One Thing Print Does Better Than The Web
September 24, 2007
Although many people (including me) are not too optimistic about the future of print newspapers, there is one positive aspect that is exclusive to print media. They don’t have to pay attention to page views or search engine optimization.
Now, I’ve never held back from declaring my opinions on SEO (in a nutshell – I think that it’s overrated, and the majority of people would do better by focusing on creating quality content), but really, do we want the process of writing solely to collect eyeballs to have any place in journalism? I think not. The whole page-view thing, however, is a bit more insidious.
Now, sensationalism has always sold papers. We all know that. But there is something about actual journalists writing to get on the front page of Digg or the Drudge Report that doesn’t sit well with me. After all, shouldn’t they think more about the actual facts and their writing than what the bloggers would like? Yet, they still have to cater to their audience, right? Newspapers have always had to worry about circulation and such, so this isn’t really a new problem. However, web metrics like page views are much more immediate (and they can also be easily gamed – but that’s a whole other problem. This is also the reason that I just can’t warm up to SEO).
Check out this article from the Washington Post by Joel Achenbach, “I Really Need You To Read This Article, Okay?”. He brings up everything I mention and more. And I quote:
“Newspaper journalism is different these days: Suddenly everyone is obsessed with eyeballs, page views, “stickiness,” “click-through rates,” and so on. No one shouts “Stop the presses!” anymore, but they do whimper “Why aren’t I on the home page?” The noble product that we manufacture and distribute throughout the metropolis — the physical thing so carefully designed, folded and bagged — is now generally referred to in our business as the “dead-tree edition.” It gets little respect.”
In the end, however, he’s positive about the future of journalism on the web, requesting that writers go with their gut instinct about what would be a good story instead of catering to the social media.
“Good writing remains good writing regardless of platform. The Web tends to be a chattier place, more off-the-cuff, but it is still a place where readers appreciate a well-crafted sentence, a nuanced thought, a fully elucidated thesis and commentary undergirded by fact, honesty and a generosity of spirit.”
I have nothing more to add.