Sunday, January 27, 2019

Click-bait goes both ways post-Covington; Business model problems for mid-sized media companies and indie journalists grow even more convoluted; what about minimum volumes?

I wanted to continue yesterday’s discussion about the tension between independent journalism and media companies, especially the upstarts of the past few years.

NBC has reported, in a piece by Ben Collins, that some persons on 4chan have been flooding laid-off journalists with threats  in an ironic twist in the whole CovningtonGate narrative (we even had some disagreements about this at church brunch today – I was told there was even more to follow, and I guess they were talking about the NBC story).    

Tim Pool comments about the “learn to code” (or maybe wash dishes) meme and tweets (become a “prole”)

Pool has pointed out the business model flaws in the venture capital that fed the mid-tier media companies.  The newer companies could not make enough money generating news so they tended to generate click bait.   Journalism cannot grow with the economy like “real products”.

Pool was critical of Collin’s for a conflict of interest in his article (given his tweetstorm). I’ll let Pool explain this and not try to restate it.

As I’ve indicated on some posts, I’ve wondered about the idea of “free content” and how it plays into the problems today of misuse of the opportunities for user generated content.

I’ve been told in private sessions that there could be suspicion of sites or blogs with lower visitor counts, as possibly pointing to future security risks.  That’s one reason why there has always been so much hype over using search engine optimization products and to “play ball” with commercial interests. Hosts could look at analytics (visitors and bounce rates) for problems like this, although I haven't been told that they actually do. Click-bait could certainly complicate any such intentions now. 
Some services have minimum volume requirements for some features. (Adsense reserves the right to have one but doesn’t ever seem to enforce one.)  YouTube will not allow ads without  minimum number of visitors, and Patreon and similar services have minimum subscriber counts.  Generally services have not so far had minimum requirements just to stay online, although it’s imaginable that in a world with net neutrality gone, this could change.  In the POD book industry so far, Amazon and the POD companies themselves don’t seem to enforce minimums, but it sounds reasonable to expect that this could change.
One of the reasons for this would be ideological – sort of the “skin in the game” idea (Taleb) – action, rather than talk, is needed to solve real policy problems and inequality, and speakers need to fess up and go to work and join up with activists – and provide a lot of community engagement, and support solidarity, to get things done.  I don’t know how much traction this idea has yet, but the idea seems to be growing on the street.
Businesses have not generally followed “self-righteous” social ideologies in the past, but in the past couple of years, as we have seen with payment processors since Trump go into office (and particularly since Charlottesville), this seems to have changed.   The extreme right (compared even to radical Islam a couple years ago) really has them scared.

But Pool’s reporting shows that “high volume” that came from “playing ball” seems to be associated with hastily turning out click-bait to get ad revenue.  So the whole growing controversy over free content is getting filled with contradictions indeed.

One aspect of opinion commentating remains troubling:  reporting an argument or extreme policy proposal (such as one I blogged about today regarding the military draft) to warn readers about it.  Activists, particularly from the Left, complain that this (when coming from someone with no “skin in the game”) only makes the proposal more credible and gain more future political traction. But the far right has made videos, for example, wanting to repeal the 19th Amendment (women’s vote).

Pool has talked about the difference between commentary and reporting (Ford Fischer’s videos of demonstrations are raw reporting of provable facts) – but Pool often goes through news stories to point out the logical flaws in activists’ thinking. I do it to “warn” people to stay alert and not remain in their partisan bubbles, but to think for themselves.

Conde Nast is introducing an innovation in the paywall area (mixing it with ad surveys) that might provide more stability for some media companies. 

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