Is It Right to Write What People Want To Read?

Paul Carr’s Techcrunch article on New York Internet Week extends the already-resolved content war into another battle, this time framed as the East Coast’s version of quality content against the West Coast’s “generic filler to pack inside an empty box to make it attractive to advertisers.” This is a war that’s been resolved in favor of content producers, and those who produce lots of content generally end up with lots of “success” (money, uniques, etc), and it’s a fairly straightforward correlation.

I love the Internet’s objective sense of success, by whatever metric one chooses (uniques, page views, money). I believe it’s right to write what people want to read, and the readers will determine if it’s successful or not.

Carr’s concludes his story encapsulates the nature of tech industry blogs (and magazines like Inc. and Entrepreneur) – look for the new superstars, not the underlying trends: Snippet:

Before Harry Potter, no-one knew they were looking for books about wizards; before the Washington Post broke their most famous story, no-one knew they were searching for information about a robbery at the Watergate building, or the subsequent money trail to the White House. Put simply: if Ben Bradlee were an editor at one of today’s Internet companies, instead of the Washington Post in the 1970s, he’d almost certainly have spiked the first Watergate exclusive in favour of a slideshow of cats who look like Nixon.

Actually, if the WaPo was a newsblog in the 1970s, Ben Bradlee would have had enough space and time to publish both the Watergate exclusives and the slideshow of kittens, and would have willingly publish both to reach two sets of audiences.  

Furthermore, the focus on the “superstar” — the hot tech startup, leading to the ultimate IPO — is the standard fantasy of Tech blogs, almost to the point of ignoring the trends. Associated Content, regardless of its low final valuation, did make a ton of money by simply following trends. Business Insider does that today. Demand Media does the same, in large quantities. Yardbarker and Bleacher Report follow the quantity approach in the sports industry. As long as the quality is sufficient enough to fill my need for information (and it usually is), then let them go on grabbing that low-hanging fruit, in large numbers. Sometimes, I want a substantive article. Sometimes, I want a slideshow. One site should be able to provide me with both.

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