News media has been working hard these past few years to find ways to engage with, and secure the loyal readership of, content consumers and citizens. The results have been mixed, and the experiment continues. One metric that I believe should not be compromised, though, is the actual quality of content. No matter how many bells, whistles, sound loops, or infographics you integrate into an article, there has to also be substance to the subject matter under study. Perhaps I’m wrong, though.
Consider the article from yesterday’s New York Times, “Are You Rich?”: As an interactive resource tool, it is effectively useless fluff. As a way to write a short article, and more intimately and meaningfully contextualize the message of the article, it could have been very compelling, but the authors (it took 3 of them!) of the article went for fluff and aggregation of 3rd party pithy data points over substance, when they could have written something truly resonant. Whether surprisingly or not, it was the comments that increased the value of the article.
“Every pathway has pros and cons, and editors and owners alike are, I sincerely hope, giving serious consideration to the promises and perils inherent in each possibility.”
Will journalism be well-thought, well-researched, investigative, and editorial in form, or will short-form clickbait designed to secure eyeballs win out? Will content be published to inform, educate, and empower, or will it be designed to incite swiftly targeted emotional reaction and engagement? Every pathway has pros and cons, and editors and owners alike are, I sincerely hope, giving serious consideration to the promises and perils inherent in each possibility. We, the readership, will be the richer for it, if provided a balanced diet of healthy and well-sourced information. Everyone knows that sugar, caffeine, and clickbait – however addictive – provide no value.