Sarah Palin Nude -- sounds silly, doesn't it? That's what I thought when I wrote my spoof. I've been writing spoof news - joke articles for website thespoof.com - for about a year and a half. I stumbled on the site one day on a Google News search and I was hooked.
First some background: TheSpoof.com is a poor man's The Onion. The Onion is probably the leading "fake news" website. It is professionally run, has professional comedy writers, and started out as a print publication. It supposedly has a print circulation of nearly 700,000. It does have a website as well.
The Spoof is a little different. I like to call it a Web 2.0 version of The Onion. Instead of having paid professional writers, articles are written by volunteers who write just for fun. The site does offer some level of feedback for writers, who are to some extent motivated by this feedback. We can see how often our stories are read, and users can also rate our stories from one to five stars.
The ratings are fickle - most readers don't bother voting, so many stories don't get rated, and many popular stories get few votes. Also, many of the votes come from other writers, who may have biases or just tastes different from the general public. So the number of times our stories are read is the major feedback.
Early on in my writing I realized that certain kinds of stories would be read by larger numbers of people. Stories that do well tend to involve celebrities or famous politicians. My first "big" story (over 1000 views) was about John McCain and Ron Paul. These celebrity stories weren't always smash hits, but it seemed like stories with Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, or presidential candidates like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and especially Ron Paul did well.
About a year ago I wrote a story titled Britney Spears Naked At Birth, Her Mom Reveals. That was a bigger hit. It turns out that combining certain words with a celebrity name significantly increases the results. This was a precursor to the eventual Sarah Palin Nude blockbuster. Words like nude, naked, the politically incorrect MILF (a reference to attractive mothers), video or photos, combined with a celebrity name like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, or Jamie Lynn Spears, tended to bring in more views.
Phrases like these, out in the "long tail" of internet searches, tend to bring in more viewers because the page you create is more likely to show up well on search results - due to less competition. I didn't write too many of these stories. I was more into Ron Paul, since I'm a big fan of him (I was even paid as an attorney on his campaign).
Then the Sarah Palin nomination broke into the news. I hadn't written a spoof news story in a week, and had only recently started writing any after layoff of a couple months. The muse struck me and I wrote Sarah Palin Nude Democrats Dig for Dirt.
The numbers were stunning. Only one other story I had written before broke the 10,000 views mark, after it had been on the site for several months. It was a Miley Cyrus story.
The Sarah Palin Nude spoof broke 10,000 views in a little over a day. In less than a week, it cleared 45,000 views. A second spoof, Sarah Palin Hot Photos in Demand -- , while not quite as popular, broke 10,000 views in less than 3 days. The website has a listing of top writers for the past 7 days, and in the past I had made it into the top 5 on occasion. The top writer usually had 25,000 or so views in that period. I shot into first place on Sarah Palin's back, with over 60,000 points as of this writing in the past 7 days.
I can't say whether any of this is worth anything to anyone other than The Spoof owners, who probably make some money on Google ads. For me, I enjoy writing comedy even though my writing is probably not that funny. The surge to the top has provoked numerous parodies of me on the site by other writers, which I find flattering.
The whole Sarah Palin Nude spoof incident, and other things I've noticed, have made me wonder a bit. First, it's amazing that so many people are doing searches for Sarah Palin nude (or Sarah Palin hot photos, etc.). Is anyone searching for John McCain nude? Okay, I sure hope not. You'd think that for a vice-presidential nominee, there would be more searches for her views on abortion rights, or other matters of public policy.
I've seen a ton of comments about what she wore during her speech to the Republican convention - and nothing about what McCain, Obama, or Biden wore. Concerns about her having 5 kids seem odd since Gore had about that many when he ran for VP, and Romney has about that many kids too. Despite my writing these spoofs, I actually listened to her convention speech and didn't even notice what she was wearing. Her family life, celebrity, and the existence or non-existence of hot nude photos will have no impact on my vote in the election. I sure hope that's true for the rest of the voters.