Why journalists can’t rely on advertising


To start my mind a-wandering

(I’m at Joshua Tree National Park dreaming up some future blog postings. This is a rerunn of a previously-written post that is suggestive of my thinking.)

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Tsk, tsk on Paid Content today for taking a snarky potshot at Yahoo’s Hot Zone, the series in which ( dangerously handsome) roving reporter Kevin Sites serves up pathos from world hotspots. Paid Content says this magical misery tour attracted only 1.38 visitors in March, versus more than 27 million forYahoo proper and adds: “Nor have advertisers fully embraced the Hot Zone as a place to sell their wares.” Now consider this MediaPost report on the launch by Scripps Network of its second channel on bath design — the first being kitchen design — and the character of new media comes into focus.

I use “character” in the same way I might use “cuisine” to describe fast food. Yes, it’s edible but that’s the extent of it. Current media (including my employer) have been advertising supported but there is a difference in measurability and targetability with online media. Direct linkages such as contextual advertising destroy any illusion of separation between editorial and advertising content. Of course advertisers won’t “buy” the Hot Zone. What would they sell? Kevlar vests ?

In contrast Scripps Network can mine a rich advertising territory in its kitchen and bath design channels. On a brief visit there this morning I noticed that portable, inflatable spas for just under $800. Wouldn’t Kevin Sites love to luxuriate in one of those after schlepping across the Sudan. Maybe we can do something groovy and user-participatory and take up an online collection to send him one.

So maybe it’s just that it’s Friday. Or maybe it’s just that I’m a middle-aged print dinosaur. Or maybe I wonder whether my notion of journalism — once defined as “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable” — can survive in an era in which algorithms reward content that better enables us to feather our nests?

Personally I am astonished and impressed that 1.38 million unique visitors took time out of their days to let Sites expose them to conditions so alien to our comparative everday luxury. And I hope Yahoo News general Manager Neil Budde is adamant about maintaining and supporting the less lucrative but entirely laudable Hot Zone. Meanwhile, if Kevin has to get more visitors, I suggest he do video segments in which he interviews local personalities in the portable, inflatable spa. It could bring a new dimension to the notion of news in the raw.