For some time now, I’ve been reviewing my position on news consumption, and just like Joel, I stopped reading and watching mainstream news. I broke a long-time and deep habit.
With MG reacting to the Boston events tech-blogs coverage, it got me thinking. He basically regrets that the coverage was pageviews driven and not journalistically driven anymore, thus “the sad state of the tech-blog industry”.
How did we get to a configuration where journalists tends to be more pageview driven to the point where it affects the quality and wholeness of journalism?
And I don’t blame the journalists, I simply notice the industry configuration: We improve what we (can) measure, and this industry can now measure pageviews. This changes everyting.
Think about it, when journalism was only paper-based, you could only approach the newspaper as a whole. So they’d decide on a fear-based catchy headline, and measure the newspaper sales of the day. But they couldn’t measure how the articles inside the newspaper performed. This way young and naive journalist could write about other topics than fear-related ones (because we know fear performs better that love).
And now that we can measure everything about every online article published (pageviews, links, traffic sources, etc.), every article is a newspaper that needs to perform by itself! So every article slightly tends to need a catchy headline, a fear-based topic, and tends to improve pageviews.
Internet didn’t killed the newspaper, it started the reign of the Almighty “pageviews-driven” Article.
The bad news is that tech-blogs are only forerunners. Mastering A/B testing of ad-based monetized content will soon be standard. And as competition for readers attention is getting fiercer every time a ad-based regional newspaper is put up on sale, I doubt online media journalism quality will get any better.
To conclude, I’d like to quote GitHub co-founder Chris Wanstrath: “OH: If you were to A/B test everything, it would all become porn.“
Let’s realize what we measure, therefore where we tend to go, and ask ourselves if this is where we want to go.