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The State of the Digital News Publishing Industry, According to the Internet

typefaceThere must be something in the air, maybe the end of a crazy year, that’s making writers introspective. In the past week alone, there have been some very good analyses of the state of the digital publishing . Since it’s cold outside (unless you live in a place where it’s not cold outside, and in that case, stop gloating) and you need some good reads for hibernation, here are five pieces that, I think, aptly explain the industry right now and help further the conversation.

“Against ‘Long Form’ Journalism,” James Bennett

Everybody in the room, put your hands together for Mr. Bennett. It’s not that he’s against expansive reporting, but the way the terminology is thrown around by publications. He asks:

“Is this just a fad, maybe even a fraud? Cynics would say that publishing a few big feature stories is a shortcut to respectability, and they’d be correct. But realists, I’m happy to say, would comment further that such features work: They draw in a lot of readers.”

Recently, I have find myself tapping out around page 3 or 4 of a feature article. By placing value on “long” we stop focusing on “interesting.” Let’s find another phrase, Bennet suggests, even if it proves tough;

Length is hardly the quality that most meaningfully classifies these stories. Yet there’s a real conundrum here: If long-form doesn’t fit, what term is elastic enough to encompass the varied journalism it has come to represent, from narrative to essay, profile to criticism? And how do you account for the blurring of boundaries as work from the digital realm energizes and reshapes traditional forms of journalism?

“Growing Obsession With Viral Content Exposes the Weakness of Most Digital Media,” Mathew Ingram

good post about Gawker’s Neetzan Zimmerman, although I wondered about this: “He posts only about a dozen items a day” http://t.co/rBfMIQvbxI

— Mathew Ingram (@mathewi) December 2, 2013

Let’s put aside the fact that that headline is really long and plays into some viral trends itself. After the Wall Street Journal’s profile on Neetzan Zimmerman, Ingram was irked by how many times a day the subject posted, and posits that focusing on viral content as a growth strategy, while it works for some, may not be a great idea. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket sort of thing:

But even if the content itself continues to work — in the sense that people will always want to share photos of otters holding hands or cats that look like Franklin Delano Roosevelt — the value of those millions of pageviews is continuing to drop. That’s not just because there are more and more sites doing it, but because the value of incremental pageviews is sinking inexorably towards zero.

“Why Are Upworthy Style Headlines Everywhere?” Robinson Meyer

While this may be long, it’s certainly worth a read. You know how fashion trends are decided by a few editors and stylists? The news we read is sort of decided by Facebook. facebook chart

Informing the News: The Need for Knowledge Based Journalism, Thomas Patterson

This is a new book that we should have added to our gift guide this year. But before you buy, listen to this great interview on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show.

“If You Want Reporters To Check Stories Before The Publish, You’re A Hater,” David Weigel

Recently, the web has fallen for more hoaxes than we should have — all because we’re hungry for viral content, writing emotional headlines that people want to share, and veering away from knowledge based reporting (see what I did there?). While some hoaxes are actually pretty hilarious, like the comedian driven Pace Salsa one, we’re too good for this. Weigel writes:

This is fairly messed up. Yes, people on the Internet want to believe salacious stories. Reporters want to publish stories that people read. If there’s a great reward, and little downside, to be had in publishing B.S., the Internet’s going to get more B.S. As one of my colleagues put it, “‘Too good to check’ used to be a warning to newspaper editors not to jump on bullshit stories. Now it’s a business model.”

If you already read all these this week, do you have any other good reads to pass along? What do you think about the state of the digital news industry? Share in the comments or tweet us your thoughts.

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