I am not the first person to write this piece, nor will I be the last, but for those of you who don’t understand how websites work these days, well, it’s a goddamn wonder any websites survive. Long gone are the days when you could create a Wordpress site, throw up some content, and wait for the audience to find you. People don’t visit websites via their bookmarks anymore. Or even RSS feeds. We are fortunate enough to have a very nice base of readers who regularly return to the site each day, but for the most part, people come to sites in one of three ways: On Google, while they are searching for something (like “beef stew fart in face stories”), or Twitter (though that’s a relatively small percentage of readers — about 2.5 percent), or Facebook.
That’s where the trouble resides.
Again, we are fortunate in that we aren’t overly reliant on Facebook traffic (about 20 percent), mostly on account of the fact that we are not good at Facebook, organizationally. We don’t beat you over the head with Facebook buttons, we can’t afford to pay for new followers, and as much as some of you might think we engage in “clickbait,” trust me when I say that we are minor-leaguers. We suck at clickbait.
This is our idea of “clickbait.”
That “factor” is preschool. (And if I’d written, “Parents never talk about the importance of preschool to raising a successful child,” it would’ve gotten half the clicks. Sorry, but I’ve got preschool to pay for).
But here’s some major league clickbait.
No. No he did not. That’s what you find out from reading the post.
Literally, the only thing that piece says is that Rian Johnson met with Abrams about planning for Episode VIII.
Of course, those sites are far more successful than we are, in part because they are so good at Facebook. The clickbait pulls you in, and you are immediately asked to follow them on FB, you say yes, and then you spend the next 6 months complaining in their FB comments about clickbait.
But here’s the other, crucial thing about Facebook: If you want to collect the most traffic, you need to write about one of their “trending” items, because doing so will put your site in that trending items’ newsfeed, which means more reach, which means more clicks. The effect is that the entire Internet is writing about the same 10 goddamn topics. In fact, you are rewarded by conforming.
And look: We’re not above it at all. Where Facebook trending items converge with the interests of our readers, we naturally take advantage of that. Of course, Faceboook is often 24-48 hours behind, so where Facebook trending items and our readership’s interest converge, it often concerns a post we have already written about and did not benefit from the additional Facebook traffic because it wasn’t trending yet.
Let me just demonstrate by way of example. Here’s what was trending this morning:
Game of Thrones: Image Posted to Social Media by Actor in Series Appears to Show Script Page
Cindy wrote about this on Monday, long before it was trending. We received no additional FB benefit, but if we’d waited until today to write about it, everyone will have already seen it so no one would click.
Snoop Dogg: Rapper Posts Photo of Customized Shoes Featuring Pittsburgh Steelers’ Antonio Brown
Zero interest among our readers, 70 percent of whom don’t know who Antonio Brown is.
Jimmy Kimmel Live: Joss Stone and the Stone Temple Pilots Perform ‘Interstate Love Song’ on TV Show
Cool, but nobody is going to click on that on Pajiba. In fact, late-night clips are now among some of our lowest trafficked pieces. Basically, we hit peak late-night videos when Emma Stone lip synced on Jimmy Fallon, and it’s been all downhill since. Facebook embeds most of those videos anyway, so you don’t need to click on a website to watch.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Disney Releases 1st TV Spot for Upcoming Film.
You’ve seen two trailers, do you really need to see a TV clip, too (even one that maybe kind of hints that Rey might be the daughter of Han Solo and Princess Leia)?
Nick Cave: Musician’s Son Died in Fall From Cliff After Taking LSD, Coroner Says
That really sucks.
Leonardo DiCaprio: Nov. 11 Marks Birthday of Actor and Film Producer
You may have noticed that birthdays and anniversaries have become a lot more important on the Internet now than they used to be. It’s because of FB Trending. If it’s Leo’s birthday, that means we can take advantage of DiCaprio trending by writing lists of his best films, a list of his girlfriends, etc., and collect extra FB traffic. MTV, for instance, wrote this piece: Every DiCaprio Role Ranked by Facial Hair. That piece exists solely because it’s DiCaprio’s birthday.
Aziz Ansari: Comedian Writes About Race, Acting and Hollywood in Essay for The New York Times
This is actually a great interview, and something we might cover.
Oprah Winfrey: TV Personality Says She Can’t ‘Believe How Hard’ Kardashians Work
We would never write about this straight-up because our readers don’t care. However, there’s a think piece in there somewhere, in that there have been several examples in recent weeks of people coming out in defense of the Kardashians and their work ethic. When Rebel Wilson made a joke about Kim Kardashian finding fame through a sex tape a few weeks back, there was a backlash against Wilson, for minimizing the efforts of Kardashians (meanwhile, Jon Hamm said the same thing three years ago and was applauded for it). That might be an interesting angle, even though I suspect the majority of our audience would probably side with Wilson on the issue.
Vivica A. Fox: Actress Discusses 50 Cent’s ‘Gay Stuff’ Comment on ‘Watch What Happens Live’
This is a weird story that I wouldn’t have the first idea how to cover. Vivica Fox suggested that 50 Cent was gay because he was into “gay stuff” while they were dating, and 50 Cent is all like, “Yeah. I let her lick my ass.” Somehow, the falling ratings of Empire are involved, and there are also some ass-licking memes.
X-Men: Apocalypse: Teaser Trailer for Film to Appear Before ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’
This is my least favorite news item, and something we rarely traffic in: Announcing when a trailer will drop. Plus, unless you’re really good at clickbait, it’s a headline story only. Everything you need to know is in the headline, so there’s no need to click (unless someone goes with a headline like, “You’ll never guess which teaser trailer will drop before Star Wars!!!).
Anyway, those are basically the ten stories Facebook is talking about this morning. Obviously, sites can write about plenty of other things, but because FB is converging around those items, we would be rewarded with extra traffic by writing about them, which is why all the sites are writing about them now. It’s a circular disaster, but that’s where we are right now: Websites are now Facebook’s bitches.
Is there anything we can do about it?
No. Not really. Ride it out, keep our heads above water, and pray! Fortunately for our readers, most of our writers here don’t understand or care about Facebook trending, and they write about whatever the hell they feel like. For the most part, we can conform when it suits us and deviate from the norm well enough when it doesn’t to continue performing adequately, in spite of the fact that 30-40 percent of you read with your adblockers on. We’d ask you to whitelist us, but for the most part, you are not the problem: The drive-by Google and Facebook visitors are, and they have no incentive to turn off their ad blockers because they have zero interest in our long-term survival.