“You know what a shit-barometer is, Bubs? Measures the shit-pressure in the air. You can feel it. Listen, Bubs. Hear that? The sounds of the whispering winds of shit. Can you hear it?”
“No, I don’t hear anything.”
“Oh, but you will, my sorry little friend, when the old shit-barometer rises, and you’ll feel it too. Your ears will implode from the shit-pressure. Beware my friend. Shit-winds are a comin’.”
The shit-winds foretold by Jim Lahey have indeed arrived in the trailer park that is your Facebook feed. Over the last week or so you might have noticed your dumbest friend sharing articles with demanding-to-be-clicked-on titles like “21 Signs You Grew Up In East Van”, “The Dating Profiles Of Every Vancouver Woman”, and “10 Solid Reasons That 9/11 Was a False Flag Used as a Pretext to Start a War and Enact Draconian Laws”.
Okay, only two of those are courtesy of Narcity, the new, absolute abomination of a website on the block. If you’re not familiar, Narcity is a Montreal-based outlet with a site in Toronto as well. Here’s their news release to clue you in as to what they’re all about.
“Une équipe de deux influenceurs composée d’un rédacteur en chef/gestionnaire de contenu et d’un rédacteur installés à Vancouver produiront du contenu axé sur ce qui se passe dans la ville et destiné aux milléniaux.”
And translated to English:
“CONNNNNNTENNNNNNNNT. MILLLLENNNIALLLLLLS. INFLUUUUENCCCERRRRS. CONNNNTENNNNT FOR MILLLLENNNNNIALLLLLS MADE BY INFLUUUUUENCCERRRRS.”
Apologies if my French is a little rusty, but essentially they’re going to try to build a large audience of morons with the attention span of fruit flies using the most dogshit techniques possible. Think a dumbed down version of Vancity Buzz or Vancouver is Awesome—which, remarkably, Narcity proves is possible.
I’m not going to bother linking to any of it because you know the deal with this dreck. No point in reading past the headline. One click on Facebook, scroll a bit, then close the tab. The only takeaway is you feel dirty and overwhelmingly self-loathing. It’s a toilet read at best.
But, sadly, it works, and sites like VCB and VIA have some fucking Facebook fans and Twitter followers. If Narcity can do the same, with their especially lazy, assembly line-like approach to churning out the internet’s answer to fast food, I’m sure they’ll be able to start selling their coveted audience of mouth breathers to advertisers via branded content aka native content aka advertorials aka more dogshit.
There’s a hilariously obtuse post on the Narcity Media website where its publisher proclaims earned media is broken. Earned media is marketing-speak for positive things people are saying about you that aren’t directly paid for. This means mentions in magazines and blogs as well as people big-upping you on social media. In a roundabout way, he argues that earned media is no good because it can be challenging to acquire, so you should simply pay Narcity to give you a plug. As opposed to, oh I don’t know, crafting a compelling narrative about your business that will resonate with people.
But with so many other hack websites and bloggers in this town this new launch raises the question: is Narcity bringing anything new to the clickbait party in Vancouver, aside from escalating the race to the bottom?
We have enough crappy outlets producing similarly awful “content” that will happily copy-paste your press release on their blog if you give them money—sometimes a drink and a few canapés is all it takes. Vancity Buzz, Vancouver is Awesome, Scout Magazine, and more airheads with a few thousand Instagram followers than you could possibly count are all happy to insult the intelligence of their followers on your behalf. I don’t know what VCB charges for running an advertorial on why you would enjoy getting stabbed by a bridge-and-tunneler at the Celebration of Light, but I suspect how little it is would depress the fuck out of you. Hell, if you’re a politician you can even buy the cover of one of our many vibrant daily newspapers. The opportunities are already limitless.
Fortunately it’s looking like a lot of these sites are in for a rude awakening. Facebook is tweaking their algorithm to bury sites that churn out pap. For example, Vice partners with sites like Distractify.com to boost their total traffic numbers. A few months ago changes to the Facebook algorithm caused a 17.4 percent drop in their traffic. Facebook flicked a switch on clickbait farms and ten million of Vice’s unique visitors vanished. And because what these sites do is so disposable, no one likely noticed they were gone from their feed. That’s the thing with sites that are hoping you’ll fall for their “one weird trick”: they could all disappear tomorrow and no one would care.
If you huck a mattress in an abandoned lot of the trailer park, the longer it stays there the more other people will begin dumping their trash nearby too. So if you’re looking to clean up your feed, I have created a handy gif tutorial for you. (That’s the sort of content millennials are into these days, right?) It works great with other sites too if you think they’re an insult to your intelligence. Even my site. Go for it. I don’t give a fuck.