The Internet “Grocery Aisle” Shakedown

February 20, 2020

“THREE MILLION TOTAL HITS” — Congratulations, you are eligible for the Internet “Grocery Aisle” Shakedown!

This blog will mark the seventh anniversary of its regular publication in June. Averaging around four posts a fortnight in recent years, I have deliberately deviated from the usual advice given to bloggers about reaching an audience: choose one subject and focus exclusively on that. In contrast, I try to avoid any pattern in a choice of subjects.

One thing is obvious: I don’t keep this blog going for “bragging rights”: it is never going to have dozens – let alone hundreds or thousands — of visitors a day. On a statistical level, I calculate that this blog will hit the 3,000,000 mark in terms of “total hits” sometime this coming April. That probably translates to a couple thousand distinct visitors as actual total readership. It is what it is: if other blogs on cultural and political matters have had 300,000 visitors in the past seven years, I salute them.

It’s probably for the best that I work in a very small theater, for I become self-conscious all too easily. In fact, I’ve never been particularly good at anything that requires confidence. I’m much more familiar with having to prove myself with sheer persistence, so the script of this blog’s fate is indeed a comfortable fit.

About six months ago, however, I started getting phone calls and e-mails from social media manipulators, each of whom claimed to be experts about increasing my blog’s prominence. At firs they tried flattery: according to their calculations, my blog ranked at a slightly above average level in terms of attracting an audience (a statement that is obviously untrue). Then came their pitch: with a simple adjustment of certain algorithms, my blog would be the one that showed up when certain topics were entered in a browser. If I were willing to pay a consulting fee of $1500 to gain access to this corporate dexterity, I was assured that I would see a dramatic increase in my readership, and would thereby be able to sell advertising.

In other words, dear reader, this was a “shake-down” similar to what happens in supermarkets. Do you want your company’s boxes of cereal at eye-level when customers push their carts down the grocery aisles? Well, then, you better be prepared to give a better discount on what you charge for your product. “Pay to play” is still the name of the only game in town, and my blog is not exempt from being solicited.

No thanks.