During my last year of college, I had the extreme pleasure of being the editor-in-chief of my school’s branch of a national publishing platform. It was here that I was able to seek out, interview, and hire and team of writers that I was then able to communicate with almost daily, brainstorm with, and edit for. On paper (read: screen) the position embodied everything that I planned on seeking in employment following graduation, but the more time I spent associated with the website, the more faults I saw within the system.
“Virality.” I received emails weekly with tips on how to make content viral and what gimmicks to employ to ensure this happened. Don’t call me naive: I understand that websites like the one I had worked with need to make money, and kitschy content ensures the high number of views needed to make this happen. But am I naive for being surprised at the sacrificing of good content for the sake of going viral?
This is not to bash the people I edited for, because my team of writers blew me away with the amount of originality and thoughtfulness they each put into their writing. Nor is this to say anything negative about anyone else that may be reading this that written for the site. Heck, I’m guilty of writing a couple of those “Ten Things Only ‘x’ Understand if ‘x'” pieces–when you’re creating content for a site that emphasizes page views more than anything else, it’s easy to get blindsided and forget why you sought a writer’s position in the first place and focus only on the writing topics that are going to be shared on people’s Facebook profiles rather than things that you’re passionate about/can speak to better. (I once came across an article about Leslie Knope and the author had written “Lesley” multiple times.) When I read stories from schools beyond my own, I noticed that basic formatting and editing rules were often being overlooked for the sake of publishing something (read: “Your Favorite Grey’s Moments, Ranked) sooner.
And don’t get me wrong: I love those articles that show me the little secrets I missed in last night’s Pretty Little Liars, and I will not skip over a piece that ranks Michael Scott’s most quotable moments. But I can read them and still find fault in the way they were published, right?
The day that Prince (RIP) died, I received an email from my editor saying that this was a tragedy, yes, buuuuutttt it was also the type of content that would give us a lot of views if we wrote pieces about Prince quickly before other sites picked up similar stories. Unless you count the number of times I’ve watched his New Girl episode as us hanging out, I don’t know Prince. But this depersonalization made me sad. This blog I write on now may not ever make me money, and it may not ever be seen by hundreds of thousands, but each word that’s written is the result of a love for writing and not with the intention of going viral.