Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New definitions of quality in a digital age

I missed these in the past couple of weeks on Paid Content.

Ben Elowitz knocks down traditional measures of quality in the first post and proposes some new ones in the second.

From his second post, commenting on traditional measures:
Here’s the problem: They simply aren’t enough to win audiences, drive financial success, or, for that matter, ensure viability. The demise of institutions like Newsweek proves that—and shows that publishers that don’t move beyond these anachronistic measures of success will perish.

I agree with Elowitz to the point of saying quality measures have been expanded in an age when there is digital abundance, and anyone who does not think long and hard about what he is saying is not understanding what is happening.

But I don't think it's quite the zero-sum game his posts might suggest. I don't think the "old" measures are "anachronistic," just too narrow. I think there still is value in "correctness" and "craftsmanship." "Objectivity" is a straw man - we never have been objective. Fairness, however, still has its place, if nothing else but for civility.

"Credential," I agree, does not count much among users in an age of transactional credibility. But Elowitz does not deal with the reality that it still carries quite a bit of sway on the other end of the pole -- news gathering. That makes for an interesting set of questions that need more research.

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2 Comments:

At 5/21/10, 5:27 PM, Blogger Davisull said...

If all this was new, the New York Times would have had more readers in 1995 than the National Enquirer. People have always gravitated to media that met their needs when they had a choice. Much of the reason for the emphasis on quality was to attract advertisers -- your ad was viewed more creditably in a more strictly edited publication, in a halo effect. I suspect that will hold true in digital media as well, as entrepreneurs need to find a way to restrict or at least cope with infinite inventory of ad space, and that one way they will do so is -- many of the old definitions of quality. And readers don't judge in a vacuum.

There's a point here, but it's not only way overblown on both ends -- it also suffers from the "history began anew with the Internet" fallacy. You remember "UPI gets it first, AP gets it right"?

 
At 5/21/10, 5:38 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

And believe me, AP watched the play closely, and if you lost it to UPI - and in the days of paper tape that well could be because you were second by five minutes - you got chewed out.

But the reason I point these posts out is that I do think the audience's needs and definitions of quality are changing. So while I think he's over the top, I also think a blend of what he's saying along with the more traditional values is the most likely outcome.

Problem is, I see too many people in the business still refusing to consider or just rejecting the second part of his post. And I think that's unwise.

 

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