Now that we’re all having fun laughing about Jesus, my mom’s decorating and my AARP membership, I kinda feel like a waiter bringing the bill to a dinner party.
Nevertheless, here’s a reminder:
When we hit August this website or blog or whatever you choose to call it is going to become a pay site and will cost $5 a month.
Occasionally there will still be free material – my business model is based on drug dealers – but I originally started writing to keep a promise; a promise that I would someday write a book about my family.
I’ve decided to write that book online and during the month of August I’m going out to California to spend time with family and friends, celebrate my mom’s 94th birthday and write a book. I’ll try to write every day unless I really had fun the night before and reading that 31-chapter book will cost you five bucks.
You’ll get stories about my brother wrecking a cop car, my mom’s home decorating tips and my first love; a tetherball pole. (I’d pay five bucks just to hear the stuff about the tetherball pole, but that’s just me – I’m a sucker for love stories.)
All I’m doing today is reminding you that August is right around the corner, you’ll have a decision to make and provide some information that might help you make it.
A brief and biased history of the internet
There are online books telling you how to publish an online book and much of the information deals with how to game the internet system which is kind of difficult because the rules of the internet game keep changing.
Back when I was employed by a newspaper we were originally told page views – also known as clicks – were important, but we didn’t want clickbait.
Time would show that we didn’t want obvious clickbait, but if you happened to have cool video of a boat on fire we wouldn’t mind posting it even if the boat was on the coast, four states away and had absolutely no impact on anyone in the greater Kansas City area.
Then we were told engagement time was key; it wasn’t just how many people looked at what we did, it was how long they looked at it as well, so political cartoonists were fucked because it takes about three seconds to look at a cartoon; four if the drawing is cool.
Then we were told writing SEO-friendly headlines (Search Engine Optimization) needed to be at the top of our to-do list; we should use words that set search engine bells clanging. But when I wrote a story that said: “The Beatles did not sing the national anthem at yesterday’s Royals game” nobody but me and the players thought it was funny.
Then they brought in experts to teach us how to write better SEO headlines and – I shit you not – one of the suggestions was to add “National Football League” any time we mentioned the “Chiefs.”
By that standard, “National Football League Chiefs win 21-7” would be a good headline.
When I raised my hand and asked the point of writing a headline that a search engine would find, but sounded boring as a Lutheran sermon – and I speak from experience – it just cemented my reputation for not being a team player which I didn’t mind because it turned out we weren’t playing a team sport.
What we considered important was constantly changing and if your goal was 100,000 page views a year and you met it, your goal would immediately change to 200,000 page views a year. I’ve been out of newspapers since December of 2017, so by now I assume the goal is about a billion and a half.
The magic internet formula is elusive
This summer my son Paul, the music producer, came to KC for a visit and I was damn glad to have him around for a variety of reasons.
Nowhere near the top of the list, but at least in the upper half, were the conversations we had about social media and what he thinks works and what he thinks doesn’t and what the word “works” means.
Paul is living in La La Land where people are desperately trying to get famous by doing goofy shit and putting it on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.
Up until Paul’s visit I just assumed there were scads of smoking hot girls who wanted to be my friend on Facebook even though they lived in France or the Philippines or Russia and didn’t seem to speak English, but saw an attractive older gentleman and wanted to know him better.
Sounded perfectly logical to me.
Then Paul ruined my fantasy by pointing out that those hot girls’ goal was to get as many followers and friends as possible and then monetize that by becoming an “influencer.”
Influencers: yet another thing I didn’t pay attention to
The list of stuff that hasn’t grabbed my attention includes taxes, birthdays and anniversaries, so the fact that I had no idea what “influencer marketing” is should not be a surprise.
Here’s the idea: someone with a buttload of followers becomes a spokesperson or gives a testimonial for a product and those followers then buy that product because the hot girl or goofy Instagram celebrity told them to.
Which – it turns out – may not work.
Paris Hilton has 17.1 million followers on Twitter and when Paul asked if I remembered her album and I said no, he said: “There you go.” Just because someone follows Paris Hilton on Twitter does not mean they’ll pay to hear her sing.
Instagram “influencer” – and yes, if we were talking face-to-face those would be air quotes – Arii had 2.6 million followers and when she started a clothing line couldn’t sell 36 shirts T-shirts, the minimum number for starting a collection.
Just because Arii (which doesn’t sound like a made up name at all) is an attractive young woman who has been successful at gaining an internet following doesn’t mean anyone wants to buy a shirt from her.
Here are a couple quotes from stories about Arii’s failure:
“People think that just cuz they have a lot of followers people will buy anything they sell and that’s not always the case.”
“Focus on genuine engagement and not followers (cause) they ain’t gonna buy a thing.”
Paul then told me a story about a designer named Mikey Joyce who currently has 9,181 Instagram followers, but has no trouble selling shirts because Mikey is a designer and people follow him because they like his sense of design.
That’s genuine engagement.
Sounds like the people still trying to figure out how to game the internet system have more work to do: it’s not just having followers, it’s why those people follow you.
That being the case, Paul – my advisor on any issue that has come up since the turn of the century – has decided to put the vast majority of his energy into producing good music.
Paul figures people aren’t going to buy albums because he has funny videos of him being pulled down the street by a Chihuahua while riding a skateboard; people are going to buy albums because he makes good music.
And if that doesn’t work, fuck it
Substack – the people who provide the platform for my writing – sends out emails suggesting ways to be a success on the internet. After all, they only make money if I make money and so far neither one of us has made a dime.
One of the suggestions concerned the need to use social media because providing a good product just doesn’t cut it.
Well, fuck all that and the horse it rode in on.
I write because I enjoy it and hope others enjoy it too and while I post links on Facebook and Twitter I have zero interest in spending the majority of my day sending out cute tweets or posting selfies on Instagram.
(BTW: When I looked up Paris Hilton’s Twitter account to see how many followers she had, it reported she had sent out 30 tweets in the last hour and that was before 8AM on a Saturday which sounds pretty unlikely unless she’s currently in London and jacked up on Red Bull, both of which sound possible.)
So bottom line, I’m just going to continue to write stuff I think is funny and hope you think it’s funny enough to share it and comment on it and drop $5 a month on laughing about it when we hit August.
And if that doesn’t work, fuck it.
I’ll go buy a Paris Hilton album.