A Note to Our Readers and Commenters as We Head into 2016
As we reflect back on 2015, it’s been a stranger year than most for the site. Back in 2004, we started out as a political site before moving into movie reviews, and going into 2016, we have perhaps inadvertently become as much a political site as a pop-culture one. I’m not talking about Presidential politics, necessarily: I’m talking about cultural politics. In 2015, we pivoted hard into that area, because cultural politics and entertainment now seem to take up so much of the same space.
We have had to pivot in a lot of ways. I mean, look: There are over 300 million people in the United States, and television shows now regularly survive on less than one million viewers, which means that it’s become more difficult to reach a site-sustaining audience by writing about, say, Hannibal or You’re the Worst or The Leftovers or even Fargo. When only one-third of a percent of American’s viewing audience is watching a particular show, then not a lot of people are going to be reading about it.
Thankfully, there are shows like The Walking Dead, the Marvel shows on Netflix, Game of Thrones and, most recently, Making a Murderer that a huge segment of our readership watches. However, it’s also kind of ironic that, where television was once the medium of the masses, it’s now big blockbuster movies like Star Wars or Jurassic Park. Those are things that we can all talk about.
Facebook, as I’ve written before, has also forced us into certain grooves, but I think we have managed over the course of the year to succeed outside of the monoculture, as well.
But that’s where the cultural criticism comes in: While a show like The Leftovers only gets one million viewers, Black Lives Matter, the Syrian refugee crisis, the Confederate flag, Rachel Dolezal, the Duggars, or Caitlyn Jenner are topics that we are all experiencing, feeling, talking about, and trying to understand, and those are also topics that we want to talk about, for both serious and non-serious reasons.
But here’s the rub: There were a few months around the middle of 2015, where we kind of lost our sense of humor. We might have gotten a little too outrage-y (Game of Thrones didn’t help). We might have also gotten gun-shy, after getting called out while experiencing our own growing pains.
We have since course corrected, and I think certain writers here helped a lot to remind us not to take shit so seriously. We can express outrage where outrage is necessary, but it’s also important to bring some levity to those heavier matters, otherwise we’re fucking Salon.com, and nobody wants to be Salon.com (except Slate *hey-oooo*). It was a weird period, where I think some of us were also afraid to make jokes, because making jokes on the Internet has become a dangerous profession.
Looking ahead to 2016, however, we’re going to play more with that fire. We’re also not going to get bent out of shape because three people on Twitter expressed an idiotic opinion. We’re going to build more yarn walls, we’re going to be a little more seriously random, and it is my hope that as a staff, we can do a lot less “Get off my lawn” writing and more embracing of what’s good in the world while calling out what’s bad in amusing rather than curmudgeonly ways. We’re going to be a little more stupid, without being dumb. It is my hope that there will also be a lot more fucking.
With a new ad network, we’re also going to rid ourselves of the asterisks in profanities, and hopefully those hijacking nuisance ads will go away (but there might be some other “ad solutions” to combat and compensate for ad blocking).
But we’re gonna fuck up, like we fucked up a few times in 2015. What I appreciate about our readers, however, is that you call us out when we fuck up, but you also stand by us. We’ve been around long enough that you guys give us the benefit of the doubt.
Most importantly, coming up on 12 years in existence, I absolutely cannot believe that our community still manages to be so incredibly amazing. We have an outstanding set of commenters that grows and evolves but always remains intelligent and witty (and lately, really GIF-happy), and I know that for a large percentage of our readers, they are as big a draw as the above-the-comment content. I typically like to single out a few of the best commenters at the end of each year, but there are too many. But you know who you are, and the other commenters know who you are: You’re the commenters we know by name, who many of us know personally (or think we know personally), who we honestly consider friends, inasmuch as we can be friends with people on the Internet we’ve never met.
I can’t speak for all the writers here, but it’s that relationship that makes it more painful when we do get called out. There are certain sites where we don’t give a shit what the commenters say — where we do as the Internet maxim instructs: Never Read the Comments — but here, it’s like getting called out by someone with whom you’ve been driving to work everyday for the last three years.
The thing is: We respect you guys. Most of you, anyway. They say you’re not supposed to write toward the commenters, but we still value what you have to say. We are still inspired and influenced by your comments and thoughts and opinions.
I think what I’m saying is, we like you. A lot. And that not only goes for the regular commenters, but the readership, overall. The people who Tweet at us, who share our stuff on Facebook, who tell their friends about us. You guys are great, and we hope you’ll stick around, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and screw around with us on the Internet for another year.
Happy New Year, folks.
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