The only way to deal with online trolling is to ignore it and let it die

It’s easy to draw attention if you don’t have any standards for yourself. Don’t believe me? Just strip naked and start loudly abusing passers by in your local shopping centre and you’ll have eyeballs on you before long.

Now, as the crowd swells around you, some to fight you, others to watch the chaos, happy that they aren’t involved, start holding up a few signs with adverts on them to the gathered crowd.

That might sound ridiculous to you but it’s the current business model of the Irish Independent’s, and others’ website. News media organisations are, on the whole, dying on the bones of their arses at the moment because people aren’t really buying national papers anymore.

Guinness PRO14, Irish Independent Park, Co. Cork 5/4/2019 Munster vs Cardiff Blues A view of the rainfall during the game Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

That, in itself, wouldn’t be a bad thing because a website is cheaper to maintain year on year than a daily print and delivery newspaper system is but when you look at it, the means of actually getting paid is quite different.

A newspaper in a shop has to be purchased, after all, so, outside the ads within the newspaper, any eyeballs looking at the product have paid for it.

If you have got a print circulation of 20,000 papers a day and a profit margin of, say, a euro on every paper as sold, you can work out the bobs in hand before any ad sales are brought into the equation.

The bigger your circulation, the more you can charge for ads but the adverts business is secondary to the primary business – paper sales to people who want to read your newspaper.  

Now, think about it, when was the last time you bought a national newspaper three days in a row?

That’s the problem. If people aren’t buying papers then the circulation goes down. If the circulation is down then advert value goes down. One hurts the other until there’s nothing at all left.

Free-sheet newspapers, on the other hand, rely on a big circulation of people just picking up the newspaper and to drive ad sales.

If the ad sales outweigh the print cost and delivery, free sheets make money. National newspapers have a similar model for their online offerings.

Eyeballs come in, you are tracked as a unique viewer, you get served a few ads (if you’re one of the few people left without an ad blocker) and the company makes money from their ad partner for facilitating the viewing of the advert.

It worked, for a while, but the click economy has slowly revealed itself to be built on sand, lies and inflated Facebook traffic.

Heineken Champions Cup Semi-Final, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, England 20/4/2019 Saracens vs Munster Munster’s Jean Kleyn makes a break Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Revenue from online is down and people aren’t buying newspapers so what do you do?

Well, you look for colour. You look for traffic wherever you can get it. You cover what gets people emotional because if people are emotional, they want to act on that emotion. The easiest place to do that is in sports media.

Sports are the soft part of people’s week. Be it soccer, rugby, GAA  and in the non-stop pressure of adult life, they are a kind of emotional release valve for a lot of people.

Newspapers know that content you could never write about politics or current affairs, for fear of being taken to the cleaners in the courts, can easily be written about sports and sports teams.

This is where shock-jock columnists like MacKenna, Francis and others come in. They will attack the soft part of your week and hope you come to see the mess they’ve made.

They are the ulcer that papers like the Irish Independent hope you can’t stop pressing with your tongue.

You ask how the Irish Independent could publish Ewan MacKenna’s article on Munster last week when they have a naming rights sponsorship with Musgrave Park?

Munster Rugby signed a 10 year deal with the Irish Independent for the naming rights for of Musgrave Park back in 2014. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

They need you to hate the article, click on it to hate it even more, hope you don’t have an ad blocker, and then hope you stay on the article long enough so they can use your traffic and time on the article to package together something to pitch to advertisers directly.

You don’t need to like the content to be valuable. You just need to see it. They don’t care that MacKenna’s article, built off the back of trolling on Anthony Foley’s name on Twitter all of last week, was the usual rubbish because they need the hate-read traffic that badly.

If you don’t like the content a newspaper or website is giving you, the best thing you can do to hurt them back is to erase them from your internet self.

Get a website blocker and put them on it. Block the journalists on social media who want to profit from your anger.

That is the way to creating the content you want to see as a consumer. If you hate it, let it die a death in silence.

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