09 April 2008

Playing Safe ‘Will Not Succeed Online’

Provocative articles are rewarded and subtle arguments forgotten in the new media landscape, claims a recent blog post in Time magazine.

Michael Scherer argues that individual articles possess greater value in the internet age and this leads to enhanced competition between journalists to write attention-grabbing pieces.

Writing in the Swampland blog, Scherer points out that online stories which get linked to most by news portals and popular blogs attract traffic and therefore “money in the bank” for their newspapers.

He illustrates his point with examples drawn by America’s ongoing Democratic primaries, suggesting that more nuanced reports about Hillary Clinton are worth less then polemical pieces.

“Which story is going to get the most links and therefore the most readers? Is it the one that cautiously weighs the pros and cons, and presents a nuanced view of her chances?

“Or is it the one that says she is toast, and anyone who thinks different is living on another planet?”

Scherer asserts: “If you say something provocatively, in a new way, or with an unexpected spin, you will succeed online. If you play it safe, you will not.”

He does concede though that it’s not all bad news in the digital age, as greater story competition is leading to “better writing” and “increasing the value of actual news-making”.

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