Thursday, September 13, 2012

Win Free Sex – the art of SE Optimised Social Media Writing.

The very first piece I had submitted as a young reporter eager to learn the ropes was literally scratched through by the Editor.”The first thing that you need to write in the newspaper” he had pompously pointed out “is a command over the language”. “The second” he had continued, “is in depth knowledge of the domain you are writing about.”

Today, more than three decades after that fateful day, as I write this piece, his words still ring in my ears. Over the years, having had the pleasure of being coached, cajoled and mentored by many such great men and women, I learnt about the basic ingredients required to write that near perfect piece that adorn the newspapers and publications that we go through every morning.

If language and knowledge are number one and two in that list then the third will certainly be the ability to be precise and to the point. Brevity indeed is the soul of wit … and lingerie!

The lingerie is there in the piece for various reasons. For one, it tells the writer to original. To ensure that the piece walks a path that is not often trudged. To be unconventional in the outpouring. To be passionate about what is being written. To take a holistic view of the subject. To learn to laugh at mankind’s innumerable follies. And all the while to be specific, to the point.

As I scroll through tons of gibberish I am saddened, even grieve as I mutely witness the slow and steady sinking of the language we learnt to love, stringing words to create poems that helped us earn our victuals. Grammar lies cremated in the graveyard of text messages. Vocabulary, like the thinning iPhone, is suffering from acute anorexia. And original thought has long succumbed to the cancer called Copy, Cut and Paste (CCP).

“We can give you content on any subject under the sun” one marketing executive representing a content provider was telling me the other day. “You tell us the subject, the number of words required and we will mail you the matter within the next 24 hours”. When I expressed my amazement, he explained that as everything is already in the net, their writers can easily search, secure and seize whatever you may want.

And that is what frightens me. Nobody digs deeper than the first five pages in Google, which means everybody is blindly copying from more or less the same source. That is reason why, written pieces today so horrifyingly resemble Soviet era cattle in a commune – clubbed together by the lowest common denominator.
To hide the lack of originality and to make their pieces look serious, the perpetrators of CCP are straight jacketing themselves with lists. Search for a key word, look up the first ten matches and chances are the top five reasons that you read will be the same in every piece, albeit in different orders.

“You don’t understand” said a twenty something, hot-shot content writer swaying her pony tail. “We are not merely writing to local readers like you newspaper guys did. We are writing for a world audience that lives in the instant and does not have time for your flowery language. Besides our pieces are also targeted at the algo-rhythms, the web spiders and net crawlers that search for key words for search engine optimization. Our pieces have to arrest eyeballs and generate traffic. Just writing stuff people like reading is not our primary concern. We are information disseminators, not poets writing sonnets.” Point taken, but in the process, why write the dierge of the language?

The most searched words, they tell me, are sex, free and win. Should all pieces then begin with “win free sex”? Somebody had postulated that a billion monkeys, randomly punching on a billion type writers can over time, create the entire works of Shakespeare. Looks like the geeks are close to achieving the monkey feat. May the bard RIP.

- Chawm Ganguly

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