In a world where anyone can conjure a digital pulpit for storytelling, the credibility that comes from third-party media coverage still counts.
It also doesn’t hurt to take a periodic look behind the curtain.
For example, the post “Tech Journalism is Broken” showed up lamenting the regurtitation that passes for journalism in the technology sector.
It triggered water-cooler dialogue on Hacker News.
After raking the content, here’s a cross section of comments, opinions and snipes:
- A lot of “journalism” today consists of regurgitating press releases rather than actually reporting on issues. And a lot of tech journalists have journalism qualifications but no tech – gone are the pioneering days when the magazines found it easier to pick up techies and give them the basic training in journalism to communicate what they understood.
- Some sources – for example, anandtech.com – get pretty close to the old-school hardcore reporting from time to time. Others actually cover industry movements from an informed perspective. But the drive to get eyeballs on ads is inimical to insight; it encourages facile, superficial, and above all speedy publication with a smattering of titillating headlines to draw the readers in. And it does us all a huge disservice.
- I’m speaking for myself and not from either company. But I can tell you though everyone in the industry is aware of the problem and trying to get away from re-writing to produce more original content.
- The problem, as I see it, is that volume drives most online publishing. Making money depends on having updates throughout the day. That means every writer needs to post something every day –usually more than one thing a day.
- Even though most of these quick hit stories don’t get many pageviews individually, they add up, and occasionally even a quicky will become a “blockbuster” that gets a huge number of pageviews. Original stories get a more consistently high number of hits, but they take much longer to produce.
- I think you have a false nostalgia for what “old school” tech reporting was. Before web publishing and blogs, many tech magazines were nothing more than press releases and a couple of opinion pieces stapled together. It was trade press, not journalism … At least today we have viable independent sources who can build an audience without giving a crap about access or offending PR people.
- There was a time when it wasn’t easy for regular folks to find press releases and announcements, so there were all these magazines marketed to IT pros and tech executives that just regurgitated marketing materials, and that could be perceived as being a valuable service. Of course, some of the websites still do that 🙂 But you really need to add original reporting or analysis today to stand out.
- Ninety percent of everything is crap.  That’s a bad starting point. Add to this the fact that free publications on the web have a strong incentive to maximize their income via ads, and what you get is a crap-fest of sensationalism. Good tech journalism exists, but it’s somewhat rare and sorting through the crap to find it is rather fatiguing. It’s also unlikely to show up on TechCrunch.
- It’s true there’s a lot of crap out there, but this has always been true in the journalism world. And it’s true that many sites have dubious practices that are 100% for reasons that don’t matter to readers, like advertising and SEO. But is that the journalist’s fault – or the system’s?
- I speak to editors and writers regularly as part of my work at Parse.ly, and many of them are extremely worried about being “dinged by Google”. They also hire experts who read the tea leaves on declarations from Matt Cutts and the Google search team, hoping to come up with a strategy that will make Google treat their site as one of several “blessed” domains.
The upshot –
Journalists don’t enjoy being ruled by the SEO gods.
Journalists don’t enjoy PR foisting lame news releases on them as fodder for stories.
Journalists do enjoy the process of “discovery” in writing a story with original insight.
Not exactly ground-breaking analysis, but there’s something to be said for reading it in their own words.