The Horror of Trash Blogging

Many new bloggers start because of the dream of quitting their day job and making even more money, sitting at home in their pajamas and writing. (Heh, my dream too–but so is winning the lottery. And research shows that happiness from winning the lottery lasts about three months, on average. And winning the lottery is not the hard work that building a commercially viable blog always is.)

What are Trash Blogs?

Okay, I admit it. I made the term up.  But most people know trashy, advertising eyesore sites when they see them.

When I first got into the New Blogging, the blogging that is about personal AND career growth and MAYBE a possible income stream, I was skeptical of the whole commercial blogging idea.  Yes, I could see all of these trashy sites that MUST be making money.  I was thoroughly familiar with the concept of click-bait and how people could, with the right know-how, get advertisers to pony up for a fraction of a penny per click on their ads.   Writing a trash blog did not appeal to me.

A trash blog is a blog that is designed to attract any eyeballs it can — the curious, the lonely, the bored, people not in their best places–and market to them, aggressively, often using techniques of psychological influence and manipulation.

Trash blogs are the blogs that use psychological techniques to first, pull in readers with “You’ll never believe what Lindsay Lohan said”  or other material to play on people’s curiosity and then surround their reader with a swamp of advertisements, often from dubious sources.  Many of these are “click-through blogs” that provide you with ENDLESS pictures of celebrities, or obscure trivia about a favorite old TV show, embedding the content in a long series of “slides” surrounded by loud advertising.  Such time wasters.  Their tribe increased enormously during the past election cycle.

Okay, so I fall for it from time to time. I have an unhealthy relationship with trash blogs,  just as I have an unhealthy relationship with oh, pastry.  But if I make this my everyday go-to brain food, my mind will rot. 

And there are snake oil teachers for snake oil techniques

Many commercially minded bloggers fall into the hands of this predatory blogging community designed to teach them bad behaviors as a means of making money.  This is even worse than the trash blogs themselves. This community teaches people to use negative techniques to manipulate people into providing them with resources, such as their email addresses.

Email addresses can be sold to third parties and used in manipulative ways. If you ever gave money to a political party or even an organization that seems to support your values, you often find yourself being bombarded with “dismay mail” –a constant stream of terrible problems that YOU can help them with for a small donation.   They use many different email names (fake people, mind you) to flood your inbox and try to escape your spam folder. It is relentless.  This predatory community is also relentless in marketing to new bloggers who long for fame and fortune.

Those very people who will teach you these techniques WILL ALSO USE THEM ON YOU, their own audiences!  They will bring out the guns, big and little, to persuade, coax, bully and intimidate you into taking their feed, coming to their site, buying their crap lessons, and turning you into part of their borg.  

Trash blog teachers and organizations cater to this fantasy AND THEY know the buttons in your head that they can push. They will continue to push them.


Photo Credit:  Best Running

Remember that if they are teaching you to think of your audience as cattle, they probably think of you as cattle.  They’re going to milk you for every cent they can and lead you on as long as possible. 

An Example of Predatory Influence Techniques

These are the people who put up the huge email ask screen that MAKES YOU CHOOSE between two options:

YES, I want you to teach me how to make EXCITING CONTENT 


No, thanks, I want my content to continue to be dull

This is a psychological manipulation technique. It is a method of “framing” a decision for you in such a way that the only way you can get a sense of positivity about yourself and what you’re doing is to agree to get on this vulture’s freaking email list.  That he will no doubt sell to his trashy co-hort of advertising manipulation experts.

But it’s effective, they may whine. Is it?   I personally see this as a RED FLAG that this blogger or website does not respect me as a potential reader.  He is putting me into a psychological pinch, trying to strike me at a vulnerable emotional space.  I put myself on high alert that this guy is a manipulator and pretty much sees his audience as chickens to be plucked.  OR he’s been carefully taught to view his audience as objects to be manipulated.  I want no part of this, and so I go into these websites and blogs on a sour note.  And I make it a point not to use their stuff or recommend their blogs.

What I like are tasteful little, “please subscribe”  buttons that float up after I’ve been on the site for oh, at least 60 seconds.  I really like those that say, “We will never sell your information to third parties.” Bloggers who treat their audiences  well think of their audiences as a precious resource, as people who may become customers–and customers deserve to be well-treated.   

Those who treat you badly right out of the gate are not to be trusted, especially in those sites that are alleged going to teach you how to be a successful (and money-making, potentially) blogger.   I urge you to respect your audiences and treat them well; that’s where the real value lies and the credibility and, eventually, income stream will come.

Photo credit: Photo by Camdiluv ♥ on Best Running / CC BY-SA


Author: Lola

Recovering academic, real-life, honest to cornflakes anthropologist (Ph.D. and fieldwork and everything), tech-head and social media researcher.

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