A How-To Guide for Generating Consistently Non-Viral Content

I hit a million views, s-l-o-w-l-y. Here's how I did it.

Posted Apr 16, 2020

Well, about a year ago I finally reached a million views/reads/somethings on my Psychology Today blog. It took me nine years and almost 100 posts. This may not sound impressive. Certainly, many writers are much more prolific and others generate much more "viral" content. But that's my point: It's not easy reaching one million so slowly. One never knows when something will go viral or, at least, get shared on Facebook a few times. The numbers sneak up. One has to be careful.

In honor of my one-millionth something, I am sharing all my secrets to generating consistent, non-viral content. And so, without further ado:

Azlan DuPree, Flickr, Creative Commons
Darkness can be obscure. Make sure your writing is too.
Source: Azlan DuPree, Flickr, Creative Commons

1. Pick a topic that's obscure. This is harder than you might think, because many obscure topics can attract a lot of readers. For example, a post titled "The Five Most Obscure Topics in Psychology" is practically guaranteed to go viral. That's a rookie mistake. Don't be a rookie. Cultivate obscurity. Practice it. Don't stop, until it's perfected.

2. Delay starting a new blog post as long as you can. Most writers know that it's hard to finish what you start. But as hard as it is to finish what you start, it is even harder to finish what you don't start.

3. Once you do start, consider giving up and starting again. Better yet, give up and not start again (see #2 above).

Creative Commons, CC0 license
It's a cute kitty. Might as well stop everything.
Source: Creative Commons, CC0 license

4. Look for opportunities to get side-tracked, especially after you build up a little momentum. Cat videos are the old stand-by, but in a pinch even old Zimbardo psychology videos will do. Novices often rely on this move when they're almost done, but true professionals have acquired the knack of getting sidetracked at any point of the writing process.

5. Blog only when you're tired or hungry. The differences may not be noticeable at first, but, over time, they'll add up (or is it subtract down?) to consistently fewer somethings.

6. Remember, the post isn't finished until it's properly cited. This means that every factual detail you've derived from a journal article (whose name or authors you just can't remember) absolutely has to have the exact, correct academic citation. And yes, this does matter (Baird & Oppenheim, 1994).

7. Just because you finish something doesn't mean you have to submit it. Letting it sit unpublished on your laptop is also a viable option. This might seem simple, but understanding that it can be done without any reason whatsoever is actually an advanced skill. My teen son has been modeling it for years, but I've only recently been able to implement it myself. For example, this piece was written back in 2018.

Petar Milošević
After you publish something, handwritten responses to all the comments is absolutely essential.
Source: Petar Milošević

8. When you do get published, responding to all the angry comments is essential. In such instances, make sure you match the intensity of the person you are responding to. Ad hominem responses are especially effective, but don't post any responses at all until you've carefully read ALL the comments. While you're reading, remember, every comment is 100% accurate and 100% about you. I'm not saying you should take all the comments personally and get discouraged, but they're all completely accurate and completely about you, so calibrate your emotional response accordingly.

9. Never forget that writing is a business. Punch in when you start and, when you're done, punch out. If you notice yourself enjoying the writing process, stop writing and start doing something else immediately (see #4). If this occurs regularly, consider a new, less enjoyable, topic or just stop writing altogether. Remember, fun and business don't mix. This extends to other writers. If you see any writer who seems to be enjoying themself, slowly back away from their content. Such encounters have been known to be life-changing.

References

Baird, L. M., & Oppenheim, C. (1994). Do citations matter?. Journal of Information Science, 20(1), 2-15.