“I’m tired of blogging.” Tark pushed the 24 carat gold-plated Macbook away from him. Autumn sunshine danced through the stained-glass atrium of the Dublin penthouse, making a disco ball of Tark’s unwitting head.
He looked at his wife, who was reclining on the 18th-century chaise longue upon which Marie Antoinette once gently farted following a massive feed of sugar peas. Mara was checking their bank accounts on her own-brand tablet (the iMara). She had been at it for a good ten minutes already, which was two minutes above the threshold at which she normally got angry enough to eat something. But someone had to make sure none of their bank balances fell below €100,000, and Tark was too busy making money by disseminating motivational quotes to people in remote areas of Indonesia.
“Everyone is tired of blogging, darling,” said Mara. “But we both agreed you wouldn’t stop unless your advertising income dropped below $10,000 a day.”
“But at what cost?” asked Tark. “Yesterday I saw a post – a 10-step guide to pouring a glass of water – get 493 likes in one hour. 493! I don’t even get that traffic from the kindergarteners in Burkina Faso I put on retainer to maintain the monthly hit count on our alcoholic vegan site! It’s all so shallow.”
Mara lowered the tablet and studied her husband levelly. “And for us, that’s saying something.”
“Yes, it most certainly is saying something,” said Tark. “Last week, someone claiming clinical depression whilst awaiting delivery of a free Michael Kors bag garnered 15,000 hits in a day. It contained no commas whatsoever, 32 malapropisms, and no fewer than 16 emojis. There should be standards for blagging, as well as blogging, goddammit. But it won’t change, as long as they keep sending these people free stuff.”
Mara swung her legs to the floor and sat up, taking care to re-arrange the layers of the Stella McCartney skirt deemed by Vogue to be too sheer for anyone with actual flesh. “This is your second crisis of confidence in six months, Tark. I do hope you’re not going to make a habit of it.”
Tark used a sulky finger to pick at the price tag they left ironically on the priceless 10×10 Jackson Pollock above the floating fireplace. “I’m not. I just don’t want our brand to be damaged by anything passé, is all.”
Mara walked to the window, her limbs lost in a tangle of equally wispy fabric, a spectral spectacular. “Remember the time when I realised that gardening crime erotica was falling out of favour? And my book sales were in danger of tanking?”
Tark examined his freshly manicured fingernails with deliberate nonchalance. “A little.”
“You told me to stop looking at yesterday’s news,” Mara continued, “And concentrate on tomorrow’s scandal. Do you remember? So I wrote that bonkbuster noir biography of Donald Trump overnight.”
“By the following week, I was top of the bestseller list once again, having been the first to publicly declare gardening crime erotica passé. What does that tell you?”
“That Donald Trump isn’t going away?”
“Don’t be witty, Tark. It doesn’t suit you.”
“Sorry, my prickly pear.”
“What I’m saying is, you have to change the conversation. And how do you do that? By stealing it, and junking it for parts – that’s how. You abhor shallow content. Ergo, you should be promoting no content.”
Tark tapped the knuckle of his index finger against his lips, and began to pace back and forth over the marble tiles they removed illegally from an archaeological site in Greece at the height of the financial crisis. After a moment, he steepled his fingers and tapped them against those self-same lips, his eyebrows puckering to an angle sufficient to cover both himself and his wife, who hadn’t moved her eyebrows naturally since 1997.
“No content,” he repeated.
“Yes,” said Mara. “After all, you cannot pour the water if the glass is empty.”
Tark held up a triumphant finger. “And you cannot sell depression if there is no free bag! You are a genius, my angel of acrimony! I can’t tell you how much I both love and fear you.”
Some noisy and wet kissing followed; but with gardening crime erotica now passé, it needs no description.
Three weeks later, Tark was on the cover of Forbes, his face dappled demonically with red light for their Hallowe’en special. A six-page spread described how the little-known Irish billionaire had become the founding father of “post-bloggerism”, the internet phenomenon where bloggers are paid not to blog.
“It’s a long way to come from a small, crowd-funded campaign, to what’s now a $724 billion-dollar industry,” said the diminutive businessman once credited with the invention of knitted anti-terrorism spectacles. “But once I realised how incensed readers were by inexplicable search rankings and shallow click-bait, the idea practically had itself. We started with a list of 100 bloggers who particularly drove us mad, and within a week, we’d collected enough to pay 24 million bloggers to shut the hell up. Our projections show we will reach 359 million further irritants by the end of the year.”