I'm currently reading a book by Nick Davies called Flat Earth News, which describes, through exemplary research and massive detail, where the news we experience actually comes from, how it is selected and the machinations involved amongst the powers that be that ensure we only get to hear what we're allowed to hear. Unsurprisingly, it has never received the kind of exposure it warrants as it calls precisely those channels into question which are also instrumental in advertising literature. Still, thanks to the internet it's only two clicks away, but the biggest problem is hearing about this kind of publication in the first place. Without my brother tipping me the wink I'd still be in the dark.
Anyhow, I decided to use a couple of the techniques employed by the larger news agencies to see if I could increase traffic to my blog. Like I've already mentioned a couple of times, I started this blog in 2007 on a purely personal note, having lost a lot of memoirs to hard disk failure. Early posts were perfunctory and my enthusiasm would ebb and flow according to the season, my mood and what I happened to fancy doing at the sharp end of the evening with the Fingernails tucked up safely and the day's fatigue starting to invade my joints. Slowly but surely, people started to get in touch, saying how much they enjoyed the unmitigated bollocks I'd post every now and then and the blog even got an unprovoked, glowing review on www.atasteofgarlic.com, a blog by a certain Keith Eckstein that looks out French expat scribblings. By that time I'd not posted anything for over a year. I hadn't published anything in the Telegraph since the French smoking ban either, so my creative juices hadn't just been put on the back burner; they'd tumbled down the back of the stove without my noticing, doubtless hoovered up by passing vermin, chuckling into their manky whiskers at yet another Brit in Frogland who'd run out of things to say about strikes, kissing complete strangers and wading through industrial-strength piles of dog shit on his way to his meeting, which, as it happens, is cancelled because The Man is still in the shower at his mistress's house.
So what does all this have to do with my cynical attempts at manipulating my august readership, you may be asking. Quite a lot, as it happens. Just as a middle-aged man fondly remembering his first love, the traffic in the early days of French Fingers was a constant, reassuring trickle. I made no attempt to advertise its existence, told no-one of its presence on the interweb yet watched as word of mouse pushed the little audiomat to three, then four figures. A few days ago, I decided to set myself a target. Daily views had, at best, been around the 20-25 mark, so I decided to try to push that number over 100 within three days. That's quite a task when you have such a small readership but tonight, ladies, gentlemen and others, we're well over the target, and not just because I've peppered a lot of people I know with anonymous links to these pages; I know no-one in either Iran, Belarus or India, but they've contributed as much as anyone else to achieving this little goal. So how did it happen?
Keywords. I know virtually no-one who cares as much about football as I do, less about Manchester United, less still about Wayne Rooney. Yet my post on his projected ban outstripped all my other surrounding posts. Why? Because I opened the title with the words "Wayne" "Rooney" and "Fine". My "Talking Parrot" has been viewed a lot, but mainly because I sent people a direct link. Wayne's post still leads, despite my not having sent it directly to anyone I know. It appeared as fourth or fifth item on a Google search, so that must have had a lot to do with it. Strangely, I tried the same technique with my post on Jeff Thomson being my favourite fast bowler, but didn't have anything like the same success. The truth is, that Jeff's exploits and opinions thereon have been around for over thirty years; Wayne's potential fine was brand new, so anyone uttering those words was much likelier to find himself nearer the top of the pile. So it is in life, too. Right after France banned smoking in bars and restaurants at the beginning of 2008 (or was it 2009? I can't remember) I watched how they coped for a couple of days and submitted an article to theTelegraph and to a French expat paper, The Connexion on January 4th or thereabouts. They both wanted exclusivity on it, so I ended up writing another one for The Connexion which contained all the elements they liked but differed sufficiently from the Telegraph version that many of their faithful were also likely to read. The articles were quite good, but both benefitted from being the first on the block. I've submitted better pieces to The Connexion since, but have never had a reply. The Telegraph, generously, publish everything I send them, but that's another story entirely.
Without wanting to divulge too much about what's contained in Flat Earth News or how I've been able to coerce you wonderful people into reading on and between my lines, I'll close by thanking you for spending time on my patch. I do seriously suggest you read the book, though; there are second-hand copies in perfect condition available on Amazon for next to nothing. It's enlightening reading, depressing yet uplifting, depending on how you wish to view the information.