Yesterday News Limited announced the #askbolt hashtag.

The concept was to promote Andrew Bolt’s interactive Q and A session in the build up to the Federal election. Within ten minutes the trolls had taken the bait and an #askbolt search would reward you with hundreds of tweets of this nature:

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Publications like The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald have struck out and called the Q and A session a spectacular fail, worthy of joining the ranks of Coles and Qantas, but was it really?

Leaving the potentially all-too passionate debate on Andrew Bolt’s journalistic views aside, from a personal branding perspective, the man is much smarter than he lets the wider public think.

People have been trolling AMA’s ever since AMA’s have been a thing. Bolt knows exactly the type of reaction he prompts within his readers and he’s well aware of how social media operates, he wasn’t born yesterday.

Bolt’s job is to pour gasoline on the fire of topical issues and fan the flames of debate. He does this job incredibly well. His readership is split between people who love him and those that love to hate him; there are no shortages in either party. You don’t need to prompt warm and fuzzy feelings to have readership, and that’s exactly what Bolt delivers to New Limited publications.

Bolt’s been peddling his product long enough to know who’s buying.  Furthermore he knows how his readers feel about him. Both he and his News Limited backers would have a solid understanding of the social media landscape they were jumping into. A quick Twitter search bar query gives you plenty of parody accounts, and both his columns and program are frequently discussed.

What was Bolt hoping to achieve with his #askbolt Q and A? The same thing he does every day: add pyre to the fire and grow his personal brand.

So long as Bolt solicits reactions, Bolt is read. It’s within the interest of both himself and News Limited to ensure that he continues to solicit reactions on a large scale.

The “epic fail” here is not opening up access to Bolt through social media. It’s that its taken News Limited this long to do so.

You only need a very small number of questions to fuel a written AMA, the fact that legitimate questions were outweighed by the fake questions from the trolls is irrelevant. For Bolt the victory is in that he warranted trolling.

Trolling of such a high volume in fact, that he trended nationally.

Those that saw this and who knew him were reminded of why they felt the way you do about him, for those who didn’t, the questions of “who is this guy and why is he trending” became talking points.

His exposure grows, as does his readership.

That’s a double barreled win.