Surf Journalism: Give The People What They Want!
"What interests the public isn't always in the public's interest"
Now there's a saying sure to split journalists into two camps – discerning readers too. It's a line I abided by back when I considered myself the arbiter of journalistic integrity. Serious surfing journalism? Yes, that was me. Earnest and abiding? Yep, that was me too. But note the past tense, readers. I refer to the old me, the 2011 me. It's a new year and I'm turning over a new leaf – this year I'm gonna give you what you want.
There'll be no more withholding information because of antiquated notions such as 'principle' or 'privacy'. The people have a right to know and I shall be the courageous messenger, swayed by neither fear nor favour. No matter how much it hurts, or how much controversy it causes, I will deliver. If it's to do with surfing and you're interested, you will read about it here.
But how is it I know what you want?
The answer to that is found on one of the internet's most visited pages – the Google search page. There, listed below the results, is a nifty little tool called Related Searches. Just type in a topic to search and Google, in its infinite crowd-sourced wisdom, replies with the most popular searches as sought by you - the public – relating to that subject.
It's democratic. It's economic. It's pure marketing genius.
Last year I wrote a few articles on Kelly Slater regarding his wavepool, his surfing performances, and also his ongoing fascination with board design. This year expect more human interest stories pertaining to Old Baldy. The people have spoken and Google has collated your requests - surfing is out, stories about his 'girlfriend' and 'daughter' are in. Expect one on each this year.
Likewise Taj, who despite his progressive freesurfing still draws interest for his off piste proclivities. 'Lara Bingle' and 'girlfriend' are the two most popular searches for the aging pantsman, and they'll be tidy assignments for this keen journo.
A story on Dane Reynolds? Anything mentioning his 'girlfriend Courtney' is guaranteed to rate well. Better than anything to do with his surfing at least.
This will take us up to autumn and with the surf season close at hand it'd be nice to do a few stories on core surfers – Tom Carroll for instance. And the most popular search for the hard-charging power surfer? 'Tom Carroll soft surfboards'.
What about Gerry Lopez, the high priest of surfer cool? The most common enquiry for the one-time Mr Pipeline is 'Gerry Lopez SUP'.
About now some may be wondering about the efficacy of Related Searches, but I can vouch for the accuracy. Searches on Bobby Martinez turned up 'fight', Oscar Wright 'art', and Alana Blanchard 'hot'. For the most part the stereotypes fit the mold, although I admit being perplexed by your interest in Koby Abberton. 'Quotes' is the most common search on the notorious Bra Boy. Might be a short story, that one.
A story on Andy Irons is mandatory, but what's left to say? Never mind what has or hasn't been said, it's clear what you want to hear: 'drugs', 'drug problem', and 'rehab' are the three most common searches on the three-time world champ. And what about his brother Bruce? One word, 'drugs'.
John John Florence is surfing's latest posterboy after bursting onto the World Tour and taking out the World Cup of Surfing in excellent waves at Sunset Beach. Therefore it would only make sense to write a story on Florence. And the most popular search relating to our newest star? 'John John Florence Mom'. Thanks for the hot tip, people.
So that's it. I've stumbled upon the path of least resistance in surf journalism, a path that will pave the way to guaranteed viewer traffic. The topics you most want to read about as voted for by you, the inquisitive reader.