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Monday, September 28, 2015

Clickbait and Maturity

We get what we ask for.

In economics, it’s the law of supply and demand, really. On the internet, it’s number of clicks. Generally speaking, if you read several pages on the same websites every day, you click a lot. If thousands or hundreds of thousands of others do the same, that’s virtual boatloads of clicks. On the Web, clicks = success.

So if Christians visit websites that offer feel-good fluff, it’s logical to expect that bloggers will write more fluff. If Christians visit websites that offer substantive cultural analysis and reasoned biblical responses, bloggers will write more of that. If Christians visit websites that carefully analyze scripture and teach it, bloggers will offer more careful scripture analysis.

It’s not rocket science. Basically, if you come they will build it, or build more of it. We get what we ask for.

Where Christian blogs are concerned, there are dozens of different ‘Top 100s’ out there. Some use Alexa rankings as their metric, others use Compete or Quantcast. Some use total pages indexed by Google. Each way of measuring traffic and interest level has its benefits and drawbacks.

But the one that gets my attention is Anita Matthias’ list, which is ordered by number of Facebook “likes” received by each website.

Now of course Facebook caters to a particular demographic these days. The rhetoricians, primarily men, have moved to Twitter, and the business crowd to LinkedIn. The kids are on Snapchat or Instagram. So Facebook, in its declining years, has become primarily the domain of women aged 25-64.

The Anita Matthias Top Ten, then, most accurately represents what Christian wives, mothers and married daughters are reading. It’s a couple of years old, but still relevant. I think it is a bit of an eye opener:

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10

I know you’re breathless to discover whether Jamie really IS the Very Worst Missionary. Read a few posts and you can tell me. My money’s on “probably”. But I already have Rachel Held Evans to make me foam at the mouth, thank you, so I won’t be investing much effort in critiquing Number 10.

My fly-by assessment of these very popular Christian web stops?

With few exceptions, Christian women seem to be reading posts that are: (i) written by Christian women (no surprise there); (ii) short, generally in the range of 500-1,000 words; (iii) heavily visual; (iv) minimally scriptural (the occasional proof text appears from time to time, but rarely analyzed in context); (v) centered around human experience; (vi) in existence primarily to sell other products (books, videos, the writer as public speaker); (vii) platitudinous (pithy sayings are everywhere, substance is nowhere to be found); and (viii) in several instances unrelated to Christianity at all.

What does this say about the maturity and spiritual development of a significant number of readers out of a group of believers that by some estimates comprises up to 55% of the Body of Christ? I’ll leave you to mull that over. What I do know is that we generally get pretty much what we ask for.

And most of the time, we ask for the things that matter to us.

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