tip off


Jason Wilson at New Matilda on columnists who write deliberately inflammatory, trolling drivel, knowing it’ll drive hits on their websites and advertising dollars for their bosses – or, as he calls them, “trollumnists“.

As the newspaper business model heads south, though, we’ve been subjected to the rise of what we might christen the “trollumnist” — the writer who simply “trolls” in a multichannel, multimedia environment. And the erstwhile self-identification of papers like the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian as quality outlets matters little in the attention economy: on the internet, no one knows you’re a broadsheet. Whereas a true columnist might make controversial arguments or challenge common sense, trollumnists merely provoke outrage in order to sell papers, draw links and capture increasingly scarce reader attention. The beauty of it all is that it doesn’t take much training to do it, and as media content goes, it’s cheap as chips. Any fool can offend people given a reasonably prominent platform.

We just wish we’d thought of the word first.

  • 1
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    One of our favourite subjects in here is the trollumnist that created the genre. In the guise of sweet reasonableness, he exists only to scratch at the faces of those he perceives as his enemies, like a grinning little succubus floating in a jar of his own bile. The upshot of this technique is that he enrages both his targets and his own supporters. There’ll be a disaster one day……..a fine legacy for a man of purportedly peaceful democratic ideals.

  • 2
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    If only they were harmless and could be ignored but this is not the case.

    Miranda Devine’s anti-cyclist dog whistling almost certainly serves to make the roads perceptibly more dangerous for bicycle riders. Speaking entirely anecdotally, every time she publishes such a column I find myself subject to increased levels of abuse and aggression from motorists.

    The problem with the “trollumnists” is that they are not ignored by their faithful readership, who hang upon their every word. The power that they wield is considerable and should be considered in any argument put forward that we can get away with merely disregarding them.

  • 3
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps people merely agree with them? That makes them popular, and hence they keep their jobs, and get published more. Why always the conspiracy angle to everything?

    If people didn’t hit on their websites, would they not end up getting the sack? You can’t keep your job unless you are reasonably successful at what you do. Oh. and both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of this. MoDo from the NYT being a classic.

  • 4
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 1:35 pm | Permalink


    Who said anything about a conspiracy?

    And doesn’t your last argument contradict the rest of what you said?

  • 5
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    “You can’t keep your job unless you are reasonably successful at what you do.”

    OK, so I am a heroin dealer. I’m reasonably good at what I do. I keep my job … unless I’m the victim of a hit.

    My logic is as fatuous as that of baldrick.

    The proposition ought be, “I’m good at what I do, but is what I do good?”

    .. and one person’s ‘conspiracy angle’ is another person’s ‘wanting people be brought to book’.

  • 6
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Today I have taken a solemn vow not to succumb to Blogtrollery and will no longer read or comment at BoltWorld. The personal abuse bothers me not a whit and the reaction of his foul brood prove another point but I am effectively generating traffic and comments for him. No longer.

  • 7
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Who said being agreed with has anything to do with it, as long as they generate traffic (a dubious concept to quantify, 1,000,000 hits a month?) doesn’t mean anyone thinks they are right or wrong, doesn’t make them right or wrong. The worrying thing with this breed of columnist is that they start to believe they are in the right because they are popular, being popular isn’t always right.

  • 8
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    My point is that, if they are popular, their venom and dog whistling is all the more dangerous. If we remain silent then the consequences can be quite serious.

  • 9
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    “Who said anything about a conspiracy?”
    Its a conspiracy when you claim that they are posting stuff just to get hits – perhaps they actually believe in what they are writing.

    “And doesn’t your last argument contradict the rest of what you said?”
    Well, no one reads the NYT! Thats why they are going bankrupt slowly!

  • 10
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    baldrick, the master of myopic omphalokepsis.

    (Or am I being too harsh Roy?)

  • 11
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 9:23 am | Permalink


    I think you’re confusing a conspiracy with ulterior motives.

  • 12
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    More confirmation of my view that if we want this idiocy to stop then don’t comment on these people’s columns don’t click on them and don’t give them oxygen in columns like this.
    There is one in the Australian today that requires comment but we just ignore.

  • 13
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Is a “trollumnist” a shock jock radio host only in keyboard format? One who uses comments like talk back phone calls?

  • 14
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    dam buster: that’s what I reckon. It’s just an updated format based on the same framework.

  • 15
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    confessions: But on the internet the trollumnist can moderate the discussion easier than just pressing the dump button or having to talk over a caller with a valid view point. One can take their time in formatting a response rather than just yelling over the airways.

  • 16
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    That’s true. I’ve only rung the ABC talkback so can’t speak for the shockjocks, but I was put through first to a handler who asked my personal details, what i was ringing in response to and what i was going to say. So before i got to be on air the host already had a broad notion of what i would be saying. I guess if I’d deviated off that he could press the dump button, but it would be hard to do that when someone is presenting a valid and reasoned case. On the ABC they usually just say “thanks for your call” and move onto someone else.

  • 17
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Is it trolling when the SMH opens up comments on a story like this?

  • 18
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Whoops meant to add link:


  • 19
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Shabadoo, were you masquerading as Craig on the comments page? ;)

    Here’s my favourite comment:

    “Ashamed to be Australian? Australians should be ashamed of him, with such a pissweak throw.”


  • 20
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    I await the comments about the Lefty needing to eat more meat and less tofu to build up strength to throw the boot far enough.

    No it is not trolling. Look at the most viewed articles on any News.com.au site:

    1.Mum to sue for second-degree sunburn
    2.Passenger accidentally ejects from plane
    3.Qantas pilots forgot to lower wheels
    4.Child rapist to be beheaded, crucified
    5.Jetstar ‘blackout’ link to Air France crash

  • 21
    Nick Fryer
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Trollumnist, I like it I hope it catches on. so would you describe Andrew Bolt as a trollumnist.

  • 22
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    That’s an interesting question Nick.

  • 23
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    And if you though Australia’s Trollumnists are bad.

  • 24
    Jason Wilson
    Posted November 6, 2009 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Hi Guys – just noticed this after spending a couple of days at a conference – thanks for the link and the discussion here, Jeremy.
    As I said in the piece, I imagine the trollumnists are going to get worse before they get better, and they present a real dilemma – do you avoid feeding them, or criticise them because they have access to the public sphere.

3 Trackbacks

  1. By Deaf Trollumnists on November 4, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    …] And of course, it was so apt. SO APT! If you don’t believe me, read these two articles: Trollumnists and ‘If I Make You Angry Enough, Maybe You’ll Keep Reading’ Forget How Reverse […

  2. By The rise of the trollumnist « David reads books on December 1, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    …] Dan added the word to the Urban Dictionary (although misspelt as “trollumist”). Crikey mentioned it on their Pure Poison blog. Range also mentioned the word on his blog. Google currently returns 159 […

  3. By Reheated clickbait. – Pure Poison on January 20, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    …] know will stir up plenty of righteous indignation amongst their readers, which in the age of the trollumnist provides a pretty simple recipe for a huge number of comments and plenty of associated pageviews. […