After reading an article on Yahoo! Voices about writing for eHow, I realized that reading “How To” articles may not always be for the purpose of gaining knowledge. Sure, there are plenty of times that I have found it helpful to read something like “How To: Bake an Eggplant in a Toaster Oven” or some such thing. But beyond the most practical of matters, I don’t know how many “How To” articles are for knowledge and how many are purely for entertainment purposes.
How To Roast a Baby
Yes, this was an article contributor M claims to have written. In his article Writing for Ehow: A Disappointment, he writes, ” After my humorous articles like “how to ditch class” and “how to roast a baby” were removed, I sobered up and realized that I had to turn my dark humor down a few notches and resort to writing in a strictly informational, professional manner.” The class ditching and baby roasting articles sound like they would have been good for a laugh, and I’m sure that’s what readers were looking for when they clicked on his articles, but even eHow has standards. Unfortunately, M’s decision to up his own standards didn’t sit right with his readers.
Writing to be Informative
After eHow removed his humorous articles, M decided to start writing science articles (” After all, if everyone knew how to build a crystal diode radio or write out the electron configuration of an element, they probably wouldn’t need to be looking up how to do it on the Internet”). The problem with this plan was that his sciences articles received the least amount of page views of all his articles. He made very little money off of them.
How To: Take Advantage of your Audience’s Insecurities
Realizing that people were not actually reading the articles for real, credible information, he began writing articles that played on “people’s pain or insecurities.” These got him the most page views and also the most income. He wrote, ” My articles about acne treatment and weight loss attracted the most views and earned the most income. I’m not an expert on these subjects, but it didn’t seem to matter.” People didn’t care about gaining knowledge from credible sources when they could read quick articles (accurate or inaccurate) about their own faults.
We Need To Let Go of Our own Insecurities
There is a massive audience devoted to reality TV and watching celebrities meltdown on the news. I don’t think this is because the majority of the people in this country agree that this is wholesome programming or “real” news. I think watching Britney Spears have a nervous breakdown, Miley twerking, or the aftermath of Tracey Morgan’s car accident makes people feel better about their own insecurities. They aren’t the ones shaving their heads, dancing with creepy Robin Thicke, or nearly dying in a limo. People can feel better about themselves without actually learning anything of value or improving their situations.
It’s time to decipher between reading real news and information and reading junk that is only meant to play on our “pain or insecurities.”