What does a teenage boy who had sex with a dog have in common with ITV’s “The X-Factor”? Equally, what does a man who tried to pleasure himself in a wetsuit in a ladies toilet share with Ricky Gervais? And what does a masturbating tennis coach have in common with a family whose teenage son was murdered?
Well, these articles all featured in the Top 20 stories read by people in Berkshire in 2009. The stories that were popular last year were either about sex, death or people overcoming adversity, coupled with a few celebrity items as well. Over at Time Magazine, the Top 10 stories of 2009 worldwide were all about death and destruction as well. So what is going on?
It all suggests we are a voyeuristic lot, only happy in seeing the demise of other people – or their success in overcoming massive problems. Either way, the stuff we tend to click on is rather negative. Deep down, though, all the stories that are popular share a common feature; they are about human survival. Sex and death are inevitabilities – we all got here as a result of sex and we are all going to die.These topics are deep rooted in our psyche and become fundamental to us.
Knowing that we are “OK” compared with the rest of the world in terms of sex or staying alive is essential information to us. In other words, what many of these popular stories share is the fact that they confirm we are “on the right road”. And that simple element is something anyone who writes a blog can tap into.
Sure, your blog may well become popular if you write about sex and death – but working that into a business blog might be rather difficult. It’s the underlying psychological feature you can tap into; showing people they are “on the right road”. If your business blog helps your readers feel they are doing things the right way, you will become more popular. If your articles help people confirm their prejudices or they demonstrate that they are acting in the right way, you will get plenty of loyal readers.
In other words, what these newspaper popularity charts show us is the need for business blogs to find negative elements that are rare, which then confirm that the readers are OK and doing the right thing. Consider a popular blog you read regularly. How often do you find yourself agreeing with the articles? Probably, quite frequently. In other words, the blog itself only occasionally tells you anything brand new – the rest of the time it is confirming you are “OK”.
It is the same with these popular news stories online; you already know that many people indulge in strange sex acts, that people die every day and that some people face terrible problems in their lives. But what such stories do is help you understand you are doing “OK”. So, if you want to attract more people to your website or blog, make sure that several of your posts and articles help your readers confirm they are doing the right thing. That will appeal to a fundamental psychological need and will help you grow your readership.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+