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“Blogger Burnout” Isn’t About New Versus Old Media Companies

July 20, 2010

It’s been interesting to watch the incredulous reactions to The New York Times’ story on “blogger burnout.” The premise of the article is that the heavy content demands at media sites — and their reliance on page views to drive their business — causes hectic hours and a less than glamorous lifestyle for the journalists who write for these publications.

Such is the state of the media business these days: frantic and fatigued. Young journalists who once dreamed of trotting the globe in pursuit of a story are instead shackled to their computers, where they try to eke out a fresh thought or be first to report even the smallest nugget of news — anything that will impress Google algorithms and draw readers their way.

Unfortunately, an article that merely pieces together the lifestyle of many online journalists has been held up as an affront on New Media (i.e. Foster Kamer’s rant in The Village Voice). The problem with this now really hackneyed statement is that 1) It doesn’t factually refute anything about the lives of modern journalists 2) The New Media vs. Old Media argument is a completely separate issue than what’s described here.

If Mashable or the Huffington Post wrote this article, would we hear this kind of backlash?

No.

You don’t have to be anti New Media to understand that the content demands of sites (New and Old) are often unreasonable, especially when we haven’t worked out a business model to adequately compensate good content creators (New and Old) for the work they do on a proper scale. This makes life hard for many people who work in journalism, regardless if their outlet is two years old, or 150. One way the Times could have hedged against this was adding more examples of blogger burnout at its own company or one like it (it did mention The Christian Science Monitor in passing).

Good journalism — practiced on a blog, a magazine, radio or video medium — requires careful thought and (sometimes, believe it or not) time. I see it on the Times, and I see it on mom and pop blogs, too. But if your business model requires so much content and low common denominator page view metrics to help satisfy the revenue goals of the company (both New and Old are playing that game right now), it’s going to be a hard lifestyle for content creators regardless of the glamor that comes with a byline and a press pass.

Yes, burnout happens in many other professions, such as teaching, firefighting, medicine, and non-profit work. People do write about the intense demands of those professions, and I’m not sure why online journalists should be excluded just so New Media pundits can land a conference speaking engagement where they say “Old Media is so 1.0.”

What I can’t wait for is when the New versus Old media argument begins to blur. We’ve already seen it after Michael Arrington, the creator of one my favorite publications, TechCrunch, rightly lashed out at poor content creation, and I’m sure we’ll see it happen more and more in the future.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 23, 2010 12:49 pm

    Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over (Jan. 2005)

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