Before engaging your audience, it helps to know a bit about them. Paul Carr of TechCrunch wrote in a column this week that he believes the site’s audience consists mostly of “basement-dwelling, mid-pubescent children.”
In TechCrunch’s typical tongue-in-cheek approach, Carr castigated the site’s readership for a wide range of offenses, including asking dumb questions and doubting the staff’s editorial judgment.
Carr recalls his first column on the site, in which he cataloged the offenses he expected to endure at the hands of readers. At the time he said he felt most of TechCrunch’s fans were great. But, he wrote, “then there’s the rest of you,” adding that calling them trolls was an insult to trolls.
In his first column, Carr proposed six rules he hoped commenters would follow. They are worth reading, though they are not entirely safe for work. Among his requests: no personal attacks and use your real names.
On Sunday, Carr wrote that the rules had little effect:
“The initial result was encouraging — for a brief period of maybe 30 or 40 seconds the quality of comments on TechCrunch rose noticeably, including a 20% drop in misspelled name-calling and 35% fewer ungrammatical demands for any given writer to be fired. Since then, though, things have tailed off again — to the point where several of the writers no longer even look at comments, lest they be so disheartened with the state of humanity that they’re prompted to go on a killing spree.”
At last count, Carr’s diatribe against Internet commenters had 194 comments, very few of whom seemed to take his assault seriously. In its own way, being obnoxious is a good reader engagement strategy for TechCrunch.
Of course, that approach is certainly not a recommended practice for most media organizations, but it does highlight the need to know your audience members and engage with them in a distinctive voice.