There’s an old tale about a frog that fell into a pot of cream. Not to drown, the frog started to kick his legs to stay afloat. He kicked so hard and so many times that the cream eventually turned into butter and the frog was saved.
The story is one of survival and endurance and very fitting to the current state of the newspaper industry. If the newspapers are the frog, then every kick is another attempt to change their looks, their formats, the way they write and what they write to keep making money and stay afloat. The hope is that one change would be that final kick that turns the gooey, wet slope of online advertising and free social media into a solid block of butter we journalists can sit on comfortably (at least until the butter melts again).
Yesterday, Britain’s The Daily Telegraph had a story about the oil price that read like a Buzzfeed piece or something a high school teacher would hand out to students. I’m not saying it’s bad. It is certainly informative and appealing to read but it lacks authority and even though it taught me something, after reading it I felt more stupid than before. I think it’s because the material is dumbed down so much that you come to the conclusion the writer wrote it for a dumb audience, hence you, when reading it, become dumb.
And then there is this very interesting article about a guy at Gawker, who thinks he has the vision to say what content will become viral and what will not. As a result, he can pick stories that will become viral and attract most clicks and in turn most advertising. “Mr. Zimmerman also keeps a running list of “hot” themes in his head “It might be that right now, people don’t care about stories about cats that much, and instead, sloths are more popular,” he says. “So I’ll have a rule—cats are out, sloths are in, focus on sloths because that’s going to be your meal ticket.”
Of course this is NOT what journalism is about. It is about offering information, views and detail that no reader even knew they were interested in until they see or read the article. My favorite moment when reading an article is when I whisper to myself “oh, I had no idea! Who would have thought!” and I tend not to do that when I read “14 Things You Can Say To Bisexual People That Are Guaranteed To Annoy Them”.
— From London.