Is Content King Online?

Ezra Klein, commenting on a new script at the online version of NYT that seems to have people up in arms, observes:

The defining fact of dead tree media is space limitation, wherein every new feature or extra article takes space away from another contender for the newsprint. That means that you have to pick stories with the broadest, rather than the most intense, appeal. The endless vistas of the internet dismantle that constraint, and allow you to create all sorts of niche content that, while only appealing to certain audience, really appeals to them. If half the energy that went into snazzy new features and interactive gizmos went into the conceptualization and creation of new, more interesting, more specific, content, the publications would be much better off.

Almost certainly true in the aggregate. Then again, there are several top blogs that seem to consist entirely of open threads and no-value-added linkage. And certainly, the social networking sites are wildly popular with people Ezra’s age despite providing essentially no content, specific or otherwise. Clearly, then, interactivity and gizmos can be big draws.

I’m just not sure how this translates to online versions of newspapers and magazines, though.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Media,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

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  2. Tlaloc says:

    Then again, there are several top blogs that seem to consist entirely of open threads and no-value-added linkage. And certainly, the social networking sites are wildly popular with people Ezra’s age despite providing essentially no content, specific or otherwise. Clearly, then, interactivity and gizmos can be big draws.

    But in the case of the myspace model, the gizmo exists to allow others to create content (their particular page/blog). I don’t think that then is a refutation of his point. On the other hand you raise sites that are link aggregates like (I presume) Drudge. Aren’t those, in a sense, making use of the content of those they link to? Sort of like Google. Google itself is a gizmo but it is only so valuable because it is a gizmo that leads to vast amounts of content.

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding your point.

    When I think of useless gizmos I think about things like (no offense) those stupid snap popups here. It’s a “gee-whiz” feature that offers no actual new content, and tends to get in the way.

  3. I think there are two key aspects: content and access to content. Google is a great example of very low original content, but very high access to content. The best content in the world is useless if the readers can’t dig it out. If I have to read through fifty screens about content I don’t care about to get to the one nugget of content I do, I am going to be very open to someone who can give me better access to content.

    The NYT wants to be the gatekeeper of what content you should want to read. That is inimical the role of delivering a broad assortment of content nor of accessing content easily. Further, there is a certain weight to an organization when it comes to delivering content. I may be intensely interested in Zulu coming of age content, but if you are going to cover all areas even that obscure, then you are likely to collapse under your own weight.

    The right balance is to develop unique content and act as an access point to others unique content.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    There isn’t room for a large number of gatekeepers; there’s room for any number of content-creators.

  5. John Burgess says:

    I’ll argue that the social networks very much provide content. It’s just different content. What news there is is of a personal nature, but people like to read about what others are up to. They certainly like the content that feeds their personal fantasies or confirms their personal viewpoints, good, bad, or otherwise.

    Apparently, employers sometimes appreciate that content, too. And then there are the aficionados of the comely photograph!