The digital media crisis — a personal perspective

From Media Consumption in 2014 by Shane Parrish:

As we approach 2014, I’ve been giving my media consumption some thinking… We tend to just add things and never take things away. There are always more people to follow on Twitter. More people to ‘friend’ on Facebook. More periodicals to read. More blogs to subscribe to. More news to watch…

But what are we so worried about? Are we really going to miss a major news event? No… So is it that we’re worried about not finding out in real-time? Who cares if you find out in the first minute that Nelson Mandela has died. What matters is that he’s gone…

It’s not just news. It’s the rebirth of Yellow Journalism, where everyone wants to stir emotion more than inform. Everyone wants your eyes and, more importantly, your clicks. Traffic matters. And every day the competition for our attention starts all over again. It’s toxic to us.

But is any of that making us smarter, furthering our relationships, or giving us real pleasure? I don’t think so.

Why is this happening? If readers were paying for something, delivering value to them would matter. But most digital media sites generate revenue exclusively from advertisers, and the cheapest way to generate ad inventory (= page views) is by seducing readers with alluring headlines, listicles and slide shows. They entice you to click, but in the long run the lack of real value leaves you feeling taken advantage of, that you’ve wasted your time.

Metrics determine outcomes. If a digital media business sets page views as its success metric (and most do), it will inevitably end up peddling sensationalism and yellow journalism, to the long run detriment of its readers.

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