The evolution of content dynamics online has left traditional news organizations needing to adapt in how they model their business and their readership. It’s fair to say there’s still considerable disagreement as to the best new strategy. Sites like Times Online, for instance, have built a paywall, and rely on the quality of their content, the strength of their offline brand, and exclusive benefits to entice readers. MailOnline, the website of the Daily Mail, is by this point the most-read English-language news site in the world, and its model is decidedly different: its content is free, its advertisers are many, and large swathes of the site toe a very fine line between gossip magazine content and newspaper articles.
All of this has meant that the definition of news has been obscured and appropriated. What twenty years ago would never have passed as news, is now part and parcel of the game. Whether the energy behind this clickbait model will last forever is an entirely different question, but the line between serious, po-faced journalism and casual, light-hearted blogging has never been thinner, if by this point it’s even visible at all.
What’s more interesting and perhaps more telling is the editorializing of news, whereby a constant flurry of opinion pieces and columns allow newspapers to stoke controversial fires and weigh in from one or various new angles on a subject that might by that point be drifting from the plane of public consciousness.
With these new content lines, we’ve seen an increasing number of bloggers taking up the mantle of “real journalism”, with investigative acumen and in-depth analysis migrating from the domain of Fleet Street to, well, the rest of the world. There’s more space in readers’ understanding of content now for them to trust other channels of information; the authority of a wide circulation has diminished, and the availability of information means that referencing and sourcing ideas and data is easier than ever.
All of this has resulted in an undercurrent of “not proper” proper journalism which is occasionally dipped into by major publications. That includes curated blogs which are thought leaders in their industry, the personal blogs of experts, and a million different forms in between. Sure, there are still angry blogs that belong to teenagers in their bedrooms, but they’re few and far between. Blogging has grown up, and is a respected and valuable arena. And I’m not just saying that because this is a blog.
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