Quite possibly it is.
Of course mainstream journalists will scoff at Buzzfeed but it is undeniably successful in ways that the editors at Fairfax and the NZ Herald can only dream of.
Why is that?
Let’s look at the past paradigm…which ironically is still the current paradigm in the mainstream.
Like a great many such things, some of journalismâs most precious ideals were the happy result of geography and economics. That is, in any given geography, the dominant newspaper tended towards a natural monopoly for two reasons:
- When it came to costs, the ownership of expensive printing presses and distribution channels made entrance difficult for potential competitors
- As for revenue, broad-based advertising, at least in the pre-targeting era, naturally flowed to the channel with the greatest reach
The interaction of these two economic realities made newspapers fabulously profitable and veritable cash machines; the editorial side, meanwhile, freed from the responsibility to directly make money, could instead focus on things like far-flung bureaus, investigative journalism that in many cases took months to develop, and a clear separation between the business and editorial sides of a newspaper. The latter was important not just for the avoidance of blatant corruption, but also because it imbued the editorial side with a certain responsibility to focus on stories that deserved to be written because they mattered, not because they were sensationalistic.
This last point was best exemplified by The New York Timesâ famous slogan, âAll the news thatâs fit to printâ and by the paperâs legendary Page One meetings where editors would pitch stories for inclusion on the most valuable real estate in journalism. Itâs important to appreciate that this was more than just a slogan and meeting; there are important assumptions underlying this conceit:
- The first assumption is that there is a limited amount of space, which in the case of a physical product is quite obviously true. Sure, newspapers could and did change the length of their daily editions, but the line had to be drawn somewhere
- The second assumption is that journalists, by choosing what to write about, are the arbiters of what is ânewsâ
- The third assumption is that the front page is an essential signal as to what news is important; more broadly, itâs an assumption that editors matter