Α recent conversation with some colleagues about how the digital news outlets are ‘obliged’ (no, they are not) to use cut-and-paste or click-bait practices to generate more clicks for their websites (hence, more advertising) brought me in mind Lucy Kung’s book that I recently read.
It is true that the evolving nature of the digital media industry makes it very difficult, especially for news organisations, to build a sustainable business based on quality journalism.
Various media outlets (especially the digitally native ones, like BuzzFeed for example) have been very efficient in adopting digital strategies, or even inventing new ones that dominate the global market.
But for the news outlets in particular, that also carry a strong print legacy (The NYT, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, etc) it takes more than a mere click-centric strategy to remain leading in the digital era. By now, most of them are aware of the challenges conveyed by click-bait, churnalism, aggregation, native advertising, cut-and-paste practices and so on. The fact that these practices are strongly used by their -wider- competition does not really offer any excuse for making content-discounts or degrading essential values of quality journalism.
”We are genuinely structured to produce a daily product, a daily newspaper” said Aron Pilhoferm, The Guardian’s executive editor for digital, a few months ago. Pilhoferm pointed out that traditional news outlets are still “dealing with transitioning [to digital platforms]” and they should learn from the “processes and orientation structure” of those like Vox Media for example.
Still, this learning (and transition) process requires a serious investment on new tools and human resources, especially when news outlets desire both a leading position in the market and a place among those who enhance quality journalism values. Make no mistake, the ‘digital’ in digital journalism is not about a mere abundance of clicks, no matter what. It is more about the seamless collaboration between technology and editorial. And this is both a business and a personal choice, in my opinion.