The Problem with Journalism and the Internet, in One Quote

Jonah Peretti: I think there’s an interesting tension between what’s good for the user and what’s good for the industry. That was really created by Google. Say The New Yorker writes a really long 12,000 word piece on Scientology. That takes lots of reporting and lots of investment. That’s important work that our industry should embrace and should find ways of supporting economically.

The average person who hears about that story doesn’t want to read the whole story. They’re at work, most likely. They do a Google search because they’ve heard about this Scientology scoop or long form piece. Their first result is the HuffPost link, not a New Yorker link. They look at it. It summarizes what the article is about. It says, “Here’s what was in it, here’s what was notable about it.” Has a few tweets from people. This is how people are reacting to it, and if you want to read it, here’s a link and you can go read the article.

The problem with that example is that from the perspective of the user, it’s a better experience to land on the summary, to see a little bit of the reactions, and have the option of reading it, because that’s as much as most people want. From the perspective of the industry, it would make much more sense for people to go to The New Yorker article so that they get the traffic, as modest as that ad revenue would be, they get the traffic and they get the people onto their site. There is some conflict between Google saying, “Well we want to serve the consumer,” and sending people to the article that the consumer likes the best. Or is Google supposed to send people to the article that costs the most to produce and supports the industry the most? Does that make sense? There is a little bit of a conflict, or a little bit of a tension.

BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti, in a long interview with Felix Salmon, on the past, present and future of media.

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