Friday, February 25, 2011

Three reasons why “Web Journalism Is a Joke” (and what to do about it)

Former Engadget and Mashable Editor Samuel Axon writes a must read long piece about the (sorry) state of web journalism. Samuel has written a timely post, and I have tried to summarize the post in three main points:

1. Web journalism has become a slave of search engine such as Google [The pagerank algorithm, Google trends, Google suggest...
... the rules Google uses to determine which websites gain strong rankings — and thus frequent traffic, high impressions and strong ad revenues — betray journalists and the people who need them at every turn.
Google’s algorithms and the blog linking customs built around them favor those who write first, not those who write accurately. 
Readability, accuracy and quality are not considerations. The only way to profit (apart from being a prophet or building a time machine) is to respond to what people are searching for. 

2. Web journalism has become a slave of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. here we are writing 140-character posts (minus the link length) with Twitter trend words included before we’ve had time to come to terms with the information we’re reporting.

3. Most news sites/blogs are treating news as 'mass produced' commodities, tailored to demand [search trends, tweets etc.] Learn to distinguish between hypocrites and honest ones.
I am tired of seeing TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington and Huff Po’s Arianna Huffington claim otherwise in their crusades against “old media.”

For all the flak they get, at least AOL’s Tim Armstrong, Demand Media’s Richard Rosenblatt and Mahalo’s Jason Calacanis aren’t lying through their teeth.

The result: Web journalism has gone to the dogs:

We are incentivized to offer what people want to hear, not what they need to hear

Is there any solution to the mess Web journalism is in?
I remember Francis Ford Copolla, the famous director, saying in an interview that artists creating wealth out of art is a relatively new thing.

Not long time ago, artists used to support themselves through patronage of rich people, doing other projects for sustenance (Copolla has a profitable wine business), or making do with little.

Web journalism/journalism needs to be somewhat like art.
See it not as means to riches but as a calling.

Because, no one else has any credible solution. Samuel says,

The responsibility lays with Google, Twitter, and other tech media companies that provide the infrastructure in which would-be journalists work. Mashable, AOL and The Huffington Post are all powerless to change anything.



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