Myths of modern media #1

[Note: A while back I was provoked by this article, or rather by an undercurrent in it that I grew tired of hearing from media pundits. Thanks to Con von Hoffman for bringing it to my attention with his rebuttal, though my beef is slightly different. Anyway this wound up forgotten in my drafts folder. But better late than never!]

[[Postscript #2, 2015: both sites in those links are gone. Yay new media. However, my rant, this vestige of my anger, remains.]]

Newspapers are going under, and that’s okay with me. Interestingly, though, there’s quite a contingent of folks who are gleefully ready to throw on the next shovel of dirt. And here is one of the accusations they love to level: That old publishing was driven by completely self-focused, self-indulgent decisions – “The pompous editors sat on high and decided what to write and when to write it” – while new publishing is a totally novel reader-driven paradigm.

This is at best a weak generalization and at worst a complete load of crap.

Okay, every act of publishing involves some ego and some desire to be creative, to add something to the conversation rather than merely repeating it. There was ego in newspapers and magazines and there’s ego in blogs and podcasts. So we’re all even on that score.

There may well have been publishing titans oblivious to their readership’s desires. They can die out and should, because they’re idiots. But to broadbrush everybody in media in this way is just total codswallop.

Lookit – In years gone by (on CIO and CSO magazines) we spent $$$$ doing a yearly reader survey. Reams of data. A blind version and an open version. I read EVERY verbatim quote captured from every reader and looked at every chart and tried to suss out specifically how we could do better and what we should write about next. I had learned this fixation on reader demand from mentors/bosses like Rick Pastore and Abbie Lundberg, who operated that way for years before I showed up.

Today we use Omniture and Google Analytics and Google Trends and my site’s comment function and that gives me a daily reader survey with tons more detail about what people want. It’s awesome. Light years better than those old reader surveys.

But that’s a change in TECHNOLOGY, not a paradigm shift like “Oh, I never thought of looking at reader demand before.”

I think these nice easy then-versus-now oversimplifications of online publishing are the sign of a lazy person trying to look like an expert to advance his own career prospects.  How’s THAT for a generalization?


2 thoughts on “Myths of modern media #1

  1. In my experience, and I am course only one data point, there is a big difference between industrial writing and writing for a general outlet like a newspaper. I had a lot of contact with the people
    in the last cateory over my working life and you always knew they felt themselves to be the princes and princesses of the city. Some, even most, handled that sense with grace, but some did not. I think the voices behind the accusation you mention had had bad experiences with members of the latter set. Industrial journalism is just way more humble. For one thing you’re always dealing with people who know more than you do, but it is also true that the smaller stage sets a bound on how big your ego can get without making you look ridiculous.

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