Since writing my last post on the inherent non-scalability of producing journalism, I realized I used an example that’s probably not very illustrative of my point. I wrote:
The pivot to video, like so many other ill-conceived flights of journalistic fancy before it, is borne of the myth that journalism can be ‘scaled up’ by doubling down on some hot new channel or format. And this pivot is just one particularly egregious example. In June of last year, I wrote about publishers’ premature enthusiasm for Instant Articles…
In similar fashion, clickbait, slideshow journalism (designed to increase page load totals and thus impressions), and other tricks have worn down news consumers and led to a rise in ad-blocking. They also haven’t solved any of the underlying economics bedeviling news organizations.
Most of the things mentioned in that above excerpt are comparable: pivoting to video, pumping out clickbait, and designing ad-heavy slideshows are all good examples of how the allure of technologically-enabled scale has actually changed the underlying quality of journalism content for the worse.
However, the bolded part above referenced Instant Articles. I’m no longer sure that really fits into the rubric I just described: there isn’t necessarily any direct relationship between whether a publisher distributes its content on Instant Articles and the quality of the underlying content being shared.
That is – unlike, say, the pivot to video, which requires a wholesale realignment of a newsroom’s priorities, tactics, and day-to-day focus – publishing more pieces to Instant Articles doesn’t necessarily change anything about the journalism itself. (At least not directly: there’s probably a decent argument that the resulting Facebook engagement metrics cause publishers to favor certain types of content more than others, but that’s a general problem that extends well beyond Facebook.)