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Veteran Member - Level 12
In case you somehow missed all of the advertising I did for it a few weeks ago, I got published
by Cracked.com, a massively popular comedy site. The article, “6
Hilarious Ways Game Developers Are Screwing With Pirates,” went viral
and got an insane amount of hits. Granted, it wasn’t as successful as
some of Cracked’s other super hits, but it did earn over 1.85 million
views. The best part is that the d*mn thing is still going. It hasn’t
stopped earning traffic, even weeks after publication.
Being published by Cracked was phenomenal. It was an experience like
no other. I loved it. However, that experience wasn’t entirely fun,
easy, or even enjoyable. The fact that I didn’t really emphasize was
that writing for Cracked was one of the hardest, most brutally difficult
things I’ve ever done. The full experience was much different. If
there’s such a thing as hell for writers, it would probably look like
The Reality of Writing for Cracked.com
Cracked, At a Glance
Let’s start with some background. Cracked.com began as a variety site
based on the idea of “educational comedy.” Their material was
strikingly unique because it wasn’t just funny, it taught you fun facts
and trivia. Senior editor David Wong once said “People get a heroin-like
high from learning something new.” Much as you might hate to admit that
your teachers were right, finding out about something interesting is
enjoyable. Granted, while few people enjoy being forced to do calculus,
who wouldn’t want to learn about “7 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Outbreak
Would Fail (Quickly)”?
Cracked hit comedy gold by offering a bizarre mixture of lowbrow,
crude humor mixed in with complex, scientific fact that emphasized
reality over bullsh*t. Cracked writing is the equivalent of Mythbusters
doing their show in writing and liberally sprinkling it with d*ck jokes
and nerd culture references. They took the “truth is stranger than
fiction” vibe of variety magazines and Ripley’s and made it into an
Internet-friendly form. New content is available almost every day,
encouraging readers to check back in frequently and drive up the site’s
The site itself is elegantly designed, offering readers the chance to
spread the Cracked message on Facebook, StumbleUpon, and Reddit. When
you finish an article, the you’re immediately offered the chance to read
another one. One of my friends admitted to staying up for six hours
reading endless nature articles on Cracked. The format constantly pushes
you to read more and more, and it works. As a whole, Cracked.com got
573,098,203 total hits. In four months. That’s over half a billion, or
more hits than The Onion, FunnyorDie, and CollegeHumor, combined. That
kind of traffic translates into serious profits. It’s unknown how much
the site makes from advertising, but their parent company Demand Media
is certainly rolling in the cash.
How can they keep up such a steady stream of material? Easy. By having other people do their work for them.
Running a website is like painting a fence. Woo for classic lit references!
Cracked.com is a singularly unique website in that it operates on a
completely open-door policy. Although the site is staffed by a core
group of editors, the majority of the articles published are written by
freelance writers. After every article, the reader is offered the chance
to “write for us.” Anyone and everyone can sign up for their Writer’s
Workshop and have the chance to “be seen by millions of people.”
The sign-up page itself warns potential writers that the editors are
“very, very picky,” but the true nature of the workshop is not visible
until you start working and writing up pitches of your ideas to sell to
the editors. The truth is that the Cracked editors are some of the most
demanding people on the face of the earth. They don’t hold anything back
in criticisms, and having your work slapped down stings. It stings a
hell of a lot. Senior editor David Wong is particularly harsh,
displaying the social grace and tact of a battering ram. Even the
smallest hint of disagreement or dissent against the editors is dealt
with quickly and mercilessly. The workshop is a dictatorship, and the
editors never let you forget it.
In all fairness to Cracked, the editors do admit to being excessively
difficult right on the sign-up page. And while I personally still nurse
a good deal of resentment toward them for their somewhat heavy-handed
management style, it is their website. They can run it however they
like. Judging from its massive success, Wong and Co. clearly know what
they’re doing. Besides, Cracked is actually admirable in that every user
gets to talk to an editor, even if it’s a straight “No.” Nobody gets
generic rejected letters.
The "No"s usually come on Thursday, crunch time for the workshop. Every week the editors comb
the forums and pick out the best pitches for adjustment or straight
publication. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat at my computer
endlessly refreshing my browser, waiting for that editor feedback. The
veteran writers usually don’t have any trouble acing their pitches, but
Cracked does cycle through quite a few lucky amateurs such as myself who get a
few pitches accepted.
The secret to success.
Like I mentioned earlier, I got my video game piracy pitch accepted. It
actually sailed right through editorial and was accepted completely as
it was, with no changes. That was completely luck, but I was still
excited. After a little help and a couple rewrites, the article was
Having my writing published on the very front page of a
massively-trafficked website was amazing. At one point I actually got
200,000 hits within the span of a single bathroom break. Watching that
view counter climb higher and higher was thrilling. The article itself
did quite well by Cracked standards, bringing in well over 1.85 hits as
of this writing. That kind of traffic is almost impossible to
It's the most work I've ever done on the pot.
One side benefit was the comments. The reactions to my article are
absolutely hilarious. There’s also over 1,000 of them. It’s a lot to
read, but they are bizarrely funny. One guy commented six times and
started every one with “Motherf*cka.” Another guy related “I sure am
glad I paid for my copy of Cross Days. Oh, wait, I’m still a pervert.”
Looking back at Cracked now, it wasn’t so much hell as purgatory. You
have to suffer greatly (e.g. editorial’s painfully accurate feedback)
in order to reap the benefits (a massive ego boost). I think the article
got at least 900,000 hits within a single day. If that doesn’t make you
feel special, nothing will.
And that’s why Cracked is ultimately not a bad website. They could
stand to pay the writers a little more, but that’s just me b*tching. The
editors are brutal, but they’re never wrong. And let’s face it, what
other website would publish a silly idea like an article about funny
ways to fight video game piracy? If you’re a freelance writer, Cracked
is a golden opportunity to get a little experience. After all, it’s not
every day that you’re read by more than 1.85 million people. That’s not hell, but it is as awesome as it.
Cracked.com is possibly as addicting as, well, actual crack. I read your article when you advertised it here and then spent the night reading about anything that caught my eye.
This is good stuff. I've actually been working on some pitches to CRACKED for a while now, and I appreciate this so I can better understand how brutal they are. I understand all their criticism is constructive... but no one wants to be "constructively" criticized.
I've wanted to try out for Cracked.com for quite awhile. The problem is, I'm not funny often (intentionally funny, at least), and I'm too lazy to sit down and do some research.
That being said, I'm still working on it. One day, I might get the idea that is so freaking brilliant I MUST send it to them. Until then, I'm happy with my few hundred views and five or so comments.
Once again, good job... Read the article, and the responses. Both were good, for different ways.
I once read 40 Cracked.com articles within 24 hours. Take out about 14 hours of not being at a computer... and I was reading an average of four articles an hour.
Is there a connection between the awesome Cracked.com and the awful Cracked magazine, which was a poor man's Mad Magazine?
In terms of quality they just seem so far removed, but then it's not hard to see that the website has the more interesting and successful format/formula.
Yep, Cracked the website came from the magazine. But thankfully, they've changed quite a bit so they're not just ripping off Mad.
I think they already have people to do proofreading, at least at Cracked. I'm really not sure who would pay for editing- anyone smart enough to want editing is usually smart enough to do it themselves.
That's awesome man! I've never heard of the site, but I may check it out soon. Sounds pretty cool.
Awesome blog!!! and the piracy blog was even cooler! I was one of your first GIO readers of it, I'm sure. Congrats man!!!! I'd love to write for them, but the educational humor style isn't really down my path to write. Not that I've even tried it before, so who knows... anyway, inspiring story you have here!
It's kind of inspiring... except for the pure luck part. That and I haven't been published since. It's difficult.
Internets is hard... :/
That's great! Congrats on getting your work published! No easy feat!
First staff comment in two years of blogging. Win.
Ah, I've written a few articles for Cracked, myself. Decent description of the site and the process, but all in all, I have to say your appraisal of the workshop exaggerated the "harshness" of it, a tad. Basically, as a writer (or newish writer, at least) rejection is always going to sting, no matter how it's delivered. A polite form letter rejection will sting just about as badly as a "brutal, no punches pulled" rejection. The editors, when they reject a pitch, which, given that they have hundreds to sift through each week, for the most part just say, "not going to work. Don't find this interesting or surprising, nor will readers. Keep trying, though. Already been done. Sorry." Which is better than "Dear ___, thank you for your submission. Unfortunately,..." Compare working with those editors to, say, submitting to literary magazines/sites. I can tell you...Cracked basically holds writers' hands through the publication walk.
But anyway, I loved this article, loved your article on Cracked, I think I was even in the workshop when you were writing it. And you are correct: putting those articles together and writing them IS a lot of hard work. But if you put the hard work in, you'll eventually get published there, if you really so desire.