I will pay for online content. I will pay lots and lots of money for online journalism. I will happily turn my wallet upside down and shake it until every last debit card, credit card and dollar bill falls out.
If the content is good.
The proliferation of free online content from reputable media organizations has delivered more information to our fingertips than anytime in history. But with more available, I want less than ever. Because in the deluge of information I’ve come to the realization that 90 percent of journalism is crap. It’s life filler – grout for those many moments in our lives when we can’t tolerate the sound of our own thoughts and creativity.
I agreed when President Obama recently said of iPods, Xboxes, and the 24-hour media cycle, “information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment.” There is so much – oh, what’s the word? – shit out there that there is no need to pay for online content.
Until you take a closer look.
What we’re not paying for, nor will I ever pay for:
- Paul Pierce wary of Ron Artest, by The Associated Press. Twelve inches of worthless NBA Finals run-up in which one player says another player defends really hard. I am overly critical of sports writers. Stories like these are the reason why stories like this one – “Could the death of journalism be caused by robots?” – get written.
- Report: Black motorists more likely to be stopped, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. A wonderful story idea executed with the grace of captive-bolt-pistoling a cow in a third-world slaughterhouse. There is no context. Why are they more likely to be stopped? It’s not a story; it’s rewriting a press release with a couple of fresh quotes. (Note: The broken link is a function of the P-D’s website.)
It’s unfair to pick on the P-D. It happens at nearly every news publication across the U.S., from the Miami Herald to the L.A. Times to the HuffPost.
Still, don’t insult me. Give me some value and I’ll pay for it, happily, such as:
- This awesome explanatory graphic from the New Orleans Times-Picayune, detailing the latest plan to halt the Gulf oil leak.
- No penalties for mortgage company with worst loan mod backlog, from ProPublica.
- The Dirtiest Player, GQ’s February piece on former NFL wide receiver Marvin Harrison.
Non-profits need to pay salaries. For-profits need to pay shareholders. Fine, whatever. I’ll pay. But only if what I’m paying for enhances my intellect or my need for quality entertainment.
Find Dave Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.