Let’s take the DeLorean for a ride and step back in time to November 2012. On that day Pete Wells, a food critic for the New York Times, wrote a blistering critique of Guy Fieri’s new Times Square restaurant, the forgettable and generically named: Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen and Bar. Who’s Guy Fieri, you ask. He’s the peroxide-blonde, spike-haired host of the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, a man who, at best, looks like he should be working under the flame-decaled hood of a muscle car and not stirring a pot of flaming Creole gumbo, and at worst, resembles a karaoke stand-in for punk rocker Billy Idol and not a chef who knows anything about cuisine. In the world of food, presentation is everything.
Pete Wells’ review of Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen and Bar is written as an open letter, and each statement is addressed as a question. Here’s a sample of the type of vitriolic bon-bons Mr. Wells lets loose:
A) “Did panic grip your soul as you stared into the whirling hypno wheel of the menu, where adjectives and nouns spin in a crazy vortex?”
B) “Were you struck by how very far from awesome the Awesome Pretzel Chicken tenders are?”
C) “When you hung that sign by the entrance that says, Welcome to Flavor Town!, were you just messing with our heads?”
Ok, so maybe this review is a classic example of some snobby, la-de-da New York food critic socking it to a blue collar cook because he likes burgers and fries and not escargots a la Bourguignonne. Still, in no time at all, the review was number one on the Times most viewed and most emailed lists. Click after click after click, people liked it, loved it, shared it. A little helping of provocation resulted in Internet gold.
Whether you mastermind a blog or work for content writer services, a dose of rabble-rousing can bring some flare to your writing. Internet content has long been criticized for being bland, generic, commercial, vanilla, and too easily digestable. Of course, that’s not to say you should start biting the hand that feeds you, nor does it mean you should alienate and ostracize your reader/client base. It means simply this: if you want to start racking up those clicks, there’s nothing wrong with injecting a little youthful revolt into your writing.
Vice Media, a company started as an investigative journal in Montreal in the mid-nineties, has made provocation its brand. Vice is criticized for having a sensibility that’s adolescent and boorish, but their goal is to be the largest network for young people in the world, so adolescent and boorish sounds about right. In 2011, Vice Media was valued at $200 million, which isn’t bad for a company that U.S. News & World Report called more “Jackass” than journalism. Like many companies before it, Vice’s big move came when it shifted focus from print to video; its YouTube channel has over a million subscribers. The Vice brand is defined by website articles like “New York Fashion Week…On Acid” and “India’s Street Doctors Will Bleed the Sickness Right out of You.”
In other words, provocation sells. However, it’s an acquired taste, much like Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen and Bar.
Damon H is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.