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Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

Mad as Hell?

In Connecting the Dots on Monday, 14 April 2008 at 12:08

Some say you have to be a little crazy to be a TV journalist. That idea is wonderfully illustrated by a New York Times Magazine profile of MSNBC host Chris Matthews, replete with the summer-blond anchor staring at himself on TV in a hotel bar and exclaiming, “Hey, there I am — it’s me. It’s me.” Somewhat less crazy was Matthews’ brief rumination on his grandfather (and local Philly politics) in Time, and perhaps Matthews should be given some slack for the recent beating he took over his comments about Hillary Clinton (also referenced in the Times profile). Of course, the pressure of getting paid millions to play a journalist on TV isn’t just getting to Matthews: Dan Rather continues the fight to clear his reputation of the stains of the Rathergate scandal, while negotiations about Katie Couric’s future with CBS were unceremoniously leaked to hungry TV news bloggers and reporters who somehow have full-time jobs reporting on reporting. With all this drama on the airwaves, maybe it’s time to start thinking about adding a new wing to the Newseum.

Live From DC! Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Brijit!

In brijit, social media on Friday, 11 January 2008 at 12:41

I was interviewed yesterday by Nick O’Neill of Social Times.

If you’re interested in me, Brijit, or social media, you’ll probably find something valuable here.

When I was running Business Forward, my local DC business magazine, one of my favorite parts of the job was doing our monthly Twenty Questions interviews. There’s something extremely satisfying about conducting a good interview — the ebb and flow of it, getting the subject to enlighten and surprise. Giving a good interview is just as fun, and I have to admit, I think this one qualifies. I make a pretty good case for what we’re building at Brijit and why what we’re doing is important. I always have some trepidation about sitting down in front of the camera, but in this case I’m pretty pleased with the result. Nick, I hope you feel good about it, too.

Paying Writers Based on Traffic Is (Mostly) a Race to the Bottom

In editorial on Thursday, 3 January 2008 at 12:11

Plenty of virtual ink is being spilled over the new pay scheme for writers over at Gawker Media. Nick Denton and company are replacing their pay-per-post model for paying bloggers with a salary-plus-traffic-bonus model. According to the internal memo posted on Valleywag, the change is meant, in part, to incentivize the creation of quality content. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Scott Karp does a nice job elucidating the “cons”:

“The downsides of this approach are obvious — the incentive rewards content that is salacious, titillating, slanderous, nasty, etc. — anything that appeals to the base interests of a mass audience. It rewards gaming of social news sites… And of course it rewards search engine optimization … with headlines written for search engines rather than people. “

The “pros” are a little harder to discern. Mathew Ingram seems willing roll the dice:

“[I]n the long run it is likely to make them more intimately involved in their blogs, and more interested in developing a relationship with their readers, and that’s a good thing.”

I’m skeptical. Yes, there’s something to the idea of relationship-building IF the bloggers in question are sticking around for years. But is that really the universe we’re talking about? What’s the average tenure for a writer with a blog network gig? And will this mythical writer actually put more money in his pocket doing an extra-special good job then he might have churning out commodity volume-filler posts?

Of course it’s important to have a strong relationship with one’s readers. But in the end it’s the editor’s responsibility to make sure that the blog owns that relationship. Individual voices are eminently brandable, and can become great businesses. But the biggest content businesses brand businesses, not bloggers.

Dan Blank’s headline, The War Against Mediocre Online Editorial Content, is tough not to love, because we’re all sick of the flotsam and jetsam that pollutes the web’s waters. He rightly points out that “[t]he recognition that the web is is now littered with news and commentary is the key here.” But I think he’s stretching with his assertion that “Gawker is taking a measured step to bridge the gap between blogger and journalist.”

Professional journalists don’t get paid individually based on circ numbers. In fact, compensation based on individual performance would be a disaster for most working writers — it’s the publications (Web and print doesn’t much matter here) to which most readers have fidelity.

Now, that doesn’t mean the occasional rock star journalist won’t make bank. They will; but it’ll be on the back end of building an audience, and come in the form of higher salaries, book deals, speaking engagements, and the like. But these are the exceptions to the rule (and even then their rewards come only for producing a meaningful body of work). It’s not the same thing as Gawker’s traffic-bonus model. Not even the same sport. Denton and company are doing something interesting, but it’s almost the complete antithesis of bridging the gap between bloggers and journalists.

As Scott Karp notes toward the end of his piece, “[w]hat the web lacks most right now is a content filter that adheres consistently to a high standard of quality.” I think that’s absolutely right. Fundamentally, it’s why we’re building Brijit. But we don’t believe paying your writers based on traffic is the way ensure quality. Combining the best aspects of algorithm, user-generated content and traditional editorial control allows us to control for quality. Pay-for-traffic, more often than not, is a race to the bottom.

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