I’m beginning to feel like the last man standing. With regard to satire-based web sites, that is, not with regard to wrestling, bare-knuckle fighting or competitive drinking, obviously. There always has been a high attrition rate amongst satire sites, but just lately they seem to have been dropping like flies. The other day I decided to click through the various member sites listed at Humorfeed and was shocked at how many either no longer existed, or were clearly defunct, having not been updated in months, even years. The worrying thing is that these aren’t fly-by-night identikit sites set up by opportunists trying to make money from smothering their pages in AdSense ads, we’re talking about decent, well-written sites of several years standing, here. What’s gone wrong? I’ve no doubt that the past year or so of Google using algorithm changes to effectively destroy the traffic of many smaller, non-commercial, sites has taken its toll. Market saturation probably hasn’t helped, with too many low-quality sites of the type I alluded to earlier, pulling down the reputation of the whole field. Then there’s fatigue – many webmasters have probably just grown tired of cranking out stories for little or no reward, and certainly no recognition.

Moreover, I’m sure than many others have simply found that their priorities have changed – growing families, work pressures and so on, leave them with less and less time to indulge what is, after all, only a hobby. Then again, maybe we’ve fallen out of fashion. Perhaps in this new-fangled web of on-demand video and social networking, our text-based sites are just seen by the current generation of net users as out-dated. They expect their satire to be served up in different formats: You Tube videos, podcasts or Twitter feeds. I fear that we’ve become like the dinosaurs in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World: left behind by evolution and existing only in a remote and isolated enclave, unknown to most of the world. Whatever the reason, the failure of so many satire sites has left me feeling lonely and isolated. Time was, that if you ran such a site, you could feel that you were part of a community. Those days seem to have passed. Indeed, as if to emphasise this, even the member forums at Humorfeed seem to have vanished. That’s right – vanished. Overnight and without warning or explanation. To whomever it might concern – what the fuck’s going on?

Not that it’s all doom and gloom. Obviously, new sites continue to appear – most short-lived, and some have come back. Satire Wire, for instance has started publishing again after an eight year gap. Not that anyone has noticed. That isn’t intended as some kind of dig at the quality of Satire Wire, (which was highly regarded by many during its original run), but a reflection of the current situation – one of the ‘big names’ of the satire field returns, with no fanfare, no mention on other sites or message boards. It should be news, but, it seems, nobody cares. Like I said, that old sense of community seems to be stone cold dead.  All-in-all, I’m rapidly growing very disillusioned by the World Wide Web. Maybe it’s because I’m turning into a curmudgeonly old git, but the net just doesn’t seem to have fulfilled the potential it seemed to have a decade ago. I liked the early days, before big business and commerce moved in en masse, when most of the content was created by enthusiastic amateurs. Again, there was more of a sense of community back then.

Nowadays, the web has degenerated into some kind of demented mass junk mail delivery system. Sites no longer seem to be designed to deliver information or entertain or exchange ideas, now they are simply platforms for trying to sell you stuff you don’t want. The actual content is of secondary importance to all the on page ads and pop-ups. I’m getting increasingly angry at web pages that take forever to load because of the number of ads they carry, and that frequently freeze my browser as they attempt to launch pop-ups. Even when they do finally load, more often than not I find that the information promised in the link I originally clicked on simply isn’t there. Even worse are those bloody sites where some supposed web guru tells you how you too can get rich quick through some idiotic scheme or another. Does anybody actually believe any of the cobblers on those sites? Does anybody believe that the people who write them have actually made a living through the methods they describe, (other than by charging the unwary for the privilege of downloading their latest e-book detailing the ‘secrets’ of their success)? A lot of these people claim to be successful web developers or content providers, yet seem to have trouble even keeping a WordPress blog going.

I remember one of these guys who had a blog where he offered his services for writing bespoke articles – apparently he’d spend up to fifty minutes writing a thousand words, as I recall! Oh, and he’d research any article he wrote first. Wow, no shit? Amazingly, he claimed to actually make money with this ‘professional’ approach to writing. But then, the content that gets stuck between the ads in the kinds of sites he probably wrote for doesn’t have to be particularly well-written or researched. It just has to contain the right density of keywords to get ranked by Google. Anyway, this guy – let’s call him Cock Face, I know I do – he later changed his blog to contain a series of articles telling people how to make money on line. It was all the usual stuff about finding a niche subject to blog about, build up a readership, then try to sell them junk. Sorry, products. These products were usually some form of get rich scheme – which itself usually turned out to be selling the same kind of scheme to other suckers for a commission. Pyramid schemes, in other words. Obviously, this didn’t make money for Cock Face, as all the content vanished from his blog, with the whole thing eventually replaced by a generic placeholder. It doesn’t exactly fill you full of confidence when the supposed web developer guru can’t even provide sufficient content to keep his own site going, does it?

I suppose the point I’m groping toward is that sites designed simply to make money are, generally speaking, a complete waste of time. They aren’t produced out of love and passion for their subject matter. Consequently, when the promised millions fail to flow, they’re quickly abandoned. Which, I suspect, is the reason for the failure of many of the more recent satire and humour sites. It’s also the reason why I keep writing The Sleaze and don’t just walk away in the face of declining readership – I do it out of love. (Of course, it probably helps that I’m also a sad single bastard with too much time on his hands). The fact is that most of the sites I still visit myself are clearly the work of enthusiasts who want to share their own love of their particular subject with like-minded individuals. I’d like to think that it’s the same with The Sleaze, that I’m sharing my love for satire with a sympathetic hard core regular readership. So, regular readers, until next time, keep it sleazy!

Doc Sleaze