The internet has always been weird, but it’s getting weirder. And if you’re a blogger, marketer, or business owner, there are some important ways you can take advantage of this trend.
First off, what do we mean by “weird?” “Weird” is a vague term that here refers to the relative obscurity of content on the web; in other words, a piece of “weird” content is a piece of content that covers an unpopular or new topic, or one that explores a topic in an inventive or strange way.
Over the years, we’ve seen the rise of millions of blogs dedicated to highly obscure topics, from ugly Renaissance babies to “real” anime food, and the most popular viral videos on the web went from being simple music videos to the capture of rare events or absurd publicity stunts.
So why is the internet getting weirder, and what can we learn about this trend so we can take advantage of it?
The Pressure to Differentiate
For starters, we must consider the increasing pressure to differentiate your blog and your content from everyone else’s. People on the internet have been developing and sharing content for more than 20 years, so even if you think you have an original idea—it’s probably been done. Simple how-to guides for things like “how to change a tire” or “how to unclog a sink” have been written and rewritten millions of times, and the top how-to sites on the web have had decades to build and reinforce their positions. Accordingly, getting visibility for a commonly-tread topic is nearly impossible for a newcomer.
To get discovered, your content has to differentiate itself in one of two ways. It has to be much better than what already exists, or it has to be different. Since straightforwardly topping these online content juggernauts is tough, most new content creators opt for the latter. As niche topics increasingly get covered, ambitious bloggers resort to obscurer and more absurd topics as a way to avoid the competition.
When combined with an effective marketing strategy, this can be exceptionally powerful. For example, there are countless link building strategies you can use to establish and cultivate more links to your work. In turn, those links will increase your rankings in search engines. Once you establish an initial threshold of visibility for your work, the rest takes care of itself; your niche audience will be much more likely to discover and share your content, resulting in a perpetual snowball effect.
The Call of Clickbait
We also need to consider the fact that most of the online world is structured around the end goal of generating clicks. Search engine algorithms, social media algorithms, and even reputable news sites all have the goal of attracting as many user clicks as possible.
On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with this, but it doesn’t take much introspection or analysis to realize that effectively, these algorithms end up optimizing for strong emotional reactions. People on Facebook, Google, or any other platform are much more likely to investigate an article that outrages, terrifies, or surprises them.
Accordingly, content creators are incentivized to create content that takes people by surprise. Writing about mundane or predictable topics may be accurate, but it doesn’t generate attention; by contrast, writing about something outrageous or farcical stands a chance of getting attention.
What We Can Learn
So what can we learn from this?
If you’re a marketer, blogger, journalist, or content creator hoping to get more attention for your work, there’s a simple principle to follow here: be weird. “Weird” can mean any number of different qualities or approaches, such as:
- Novel topics. The most straightforward, yet hardest-to-pull-off approach is to come up with something truly ingenious. As millions of aspiring inventors can attest, it’s hard to generate an idea that’s truly “new,” but if you can, and if that idea resonates with people, it stands to succeed even if it violates content conventions.
- New angles. It’s more approachable to take an existing topic and cover it from a new angle. For example, you might take a contrarian stance on a popular, yet contentious issue, or study a niche of some subject that’s historically been overlooked.
- Medium experimentation. If you’re willing to take some risks, you can also experiment with different channels and mediums. Cross-pollinating genres and including audio or visual elements can take a standard topic and elevate it into “weird” territory.
As the internet becomes increasingly accessible to wider audiences, and as the world of content creation continues to become oversaturated, we can expect to see even weirder and more unique content emerge. If you want to stand a chance at generating visibility for your own work, as an individual blogger or business owner, you’ll need to find some way to differentiate yourself in a similarly obscure way.