Revenge of the Nerds: Why Baiting Your Readers is a Bad Idea


Not Alyssa Bereznak. Obviously.

I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a bit of a nerd, and right now the nerds online are all flustered over a recent Gizmodo post where blogger Alyssa Bereznak wrote some pretty offensive things about a recent online dating experience. The basis of the story is this: she went out with a guy who she deemed to be way too nerdy for her and proceeded to write an entire post making fun of the guy, even though he didn’t really do anything wrong. The “moral” of her story was that you should research a person using Google before you go out together.

Gizmodo is a popular tech gadget blog, so as you can guess, most of their readers are a lot like Alyssa’s date. The vast majority of comments on the post and the comments I’ve seen on Twitter, Facebook, etc. are negative, and many are extremely negative. There are a lot of things I personally find offensive about her post, but what I (and many others) keep coming back to is this: Why is a post dumping on nerds be allowed on a major tech blog, where most of the readers fall into the nerd category?

Some have speculated that Alyssa’s post was purposely offensive to her readers in order to drive traffic. Maybe that is the case; I don’t know. If that’s what happened, who made that choice? Alyssa? Gizmodo? Again, I don’t know.

What I do know is that baiting your readers in this manner is a bad idea.

Sometimes linkbait works, and sometimes it doesn’t – but if you’re being purposely negative, you’re playing with fire. I fully believe that you should write posts that express your opinion, even if your readers aren’t going to agree. If that makes sense for your blog, do it. But it’s a fine line to walk, because if you’re expressing an opinion simply because you want to drive traffic, that choice is going to come back to bite you. Here’s why:

  • For some people, this will be the first time they hear of you or your blog.

Who hasn’t heard of Gizmodo? It’s a huge blog, right? Well, yes…but there are definitely people who have never heard of it. Maybe this is the first you’re hearing of it – and let me ask you, what is your impression of Gizmodo? Even if you’ve heard of Gizmodo before, this might be the first time you’re hearing of Alyssa. What is your impression of her? The point is, the first experience a new reader has with you is their only experience with you. Make sure it’s a good one – or at least one that represents you well.

  • Some of your regular readers won’t be back.

If you’re being completely honest on your blog and people don’t like you and what you have to say, that’s one thing. Let them go. It’s better to have 100 readers who really “get” you than 1000 readers who feel “meh” about you. However, if you’re writing bait posts, some of your regular readers are going to stop reading your site. You don’t always have to agree with members of your community, but at least respect them enough not to stomp in their faces by making fun of them. The nerds who Alyssa offended and who may very well have been some of Gizmodo’s biggest supporters might not be back – and that’s some pretty hefty revenge for any blog.

  • Traffic spikes are just that – spikes.

Let’s say you have a post that is super helpful and goes viral. You’re going to see a huge traffic spike, which is awesome. When things calm down again, some of those people are going to stick around to read more, and even though it might be a small percentage, that’s how you build a traffic kingdom, block by block. But what if you write a post that goes viral for a negative reason, like the Gizmodo post? When things calm down, what’s the likelihood that anyone will stick around to read more? So not only do you run the risk of losing regular readers, but you also won’t gain new ones for more than a day or two. Spikes are only spikes, not sustainable.

  • It’s ethically questionable.

There’s no law that says you can only write what you 100% believe. Frankly, though, the ethics behind doing something like that are questionable about best. It’s a personal choice, I guess, but I would have a hard time sleeping at night if my name was attached to a bunch of stuff I didn’t actually believe.

Overall, I think the Gizmodo post was a really bad idea. I’m not just saying that because I was personally offended by what she wrote. I’m saying that I think it simply didn’t make sense to be posted on a site where nerds are your fanbase. Was the post purposely meant to bait readers? I don’t know. Maybe. And if so, I think it was an even worse idea. There are a lot of really positive ways to get traffic that take the same amount of effort and have much better long-term results.

Have you read the Gizmodo post? Has it changed your impression of Gizmodo or the writer? Do you think there are any benefits to baiting readers with an offensive post?

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About Allison Boyer

Allison Boyer freelance writer and content marketing consultant. She also runs the food blog The PinterTest Kitchen with her mom and sister. You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter (@allison_boyer) or contact her at allisonmboyer@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. Madison D says:

    I’m going to wait a couple of days and see what the Gizmodo people have to say for themselves. If they don’t say anything or if I don’t like what I read them I’m gone.

    • I’m very surprised that they haven’t said anything. The writer said something on Twitter yesterday defending herself, but nothing else. I wonder if she’s still with Gizmodo. I would have fired her (if it was her decision to post that, not a decision from above). I hope they don’t take the post down because I think it’s a good example of what not to do.

      • On her twitter it currently says “Former @Gizmodo intern” so maybe Gizmodo already took disciplinary measures..

        • spookyparadigm says:

          Nope, she says it ended on Friday anyway. She clearly thinks this is a path to success based on her tweets. Well, I guess there is room in the world for awful people who are proud of their awfulness.

      • Axiomaticality says:

        she “defended” herself on twitter by doubling down on the same BS, calling him a dweeb and such

  2. I don’t know if they are doing this on purpose or not, but if you have been following the comments on the original page you have probably noticed that as time passes the story is being edited and toned down slightly. 

    eg, the line ” This is what happens, I thought, when you lie in your online profile.” became “This is what happens, I thought, when you leave things out of your online profile.”  And bits where she calls him a ‘dweeb’ have been removed.

    There are now comments appearing around the place where people are asking why people are so upset about the story because they can’t see anything that bad in it.  It made me wonder if the slow edits are being done on purpose for this reason.

    • I think that brings up another interesting ethical question about whether or not it is okay to edit a post that has so many comments without notes that it has been edited.

  3. I don’t think I like Alyssa at all. So petty.

  4. VENKADESH ZUAN says:

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  5. spookyparadigm says:

    I’ve been a regular reader of linker to another Gawker network blog (remember, Gizmodo is just one arm of the Gawker network), but unless it becomes pretty obvious that this was an honest error in judgment, and not an attempt to drive traffic, I’m done with them.

  6. I can tell you this as a nerd…I’d NEVER hire her for a gig. And whenever she applies for a job or a gig or wherever, I’m sure THEY will be Googling her and finding just this. 

    Good job, lady…maybe you should have thought of your own advice. 

  7. As a aspiring writer/Journalist I think what she did was ruin her credibility. How many people will google her (even potential employers) and see that? I think she made a big mistake and she will regret it. 

  8. Spacehamster says:

    I used to be a regular reader of Gizmodo (and Gawker media), until they published Alyssa Bereznak’s article. My current impression of Gizmodo is that they’ll do anything if it means getting more page hits and making more money. They don’t respect their readers, they just want to monetize them.

    On the positive side, I discovered other websites where I can get my daily Tech news from. And I learned a valuable lesson about how some websites disrespect their readers just to make money off them.

  9. I am no longer visiting any Gawker site (and I’ve been a regular Jezebel/Gawker reader for years), as this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. And I’m no longer going to read anything by Alyssa Bereznak — she had written an article for Salon before that I had liked at the time, but now doubt the authenticity of, as she clearly does not portray things objectively. 

  10. I heard once that Gizmodo got their hands on an iPhone prototype, but since I don’t care about Apple I never read anything there. I didn’t now either, there were enough sites who reposted the article. Still, I probably will remember her name, and that antipathy will extend to wherever her articles get published.

  11. My impression of her story was that she would not have ridiculed him by his full name if it had been something else that turned her off. Like an interest in sports or beer. She came across as honestly not seeing why rules of common courtesy and decent tratment should apply to nerds and geeks.

    And that has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.