There is a conversation happening but not happening in our publishing and media organizations. It’s not happening because no one’s actually putting it on the table for all to see and argue about and decide on. It is happening in the pregnant silence that follows a exchange like this one:
“Hey, Revered EIC”
“Yeah, Esteemed CEO?”
“What do you think about your team doing three stories a day instead of three a month?”
“Ummm, well there’s kind of a reason it takes us a month to do three”
“Well, couldn’t ya just do smaller ones?”
“Well, see it’s not so much the length or number as the QUALITY.”
“Of course! Quality is what we stand for! It’s our competitive advantage! You guys are the best! I mean just look at all the awards we’ve won! But with the SPEED of the internet and all, we need more. Thanks, EIC, I know you’ll do the right thing!”
And I don’t mean the pregnant silence of a second or so. It seems this particular little thread of “unsaid-ness” lingers, floating like a faintly noxious smell through the hallowed halls of editorial
First Perceived Value Conflict: QUALITY v SPEED
And it’s happening in the vague nauseous feeling one gets after an exchange like this one:
Dedicated Marketing Guy: “And here’s a new ad unit that we’re putting in place (interstitial ad blocks site content and shows puppy wanting to play fetch) Check it out! If you mouse over the ball you can throw it for the puppy to fetch. And he barks until you do!”
Dedicated journalist: “Ummm, what do the readers think of that?
Dedicated Marketing Guy: “Who cares? It works!”
Second Perceived Value Conflict: INTEGRITY v MONEY
And the amused incredulity one might enjoy upon witnessing this one:
(setting: Training room filled with 25 or so edit folks listening to an expert in online journalism)
Online Editorial Instructor: “So, the state of our business is changing so quickly we really will be pushed to consider doing business and doing journalism in very different ways. For instance…there are sites that are linking externally to other information sources – even to their competitors if that serves the reader.”
Dedicated (talk about Incredulous) Journalist: “What? Linking to competitors? (Stands up and slams hand on desk, yelling) THAT’S INSANE!!!!!!”
Third Perceived Value Conflict: Sanctity of Tradition v Crazy Talk
Third Perceived Value Conflict: Death by Legacy v Evolution of Media
Quality and Speed, Church and State, Editorial Integrity and the Health – nay, the SAVING – of the Business. These are real. good. difficult. questions. And even in companies that have made great leaps forward into the new landscape of media, these questions have not been openly and thoroughly discussed.
Business: beware that church and state existed to protect the business from itself. Take the best of it and adhere to it. In the long run, we can’t afford not to.
Journalists: be inquisitive about your readers’ information habits and your business’ health lest you – and journalism – gets lost, left behind or trampled. We can’t afford it now or ever.
There’s a lot to be done here and it better be quick.
More on this next time….