Hurrah for the vicious, unforgiving, hilarious power of the vox populi!
I was sent a link to this Guardian Unlimited blog by a 19-year-old called Max who’s off on a trustafarianesque jaunt to India and Thailand. I won’t pass comment on the quality of the lad’s writing because the poor boy has been given a highly entertaining kicking by GU readers. Here’s just some of the very very negative responses.
Reallynay: Nil interest. Full stop.
teganjovanka: Bring back national service.
DaveWinters: Instead of setting off on yet another inane, identikit trip around Asia before you take up your place at Oxbridge (or wherever), why don’t you leave your family’s Highgate mansion FOR GOOD, cut yourself off from your father’s allowance, move into a council estate in Salford, STAY THERE, and then consider writing a blog about your experiences. Why does our society only grant a voice to those with nothing to say?
Calleprofunda: This has to be by far the least interesting thing I’ve ever stumbled across on this website. I mean, really? I’m sure Max is ‘an-alright-kinda-guy’ and he will have fun on his holiday (yes ‘holiday’, it’s funny how by labelling it ‘travelling’, people somehow attach some sort of profundity to their couple of months lounging and partying in the sun). He’ll make a few new friends, see some beautiful sights/ landscapes, take some fun drugs etc etc…exhilirating stuff. Seriously, is this guy’s holiday really worthy of a blog advertised on the main page of the website? Have you nothing better to put on your website. Shame on you guardian.co.uk
Realsocialdad: who, in God’s name, thought this would be a good idea?
Lameplanet: He looks like a cliche, talks like a cliche, and is about to embark on a monumental cliche.
IvorMarlow: I noticed a problem with the site: under every post there’s this: “Offensive? Unsuitable?” Then a report button. Except on the top one. You know, Max’s post.
Benulek: Oh Christ, this guy’s going to get an absolute hammering. [Guardian Unlimited] commissioning editors, you are cruel, cruel beasts. I almost feel sympathetic. Almost. Don’t forget, poverty is sad, but kinda authentic and like ennobling, mmmhmmm. Why does nobody go looking for themselves in Belarus?
Luwinta: Please take it down. It’s not fair.
Things really start to hot up when people notice that the 19-year-old wannabe wordsmith, one Max Gogarty, shares a surname with a journalist who had written for the Guardian on travel.
Cevicheater: …and who on the Guardian is he related to?
Madame: Well, given that Paul Gogarty is a travel writer for the Guardian, I guess that answers the question about who he’s related to …Aikers: It seems there is a Paul Gogarty who already writes for the Guardian Travel section. Coincidence? I think not.I like the Guardian usually, but sometimes, they don’t half get it wrong. Moneyed youngster goes travelling to the usual places to get drunk and meet girls? Well, bugger me, a stroke of genius.MacDonald: This is excellent stuff. Normally the Guardian, along with our other fine press establishments, manage to hide from their readers the fact that journalism is one of the most neoptistic industries in the country. The ‘work experience’ to children and friends’ children; the unpaid work you have to do to get in – – but now, true to its politics, the Guardie has blown the lid on all of that. Hats off to them, that’s what I say. May this be the start of great transparency – I suggest a weekly list of whose kids are benefitting from the paper’s largesse at that moment.
Somewhat unsportingly, one reader compared a quote from Max’s post to an article his father had written about taking him to Thailand half a decade ago:
Sonofagun: “every one I’ve spoken to is making no secret of the fact that Thailand should be pretty damn decadent.” Max, you were only in Thailand five years ago when your father wrote an article about your trip for this very newspaper. Cast your mind back to that holiday. That’s what Thailand will be like. The link is here, in case you’ve forgotten: http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2002/apr/06/bangkok.thailand.familyholidays
But fair play to the Graun, they’ve left a large number of the posts up there. And there’s even this post:
Hello everyone, I’m the editor of the site. Thanks for all your comments. Just to clear up a couple of points. Yes, well spotted, Max is the son of Paul Gogarty, who has written a few travel pieces for the Guardian over the years, though he isn’t a Guardian employee. Max got in touch with us because he writes occasionally for the TV programme Skins. He wants to write an honest account of what teenagers get up to on their travels, and we hope you might be able to give him tips about what to see and do when he’s in Thailand and India – how to make the most of it, what to avoid… Plus, if you’ve seen other travel blogs you’d like to recommend, do send links for us to add. Some of you have mentioned that you’d like to be given the chance to write about your travels. We’re always looking for good writers, so feel free to drop us a line at email@example.com.
Afterthought: It occurred to me during the long watches of the night that this sums up the dilemma of online publishers. Traffic is governed by the iron rule of the power law distribution. Because of the famed long tail associated with this content sites need to have as many bits of content on them as possible to A) serve niches and B) increase traffic. The long tail means that every piece of content has its place, that it will be of interest to somebody. The secret to high traffic is to have enough of these items to appeal to as many niches as possible. Someone, somewhere will be interested in Max’s holiday (even if it’s just his dad and chums) so the GU is serving a niche in a way. But at the same time it’s pissing off its core readership. Aye, there’s the rub.