Well, here we are, ten years since I first put The Sleaze online. Not that anyone else seems to care – traffic is still hitting rock bottom (and has been since the beginning of the year – it took a further nosedive at the start of February, and has never really recovered), and the official tenth anniversary story has failed to create the level of offence I’d hoped for. That said, I’m quite proud of the latest story – Christ the Kink? – even if it didn’t generate any death threats against me. It was a relatively last minute choice, replacing the planned story – about police corruption – which, I decided, just wasn’t offensive enough. Instead, I decided that as it was Easter and the site’s tenth anniversary, a religious story was called for, and the Catholic church, with its ongoing paedophile scandal, provided the perfect subject matter to cause maximum offence. The resulting story is a throwback to the good old days of the site – conceived and written quickly, with a minimum of editing. Whilst giving it a rough and ready feel, this process also lends the story a certain feeling of immediacy, I think. I rather miss the days when most of the stuff I produced for The Sleaze was written ‘on-the-fly’ like this. Mind you, I could end up writing more stuff in this manner before this issue is out. With a General Election having been called, I’ve shelved the other stories I had planned for this anniversary issue, and instead, will be aiming to come up with some more political stories ‘ripped from the headlines’, so to speak. Whether this will help the traffic situation, I have no idea. The first election-related story – Fuelling Extremism – did produce a twenty four hour spike in traffic, so you never know. But getting back to the point – ten years on the web. The problem I’m facing is – how do you celebrate this sort of anniversary? Should I run a special bumper issue full of giveaways? Should I put out a commemorative issue, with printable facsimiles of the first issue’s front page and other significant stories and features? Perhaps I should commission a series of pieces by well-known celebrities, all telling us what ten years of The Sleaze means to them? Maybe I should just organise some kind of red carpet gala event, packed full of A-list celebs, in order to mark the occasion.
But, of course, I haven’t done any of those things. In fact, I’ve pretty much decided to do bugger all to celebrate. The fact is that nobody else gives a damn that we’ve notched up ten years. That’s not me being a miserable git. It’s just a fact of life on the web. To most people stumbling upon The Sleaze, or any other site for that matter, for the first time, it’s brand new. The fact that it has a back catalogue of stories going back a decade is irrelevant to them. And whether we like it or not, most visitors to sites simply stumble upon them as a result of poorly framed search engine requests. Which isn’t to say that ten years online isn’t quite an achievement. Indeed, at a time when sites seem to come and go in a matter of months, ten years seems an eternity. Obviously, when I started, I didn’t think The Sleaze would last past ten issues, when, I calculated, I’d run out of material. Then I revised this to three years, then five, then ten. Well, I’ve reached ten now, so I’m not sure what the next target will be. But before looking forwards, perhaps we should look back, and ask what, if anything, I’ve achieved in these past ten years by putting out The Sleaze. Has it brought me fame and fortune? Obviously not. But that was never the intention. To be honest, I can’t really remember exactly what my intentions were when I started the site. Simply to get my somewhat skewed vision of what constitutes humour online, I suppose. Certainly, I’d looked at the smattering of humour and satire sites which were around in those days and felt that, whilst some of them were amusing, none of them were really doing anything as ‘edgy’ or off-beat as I wanted to do. There’s no doubt that in those early days the humour in The Sleaze knew no bounds in terms of subject matter or taste. There’s also no doubt that as the years have gone by, the subject matter of the stories has narrowed somewhat, reflecting my own changing interests, and we’ve curbed our tendency to be outrageous simply for the sake of it. Not that we’re not still prepared to be outrageous for the sake of satire. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s those supposedly ‘cutting edge’ satire sites which always try to play it safe and pull their punches in order to stay advertiser and general audience friendly. If you don’t want to risk offending people, then get out of the satire business!
But what of the future? Should we all be looking forward to the next ten years of sleaze? After all, that’s what media types always seem to say on this sort of occasion. To be honest, I really don’t think that I have the stamina for another ten years. The continual battle to keep traffic levels up, which have characterised the last two years, have really taken it out of me. Whereas getting indexed properly by search engines used to be a fairly straightforward affair, lately it has been getting more and more difficult, not only to get your site indexed, but to keep it indexed. Particularly where Google is concerned. Google’s domination of web searches means that I have to spend ever increasing amounts of time just monitoring how it is indexing The Sleaze, time I’d rather be spending creating new content. There’s only so long I’m prepared to keep working at such an uphill struggle. Having said all that, the fact that I’ve recently renewed the domain name for another two years implies the site will be around for at least that amount of time. Ultimately, looking back over the last ten years, I have to say that I found the web a lot more fun when I started out. It was still young and wild then. People hadn’t a clue whether they could make money out of it, or, indeed, what it was actually for, so the whole net seemed dominated by amateurs and hobbyists. Nowadays it seems too commercialised and risk averse. Moreover, sites these days all look the same – bland. I really miss the days before social networks and blogs came to dominate personal web presences – I miss all those wild and wonderful personal websites people used to build. They were fun. But then again, perhaps it is just me that’s changed. Until the next time sleaze hounds, keep it sleazy!