Corner Brook was recently placed in the number one spot on a list of the top 13 small cities in Canada. On another list from the same website, Bay Roberts was posted the number one place in Canada people should leave. I’m sure many residents of Corner Brook feel that their listing makes perfect sense, but how meaningful are these posts?
To me, these posts contain semi-random selections based on inconsistent criteria or, in some cases, no criteria at all. One commenter best put the listings in perspective by pointing out that Saint John, N.B. showed up in the number two spot on both lists. The fact that a place can be considered both the second best small city in Canada and one of the top places to flee points to an overall lack of consistency and newsworthiness.
In truth, one of the lists has much more in the way of references to actual data to support the choice put forth. For example, crime rates and unemployment statistics are occasionally included.
However, so are criteria like the number of new cars in an area and yes, even the smell. Having visited one of the so called smelly places on the list several times over the last few years, I can say with certainty that this point at least is out of date.
You may wonder why anyone would even go through the trouble of putting this kind of content together. Not surprisingly, as it is with so other many things, the motivation is financial.Positive and negative listings are designed to promote sharing the site with others. Either you’re pleased that an anonymous person on the Internet thinks your town is tops, or you’re so upset at the negative spin that you point out the perceived flaws to anyone who will listen.
The end result is the same, more page views and links back to the content. The people who write articles like this don’t care if you agree. They simply want to drive traffic. Everything about this site and so many others like it point to this simple fact.
Several revenue streams
How do people make money from sites like this? In this case, there are several revenue streams. The most obvious one is the advertisements that litter the top side and bottom of the page. A small percentage of visitors will click these links. Each time they do, a small fee is paid out. The end goal has a much higher payout though.
The company who registered this website’s domain specializes in the sale and development of domain names. That means the most important thing to them is not the content, but the URL itself. The content is created to drive up the value of the domain name. Each time someone visits the site or shares a link to the site, the intrinsic value is increased. Why?
Because traffic and links mean a higher ranking on search engines like Google. They are many other factors but these are two of the key items. If a lot of people are looking at a site, it must be somewhat relevant, right?
It costs a relatively small amount to buy a domain name, and there are ways to host a website on the cheap as well.
It didn’t take some people long to realize that ad revenue and the occasional sale of a domain could more than offset the costs. Data from the last few years show domains being resold for hundreds, thousands, even millions of dollars.
My best advice for handling content like this? Don’t feed the troll.
That is, ignore random negative opinion pieces. Instead of trying to directly counteract them by commenting or sharing the link to see if others agree, let it die on its own. By directly engaging you are making the content more powerful through additional page views and links.
A better approach is to build your own good press. Give others the means, opportunity (and reason) to give positive feedback. Then promote that.
For the record, at least one person who saw the negative piece on Bay Roberts had lovely things to say:
“ ... my husband’s dad was with the RCMP and one of their postings was to Bay Roberts, Nfld. You ask my husband, that was the BEST place they have ever lived. Beautiful scenery, kind people, tonnes of things for children to do, great town.”
Jon Reid is an IT professional working in Corner Brook. His column appears every other Tuesday in The Western Star.