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Should We Be Archiving Everything?

rookiefreelancing1This Poynter post about Patch removing content from its sites has had me bothered all week. It just doesn’t sit right and raises a lot of questions about what we do with all of our content if things really go south.

The problem, for me anyway, is maybe that we’re calling it content. I know that, technically, it is. And if you call it content, it makes it easier to erase. Because all content does is take up space, and when that space is no longer serving its purpose — bringing in eyes, and clicks, and some sort of advertising money — you clear it out, like doing the dishes after Thanksgiving. The house is a wreck, you clean it up, and it’s like it never happened by the time you call it a night.

But if you start calling it journalism — which it is — it’s a little more tricky. Andrew Beaujon links in that Poynter post to an essay on Medium about trying to archive his work from TBD.com when it shut its doors and asks if deleting content ever affects anyone besides those who work there. I think it does. Sure, you might not need to go back and  read every news article about, say, a government shutdown, but news like that should be saved. Not just for reference or history’s sake, but because a lot of times, good journalism is also teaching or telling you about something new. It’s a resource. Not just a portfolio.

Then again, I save everything. But it’s not like it’s stacks of Sunday editions. Am I being sentimental?

Response: No Comments, No Problem

Be QuietI would like to claim responsibility for Popular Science removing its comment section, but I am sure it had little do with my rant a few weeks ago.

That said, I was thrilled to read their post that ‘in the name of science,’ they’ve turned their comments off.

John Kroll writes in this blog post that there is no good reason to turn off the comments. In fact, he says turning them off is lazy and has little to do with science, and much to do with the bottom line.

Maybe it did have to do with the bottom line, but let’s take a look at some of his points: Read more

No Reader Left Behind: What’s Wrong With a $1,000 Subscription?

It’s nice when a news blog grows up. If you don’t live in New York, or care about its politics, you’ve probably never heard of Capital New York, which was recently bought by Politico. And there’s plans to juice it up, in the style of Politico Pro, by charging an estimated $1,000 yearly subscription. Talk about a paywall.

This is good, because the quality of journalism over at Capital is first rate. It’s already a “must read” for political junkies here. And Politico is on point about using the ‘freemium’ model to make their brand of news a money tree.

But when you make something so exclusive that only Michael Bloomberg can really afford it, how does that fit into the mission of a news blog like Capital, whose mission is, according to their site (emphasis mine):

Capital is an online news publication about how things work in New York, founded in 2010. We report on important local people and institutions, with the aim of sustaining a conversation with a knowing audience about things they don’t already know.

There’s something to be said for running a publication and making it this valuable. But I’m still an idealist. What happens when the cheap content for the poor, but knowing audiences, starts to stink because it’s not profitable? The New York Times costs almost $200 a year, and even they’re launching cheaper products. I’m glad there’s options in terms of business models. I’m just scared about this one.  

 

Image via AMC

Should We Do Away With the Comment Section?

Once upon a time, I believed comment sections were content, too. And on some sites, I liked to read them. But now, Gawker is putting native advertisements in them and I think we should just do away with them. Yes, just get rid of the comment section.

It’s actually a very interesting move. Gawker sites have a huge, vocal following. There’s no reason they shouldn’t monetize that by putting Bill Nye in the Gizmodo comments.

There are actually very few online pubs and blogs that have good comment sections. Most online comments are not useful and often just plain old mean. I cheered when the Huffington Post announced it was no longer letting users comment anonymously. But if you take away the anonymity, maybe it’s best just to do away with them all together. It’s becoming more and more of a hassle — create an account, sign up for the newsletter, add an avatar — to comment anyway.

I used to believe that comment sections were a sign that the internet (back when it was called ‘the net’)was democratic  and a place for the open exchange of ideas. But now it’s about fighting with a troll about politics, or writing tangents to news stories that you should just post to a blog. You know, be productive, ‘own what you think.’

I feel like the comment sections should be the most authentic part of the webpage. But if even they are sponsored and –coming soon, right? — focused on going viral? Get rid of them altogether.

If you have something to say in response to a story or want to laud a writer – take it to Twitter. Write an email. Get your own blog. Just don’t do it in the comments.

Are We Stuck with Hashtags and Like Buttons?

The coverage on Nieman Journalism Lab yesterday of the Engaging News Project pretty much ruined my coffee break as I clicked through the research: there are few things I love more than seemingly wonky research about journalism and democracy. Especially when it’s put in action. Talia Stroud’s research shows, in the most simple explanation, that when you change the language, it can also change how people engage with your website. That should perk most of our ears up. If you want, you can already start making your readers ‘Respect’ stories instead of ‘Like’ them with a WordPress plug-in.

What you can’t make people do, according to her research, is actively seek out information that goes against their views, or their niche. That sounds like old news to me. We’re all in our own little ‘bubbles’ to use Bill Maher’s lingo. That’s bad for democracy, but good for online publishers. It also has something to do with why magazines have fared better in a digital landscape. Chris Hughes of The New Republic spoke to a lot of like-minded, nodding heads this week about how readers (users? can we agree on a terminology?) still look for ‘curated editorial experiences’ whether online or off. That’s something not easy to do with a daily news site, but the goal of most magazines — whether it’s the New Republic or Slate or Field and Stream. 

Apart from saving democracy from ourselves online, the Respect button has my head spinning for another reason. In terms of design and user experience, it’s hard for pubs to break out of the Web 2.0 standards whether it’s about asking readers to like things, comment, or use hashtags. I’m sure there are many strategists and design experts who haven’t slept considering the same things.  I’m not sure if it’s a good thing that everything starts to look the same, all the time. I don’t know for how much longer I even want to ‘like’, let alone ‘respect’ content online, although that’s the formula publications work with to determine all the numbers that make up their bottom line.

Maybe it’s the stormy weather on the East Coast that has me thinking too much about it — but what do you think? If we’ve moved past Web 2.0 and onto the semantic web, how does that affect how we’ll have to start thinking about reader engagement and page design? Is it just that we’ll  be able to better search our hashtags and generate more niche content to read? 

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