At the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC), Michelle Bachmann said a lot of things that weren’t true. She said she got the information from a self-published book, Presidential Perks Gone Royal. It’s written by a Republican lobbyist.
Bachmann trusted a book’s facts. Nothing wrong with that. However, with the filters for publication down, lies and truth are indiscernible. Promotional muscle is all one needs to propagate self-published propaganda.
Journalism used to show us the truth. That happened in this case. But for how much longer? How long are people going to keep paying for something as boring as facts?
Traditional Journalism is Dead
There’s a thin, almost sulfuric taste of obsolescence in the air when people talk about journalism. Besides the fact that we’re all just stealing content nowadays and there are fewer than 40,000 full-time journalists in the country, the average age of TV news network viewers is as follows:
- Fox News: 65 years old
- MSNBC: 59 years old
- CNN: 63 years old
- CNBC: 52 years old
This is bad. No one even wants to watch reporting anymore. As tablet computers take over, luring older consumers away, news networks are going to suffer even more.
Yet one study showed that news consumption is booming thanks to digital devices.
But people aren’t really reading news, they’re “getting” it from people and sources that have a similar agenda.
News organizations have to sheer context from articles just to keep impatient digital readers engaged and compete for clicks. This makes a lot of news articles identical to the spittle of curated news sites, injected with sensationalism and bias like athletes on steroids. At the risk of ever-shrinking context and investigative pieces.
Finding Alternative Energy for News Revenue
The difficulty is revenue.
With dwindling subscriber numbers and people frothing at the mouth to keep reading The New York Times for free, news organizations can’t really keep paying journalists to do long-form journalism no one wants to read.
At the end of the day, who’s there to cross-check Michelle Bachmann’s referral to the book other than journalists? Amazon isn’t going to do it. Last I looked, Presidential Perks Gone Wild was high up on the list of “Nonfiction.”
Without journalists, who’s going to investigate… authors?
So, if the reporting muscle of America continues to atrophy, we’re in serious trouble. People will keep digging for more and more stuff that already caters to their opinions. They will keep stubbornly not paying for longer news stories when they can see headlines for free.
But here’s the thing: eBooks can be used for good, too. They’re just not being used very well yet. At all.
Honestly, why is dishonesty always more innovative than honesty?
I work in internet marketing. We have a very simple formula for success: a short, sensational blog post leads to an eBook with longer content in it. Hell, I did this myself.
The New York Times is kind of doing this already… but they plan to publish 10-12 eBooks this year. That’s not enough eBooks. They have hundreds of years of articles.
Why can’t they hire some unemployed millennials to do this for them?
1. A new article comes out about Afghanistan.
2. At the bottom of the article, there’s a 50-page eBook, a collection of the best reporting from Afghanistan since 2001.
3. It’s $1. Maybe free for “platinum” subscribers or something.
This can be done in a day and actually improve journalism at the same time, further drawing away reliance on ad revenue.
I would buy eBooks that offer more context to articles in a way that makes sense. It would be great to not have to stomach the cardboard taste of Wikipedia’s “History of Afghanistan” just to figure out why the Taliban is the way it is.
I would love a little more education about the things I’m already clicking, but there doesn’t seem to be any attempt at offering this context short of annoying and unhelpful links.
The longer news organizations take to adapt to the digital age, the further ahead the fictional nonfiction will get.
What do you think, would you pay $1 to read more about how journalism has been dying since the 90s?