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July 22 2010


The WWTDD Effect

Should we give readers what they want?

I’m reminded of my time at the student newspaper, a couple of years ago. In an attempt to get any sort of clue on what our readers wanted to read, and why students in some fields of study didn’t care about the paper at all, we organized a survey. Y’know, one of the most boring, but also one of the most effective ways of getting quantitative insight into whatever it is you’re doing.

The survey itself was heresy at the paper.

In the eighties, the attitude at our student newspaper can be summed up as “actually, we don’t want you to read us, since you’re probably too dumb anyway”. Subsidies by the college administration can do that to people.

By 2008, we’d grown out of that cocky attitude a little bit, but not entirely. In the end, so sayeth the wise sophomore, what constitutes good journalism depends on objective criteria, not on what readers think, isn’t it?

Okay, so, good journalism might sometimes be at odds with what people wish to read. Both tend to coincide, but not always. Readers aren’t stupid, but they’re only human after all.

That’s how it starts out. And before you know it, the newsroom is collecting snippets of inane reader comments and every morning starts off with a lament of how these kids just don’t appreciate good reporting.

Many journalists don’t factor in how readers respond to their writing when contemplating their self-worth. That’s scary. Because in the end, if nobody reads what you do, that’s probably a sign that it’s not that good. And even if it is, any type of enterprise reporting �" think investigations �" depends on a sizable readership to have its desired effect.

I’d like to see more serious reporters who, while holding themselves to the highest possible standards in reporting, take audience reach and interaction as one of the chief metrics in ascertaining their success. Great quality, no lowest common denominator, huge readership. Challenge yourself.

I’d like to see more reporters tackle tough issues, yet in a way that attracts readers not dissimilarly from how What Would Tyler Durden Do attracts even the most jaded liberal arts grads to celebrity news.

Impossible, you say? Then how come half the world read a detailed blogpost on antenna design? How come people from around the world follow American politics on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, when they can’t even seem to bother to follow their local elections? Why does Mike Masnick have a successful blog on something as dreary as intellectual property rights? Why do San Franciscans visit The Bold Italic en masse? Wasn’t regional journalism supposed to be boring? Something you only do because you can’t get a job at a real newspaper?


March 06 2010


4 Minute Roundup: Viacom Yanks Shows from Hulu; FT's Pay Model

This episode of 4MR is brought to you by GoDaddy, helping you set up your own website in a snap with domain name registration, web hosting and 24/7 support. Visit GoDaddy to learn more.

Here's the latest 4MR audio report from MediaShift. In this week's edition, I look at the recent move by Viacom to pull "The Daily Show" and "Colbert Report" from Hulu, and run them on their own sites. Plus, the Financial Times said it would start charging for day passes and weekly passes to augment its metered pay system online. And I asked Just One Question to PEJ's Tom Rosenstiel about their recent report on the interactive news consumer.

Check it out:


>>> Subscribe to 4MR <<<

>>> Subscribe to 4MR via iTunes <<<

Listen to my entire interview with Tom Rosenstiel:

Background music is "What the World Needs" by the The Ukelele Hipster Kings via PodSafe Music Network.

Here are some links to related sites and stories mentioned in the podcast:

Why the Daily Show Left Hulu by Andrew Baron

Viacom Will Take 'Daily Show,' 'Colbert' Off Hulu at NYT Media Decoder

Viacom's departure from Hulu comes with a bite at CNET

Hulu loses shows in pricing clash at FT

Hulu, Colbert, And The Recentralization Of Video On The Web at TechCrunch

Loss of Daily Show, Colbert puts more pressure on Hulu at Yahoo Tech blog

FT CEO says improving ad trend continues at Reuters

Financial Times Website Turns To PayPal at Fishbowl NY

FT to use PayPal for daily, weekly online access at Editors Weblog

FT Will Use PayPal For Daily, Weekly Payments at PaidContent

Understanding the Participatory News Consumer at Pew Internet

Also, be sure to vote in our poll about how you plan to experience the Oscars:

How will you experience the Oscars?answers

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

This episode of 4MR is brought to you by GoDaddy, helping you set up your own website in a snap with domain name registration, web hosting and 24/7 support. Visit GoDaddy to learn more.

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