The economy of hate

I probably spend more time on the internet than anyone else I know. I’ll admit it, I’m a web dork. Let me try to spell out a trend I see on ministry websites, youth ministry sites, personal blogs, Facebook, and the rest of the social media/social networking map.
If the news (Media 1.0) was subtitled “If it bleeds, it leads.” The citizen news (Media 2.0) could be subtitled “If it flames, it sells.

Here’s a simple fact about the internet: If you want the easiest way to draw traffic to your site/blog/ministry/church all you have to do is flame people. Start a site about how much you hate something and you’ll draw traffic.

My definition of “flame” on the net:
To bad mouth for the sake of creating discussion and more bad mouthing without ever checking the source to fact check.

Example: I’m on the pastoral staff at my church. In 5+ years of full time ministry I can only think of 1-2 times when someone came to me in public or private and bad mouthed me. (Rumor mill doesn’t count since that’s ignored) But on the internet it happens many times a year. Obviously this happens because it’s not face to face, it doesn’t seem “real” and it is thought that things written on the internet don’t count as much as things said in person. (Uh, they still hurt!)

Why is this?
Here’s the way most stuff on the web works. I write about something and then the reader either talks about it or doesn’t. And people are more likely to link to or forward something that is dirty than they are something that is benign, informative, or encouraging. That’s just the nature of communicating in the new media. The result is that some people write purely to be read and since “flaming sells” they know that flaming people/ministries/churches will draw more notoriety, traffic, and ultimately income.

Normal content + traffic = $1

Hate content + traffic = $5

That’s pretty much what it looks like. If your site or blog flames someone you’ll get more traffic. If you do it habitually you’ll grow like mad. Look at for example. (Chris Garret talked about this today) The only time my stuff gets on Digg is if I either post it myself or if I say something considered flame worth.

Another example: 18 months ago I wrote an article about why I don’t do retreats anymore. It wasn’t really a flame but it was slanted away from the camping industry. It got 4,000+ reads. Jason Raitz wrote the counter to that article… it only got read 1,000 times. A couple weeks ago we published an article called “Why most mission trips are a waste of time.” Forget the fact that the article was written 2 years ago… even though we’ve published pro-mission trip articles before… Noel’s article got mountains of traffic. (Compare the comments alone)

So are you saying that all blog traffic is drawn to flame speech? Not at alljust among “normal content.” When you say something that is remarkable, the math looks like this:

Remarkable content + traffic = $10+

Which leads to my point… most people write hate/flame based content because they don’t have the guts/brains/skills to write something remarkable. In other words, it is easier to draw traffic with flame-worthy content than it is to draw traffic with remarkable content.

Adam’s Law of Traffic: Write something remarkable and everyone will talk about it. Write about something you hate about someone and some people will talk about it. Write about normal stuff and only your mama will talk about it.

Bonus math: Since mountains of people like to copy the thoughts of others… sometimes giving credit and other times not.

Copied content + traffic = $5

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.


  1. interesting… so what ur saying is.. i should either become a spiteful young man or be an einstien…. so much easier being spiteful.. wonder does it link to comments…

    if you have linked to this comment my point has been proven. now for something remarkable….
    that’s remarkably SAD and Pathetic

  2. Great thoughts (hmmm…apparently I’ve lost the ability to spell, it took me 4 tries to type the first two words.) Anyway, I think you’re right.

  3. That’s what we struggle with at YMX too. When we review stuff or write things, we want to be remarkable… and “not super polite” but matter of fact. But we don’t want to flame people either. It’s a tough balance.

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