Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Content is still king

I have have been pondering this for awhile. I think that content still matters. Maybe this thought is a 20th century idea and I am holding onto a world where print and hard copy still matter. I hope that's not the case.

While many trumpet the death of print, and even the written word, and with an ever-expanding stable of devices and social media applications, all seemingly devoted to the least common denominator regarding content, one can understand the tendency to heed the siren of doom, particularly as it concerns the state of words and writing.

When I was in LA, I had lunch with a friend, and former writing colleague. We met in Koreatown, as I had never experienced Korean BBQ before. The culinary experience was worthwhile, but even better, in my opinion, was the conversation.

My friend is attending Annenberg’s Master's program in communications. Our conversation started with what we’ve both been up to, and gradually drifted to all things media, and journalism, in particular.

It was McLuhan that famously uttered, “the medium is the message,” and all too often, I think that might be true. Twitter is a case in point. Given its 140 character limit, and the moniker given it that it is a “micro-blogging” platform, lends greater credence to it than I think it deserves. But how much can really be conveyed in 140 words, or less?

The point my friend made, and one that I've considered for some time, is this--newspapers, and other media outlets that have primarily been invested in print are making a mistake in the transition, online. Rather than ensuring that their content remains the focus of their efforts, all too often, newspapers and magazines have opted to "dumb down" their content thinking that somehow, by doing this--aiming for the lowest common denominator--they could preserve their readership, transitioning to a new medium. In the process, they've lost readers, like me and newspapers (I no longer subscribe), instead of preserving something meaningful, and figuring out the new model of publishing, have opted to publish drivel, calling it news.

Interestingly, my friend, who is nearly 20 years my junior, validates the idea that others are making--content still matters.

I plan on periodically highlighting print models that appear to be working, from small press book publishers, to hybrid models of journalism.

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