Colleen Otte

Newsprint nightmare, or digital dilemma?

Realtors like to say there are two kinds of homebuyers: the fixer-uppers and those who prefer to invest in the new.

The fixer-uppers’ rationale lies in that old homes have character; they preserve history in their ornate antiqueness. There’s also a sense of security that comes with the knowledge that they have served several generations well—despite the need to patch up a few drafty windows or repaint a few walls, perhaps.

Those who buy new, however, like that their homes are “move-in ready.” Their homes’ structures are reliable in that they were constructed using modern technology; they require no additional attention for the safety of their tenants.

This same concept can be applied to the debate between old versus new media organizations. Readers of age-old news giants such as The New York Times and The Washington Post feel secure in trusting such content because of the reputations for credibility each has gained over the years. Consumers of newer media such as BuzzFeed and Elite Daily, on the other hand, enjoy the efficiency and interactivity of today’s modern structure. Leslie Kaufman articulated this idea eloquently in her article about the formation of Vox Media.

Image: Flickr, antony_mayfield
Image: Flickr, antony_mayfield

“Technology has become crucial to every newsroom, of course, but not all technology has been designed equally,” said Kaufman. “News organizations born in the print era have generally knit together disparate systems over the years to produce websites that integrate graphics, social media and reader comments with various degrees of smoothness.

“Many all-digital organizations have built their content management systems from the ground up with the Internet in mind. That strategy, many say, produces a more organic melding of journalism and technology.”

Vox Media was the fastest growing digital media site in 2013, according to comScore. Its developers work right alongside reporters, making it easier for the journalists to have access to the tools necessary for the enhancement of their storytelling. According to Chief Executive of Vox Media Jim Bankoff, producing such a “sexy” content management system is crucial for recruiting young talent.

“For this generation of talent, which grew up digitally, having the proper tools to ply their craft is essential,” said Bankoff. “Being able to offer them the best possible platform to achieve their goals is a great advantage.”

In an opinion piece for The Observer, however, Chris Lavergne, founder of The Thought Catalogueboldly predicts that history will only repeat itself for digital content, with “the same players executing similar game plans.”

“You sell in a legendary deal. You toil for decades and become a great media conglomerate. You are castrated by acquisition,” said Lavergne. “We have seen this show before, and we know how it ends.”

Lavergne projected the looming fate of BuzzFeed as an example.

“BuzzFeed is almost structurally destined to repeat the banal narrative of every capitalist love story,” said Lavergne. “Grow, grow, grow, and poof—sell to the highest bidder.”

What I find to be most interesting about these two articles is that both seem to reveal insecurities about their own media format. The New York Times publishes that age-old media companies lack cohesive technology platforms and have instead laced together patchwork programs; the founder of The Thought Catalogue, a collaborative journalism website, asserts that digital enterprises face an unfortunate future.

Well, I have good news for both:

The New York Times, I tend to agree more with your viewpoint. According to the results of the Pew Research Center’s 2015 State of the News Media report, we have reached the age of the “mobile majority”: at the start of 2015, 39 of the top 50 news sites had greater traffic to their sites and associated applications via mobile devices. Furthermore, aside from the increasingly mobile-minded audience, I know that my generation of graduating journalists has studied such digital platforms throughout our schooling, and will carry that with us as we become the next crop of leaders at news organizations. Just as Vox Media’s Bankoff said, we will likely be lured to companies that have worked with today’s technology from the ground up.

Thought Catalogue, you, too, may rest easy. By The New York Times’ standards, you’re the type of outlet that’s slated to survive and to do quite well. You were conceptualized as a digital website, and have continued to remain relevant through your interactivity with your viewers. (I, for one, have certainly been baited by numerous Thought Catalogue articles shared in my Facebook feed.)

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