Escaping the Digital Media ‘Crap Trap’
April 27, 2016 4 Comments
This is most interesting and strikes me as pretty much how the trends are going. I see it here, I see it on my occasional forays into digital media, and I especially see it with the garbage legacy media has become. By Jim VandeHei writing on The Information.
Here is how they fell into this lethal trap: They got into the content game to produce news or info they might be proud of, believing they could lure us to read it and maybe even pay for it. They quickly realized it’s expensive to produce quality content and hard to get a lot of people to click on it, much less pay for it. So they deluded themselves that the better play was to go for the biggest audience possible, using stupid web tricks to draw them in. These include misleading but clicky headlines, feel-good lists, sexy photos and exploding watermelons.
And it appeared to work. Traffic spiked. Costs were contained. But revenue never followed because everyone else was doing the same tricks and getting the same spikes—and the simple law of supply and demand drove down the value of their inventory. This dynamic helps explain why Mashable recently laid off so many journalists, BuzzFeed saw its growth miss the mark and many media companies and investors are freaked out.
Here’s the good news: This era is getting flushed away. Some companies feel self-conscious about the trash they are producing. Many others realize it’s simply not a good business model. But the savviest ones see a very cool reason to change: A content revolution is picking up speed, promising a profitable future for companies that can lock down loyal audiences, especially those built around higher-quality content.
In coming years, the revolution will likely demolish much of what we read and watch now. State and local newspapers and TV? Gone. Their models are fatally flawed. General interest magazines such as Time and Newsweek? Gone or unrecognizable shells of their former selves. Traditional TV and cable? Shrinking and scrambling. Clickbait machines such as Gawker, or Ozy, or Mashable? Gone or gobbled up by bigger players.
If you’re like me we had an outstanding example from the legacy media. When the UK Telegraph was sold to its new owner, it wasn’t all that strong financially, for all that it was a source that almost all British conservatives and a lot of us Americans had depended on for years. To the point that it’s often called the Torygraph. I’m an example, I started reading it well before the 2008 elections because it was simply much better than any American paper.
But those finances, running a daily paper ain’t cheap, even if you have loyal readers, and some pretty good blogs to go along with it. But the Telegraph did what so many have done, they gave up the high-value content (even many of the blogs) and fell head over heels into the click-bait trap. Now it’s to the point, and I interact with quite a few British Conservatives, as well as American, I don’t don’t think I know a single subscriber, anymore. Sad but some of us insist on value, even if all we’re spending is our time.
And you know it is true, I could likely make this blog pay its way, by doing a bunch of garbage, more pretty girls, conspiracy theories, and all that, not to mention a much harder edge on my articles. And we are looking at some changes down the road, but my brand (and Jessica’s) is on the blog, and we like where we are, so in tone and substance we’re not likely to change much.
But it can be very tempting.