Friday, March 5, 2010

Different strokes

So, there's a report out that all but condemns the blogosphere for not talking about the Real Issues in America. In it, the Pew Research Center for Excellence in Journalism reports that the top 5 news issues in the blogosphere in the last week of February were: the call for a choke-proof hot dog; a Google case in Italy; Gordon Brown possibly being an abusive dick to his staff; monogamous frogs; and the use of music to help stroke victims recover brain functionality. Traditional media was all over the health care debate, the shitty economy, the Toyota recall, the Winter Olympics and Afghanistan.

The problem, as far as I'm concerned, with these studies and the implied conclusions is this: people who write and manage blogs know exactly what people are clicking on, and how long they remain reading a page. People who publish newspapers have no idea where the eyeballs reading the dead trees go, and people who put together news programs only know what Nielsen says their viewers are doing. Also, if people are more interested in hot dog regulation than health care, what does that say about health care?

Quite frankly, if we want online media to be more health care and less hot dogs, we'd better start reading more about health care than hot dogs. But, to be really honest, in this two-blogger household, we both clicked on various hot dog related stories that week, too, despite the fact that neither of us wrote about it (though my roommate Tumblr'd something about it). This morning, the first thing I read was about the dude suing CBS over his penis surgery. Yes, I will read almost anything with the word "penis" in the headline, it's practically Pavlovian. That's the problem -- people click on stuff as a response to stimulation, so bloggers write about things that will get clicks because clicks = advertising revenue. And, since in the blogosphere -- unlike in commercials or print ads -- advertisers know exactly what is driving traffic to them and exactly how many eyeballs were subjected to their ads, advertisers pay based on what people are reading. It's a feeedback loop: write about hot dogs, get more page views because people read more about hot dogs than health care, increase ad revenues, write more about hot dogs.

Now, I will return to my regularly scheduled day of writing about unemployment, how the banks are screwing us all, politics and other things that don't generate as many clicks as choke-proof hot dogs.

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