Wednesday 21 February 2018

Conor McGregor wants you to read this article

The over-rated Lionel Messi Photo: Reuters / Thomas Peter
The over-rated Lionel Messi Photo: Reuters / Thomas Peter
Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

Ed Sheeran, Caitlyn Jenner, Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor, pornography, Charlie Hebdo, Charlie Haughey, new iPhone, Operation Transformation, porn, Lamar Odom, Adele and how to use Snapchat.

This column is about none of those things but, hopefully, if people continue to search for any of those items, it will pop up and garner a couple of extra clicks. All bar two of those items are among the most searched for on Google in 2015 (the other two are probably more searched for than is reported), so having these keywords prominent could be crucial, even if they have nothing to do with anything.

McGregor, in particular, earns so many page views that, if he ever got bored of The Notorious as a nickname, The Brick Hithouse would be an appropriate title given the amount of web traffic he generates. That's the reason why he appears in so many headlines and, in the same way that Mayor Quimby in The Simpsons would vote for you if you were running for Mayor, I'm almost certain that Conor McGregor would want you to read this article.

A person with a background in print discussing the value of page views can often sound like an oil lamp salesman complaining about this new fangled electricity stuff but, when it starts to affect careers, it becomes a little more important.


Last week, a local English newspaper decided that its reporter would no longer be covering Barnet games because of a lack of clicks, as they explained on their Twitter account which, ironically, got plenty of clicks, retweets and shares.

"The job will be outsourced so there will still be reports on matchdays. In short, Barnet FC won't be covered as forensically as they have in recent years & this goes for in-game tweets too," explained the @Barnet_Bee Twitter account of Newsquest North London's decision.

"This is a tough decision which nobody wanted to take but the bottom line is the hits v hours put in doesn't tally … Carlisle away was a 16-hour day for a couple of hundred hits at best."

The reporter in question, Tom Bodell, admitted he was "not happy about the decision, (but) it's the only logical thing to do from their point of view".

This followed on from Trinity Mirror's plans earlier in the year in Birmingham and Coventry to hold reporters to account for the number of page views their stories received, including the immortal line "the days are long gone when we could afford to be a paper of record and dutifully report everything that happened on our patch".

When it comes to football, reporters will get far more page views for saying Arsenal are on the brink of a shock £45m move for Karim Benzema or suggesting that Lionel Messi is over-rated than they will for a story or opinion piece which might actually have taken some effort.

'The numbers don't lie' is a line regularly trotted out by decision makers but, at times, you have to hope there is somebody, somewhere in charge looking a little deeper into them.

In June, as he does so often, Vincent Hogan wrote a superb piece in these pages about Jimmy Doyle after the Tipperary legend's death and how much he meant to those people in his county and community.

"Jimmy Doyle loved the game of hurling, but not as much as he loved the bond it created endlessly between men. His greatness was always destined to outlive him, but this sudden passing still sends a throb of sadness though the game. A giant has slipped into the next room," he wrote.

Simple, eloquent language that, probably, hopefully, was appreciated by anybody who read it. It's impossible to gauge numbers who read it in print but, as of the last count last week, it got approximately 3,400 page views on

On the same day, the Evil Kagawa Twitter account noticed - perhaps from somebody else's account - that Liverpool had gone from SAS (Suarez and Sturridge) to LMFAO (Lambert, Milner, Firmino, Allen and Origi).

For anybody not familiar, LMFAO usually means 'Laughing My F****** Ass Off', which is why a parody account which could be run by Alf Garnett based around the apparently furious former Manchester United player got some traction for the tweet. In fact, again as of the last count, the article referencing this had got 7,400 page views on - 4,000 more than one of the best writers in the country writing about one of the best hurlers there has ever been.

By the rationale that the numbers don't lie, a story rewriting a parody Twitter account is worth more than twice the value of the Doyle tribute. If the numbers don't lie, the truth they reveal is a little bit terrifying.

The future will consist of journalists writing stories which may or may not be true but have done their job once people have clicked on the link. For added numbers, the writer could spend several hours of their day pressing the Refresh button on their screen to artificially increase their own numbers. If an advert pops up and, by clicking off it they accidentally close the story and have to re-open it, that will count as two clicks and, unlike golf, a double-hit is actively encouraged. 'Pagiarism' may replace plagiarism as the scourge of future journalism.

With that in mind, this is a Christmas appeal for hits which will cost you nothing other than refreshing this page or retweeting. If you're really feeling generous, go to another link or two on the page and click. Again, you don't have to read it because in the 'show us your hits' era, the click is king.

Think of it as a social experiment where somebody can write any nonsense they may or may not have written before and it gains credibility simply because of high numbers. Go on, hit refresh, retweet and share. It's what Conor McGregor would want you to do.

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