When giving advice to new bloggers as to what kind of content grabs the most readers, the most comments, and the most shares on social media, most elder statesmen of the blogging community will say that controversy sells.
While this is true for the most part, many of them leave it at that. If they had carried the thoughtful advice to its fruition, it would definitely be good advice, but leaving the new blogger with just “controversy sells” is an open invitation to trouble.
Controversy does sell, however, if not approached correctly, controversial subjects poorly handled will drive traffic away from the blog and bring about the wrong kind of attention.
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Walking the Controversy Tightrope
There is controversy, and then there is controversy. Determining between the two can be a delicate dance between common sense, the desire to draw attention, and just plain foolishness. Very often, the lines are invisible. To use an extreme example, one would not bring up 9-11, the infamous and terribly sad attack upon innocent Americans, in anything but a delicate and extremely sympathetic light for its victims or an outrage at the horrible terrorists that carried it out.
To do anything else would be controversial at best. For all of you new to the blogging game, here are a couple of important tips that you may want to heed. These tips expound upon the “controversy sells” advice, taking it to its logical and extremely delicate conclusion.
Readers Love Controversy
People, as a general rule, thrive upon controversy. In today’s world, where life is a struggle on an everyday basis for the majority of the population, it is always ‘good’ to read about someone else’s trouble.
However, controversy sells depending upon the controversial subject. There are topics that are more shocking in nature that must be handled in a delicate or removed from the content altogether, but if handled correctly, they can lead to good things such as an increased following and links from other blogs.
1. Third Person Editorial Blogging (With Facts)
The best style with which to tackle a controversial subject is editorial. The majority of editorial is straight reporting in the third person and must include facts. If you are blogging about a controversial subject, it should be factual to a fault. Controversy offends so never as if the views expressed are yours.
But if you must, pick and choose your topics extremely carefully. Remember, you want readers… not enemies. Negative comments are still comments but when you actually offend people, those could be the last comments they post as they will not return, regardless of what you post about in the future.
2. Play Devil’s Advocate with Integrity
There is a huge difference between controversy and Devil’s Advocate, even though playing Devil’s Advocate can be controversial. Playing the Devil’s Advocate means that you take the unpopular side of a controversial topic and show an argument for it.
If you decide to play devil’s advocate, you must be 100% sure of your facts, and approach the topics that offend in a straightforward manner that reflects integrity in writing. Any Devil’s Advocate post that comes across as a rant about your beliefs and not what facts can actually prove will lose more readers than it gains.
3. Beware: One Side May Be the Suicide
There are some topics that can be blogged about but only on the side or righteous indignation against it. Choose controversial subjects that have a clear, dominating majority against, like spousal or child abuse (to which you are obviously outraged). Topics like abuse, crimes against minors, and other obviously controversial and heinous subjects only have one good side.
The other side is blogger suicide. It could also be means for losing your blogging rights on the search engines so tread lightly and watch your step when it comes to these. Only straight reporting and utter disgust for many controversial topics will carry any weight.
4. Leave the Back Door Open
Leave yourself an out on any controversial topic in which you cannot seem to refrain from injecting an opinion that runs against popular consensus. Your closing paragraph is the perfect place to indicate that either your opinions are a reflection of a side of the topic that is not often seen, or just points that you felt should be brought to light during the course of the post.
It takes a lot of skillful writing to apologize without apologizing for any offense that is unintentional or in topics in which anything you say anything outside of the facts could be misconstrued by the majority of readers.
5. Deal With the Blowback Responsibly
Those that comment negatively will return if you politely defend your position and thank the reader as long as you remember not to engage in an argument in the comments. Posting and engaging in an argumentative series of comments will only definitively divide your readership and many will not return.
Never single a comment out for a vindictive rebuttal.
Lastly, unless you are willing to back up what you say at the cost of your readership, steer clear of taking sides in politics, religion, and personal problems.
Be a Blogging Professional
In the end, a carefully constructed blog post about a controversial topic can be a big boost for your blog as long as you are prepared to receive and answer to the comments that will undoubtedly come pouring in. Always handle them with a polite return, thanking the abusive commenter for reading and participating.
Never allow comments through to publication that use offensive language or those to which others might take offense, especially those that accuse racism or other foolishness. The intelligent comments that go against what you were trying to say should be allowed if only to prove that you are willing to receive them and defend your position in a polite manner.