The Good, The Bad, and Ugly of Internet News
How do you get your News?
Credit where credit is due. The standard Newspaper was amazing for its time. Certainly underrated in its help with the education and development of societies. How incredibly crucial, during the several hundred years between the proliferation of the printing press and the rise of digital media, for people to be able to receive updates on all types of information right at their front door(if not at the newstand).
I'm referencing the Newspaper as if it were dead, and truth is, it almost is. The Internet and digital media have feasted upon the short-comings of paper printing, putting the Newspaper on the dinner table. But before stick a fork in it, lets take a moment to say grace...
I'll make the argument, that for what it is, no better system of a paper printed, news information source could exist.
Articles and stories can be added or edited right up to a couple hours before printing and release. Distribution of any given daily newspaper, from several hundred to tens of thousands of individual issues(and more in some cases) can happen as fast as any modern vehicle moves them.
The writers, journalists, photographers and editors, mostly professionals, passionate about their aged trade, really must be very precise at what they do, no editing after a paper has been published. Save for the occasional error, misprint or lying journalist who pads or fabricates his/hers stories they must be flawless their first time around.
The separate Newpapers must understand their audience; most material that makes it to page must be of particular interest among their subscribers to sustain readership. Most material within any general paper is often highly relevant regionally or nationally, with very few frivolous additions; certainly there isn't room enough on finite paper pages to add things which wouldn't be considered noteworthy by most readers.
Charging customers a dollar or two, for what only costs about 10 cents in paper and ink, is a great mark up.
At a glance, it seems to be quite a refined process and not a poorly thought through enterprise.
Internet News: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
But, every dog has its day; times have changed, and like many of you, I get my news and essentially all my current affairs from the Internet. Internet news is the all-in-one stop; with all of the benefits of a Newspaper and seemingly less of its shortcomings. Below is a closer look at the trade off we've accepted; The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
- Ease of Use-You can jump from article to article with a move of the mouse, no flipping wispy paper pages, no dirty inky hands. Just slide the mouse, and scroll. You can even drink your morning cup of coffee with your other free hand.
- Material Variety- From local to world news, politics to entertainment (more on that later), stock reports to sports; all in a few clicks.
- Multiple Outlets- The same material is usually covered by multiple sources. Want to get a few different view points? All you need do is shop around for a bit. Check out Yahoo vs. Yahoo Ireland. I've literally seen the same topic covered with opposite facts.
- Consistent Multimedia Components-You get HD color photos with almost every story, not just on the front page. Even if your Newspaper could get color photos, it can't ever show you a video clip!
- Up-to-date- No print time. 24/7 Coverage. Last nights season finale recap. The game that ended 5 minutes ago. Tomorrows weather. If it happened (or is going to happen), and someone witnessed it (or someone knows about it), chances are, its out there.
- Intuitive Interest Tracking- Not surprising, it even caters to you. Did you know Yahoo.com generates your news feed based on the type of articles you've read before? Your internet news provider literally knows your specific interests! No hunting around to find the stories you want to read, its right there at the top of your homepage.
- Free- It doesn't cost you a thing. Not even the Sunday edition.
- Less Professionalism- With a newspaper, writers, photographers, journalists, etc. go through a hiring process; some screening, review of your past work, maybe even requiring a college education. Today, anyone can jump online, write something, take a video, tag a picture, and post it to the world as truth. Its not a horrible thing, a lot of excellent information comes from unaffiliated insiders but on the other hand so does a good portion of crap! This requires us to fact check, review multiple sources and become more diligent readers; something we should be doing anyway.
- Too much Coverage- I know, you can't applaud Internet news as being up-to-date and round the clock only to condemn it as having too much coverage. But this is more about how the most incrementally insignificant things are reported ad naseum. Instead of waiting for real details or changes we get a lot of needless updates just so someones post will get the first wave of interested clicks.
- Impersonal- With a Newspaper, more often than not, if it's a featured article, an author has to put his name next to it. How many times do you see an Internet article signed, Anonymous. If your gutsy enough to put it out there, you should be gutsy enough to admit writing it. Too many keyboard cowboys big enough to shoot their guns, yet always seem to tip their hats down when people ride by to see what the commotion was all about.
- Sponsored/False Links- Ever see an interesting headline and you wanna read the article? Only to immediately notice the little colored *Sponsored* below! Such a deflating thing to know you've been duped by an ad. People can take out ads in Newspapers too, but at least there you know its an advertisement. On the Internet it feels so cheap and misleading.
- Plugs- Ever start a benignly named article, only to realize its just a ploy to plug something or someone. Yes I care about the science of being Gluten Free, no I don't care about John/Jane Doe's new $20 book about it.
- News vs. Publicity- Scroll down any homepage, Yahoo.com, MSN.com, etc. Odds are, every 3 articles or so on the News Feed aren't really news at all, they're publicity posts. A quick synopses of how internet publicity works: I write an article about You/your product, every Click the article receives trends your name/product on the internet, that trend is picked up by the major news feeds, these networks re-post the information/link to a larger news outlet or just place it higher on the homepage, the article featuring you or your product in turn gets more Clicks, and sooner than later, you/your product has a level of perceived relevance based on an article your team paid someone to write. There are writers who are paid to post articles about other people and/or products to publicize them and not because its news! Why? Its easier to pay one person than it is a team of people to keep your name in the limelight. For the writer, not only do they get a fee to craft some inane "story" featuring you, but, they get advertisement royalties from the article. This might seem like just an small annoying facet of Internet news, but honestly, its dumbing down what we consider to be relevant information. For many, we drift by these articles as if they weren't there. For young people and/or the less intellectually inclined, who are caught up in celebrity idolization, its confirmation that people don't need to do important or consequential things to be noticed, they can simply put on a new dress, flaunt their money, or talk about their "ever so interesting" lives to keep people watching, caring and thinking of themselves.
Some examples- News: Val Kilmer Hospitalized. Publicity: Teresa Guidice getting Buff in Prison News: Jerome Bettis Elected to football HOF Publicity: Guess the engagement ring! News: Cumberbatch Urges UK to pardon Gay Men Publicity: Taylor Swift looks hot in a bikini.