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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Listicles And Clickbait And Slideshows - Oh My!

As some of you who've been with me since the bitter beginning may recall, I started my blog career as the Divorce Blogger for Woman's Day Magazine.

I managed to hold that post for over four years, blogging five days a week about divorce, parenting through divorce, parenting a special-needs child through divorce, being a single mom, being a lonely single mom. . . it was empowering. It was grueling. Sometimes, it was depressing. It was a fantastic, cathartic learning experience and my readers helped me in ways that I could have never imagined. It brought in critical income at a time when I desperately needed it, and for all of that, I am and will always be incredibly grateful.

But then things started to change. Woman's Day was bought out by Hearst Publishing, and they weren't so terribly interested in the relationship I'd built with my readers, because honestly, there just weren't enough clicks. A few thousand loyal readers with solid advice and a community of support and sharing for women and men who find themselves foundering was not really the goal there.

The goal was clicks.

Clicks and clicks and more clicks. I was told to make my headlines more catchy, so I did. Not a bad strategy, so that was fine. I was told I had to comment on every single celebrity divorce, whether or not I even knew who the hell these people were or why they should matter to anyone. They were paying me, and if that's what they wanted, that's what they got. Then I was told I needed more Listicles. 

Listicles are articles that give you a list of fun or relatable content, things like: 5 Things I Learned From My Divorce or 10 Things NOT To Tell Your Kid About Your Divorce. I did them on occasion, but now they wanted them more. A lot more. Like, every day more - when I wasn't commenting on a D-list celebrity divorce, that is. And if I could add a "grabby" headline, even better, like: 5 Things That Women Secretly Love About Divorce - Number 4 Will Surprise You!!  Or could I turn the headline into a question? Does Divorce Give You Wrinkles? The Answer Will Floor You! (Related note: Check out Betteridge's law of Headlines for an interesting take on "Question Headlines") But again, they were paying me and I needed the money, so I Listicled my butt off. 

Then they wanted me trolling Pinterest for blog ideas, putting together slideshows (Oh dear GOD, not slideshows, PLEASE), talking less about the meat of divorce and rebuilding your life in a positive way and more about relating to trends. 5 Yoga Poses To Defeat Divorce Stress! and 6 Great Divorce Party Cocktails! and 8 Gluten-Free Muffin Recipes To Try After Your Divorce!

I couldn't do it. I mean, I tried to do it - I really needed the money - but I was crap at it. My heart wasn't in it. I generally loathe those sorts of articles and I saw absolutely no value in writing them myself. This was not me. 

When they emailed me to say, "So long, nice to know ya" I was sad and scared - I needed that money. Guys, I really did. But I was also hugely relieved. I had been writing about divorce, and things related to divorce for more than four years. 1100+ blog posts, all about the one thing I really needed to get past and move away from. It wasn't a good mindspace, and it had become a massive trendy listicle albatross around my neck. Once that weight was removed, I felt so free. Like I could breathe again.

I still blogged here, of course, and I do so because I enjoy it. I don't make much money off this blog and that's just fine. It fits, I like it, and that's all good. But I had some free time, and I had a wide open playing field, so I channeled my energy into writing those books I'd always wanted to write. The rest is history and my YA novel is in bookstores. I'm still pinching myself over that one.

So I'll never land a job blogging for Buzzfeed, and that's fine by me. I'm not cut out for it, and I probably never will be. And you have my solemn vow that you will never, not ever see a slideshow with alternating pop-up ads on my blog. Ever.

Thanks for reading me, you guys. Thanks for laughing with me, yelling at me, sharing with me, and taking this journey with me. It's been worth it. 

Next week: 10 Ways Game of Thrones Inspired Me To Weave My Own Organic Hemp Yoga Pants - Number Six Will Blow You Away!


  1. Been reading since your Woman's Day blogging days - love your style! Thank goodness for no slide shows...

  2. Wish more writers like you ruled the internets ;)
    It all seems to be clickbait nowadays and very little content.