Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Huffington and Fluffington

I'm not a fan of Huffington Post; there's too much focus on celebrity news and titillating news, and not enough paring. One of my frustrations is with sites that have no sense of judging whether something is worth including, and fall into the "more is better" mindset. They put up more and more and more to the point that the reader can't get through it. And too often the reader has no way to judge the nature of an article: the title is cutesy or punny and does little to convey the content therein.

I know that I'm guilty of the above from time to time, and I also know that lots and lots of people are quite fond of that site. I have no problem with that, I'm just pointing out that I'm not a big fan of Huffpo. Too many posts that I think of as "fluffy:" attractive, but in the end, empty.

All that said, I do have a certain admiration for Arianna Huffington herself; I think she's very smart and savvy. I came across an excerpt from a speech she gave recently. In light of Rupert Murdoch stating he intends to put all of his media behind a paywall, pushing other media outlets to do so as well (so that he's not demanding readers to pay for what they might get for free elsewhere- it's as if prostitutes started demanding that wives charge for sex, so as not to undercut the former's business), and Google agreeing to implement structural changes (see a response here) that would allow media outlets to emplace paywalls, I think Huffington makes some very good points.
It's time for traditional media companies to stop whining and face the fact that far too many of them, lulled by a lack of competition and years of pre-tax profits of 20 per cent or more, put cash flow above journalism and badly misread the web when it arrived on the scene. The focus was on consolidation, cost-cutting, and pleasing Wall Street – not modernisation and pleasing their readers.
Get real, you guys. The world has changed. Did you know that newspaper circulation is down 7 million over the last 25 years while unique readership of online news is up 34 million in the last 5 years? Did you know newspaper advertising fell nearly 19 per cent this year while web advertising is up 9 per cent and mobile advertising is up 18 per cent? Did you know that more video was uploaded to YouTube in the last 2 months than if ABC, CBS, and NBC had been airing all-new content every minute of every day since 1948?
As I've said repeatedly, I don't watch television anymore. But it goes further than that: I can't watch television anymore. Between mostly vapid writing and commercial breaks, it doesn't hold my attention. If I've been watching the tube for more than a few minutes, I'm reaching for a magazine, newspaper or something else to read. Or turning on my computer to play a game; I completely lose track of what I'm supposedly watching.

The media world is a very different place than it was a mere 10-15 years ago; it would behoove megacorps like Murdoch's to get their little heads around that fact.

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