5.25.2005

Everything Dumb Is Smart Again

Steven Johnson's book Everything Bad Is Good for You explains what we all intuitively realized in junior high: the stupider you act, the smarter you really are. Johnson's idea of the "sleeper curve" focuses on watching television and playing video games principally, theorizing that what appears to a disinterested observer as pacific zombification is actually high-level mental engagement. Still waters run deep. Johnson and others have extrapolated what this means about the Web and its addicts, with clinical trials underway to prove once and for all that surfing porn all day really does make you sexier. And you only need read any dozen Livejournal entries to agree that extensive blogging makes one a much better writer.

It's a fine thing to build castles in the sky with airy theorems, but we prefer cold, hard, scientifically irrefutable data, for which we turn, as always, to the Internet. Maybe the passive activities Johnson describes really do increase intelligence, but what about real-world achievement? Forget about all those nerdy eggheads playing Grand Theft Auto and watching America's Next Top Model. If you want to get ahead in life, you should read Gawker, because Gawker's audience has enjoyed a dramatically increasing rate of successfully earning college degrees -- with no direct evidence of academic assistance other than reading Gawker.

The general American population's rate of college graduation hovered just under 30% as of 2000. By contrast, according to ad reps Gorilla Nation Media, 58% of Gawker readers hold bachelor's degrees. However, take that information with a grain of salt. After all, they're trying to sell ads, so the last thing they want is to make the demo look too smart. In fact, Nick Denton notes that 71% of Gawker's audience as "at least college education," which could cover a lot of ground we suppose. But for the same of Science, we'll assume he means a bachelor's degree rather than just attending one of Lizzie Grubman's ego festivals at the Learning Annex.

But perhaps even Denton is being too modest (as usual!). One need only to consult with Gawker's advertising FAQ to learn that the rate of college graduation among Gawker readers has risen to a staggering 85%! No wonder there's a shortage of designer cap-and-gown ensembles this season. Why, just the recent spate of Radar coverage earned most readers a double major or fast-track admission to their choice of post-baccalaureate program. We're pleased to mention that these past few weeks of intensive GM study have gotten us well into our second PhD.

We are obligated, however, to point out a hiccup in the research (though we're confident it will be smoothed over in the lab). Gawker's ad page is technically dated December 10, 2002, though we suspect it (and its demographic numbers) might have been updated since then. Denton's own numbers, attributed to reader surveys conducted via the Burst ad network, are dated October 4, 2004. And who knows about the Gorilla Nation figures, though the ad page has a Gawker screenshot dating from April 14, 2005. This might appear to the untrained eye as if the progression was actually a reversal, with fewer college graduates reading Gawker as the audience expanded. To which we can only respond: don't be stupid. The higher number is better, so it must be true. If you can't understand that, you must be a genius.