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Off the Media

Off the Media

Who Can You Trust? A Guide To Your Online Media Diet

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You’re probably pretty aware that you’re being manipulated at this point.

Clickbait. Outrage porn. Shoddy sourcing. Stories being traded up the chain. Fake traffic. Sanctimony. The playbook of online publishers has started to resemble something a 20th century con man might use. It’s suite of ruses, misdirection and outright deception designed to steal clicks here and traffic there. It’s a way of relieving unsuspecting readers of their attention and pawning it off to trusting advertisers.

So if you’re not one of those people, that is if you are finally suspecting and suspicious, what are you to do? Who should you read? Who can you trust?

It’s a question I’ve been asked a lot since I wrote my book. It’s also a question I’ve asked a lot myself — because I’d like to know the answer. Read More

Off the Media

Facebook Is Getting Rid of Clickbait — But Not Because They Care About You

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We’re saved! Finally, Facebook has announced it’s stepping in to put a stop to all the “clickbait.”

Sure, they largely created and encouraged today’s iteration of this problem (Upworthy, Buzzfeed, Viral Nova et al were founded almost exclusively around Facebook’s easy-to-game algorithms) and profited greatly from it. But now they’ve had enough and things are going to change.

I believe that. I also believe that things are going to get worse. Read More

Off the Media

Spare Us The Sanctimony: The Gross Hypocrisy of Online Media in the Nude Photo Leak

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It seems to me that we are entering a new phase in our media culture online. It’s post-gossip, post-snark and post-smarm. It is the sanctimony phase.

Maybe it’s an outgrowth of Upworthy and its simple yet holier-than-thou politics. Maybe it’s the natural extension of outrage porn. But you are seeing it quite clearly with the media reaction to the recent trove of leaked celebrity nudes. Read More

Off the Media

The New Media Dilemma: Eschewing Crap for Quality, Despite the Incentives

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When I say that Vox and FiveThirtyEight have quickly gone from promising to clickbait hackery, they almost make it too easy. I mean, “This is what Pangaea would look like with modern borders”? C’mon. Even Gawker was aghast.

But that’s my point, it is so easy to criticize. What’s harder is the dilemma that every web publisher today is facing, including myself and the leadership at Betabeat.

This stuff gets traffic. Are we just not supposed to publish it? Read More

Off the Media

Even Data Journalists Like Klein and Silver Aren’t Above Hack Tactics

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We live in a new world of “method journalism.”

In it, bright minds like Nate Silver and Ezra Klein have staked out new media territory, defined by the style in which their writers produce content. It’s supposed to be a new golden age for content, driven by hard data in Silver’s case, and simplified explanation in Klein’s.

Except of course, they’re not. It’s just the same pageview journalism dressed up with better rhetoric. The same end, just different means. Read More

Off the Media

Chasing Ghosts: ‘Attention Minutes’ Are Voodoo, CPM is Still What Counts

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Though we often criticize sites like Huffington Post and Buzzfeed for their do-anything-for-clicks mentality, deep down we know it’s not really their fault. It’s the advertisers who also make this trade lucrative. The way publishers see it, they are just fulfilling a need.

I’ve been there myself. I know that pageviews are a terrible metric for measuring “quality”—I’ve compared it to the military measuring success by bodycount. But what else is there? Read More

Off the Media

For Giants Like the New York Times, Problems Are Hidden in Plain Sight

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It’s a pleasant surprise to see Jonah Peretti make the most salient criticism of the New York Times’ recently controversial (and leaked) innovation report. Why is the Times being so hard on its tech and product teams while ignoring the real elephant in the room?

They spend an estimated $644 million combined on delivery and printing costs, plus untold hundreds of millions to be based in the heart of Manhattan. Aren’t these the real, daily business concerns that the newspaper should be looking at more closely?  Read More