Deconstructing the Worst Article I’ve Ever Seen

"Dear lord..."Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached peak BuzzFeedification.

By “BuzzFeedification” I refer to the recent onslaught of articles that fit BuzzFeed’s style (i.e. full of GIFs and memes) and/or follow the get-as-many-ad-impressions-as-possible model, which has been adopted by many publishers at the moment – more and more by the day, it seems – in an attempt to get that elusive click.

I came across one article that ticked all the usual boxes…

  • Unnecessary multi-page image listicle? Check.
  • Memes? UGH. Check.
  • Goes on for much longer than it needs to in order to try and accrue more ad impressions? Oh god yes check.

…and is simply one of the most frustrating and pointless articles I’ve ever read. The things publishers will do to get you to click and get you to view ads is becoming laughable.

The article and site in question (which I’ve nofollowed because I sure as sh*t don’t want to give them any SEO love)? “A Woman Makes A Shrine Of Her Used Condom Collection” on Rebel Circus.

Let’s take the time to dissect what’s wrong with this absolute sh*tshow:

They’ve turned a simple one-page story into an unnecessary multi-pager

Below the heading and opening summary, there’s a small paragraph about the ‘collection’ and an image of said collection. Below that, there’s a ‘Next Photo’ link:

RC Fail - page 1
Ok, fair enough. So far so good – no harm done.

The inclusion of the ‘Next Photo’ link led me to believe two things:

  1. It’s a multi-page image slideshow article (or whatever the technical term is), but more importantly,
  2. That there’d be more photos of the collection – and more information.

Click onto page 2 and you get this:

RC Fail - page 2
…An image of a record collection? Alrighty then.

Admittedly, it still contains a bit of info about the Tonje’s collection, but the image is completely irrelevant (other than the fact that it represents the concept of collecting). I don’t know if I was the only one, but I was expecting more photos of the collection.

As you continue to mindlessly click through the photos, you get random photos and random facts about condoms. It becomes less about the story – the whole point that the user would’ve clicked onto the site for – and just becomes quite general in its coverage. If I wanted basic info or random facts about condoms, I would’ve looked it up myself – thanks. Don’t thrust it upon me (pun semi-intended).*

* Heh, “semi.” A pun within a pun. Punception.

…Ahem. Moving on.

It contains memes (bleugh)

Click onto page 3 and there’s a random Neil deGrasse Tyson Reaction meme. I mean… What?

RC Fail - page 3
Hilariously, a banner ad covers the bottom of the meme – and therefore the punchline. Not very well thought-out at all. Completely rookie.

There’s also a random Star Wars meme later on in the list. It’s utterly bizarre.

I can’t remember where I read it now (and I can’t find it sadly), but I remember seeing a post that talked about the benefits of having visuals throughout blog posts. It argued that memes were the lowest form of visual, ranking only slightly better than having no visuals at all. Including memes (especially random ones) is a poor effort.

It ends suddenly and abruptly

If you do make it all the way to the bitter end, there are FIFTEEN freakin’ pages of pointless images/info to click through, which could’ve really been fourteen pages less in all fairness. Funniest of all, and probably a simple human error more than anything, the final (sixteenth) page is blank:

RC Fail - page 16
Umm… “The end?”

The article is completely off-topic to the main purpose of the site

Rebel Circus is a “tattoo clothing, tattoo art and alternative apparel” site according to its homepage’s title tag. So why is it publishing random lifestyle/sex news articles? It’s like they’re desperately trying to jump on the clickbait bandwagon.

…Then again, I usually blog about SEO, and this post doesn’t contain anything SEO-y at all, so maybe I’m being a bit of a hypocrite here… HAH. Oh well.

So… Yeah…

You probably think I’m being mean and overly-critical, and that I might be the only person who thinks negatively towards the article (and the site as a whole). But it appears that I’m not the only one:

RC Facebook comment
That’s the highest-rated comment on the post, with 25 Likes. So at least 26 other people are on the same wavelength as me. As a complete aside, it’s bad that Rebel Circus don’t even monitor their comments and allow negative ones like this one not only to appear but to stay there. It really goes to show how little they care about looking after their own website and ultimately their image as a publisher (and as a business).

What they should do

All in all, Rebel Circus need to rethink their content strategy.

Now I don’t like articles that rant and moan about something but don’t offer a solution on how to fix it – and I sure as heck don’t want to be seen as doing that. So what should Rebel Circus consider?

  • Keep content on-point – Be the authority on your subject: tattoos. Don’t just write and publish any old tosh for the purposes of clickbait. If you’re gonna do clickbait, do tattoo-related clickbait. Keep it relevant.
  • Avoid the multi-pagers (unless it’s warranted) – If Rebel Circus’ article actually had 15 pages-worth of content and images all about Tonje’s condom collection then fair enough. But in this case they didn’t. It wasn’t just overkill, it was misleading to readers.

I mean, look at… I’ve been reading it daily for years, and I’ve noticed that they’re start to take the multi-page listicle to the extreme – especially on some article types and on some devices, where you have to click/tap through 15 pages to see all 15 points, when you never used to. But you know what? I forgive Cracked. Why? Because they’re absolutely awesome – they produce content that’s smart and funny, and over the years they’ve won my trust and loyalty to the point where I’m a lot more tolerant to it. So it’s not to say that some of the above points shouldn’t be done – whether by Rebel Circus, Cracked or anyone else – but it boils down to a) how much it’s done (or over-done, as the case may be) and b) the awesomeness of the content on the site. I don’t mind clicking through 15 pages if I’m getting value/laughs out of each and every one of them. But don’t make me go through 15 pages when only one will do (or should do). That’s how you lose users. And how are you going to get those ad impressions with no users, eh?

Again, I’m not saying “don’t do clickbait” or even “don’t do multi-page articles”… But if you do them, do them properly and do them justice. Don’t piss off your users.

[Shocked man image credit – Rafiq Sarlie]

1 Comment

  • Emma Barnes

    March 5, 2016 at 3:26 pm Reply

    Hey Steve, Brilliant deconstruction of the kind of article that really grinds my gears
    -filled with ads
    -gets less and less relevant by the second

    I don’t mind memes, so long as they’re used in a decent context (i.e. to break up a length article with a bit of humour).
    Good post.

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