Off the Media

Off the Media

Sourceless: Online Reporting Becomes a Race to the Bottom


Online journalism has always had a sourcing problem. From using unverified “anonymous tips” to repeating whatever rumor or speculation people are chattering about, the general ethic is “we’ll publish just about anything.”

But I think it’s fair to say that when blogs start using anonymous secret sharing apps like Secret and Whisper as sources for news stories, we’ve hit a new low. Read More

Off the Media

What to Measure? The Question Journalism Has to Answer

A few months ago I wrote an article for a website where the standard agreement for writers is a bonus incentive on social shares for the article. This was both usual, and unusual for a lot of reasons.

First, most websites don’t pay writers anything. A good portion of writing online is done for exposure (which a lot of people laugh at but content marketing can be hugely lucrative and I encourage my clients to do it). So that was slightly unusual. What was more standard was the fact that for a site that did pay, the payment was partially contingent on page views (there was a bonus for how many social shares the article got). Read More

Off the Media

Fake Traffic Means Real Paydays

At this point, the average reader understands the business model of blogging and online journalism pretty clearly: Get traffic, sell ads.

The more traffic a site gets, the more money it makes. And sites need to get lots of traffic—lots more traffic than traditional media used to get—to pay for the costs of producing content. Read More

Off the Media

Snark and Smarm — the Metier of an Empty Generation

It doesn’t shock me that after a slow and growing backlash against snark and vitriol online, some of its worst purveyors would try to move the target.

Apparently, smarm is now the problem.

Many have already responded to this–from the New Yorker to the New York Times to Esquire — so I don’t want to waste anyone’s time with more insider-y, self-indulgent media analysis. And it doesn’t matter whether you call it “snark or Smarm, in the end, it’s all the same bullshit. Read More

Off the Media

A History of Media Manipulation: This Holiday Book List Will Protect You from Lying Liars

Last week we found out the media had again fallen for a complete hoax when it was revealed that a now-famous waitress who had been the victim of a homophobic no-tip-because-of-your-lifestyle attack in New Jersey had in fact made the whole thing up.

The original story had made the front pages of CNN, ABC, Fox News and countless others. On the Huffington Post, the story received close to 8,000 comments and 16,000 Facebook shares (with follow-ups receiving more). One Gawker story alone did something like 200,000 pageviews. Read More

Off the Media

The New Digital Divide: Privilege, Misinformation and Outright B.S. in Modern Media

Tech folks have long beat the same drum. Yes, the internet is often embarrassingly, comically and dangerously wrong, they say, but if you know how to separate the good from the bad, it all works out. There may be individual weak spots, from Wikipedia pages to Twitter rumors to (incorrect) breaking news on Reddit, but as a whole (the thinking goes), it’s a strong system.

And to a certain degree, they’re right. If you know how to work it, online media is awesome. By nature of reading a column about media, you’re probably one of those people. You are proficient in skepticism, cross-checking stories against each other, and gravitating toward the signal within the noise.

What I think we forget–or worse, never even realized—is the extreme privilege often inherent in “digital literacy.” Read More