These Product Review columns always do pretty well over at Cracked, even as comedic fiction in general nosedives into oblivion. There are obvious reasons for that: The PR columns start off with a numbered list, and Cracked scans really high in the OCD/numerically themed vampire demographics, so that’s always a plus. They also introduce real information right up front, thus giving the readers some grounding before launching into the weird prose. It makes sense that they would do well even as fiction fails.
But the surprising part is the reader response: Most people are pleasantly surprised that I tricked them into reading fiction. They say they only gave it a chance because there were real product reviews in a numbered list, but they, much to their own surprise, enjoyed the story section more. Readers intentionally avoid prose when they visit the site – you can see it in the numbers. Even true stories and humorous anecdotes are traffic death. The pure comedy, anecdotal and fiction pieces do maybe 1/5th the traffic of even the most generic numbered list.
I’m not bitter or complaining – half those generic numbered lists are from me, after all – I just find it curious that, if you can find a device to trip readers up and send them sprawling into a big stinking pile of prose, they’ll actually wallow around in there and enjoy themselves. Is this an intellectual posturing thing? Has pop culture turned some sort of literary corner? The prevailing attitude these days seems to be that reading stories is for kids, while adults read exclusively about cold, hard facts. I feel like that’s a recent trend (recent as in, last fifty years or so). Though I wonder if that’s just ignorance of past generation’s popular reading on my part. I’m really only basing that assumption on the fact that I can name a dozen classic fiction books from every decade of the last century, and yet there are maybe only two non-fiction books that survived the years.
I guess fiction has never really been big online, which is strange, because this is, without a doubt, the most literary age in history. We all carry around phones and tablets in our pockets and bags; we spend all day staring at words, words, words. Words for work, words for fun, words to communicate with friends and strangers alike. But stories are more marginalized than ever. The internet started off as a tool, then it grew to a research journal, then a media center. Somewhere along the way, it even became a stinking sex dungeon and amateur doctor. It’s just weird to me that the one thing it’s struggling to be is a library.