The internet’s disruptive effect on print media is coming to a head, and the dinosaur Murdoch is going to fossilize before our very eyes. It’s the height of entertainment to watch him blame the theft of content for his empire’s demise, when in fact he is partly to blame for our current perilous situation: this is the man who has conditioned the masses to accept entertainment and information of the lowest form.
The cost of production of media is not just reduced by technology, but also the fact that people accept lower standards these days. Let’s face it, journalism of The Sun’s standard hardly needs professional journalists to write it (the paper is Britain’s biggest selling daily and a Murdoch rag). So while Murdoch pays Oxbridge graduates to write about Tiger Woods’ ‘piece of rough’ it is no surprise that the likes of Perez Hilton can undercut him blogging out of a coffee shop.
A sad reflection on our times is that the Miami Herald has five million online visitors a month and is going out of business. According to DN Journal, ‘the paper says the problem is that they can only charge online advertisers about a tenth of what their print advertisers have been paying and that is not enough to cover their news gathering nut.’ If you are unable to monetize five million visitors a month then you either have some serious overhead, or don’t understand how to convert visitors into cash. I guess it’s a combination of both for the Miami Herald.
The Herald has started asking its readers for donations, which is perhaps a bit more progressive than Murdoch, but unfortunately I think that the real problem is that people are no longer willing to pay for quality journalism, and are prepared to settle for something less rigorous. Of course, this decline in standards is happening in tandem with the realization by most companies that the value of print advertising is minimal when compared to alternatives that involve customer engagement. But let’s set that aside, and concentrate on the fact that we no longer need quality.
TechCrunch predicts the end of hand crafted content, and companies like Demand Media are pumping out moderate prose that Google ranks highly. The only way that this sea of mediocrity can be slowed is if the search engines tweak their algorithms to give higher weightings to quality measures such as bounce rates. Given that Google is an advertising company, and the readers of Demand’s products have a decent CTR I shouldn’t expect too much from Big G. Perhaps they are getting tired of scanning all the books for their online library and are happy to see us reduced to a tweeting rabble.
Disclosure: I read The Sun for the football coverage
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