word processor stopped scrolling. Great, now I’m getting the pinwheel of death. Let me just poke around on my computer. Ah, here’s the cause. Turns out the Photoshop file with all my “Least Interesting Man in the World” posts was still open. It’s a play on Dos Equis’s Most Interesting Man in the World campaign. They’re self portraits with captions like, ‘I don’t always approach women, but when I do it’s to ask for the WiFi password.”
Now where was I?
There’s a pitfall I’ve watched writers fall into. To compete with the internet they become everything they hate about it. Having built a blog around a one note joke, they try to sing a different tune, but no one wants to hear it. They can’t find a publisher for their long form manuscript, but they’ll get a pilot based on their one good quip. Remember “Shit My Dad Says?”
Do you want your writing career to be a joke-a-day calendar, or the kind of coffee table book that makes guests question your sense of humor?
The cost of going viral, is that everyone gets sick of you.
Wait, hold on. Sorry, it’s happening again. The side bar is stuck in the same position. What is it this time? Oh, looks like I didn’t close my search through my best #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen tweets. They’re like Jeff Foxworthy’s You Know You’re A Redneck bit, but writer-centric. I’m compiling them all for a collection.
Now, what was I saying?
Don’t let Viral Envy Win
In these uncertain times writers have to do whatever they can to get their audience’s attention. The trick is keeping it. We all want to be relevant, but no one wants to come across as desperate as a Simpsons episode with Twitter references sprinkled in.
Shameless writers try to boost their search engine optimization by pumping their articles full of popular terms. Misdirecting traffic with mere mentions, these cynical inclusions piggyback on famous franchises. They figure, if Hollywood can bank on nostalgia, why can’t bloggers?
Wait. There’s a buzz at the door. I think I might have to sign for something. My Chinese hook up got me early access to a hoverboard prototype. This baby won’t hit the streets until 2015.
Damn, that wasn’t it. It was just a Boba Fett helmet with a Ghostbusters insignia etched into it.
Wait, hold on. Now I’m getting a call from my seamstress. We need to schedule a time for me to get fitted for a top secret cosplay garment. Not to spoil the surprise, but Ben Affleck will be wearing the same thing in Batman vs Superman (keep checking this site, bookmark it, tell all your friends).
Sorry about that. Where was I?
The Viral Jackpot
In the process of building a platform, many writers become full time bloggers. The potential for validation is higher. More posts means more possibilities. This is a gambler’s fallacy, this notion that one of our annual entries is bound to hit the viral jackpot. If only we could win the literary lottery, then we’d be a household name for sure.
It’s sad to see so much creativity energy go to these desperate self promotional tactics.
I’ve watched begrudged writers berate their followers, dissing the discourse, trolling for tell offs. They’d run out of ways to get attention. Their positive energy was depleted. The cost to their time had led to few benefits. Their growth stagnated. They called bullshit on the whole enterprise and the lot of us for feeding into it.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t understand. Hopefully, I’ll know when to politely duck out of the spotlight before I let this happen.
Don’t you hate it when bloggers fill their posts full of links to try to keep you on their site? On an unrelated note: my other articles on over branding and compulsive marketing include:
Introducing the Facebook “Beg” button, for when you’re not “Liking” or “Sharing” something you’ve discovered, but “Begging” for hits for something you made. Simply click the “Beg” button and your followers will see this message:
(your name here) asks if you have any spare attention for their link, God bless.
The “Beg” button gives your followers something to turn away from, while they spend their time clicking on Buzzfeed lists, misleading Upworthy titles, and misattributed celebrity quotes.
As insensitive as this analogy is (there’s no comparing those with passion projects to the truly needy) self-promotion can come across like panhandling. I wrote a blog about the feeling called “Every Little Hit Counts.” Here’s the premiere of the audio version.
As a blogger, I’m willing to do what it takes to direct traffic to my site. I have faith that if readers see my work, a few of them will enjoy it. My end goal is to sustain myself writing. Not fame or fortune, just the ability to do what I love for a living. This means I have to build a brand, to sell my work by selling myself.
Lacking a blueprint, I can never get the balance between humility and vanity right. I come across as a passive aggressive narcissist. This has more to do with my fledgling marketing abilities than how I see myself. For authors in the information age, embarrassment is part of the process.
Regarding this uncertain future, Neil Gaiman put it best, “Try everything. Make mistakes. Surprise ourselves. Try anything else. Fail. Fail better. And succeed in ways we never would have imagined a year or a week ago.”
Aspiring authors have to build up an audience before abandoning our books on Amazon. We can’t be too proud to beg.
So I put my hand out, “Every little hit helps.”
Twitter has been generous, most writers understand that tweeting the occasional link is part of the self-publishing process. Facebook has been less forgiving.
Twitter followers, with shared interests, embrace my goofy Photoshop self-portraits, while my Facebook friends require an explanation. I have supportive followers who comment on my entries, and a few proximity acquaintances who don’t care for me clogging up their feeds. Fair enough, you can always select “Hide all” or “Unfollow.”
This is why writers have separate Facebook author pages, that way users have to “Like” the page to see our links. The problem is that Facebook’s algorithm pushes my posts to less than a third of my followers, while links from my personal account get twice as many views. It’s a catch twenty-two, damned to obscurity if I don’t share, declared a self-obsessed self-promoter if I do.
I’m curious how the rest of you handle this. Have you had to lose followers to gain followers? Have you found a magic number for weekly links you can get away with sharing, or do you leave your website in your profile and hope people will discover it? I’d love to hear your answers in the comments.
An account of how self-promotion feels like panhandling, and all the crazy ways bloggers beg for hits.
Every Little Hit Counts
Standing on the offramp of the information superhighway, we’re not panhandling, we’re directing traffic. With our thumbs up, we’re not hitching rides, we’re asking for “Likes.” With our signs held high, we’re not pleading for sympathy, we’re giving you something to skim as you pass by. Pull into the overpass and follow our links. Roll your windows down and leave a comment in our caps.
Pay what you feel. If you can’t give us a dollar, give us your attention. If there’s no room in your cart for another piece of art, we’d be happy to make your wish list. If you already have one, gift a second to a friend. Feel free to embed a copy in your gallery. Feel free to put our writings on your wall for all the world to see.
Every little hit counts.
It doesn’t matter how you found our site, we’re just glad you came. Stumble out of the cold. Join our circle, around the bonfire of the blogosphere. Lurkers are always welcome. If you’re hungry, you can always dip into our RSS feed.
We all have stories to tell, and knowledge to impart. We’re all down in the same dump searching for an audience. Don’t worry about anyone talking your ear off, we can count our points on our fingers. We can make our statements in five-hundred words or less. Holding your attention with drawings in the sand, we all use the same hobo glyphs: the guy punching a hole through his screen, the woman taking a hammer to her monitor, the age old ax through the keyboard.
There is wisdom in our ravings, observations in our obscenity, proverbs in our profanity. We don’t have much to say about Miley Cyrus’s joint puff, but we can tell you all about our own addictions. We don’t have much to say about Jennifer Lawrence’s haircut, but we can tell you all about the issues we have with our own appearance. Subscribe to our sage advice and we’ll give you something you’re not going to find in any BuzzFeed. Continue reading Every Little Hit Counts→