Journalists – especially those from print publications – seem to have a rather peculiar way of dealing with competition online: instead of coming up with something better, they hate, criticize and bash.
The “competition online” that was I referring to is, of course, the empty calorie stuff: BuzzFeed quizzes, listicles, Henry Blodget’s tour of his airplane seat and his employee’s tour of their hotels. People from print publications (or even those from “traditional” web publications, like The New York Times, TIME, WSJ, etc.) seem to hate those.
“You’re ruining journalism,” they scream.
But in reality, they’re not really screaming that. All they’re screaming is, “I hate how you could get ten times the amount of traffic on a piece you wrote in five minutes than the one I spent six months of my life writing.”
But here’s something these journalists have to realize: those pieces written in five minutes which often get massive amount of hits weren’t written for them.
They were written, for the lack of a better word, normal people. And that’s why the majority of those one million hits that the article written in five minutes would get did not come from these journalists – it came from normal people. People who don’t have their heads shoved so far deep into the industry that they can’t see the broader world: people want these entertainment pieces as much as they do the hard-hitting journalism pieces.
Imagine living in a world where the only type of content you can read online are investigative pieces exposing some financially or morally corrupt company – day in, day out. Doesn’t matter if it’s Friday night or Monday afternoon – these are the only type of journalism you’ll be able to read, like it or not.
That’s not really a world I – or anyone not involved in the journalism industry – would like to live in. That, I can guarantee you.
But this isn’t to say that we should cut back on those serious journalism – people love those and they are, I dare say, a moderating influence on how our politicians and corporations act when it comes to their finances or moral compasses. On the contrary, I’m saying that we shouldn’t cut back on these entertainment hit pieces. Because if people want to click on those, they will. If they don’t, they won’t. And that process isn’t exactly for us journalists to decide.
Many will argue that if we play by this survival of the fittest card – the idea that the types of content that generate the most clicks should be the type of content a publication focuses on producing – would lead to a decrease in budget for serious long-form journalism and more resources devoted to producing empty calorie content.
But that’s not true.
The answer to that dilemma is actually pretty simple: we humans also like to be informed.
We don’t just want 109 Cats In Sweaters lists all the time.
We want to know what is going on in the world. And when we do, we would – more often than not in the case of serious long-form journalism vs. entertaining hit pieces – go out of our way to find it. The pieces that are of high-enough quality will get the attention it deserves. The issues that are important enough will be read and discussed.
We’re not becoming stupider as a society.
Times have changed and so have our tastes.
Instead of reading riddles or comics, people are now watching viral videos online.
What’s wrong with that?
Well, depends who you want to hear the answer from.
A normal person?
A journalist so detached from reality that he doesn’t know what it’s like to be a normal human being?