I’m always hesitant to post entries like that last one, because I don’t want to give the wrong impression. And there are so many wrong impressions to choose from! In particular, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m laboring under the delusion that I am a lone bastion of quality work here on this Internet, because (1) my work could use improvement and (2) there are plenty of other writers I look up and (3) I’m not the only person chafing under the Internet’s new regime of cherry ad words and Google-baiting. For that matter, neither am I venting about my day job; we have some subtle but intriguing ideas at play at 1UP that, I hope and pray, will help us to work around the system.
What I am, however, is unhappy about the way “new media” has simply adopted the worst practices of old media, amplified them, and thrown out all the good. I am worried that before long my unwillingness to think in terms of (or, to be more honest, my inability to wrap my head around) traffic and metrics will make me as useless and unemployable as the cranky old journalist who refused to learn to use computers ten years ago.
So, anyway, thank you for the very nice things you’ve all said, but that wasn’t really what I was after. Unfortunately, what I’m after is a large-scale ecumenical change in the things people value online, and in the way they read, which is a change I don’t think this site’s modest readership will be able to effect.
(However, if you do happen stumble across some kind of mass mind-control technique, please feel free to put it to use for me.)
15 thoughts on “The inevitable minor course correction”
I think you find this stuff too interesting to ever throw in the towel. Cranky indeed.
Well, considering children these days read less, they probably don’t even have the attention span to read a long article.
I’m not sure if the above commenter is being cranky or joking, but most surveys I’ve read suggest that children these days on the whole read and write signficantly more because of the internet.
This is, admittedly, a separate issue than whether or not they can read long pieces, obviously, but the notion that the younger generation doesn’t read/reads less is incorrect. There is a good argument to be made about the content of that raeding material, though.
Yeah, my impression is that kids read far more than they used to. And, honestly, I suspect they’re reading fairly decent material. The real problem is the suffocating need for constant, immediate stimulation from all media; it places far more value on expediency than on refinement. There’s also the strange fact that the Internet is where people go when they’re rarin’ for a fight, making them far more likely to click on provocatively-titled links.
It’s also easier and cheaper to appeal to the more.. low functioning.. members of society. Hence the perceived ‘dumbing down’ of media as a whole. Thickos are more easily distracted by shiny flashing things.
The few times you HAVE attracted the attention of the high-traffic websites, it’s meant DoS all around for no advantage in particular. Traffic is good only because it gets ad impressions. You sell books. That business model is better served by cultivating True Fans instead of posting linkbait, because the linkbaited aren’t going to buy the GameSpite Quarterlies.
Seth Godin’s written a fair bit about marketing and business models on the Internet, and is worth checking out.
Facebook, twitter, and text messages don’t count as reading material. It’s not just the kids, though. Walk into any college classroom and you’ll see as many people on an iPhone as with a pencil. I swear, I’m at the point now where if I have kids, I’m moving to the country and ditching the TV. You don’t retain anything anyway if your mind isn’t clear.
I’m reminded of Jon Stewart’s interview with editor of Newsweek Jon Meacham; on the day that Newsweek was put up for sale, Meacham declared that though the world needed print, it might be time to reverse the equation: online material first, the best of which is selected for print. Which is, to my eyes, pretty much your model. Perhaps this is a more technical point about online vs. print journalism; games journalism has been online at least as long as it was “offline only,” so the comparison may not be apposite. What I guess I’m getting at is, so long as the material is worth reading (no matter how debased the mainstream discourse becomes), the “modest readership” here will hold steady and perhaps grow. Dovetailing that, so long as the print stuff is worth buying (I love holding a book vs. reading a screen), it will sell, even if that’s not enough to support you. The valuable stuff never dies.
As a maturing medium, videogames are still a long way from having an established media that goes beyong clicks and previews and “the hottest girls in gaming” articles. But as was covered in the recent 1up podcast that shall not be named, there seems to be a place for every style of magazine/writing. I just hope good writers like Jeremy will stick around for the ride.
Again, it’s not your fault. For christ sake web news sites report tweets now as if they’re news. For extra fun try actually “reading” an article on CNN. About 40% of the stories now are videos about stuff that doesn’t need to be a video in the first place. And afterwards, it’s a story you could have read in 45 seconds. Even worse, the comments section there is nothing but racists and idiots. The IQ of people in those sections are similar to the ones posting on the 1up news stories. Sign of the times my friend, sign of the times.
I read this article after reading your post, and couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry.
“Associated is in the business of generating a great deal of freelancer-produced content that can earn as little as $5 a story, and is optimized for search. ”
It’s fine to cry. We can share a hanky to wipe away our bitter tears.
Existential crises like these (er… socioeconomically-induced existential crises) are why I’m on a farm in Luxembourg this summer, while my 2 university degrees gather dust. Yet this is also why I wrote you fan mail last week – in an effort to maintain my own sanity through preserving yours. Retro/Neo/Whatever-games journalism is strangely one of the few things I connect with nowadays, even as I attempt to work my way around the world’s crappy constructs… It’s a weakish pillar to lean on, I know, but only so weakish as Charlie Brown’s tree choice. F all those metal-tree-loving haters aka the rest of the world. Quality can survive just as long as ignorance, and it’ll all end up in a pile of lava some day anyway. Wait that’s the wrong conclusion…
Failing some kind of hucksterism that I imagine you have too much integrity to stoop to anyway, all I can offer is more of the same affirmation of quality over quantity, which I reckon you’ve always championed. You say you’re after a sea change but I’d argue that the steady (if modest) growth of this site and others like it is preferable to opening the floodgates by pandering.
This seems as good a place to ask this as any: where can I find your writing on the 1up site, Jeremy? I’ve only started frequenting 1up a year ago or so, and the Retronauts podcast is what drew me to the site. And then I discovered your frequent Retronauts blog entries and became part of 1up’s readership.
Perhaps it’s because of my reading habits (I rarely ever read previews, for instance) but I’ve seen your name attached to blogs or editorials far less often lately.
At any rate, I’ll do my best reading and commenting on the pieces I find relevant on 1up.
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