Why Controversy Is So Rewarding Online

Have you noticed that most of the content creators, marketers and other online personalities like to generate controversy? They boast a debate, take a strong political stance, or even personally attack another personality – and then watch as their viewers and readers fight it out in the comments.

Even mainstream news organizations capitalize on this tendency to sacrifice accuracy (and sometimes, journalistic integrity) in order to purposefully offend their readers – or at least make controversial claims. With “shake the pot”.

It’s no secret that controversy sells. But why is controversy such a powerful tool online? And, assuming the controversy is as unhealthy as it seems, is there a different way to proceed?

The power of controversy comes from several overlapping factors.

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Distinction. The web is filled with content with new posts and videos published on an ongoing basis – yet 75 percent of published content gets 0 external links. In other words, the vast majority of the content is not informative, interesting, or useful enough to warrant the acquisition of links.

If you write vanilla content like everyone else, you won’t get noticed. But if you write something less generally accepted, or something provocative, you’ll at least stand out from the crowd; Even if the quality of your content is low, you will earn a huge competitive advantage because of it.

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direct engagement. Controversial content is more likely to engage an audience. Imagine a post on social media that reads,

“Scientific study shows most people think puppies are cute.” How many comments will he get? How much discussion will this take? Some would say that scientists are wasting time and money proving what we already know, but that’s about it.

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Now imagine a post that reads “Scientific study shows people who think puppies are cute are more likely to be serial killers.” Whether this is true or not is unimportant; What matters is that this second post is more likely to get people talking – and as we all know, highly engaging posts tend to do better in every category.

relevance and interest. Generally speaking, it’s better to have a small, devoted, loyal audience than large people who are mostly indifferent. By taking a controversial stance, you will alienate a portion of your audience, but those left will find your content more relevant and interesting. Post enough controversial content, and you’ll eventually generate a cult following of sorts.

novelty. Controversial statements are controversial because they are some combination of new, rare, or controversial. In all these cases, the dispute is different from the usual, routine opinion and comment.

Creating controversial content is a way to provide people with new, exciting content.

Information, research and understanding. In many cases, controversial material lends itself to a better informed, more robust discourse environment – ​​and one that can lead to better public understanding, taking on both sides of the disagreement, assuming they are being controversial. goes. For example, the U.S.

A moderate stance on healthcare will not generate controversy.

Articles with controversial opinions on the topic, such as an emphasis on Medicare-for-all or deregulating the market altogether, will create controversy—and if you read both of these, you’ll probably come away with a more in-depth understanding of the variables. Will go and think. factors involved.

in defense of the dispute

Controversy often makes us uncomfortable. It makes us argue, it confuses us, and it questions our understanding of various subjects. But controversy isn’t always a bad thing.

For starters, controversy can be a way of getting closer to the truth. In legal settings, it is important to have both a prosecuting attorney and a defense attorney; That way, the most extreme views of the case get equal representation, and jurors can find out where the “middle premise” is the truth.

Describing an extreme case can sometimes reveal flaws in traditional schools of thought – and move us closer to the actual truth.

We can also think of brawling as strengthening our ideological immune system, so to speak. Exposure to bad ideas and controversial ideas forces you to think critically – and you may more closely examine other materials you find online.

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