Schlock writing is bad. Schlock writing is bad because it is uninteresting. By uninteresting, I mean that writing in a schlocky manner is generic. Schlock writing is styleless and schlock is flat.
If you just read that introduction and didn’t jump off a bridge, you’re probably a schlock writer. Go hang yourself with some piano wire.
While those may be some harsh words, at least they take a position! The sentences vary in rhythm; the vocabulary radiates intensity and aims for precision. The verbs “being” (is/are/was) and having (has/have) only appear as necessary. They don’t burden every damn sentence.
Strunk and White’s book, The Elements of Style, codified grammar and certain key ideas of good writing. It demonstrates the concision it advocates, for example.
Recently, I borrowed a book entitled Spunk and Bite, a play on “Strunk and White,” as The Elements of Style is also known.
It’s a great value.
Schlock writers – at least, those who lacked wire, earlier – would double their pay rate instantly if they bought the book and integrated its lessons. Personally, while my grammar is strong, I admit that my writing’s usual degree of sizzle doesn’t excite many readers’ palates. Spunk and Bite’s helped me with:
- Creating original images (dismembered infants instead of puppy-killing or baby-eating);
- Explaining why certain jokes are funny;
- Using adverbs appropriately, which clarifies the success of many linkbait titles I’ve seen.
- Eliminating wishy-washy words like “can,” “may,” “might,” “should,” etc.
- Sending neutrality to hell and choosing a side. I’m not writing an encyclopedia, after all.
And I haven’t even finished the book!
Schlock. Powered by Google.
Compare that energetic writing with the tedious truism of this lead I read. “Every year, many people plan their vacations.” You don’t say? Well after that shocker, I’m compelled to read the rest of your written-for-search-engine squalor.
When people complain about Demand Media being a ‘content factory / mill / sweatshop,’ a large part of that is in reference to the total absence of style found in its content. Read Write Web accurately calls it ‘fast food content’ because it fills you up without giving you the substantial quality you need.
Which leads to my next point: schlock shouts with superficiality. There’s no research that goes into it. That’s also why Demand Media and others focus on the long tail, since that’s where schlock is more likely to succeed. The short tail is more competitive, which leads serious businesses to invest in researched, deep articles penned with flair. eHow sticks out like a sore thumb when compared with that kind of content.
Note: Wire content is also superficial in this way, though it tends to have slightly more style. The point is that Made For Adsense (MFA) sites aren’t the only ones who skimp on research.
My friend Rena writes in defence of such content,
“Some people say that in the world of search engine optimization there will be more low quality content. Sorry, I think it’s the opposite. There’s always been bad content. There have always been middle men who try to connect you to content, and whose interests aren’t totally aligned with yours. Google’s not perfect, but they’re probably the best company we’ve ever had at connecting people to quality content. If Demand Media is really low quality, their success on Google will be temporary.”
If we’re honest about it, SEO drives demand for content of all varying degress of quality. At the absolute low-end is autogenerated blackhat content. Marginally above that is schlock, which includes most so-called “SEO copywriting,” (code for “I can include keywords in my title and content). And then you have linkbait in varying degrees of quality, which goes pretty high. It just depends if the intended audience is search engines or humans…
If you haven’t been paying attention, more and more content is being excluded from search engines with subscription models. In internet marketing alone we have subscription products from Aaron Wall, SEOmoz, We Build Pages, PPC-Coach, SEL, SEW and Problogger, just to name a few.
This trend towards subscriptions for premium content illustrates that:
a) Producing high quality content can be profitable, so long as you don’t rely on ads.
b) Increasingly, the [commercially-created] information available online for free will be of mediocre quality. While Wikipedia’s contributors count thieves and fools amongst them, its noncommercial nature has resulted in lots of high quality, free articles.
c) If Wikipedia means substantial, free, short-tail articles (Wikipedia’s tail is no longer than stub…), and MFA factories mean superficial longtail, then I conclude that deep, commercial content is only going to be available for a fee. So don’t expect search engines to succeed at covering the deep web anytime soon, short of a new business model for it.
d) Developing style as a writer adds value to your work, and that value will grow over time as more schlock gets pumped out daily.