Life would be so much simpler without the views. I’ve been writing profiles for years – I interviewed 45 people for the Living section of the Sunday Mail in 2023, including today’s profile of Serdar Denktash – and frequently yearn for the days when you could just write the piece, wait for it to be published, then forget about it. But the paper is now online, not just in print – and the website, crucially, shows the views for each article, leading to an endless post-mortem as we try to figure out what readers want.

Profiles are never going to get insane amounts of views; not only are they very long, but they’re also lifestyle pieces as opposed to hard news. (The idea is to give a snapshot of a person’s life, and an impression of what it’s like to meet them.) One thousand views is considered a success – but two of the past year’s profiles have soared way beyond that: Alex Christoforou and Georgia Yiokka, with (at time of writing) 26,153 and 18,293 views respectively.

feature theo georgia yiokka works for an adults only website where she stars in (and sells) sexually explicit videos

Georgia Yiokka works for an adults only website where she stars in (and sells) sexually explicit videos

The common factor uniting the two is obvious – and a bit dispiriting. Both are social-media stars, Christoforou offering political analysis on YouTube and other platforms (he had 159,000 subscribers when we spoke in February, 189,000 now) as one half of an outfit called The Duran, Yiokka being the only Cypriot woman working as an “adult content creator” on OnlyFans, an adults-only website where she stars in (and sells) sexually explicit videos.

Both are also controversial. Yiokka wouldn’t talk about her family, due to the harassment they’ve received from outraged moralists, while Christoforou – whose popularity was built largely on his daily takes on the war in Ukraine – has been attacked as a propagandist and Kremlin apologist. A US website called Media Bias/Fact Check has rated The Duran as “a questionable source based on far-right-wing bias, promotion of Russian propaganda, right-wing conspiracies” and more.

Christoforou’s was the more interesting interview, for me – partly because he was hard to track down. I knew he was in Cyprus at the time, since one charming facet of his videos (he no longer does it, unfortunately) was to introduce each one by announcing where he was in the world. It was always a bit surreal watching a bearlike man with an American accent go on a political rant with Eleftheria Square in the background – especially when he then got 100,000 views, and a profusion of comments by obvious non-Cypriots.

That said, how to approach such a ‘dangerous’ figure? I messaged him on Facebook, to no avail. I found a local company affiliated with The Duran, went to their registered office and spoke to an accountant type who said he’d pass on my message (no luck). In the end, a fellow journalist gave me a phone number. There was no reply, but I texted and two days later – just when I’d almost given up – Alex replied in the affirmative; we met in the old town on a Thursday evening, unexpectedly interrupted by the excited clerk of a nearby kiosk who turned out to be a fan. I’ve called a few times since, trying to pass on requests from readers, but the number no longer seems to be working.

This, of course, is the snag when it comes to profiles: the way I see them – infused with the whole experience of setting things up and meeting the person – is different from the way others see them. I still think our readers missed the boat on actress Stella Fyrogeni, for instance (a disappointing 519 views) – but how much of that has to do with the bracing memory of a bitterly cold, grey Saturday when I visited the geodesic dome (!) where she lives on the outskirts of the village of Mammari, drinking homemade orange squash with carob syrup and feeling a surprisingly strong bond in the fading light?

Or what about the Sunday when I sat with Turkish Cypriot bookseller Ridvan Arifoğlu in a tiny warehouse, talking books and sharing a bottle of whisky? Or another Sunday later in the year, a quiet shop near the presidential palace and astrologer Patricia Nicolaou talking of the coming conjunction of Algol and Uranus – that’s “when we’re going to have World War 3” – in April 2025? Just 942 views for that one.

Almost every profile evokes a vivid memory. Mexican ‘grande dame’ Patricia Elizabeth Torres Villanueva blowing a traditional conch shell in a suburban flat on a quiet Nicosia street. Vlad Ncl (another social-media star) filling a café with his youthful confidence at the Limassol marina, and an irritated woman at the next table asking him to please keep it down. George Konstantinou – an expert on Cyprus flora and fauna, though also a weathered-looking man in bad health – pointing out a live snake in a jar just beside me. But the most fulfilling day I had as a journalist in 2023 was surely August 19, when I drove to Chlorakas, managed to film the migrants living in squalor in a former luxury apartment complex (a video that was later picked up by the Daily Mail in the UK), and preceded that with a lively interview with Andrea Busfield – a former journalist herself, with some great stories. 1,112 views? A little low, but I’ll take it.