Music + Technology + Random Nonsense from the Music Industry by Ethan Kaplan, VP Product, Live Nation

Mainstream journalism, blogs, exclusives and the techmeme effect

As it turns out, my simple commentary on mainstream journalism as linked to the Comscore report about Radiohead’s album sales got extrapolated into a larger commentary from me on the Radiohead album release. The ironic thing about this, is that it confirmed my original point: journalism is in a sorry state indeed. And not just mainstream journalism either, but all journalism, and the most guilty part I think are the very blogs who are supposed to be tearing down this institution.

This is unfortunate.

I think the problem can be traced back to the Curse of the Press Release, and in conjunction with this, the Unfortunate Desire for Exclusive. Blogs in general, and especially technology blogs have become nothing but mindless rehashing of press releases and flack speak, with possibly some commentary tacked onto the end as an afterthought.

A typical TechCrunch/Mashable/Diggable Post recipe:

1) Outline recipe for a problem you might face

2) Here is a site that might help that…

3) Repeat flack talk, copy from their “about page”

4) Obligatory funding mention

5) Quippy dismissal, Michael does not like or “it might be useful when they work out the bug”

5a) We have beta invites!

This applies to other blogs in this space. Mashable, ReadWrite/Web, etc. The desire to have something said outweighs any tendency to actually say something of interest. When I see an RSS count in my reader of 45 articles from two days, you have to think: they aren’t all gems.

TechMeme et al have brought upon the journalistic landscape of the blogosphere the desire to constantly say something for the fear that others might be also saying it. Its logical grouping of topics has engendered this fear, as if not showing up with a related story somehow eliminates the relevancy of the blog. In the end, you get what I have below: repeat of the same, no original content, and a muddling of any discourse into an alphabet soup with no meaning.

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Then of course, in order to differentiate themselves from the pack, we have the Curse of Exclusivity. It happens at least once a day, someone posts “EXCLUSIVE: ______ got ________” and within a matter of minutes, all posts on all other blogs are “______ got an exclusive tip on ________.” There is always at least one post lamenting on the nature of exclusivity, but they get on TechMeme too, so don’t care. Exclusives are shit. They are old media bullshit mean to impose time windowing on news in order to inflate already fragile egos, stock prices and coordinated timing. They are vestigial and need to go away.

Press embargos and exclusivity on the Internet are laughable, because all its like is holding back an immense amount of water pressure then releasing it. In the end, can you tell who the first drop to hit you was? No. You only know that you are wet and uncomfortable. Press embargos and their children, the Exclusive, render the content put forward by the flacks as meaningless in the general din of “LOOK AT ME”

Here is my wish: I hope that blogging in general takes a good hard look at itself and realizes that given the fludiity and the amorphous nature of the media we’re given, the vestiges and antiquity of mainstream journalism through dead-tree-media need not apply.

I hope that blogs such as TechCrunch, Mashable, etc can start looking to make quality instead of quantity of content.

I really wish that press embargos, rule-by-flack and the stupidity of techmeme-chasing would go away.

More than anything, I hope we can get some quality back in the content we so readily consume.

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7 Responses

  1. Good observation. :)

    I unsubscribed from Mashable and Techcrunch a few weeks ago. Too many posts and rather little substance. Read/Write Web and Webware a re a little different because they have some more analysis and/or people actually tested a new service or feature.

  2. Webomatica says:

    I think this just comes down to bloggers’ ability to break news or just react to news that someone else has already covered. Opinion has its place but it’s not reporting.

  3. I think it goes deeper than just that. I believe the problem with blogs is that the frequency of updates are more important than quality. And the reason for that is not in the technology and not even in culture – but in our brains – frequent updates are like the commercials that are repeated and repeated upon our brains so that we it becomes *recognizable*. This can only be fought with conscious design, with systems that will punish the publishing of crap more then the benefits of it.

  4. And to add to that argument – I would rather believe that most of the blogs are not like those that you criticize here – but they just are not the A list. Instead of gathering the cream of the independent thinking the A list only gathers the frequent and trivial – it’s a negative selection.

  5. Ethan Kaplan says:

    @zbigniew – I agree, but techmeme is scale-free, so the a-listers stay a-listers by virtue of being a-listers, thus propagating this behavior.

    ironically, this post made techmeme last night :)

  6. Mark Evans says:

    You make some excellent points. In my own blogging recently, I’ve really tried to take a step back by trying to focus on saying something insightful and, hopefully, interesting as opposed to jumping on the bandwagon when a “big” story breaks. Of course, when you say something original, it’s disappointing when the same old “wash, rinse, repeat” stories make so much noise and get so much attention. Earlier this week, for example, I wrote what I though was a pretty good post on becoming a search engine that semeed to get lose in the ether. I was still happy with the post but it would have been nice to get more readers.


  7. Ivy Hansen says: