I had lunch today with a client of ours, who’s the district manager for a large retail operation.
We were discussing the problems that every retail operation is facing (declining revenues in the face of the online onslaught of available retail). I was told that the corporate office in California questioned the decline in revenues at a Baton Rouge location over the past few months, and asked the district manager what was going on.
“Well,” he said, “Let’s see: several black people shot by police in Baton Rouge, retaliation against police in Baton Rouge; funerals of those affected; Black Lives Matter protests; and then the major flooding. But the people in California had no idea or grasp on the problems our Baton Rouge location was experiencing. The problems there were not on national news and no one at corporate knew about them. Our store is near where everything took place, so obviously there’s going to be an effect on business.” The corporate office in California was oblivious to what was happening in Baton Rouge. Surely, this was national news?
While we have so many sources of “news,” perhaps the information overload doesn’t reach the recipients that it used to before the internet took over as a main news source.
When print newspapers dispensed news, at least you had one pretty reliable source where you could get real news items.
How ironic. We have so many more places where we can get information, but there seems to be a big disconnect between information and information consumption. Is it the way that information is disseminated now, i.e. through the web—which focuses on headline news items with little (or mostly no) depth, entertainment fluff (Brad and Angelina are getting divorced!) and sports scores? Is it our embrace of social media as a first source of news?
Or is it the way the human beings’ brains are being rewired to adjust to how we are being slammed with information, most of which is totally useless crap? Is this what’s making our minds tune out some of the static, only leaving room for the bits and pieces, the headlines, that make it through the curtain of so-called news “confetti” that we all have to wade through every day?
The information world is, in fact, probably dominated by social media, which in my humble opinion is the worst possible source of information. If anything, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. have been the nail in the coffin for news media and journalism in general.
The traditional newspaper model has been superseded by websites. Websites don’t, for the most part, delve into a story because readers don’t have an attention span long enough to actually read details. “Journalism” in newspapers is now focused on how many clicks a writer generates for his or her online story. So the TMZ story on the Brangelina divorce is going to get a lot more clicks than a corruption story in Congress. Clicks equate to advertising, don’t you know, and that’s pretty much what it’s all about. Click bait. Clicks equal money.
I highly recommend your viewing a feature now on YouTube that was done on Last Week Tonight, a satirical news program hosted by John Oliver. Also look for Oliver’s piece on “native advertising” or advertorial content disguised as editorial.
Journalism used to provide information that people need to know about, not particularly what they want to know about (would you rather read a juicy gossip story or a sports feature rather than what’s going in your city government?). So journalism has been totally corrupted by entertaining the masses rather than keeping us informed and educated about what’s honestly going on in our world.
This is scary and pitiful, but it’s pretty clear that this is the wave of the future.
It’s why we are experiencing this bizarre presidential election. Wonk versus entertainment. It’s a sad commentary on the future of news media.
While OffBeat could never really be considered a source of hard news, we endeavor to provide our readers with writing about stuff that matters in our culture. It’s very difficult to resist click bait online, and we can certainly see what garners traffic and what doesn’t on our website and on social media.
Should that influence OffBeat’s core mission of informing our readers on local and regional music and culture? Lest you think that what our writers honestly and legitimately write about has no real impact on our survival, let me tell you that if there’s, say, a CD review that is less than stellar, OffBeat will be called to task on that. We’ve lost many an ad because we were honest in our assessments.
Will we include advertorial? Not unless we tell you what it is, and if you are a longtime reader of OffBeat, you know we have resisted that temptation mightily, unlike other local publications.
It depends on what you want to read: click bait, native advertising, lists of advertising clients disguised as editorial, or real editorial content. Your choice.