Sunday, 23 May 2010

Journalists – It's ok to show a little leg, but you don't have to turn to prostitution

The man from the Mirror's been at it again.

First he jettisons SEO (search engine optimisation), now he's equating modern day journalism with prostitution.

While I disagree with him on his anti-SEO stance, he really does have a point about the prostitution thing.

I don't think Mr Kelly is saying that you'll find your local reporter on a street corner near you - although there could be worse places for a journalist to be than out in the patch - but what he is saying is that traditional mainstream primarily news-print organisations shouldn't sell their souls and news sense for quick audience wins.

In other words: News companies shouldn't ditch the local in favour of the celebrity - even though a Jordan story will attract more page views than a hyper local issue.

While the focus is on hits, the true worth is in engagement and audience relevance.  And that's where the money is – if we at least go to look for it.

As Press Gazette's Oliver Luft reports:
Kelly told the Westminster Media Forum that newspapers were in “the audience business” and suggested that titles should focus on distinct, loyal readerships rather than blindly chasing large audiences.
He said newspapers needed to shift focus from the “user” metric to a system which rewarded engagement with readers, he also encouraged titles to follow the good example of, and and create distinct online brands.
“Advertisers and commercial partners want engagement from the customer [online],” Kelly said.
“Which is what, I think, makes it something of a crime when a newspaper with rich, long-established values decides to chuck those values overboard in favour of a massive disengaged audience.
“I think it is editorial prostitution and long-term commercial suicide.”

Doesn't mince his words Matt Kelly.

But that's not why paywalls won't work for mainstream media, it's because people don't want or need to pay for news online. Not when there's bloggers out there who are taking the battle to the establishment by providing niche interest content to niche audiences, for everything else there's ... well again Mr Kelly puts this better than me:
“Can we charge successfully for general news? Not a chance. Not with the BBC pumping it out by the barrel-load free of charge,” he said.

As I've said before (here), charging for online news is the old guard trying to forge a tried and trusted path in a new landscape. Square peg in a round hole.

I do however disagree with his anti-SEO stance.  Sticking with his own analogy, SEO is simply allowing the story to show a little leg to entice the reader in.  If the reader likes what they see when they get more than a little leg, then they'll be back for more.

There's a reason why it's the oldest profession in the world.  It's up to you whether that's journalism or prostitution.

Image from Global Journalist.

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