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.
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.