The Reality of Writing for Cracked.com - Apozem Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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The Reality of Writing for Cracked.com

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 Cracked.com.

The Reality of Writing for Cracked.com

Cracked

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)”?

zombie

Sorry, zombies.

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 traffic.

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.

demand

Running a website is like painting a fence. Woo for classic lit references!

The Workshop

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.

dictatorship

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.

clover

The secret to success.

The Publication

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 finally ready.

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 comprehend.

toilet

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.”

Moving Forward

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.

special

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.

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