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Controversy sells

Updated on November 25, 2011

It seems that everyone on the Internet these days is chomping at the bit to get into an argument. There is hardly any topic that is presented for discussion, no matter how seemingly innocuous, that doesn’t cause someone to get their panties in a twist over it. Some people just seem to live to argue and the less known about a topic by those arguing helps that controversy to thrive. For many, anything that they disagree with or have been told is wrong by some talking head on the radio or TV is a liberal or a conservative plot.

Controversy seems to get the web traffic these days. My most visited article on is 10 reasons why cats are better than dogs. It was not written as a serious piece but the debate it has sparked has been very serious at times; with name calling and insults thrown around. I just sit back and laugh. This one article is the reason I have been hitting payout every single month since I wrote it. I did not expect it to be so controversial, but I’m glad it is. Before this article I was hitting about 60 cents a month.  Last month I earned $2.77 largely due to this one article. I wonder how much a truly serious controversy would earn.

Benford's law of controversy from the 1980 novel Timescape:

Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.

It seems that serious topics I write about don’t often get the same amount of traffic as things like my cats vs. dogs article. It makes me wonder if writing a serious article is even worth it at times. I have the feeling that some people deliberately write about topics they know will be controversial; they often take a side they really don’t believe in just to see the feathers fly and the traffic come pouring in. I am not sure I could do that and actually write a good article.

However, there is certainly a market for serious, well-researched articles. The traffic may take longer to find those articles, but it will come. A little research with some well-placed keywords in your article will help it be found through the search engines. In the long run, writing such an article will earn you the most money and respect; controversies have a short life span usually.

In the long run...

In the long run, it is up to you to decide whether or not you will write only about what you are truly passionate about or start to only write articles that will cause controversy and get you more traffic. It certainly is nothing new; we have had “ambulance chasers” for centuries. Just look at the number of new articles that pop up when a celebrity dies; many times within minutes. Print newspapers used to fight over who would get the scoops and be able to write about a big news story first and get it on their front page. I guess we can change the ways news is spread but not the basic human need to debate and discuss that news.

Happy debating!


Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    7 years ago

    You chose a winning article. I don't think the debate will ever end on this one as many are so personally involved in this subject matter.

  • gf899 profile image


    9 years ago from Central Florida

    Controversy adds excitement to a sometimes dreary and mundane world. And of course some people just like a good scrap to get the blood to circulating.

    Or maybe I am wrong? Is this controversial? I hope so, because it does sell, and I could use the cash!

  • Uninvited Writer profile imageAUTHOR

    Susan Keeping 

    9 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    I think you hit the nail on the head Springboard. Some people thrive on controversy. Look at the forums here :)

  • Springboard profile image


    9 years ago from Wisconsin

    It's something I've taken notice to at a place I sometimes visit and leave a comment or two, When I write a thoughtful, insightful remark I usually do not get any replies whatsoever. If I say something inflammatory or! Paydirt. It's almost as though there's a group of people who sift and search just for something argumentary.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    And it took ya 2 years to work out something I learnt from day one, jeeez UW wake up babe !

  • Pamela N Red profile image

    Pamela N Red 

    9 years ago from Oklahoma

    I love Monty Python. People do enjoy other people's pain.

  • Mike Lickteig profile image

    Mike Lickteig 

    9 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

    I know what you're saying, UW, but it is weird how things work. I argued in the comments field of a sports article about who the greatest basketball player of all time was. I said Wilt Chamberlain was better than Michael Jordan, and the debate was hot and heavy. I wrote my own hub about Wilt being superior, and couldn't get a good argument started! I wonder if it is easier to argue with other folks in the comment field than the one who wrote the hub???

    Hard to say.

    This was interesting and entertaining, and no one should be able to argue about that.

  • prettydarkhorse profile image


    9 years ago from US

    hey UW, agree, hmmm, people just love to be on the other side, why they cant be just like you and me hehe,

    but when money talks, sure they are all fired up..

    hey when are you going to dance with me? Maita

  • dohn121 profile image


    9 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

    I can understand why people are "ambulance chasers" as it really is a part of our general makeup as a species. It's for this reason why people go to watch NASCAR for the crashes and hockey games :D for the fights, and slow down whenever driving past a car accident. Malicious? Perhaps. But for the most part, I think that people do so in order for them to feel better about themselves, as it was no the them who's in peril.

    Great hub, UW. Your point about it really being transient/flavor of the month is right on the money!

  • EYEAM4ANARCHY profile image

    Kelly W. Patterson 

    9 years ago from Las Vegas, NV.

    Yeah, a little while back I had a running "debate" for about a week and a half on my hub about feminism and my overall traffic doubled during that time. I don't know exactly how everybody on the internets knew there was a commotion going on, but they showed up to watch.

  • Uninvited Writer profile imageAUTHOR

    Susan Keeping 

    9 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    I guess also writing about controversy selling gets lots of attention too :) Thanks for the great comments.

  • fishtiger58 profile image


    9 years ago from Momence, Illinois

    I agree with the argument issue. I know you have seen the HubPages forums, they are arguing all the time in there. It's getting old and I have only been on HubPages for 2 months. Fighting sells I guess. Great article.

  • shazwellyn profile image


    9 years ago from Great Britain

    Great stuff! It seems to be true, I dont get much traffic on a whole professional teaching course for diabetes in young people. It is professionally produced and is a ready to teach package! Maybe if I had written something like 'people with diabetes deserve the infliction', I might get some traffic? (not that that is my view - which is exactly what you mean!). Loved the python clip! Thanks x

  • bearclawmedia profile image


    9 years ago from Mining Planet Earth

    yes the provocative questions rule the comments section of our hubs. Could not agree more. Your take is spot on. Bearclaw

  • rmcrayne profile image


    9 years ago from San Antonio Texas

    So true UW. I can think of at least 2 notoriously controversial hubbers who have admitted in the forums that they like the debate.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    Few things are more important than controversy. Indeed, this has never been more important with the absurdities of political correctness imposing censorship on a lot of what can be said. We need to allow and encourage controversy so that we are forced to look at topics in greater depth to encourage us all to sharpen and clarify our views. Surely, this is necessary?

  • MagicStarER profile image


    9 years ago from Western Kentucky

    LOL! You are so clear-headed, that's what I like so much about you. Every word you said is true. My controversial ones have been honest controversy so far. Maybe I should try a silly one? Don't think I could do a fake one...

    Also works? Anything with a hero, an underdog or a victim!

  • brightforyou profile image

    Helen Lewis 

    9 years ago from Florida

    I believe you are right. So, I know which direction to go in my next hub lol!

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    You are quite right! I've noticed that some of the more popular Hubs are because they are controversial. And wow, what an amazing clip! Now if only we could get people to pay us for our arguments...

  • mega1 profile image


    9 years ago

    and if talking about controversy gets you some revenue, then we will know which way to go! I'd like to discuss at length with you how overstimulating your readers could get you into trouble this way, but I'm afraid! :lol:

  • kartika damon profile image

    kartika damon 

    9 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

    Hi! This may be controversial but most relevant topics are controversial and will attract opposing viewpoints - expressing and sharing stimulating discussion. That said, we rarely change anyone's mind and the controversial article should be well written and well thought out. Happy New Year!

  • Lady Guinevere profile image

    Debra Allen 

    9 years ago from West By God

    Gemsong, Just take out the comment box on your hubs. You won't have to read or experience controversy that way and your hubs still will get read.

  • Gemsong profile image

    Madalain Ackley 

    9 years ago from Richmond, Virginia

    I'm never gonna make money I think. I try to avoid controversy. I'm overly sensative to being yelled at. It breaks my fragile little heart. ;)

  • deedeelaw profile image

    Deborah S. Lawrence 

    9 years ago from Deborah's Musings

    I totally agree,controversy sells. Well in truth the things that are really unimportant or will be forgotten in a little while, are the things that make money. As you I will only write about what I really care about.

  • emievil profile image


    9 years ago from Philippines

    Controversy sells eh? Hmmmmm, which controversial issue to write about will be my next question? LOL j/k. I agree UW. I mean look at our political and religious forums here, they don't sell dollar-wise but they definitely do sell to the hubbers who seem to love controversy. Used to be that only the entertainment industry has controversy, now even the politicians and athletes are dogged by controversies as well. That's life, I guess. Thumbs up and Happy New Year UW (sans the controversies please). :)

  • Gerg profile image


    9 years ago from California

    That was fun, UW. No it wasn't. Or perhaps not in a way that is ... or isn't ...

    Thumbs up on the Monty Python clip - nice hub!


  • blue dog profile image

    blue dog 

    9 years ago from texas hill country

    hey uw,

    love that dog/cat analogy to forum posts!

    great video addition to your hub!

  • janiek13 profile image

    Mary Krenz 

    9 years ago from Florida's Space Coast

    Some people are not happy unless they are arguing, some just have to be right, and some (like me) are just naturally sweet.

    Feel free to debate.

  • alekhouse profile image

    Nancy Hinchliff 

    9 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

    You are definitely right about controversy. I've gotten the most comments and interest in my most controversial articles.

  • profile image

    Nelle Hoxie 

    9 years ago

    I believe it's called a "link bait" strategy. You deliberately make a very controversial website or blog comment that stirs alot of controversy, tons of people pile on and send it to all of their friends. Google sees this popularity and it gets a high PR value. Then anything you link to from there gets the benefit as well. Have to admit I have a few niches websites that use this and it is very very effective.

  • SweetiePie profile image


    9 years ago from Southern California, USA

    You make some good points in your hub. I really am telling myself to stay away from the political forum because there is a lot of controversy there. It is probably not the most healthy thing in the world really. Personally I have been irritated when people start threads to put down Muslims, or other people just because of their agendas. Not sure why I care so much, but I have always hated to see others poked fun at I suppose. However, I need to try and not care and let those people just have at it because as you said controversy sells, but I should not give any more credence to it then there really is.

  • lorlie6 profile image

    Laurel Rogers 

    9 years ago from Grizzly Flats, Ca

    Sorry, UW, I was busy watching all the Monty Python clips!!! So NOW I can address the issue of debating/fighting on the Internet-you know, sometimes I believe it's simply because people can remain essentially anonymous and lash out wherever they choose.

    Cats superior to dogs? Now that's funny-even though I agree! :o)

  • profile image

    Nancy's Niche 

    9 years ago

    Controversy, I believe, is driven by closed minds and/or a lack of knowledge on the subject matter. I write controversial articles that receive great reviews and comments. Dollar wise my articles produce zilch but, my intent and satisfaction is disseminating information for others knowledge… Loved the video!

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 

    9 years ago from Washington

    I think it is the law we learned when we were raising our children to tell the truth - ANY attention is better than NO attention. If you think about all the stories you shake your head about on the news, you see the underlying thread there - the publicity and all the recognition that folks are getting for VERY BAD behavior. Maybe you are right - we should all start writing all kinds of provocative stories - nah - I'm too old and although I can stand for myself in the 'ring', I'm not so much into conflicts anymore. But great hub and great clip in my humble opinion as well. Some ideas to ponder on....Audrey

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    I feel that people set back waiting for a challenge to find things to criticize and then they will go all out with long replies, where before they may have given a line or two.


  • Uninvited Writer profile imageAUTHOR

    Susan Keeping 

    9 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    Thanks for the great comments. Happy New Year to you all.

    I've always like that Monty Python skit.

    I don't believe you have to be controversial in order to write an interesting article, it comes down to writing talent.

  • 2patricias profile image


    9 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

    There do seem to be a lot of 'ultra' controversial Hubs about. But an article can be too bland - there needs to be something for commentators to latch on to.

  • Ralph Deeds profile image

    Ralph Deeds 

    9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

    Thanks. I agree with your article, and I enjoyed the Monty Python video. Happy New Year!

  • William R. Wilson profile image

    William R. Wilson 

    9 years ago from Knoxville, TN

    What? How dare you say this! I'm so offended! I'm going to report you to hubpages staff!

    (just trying to help.)

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    LOL Loved the clip. Great stuff. I am so glad that I do not wear panties and if I did they would never get twisted. I see writers here doing just what you are talking about and it does work very well. I try to avoid it and them. Glad you dog and cat article is doing so well, maybe you should write some stuff about Obama or even Glenn Beck LOL that would do it for sure. Oh yes, Sufi reminds me, Happy Hogmanay dear UW.

  • Sufidreamer profile image


    9 years ago from Sparti, Greece

    Good Hub, UW - there does seem to be an increased polarization in the media and advertising. Controversy does sell, but I am with you on the well-researched and written Hubs.

    Happy Hogmanay to you :)


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