Big Brother’s Newspaper

So according to the article in the NYT, the folks at the Washington Post can view how much (web) traffic each article gets, including how successful the click-through advertisements are on each story.  If a story doesn’t meet a quota, it gets cut.

From the article: “Rather than corrupt news judgment by causing editors to pander to the most base reader interests, the availability of this technology so far seems to be leading to more surgical decisions about how to cover a topic so it becomes more appealing to an online audience.”  Also: “The paper’s top editors begin their morning news meetings with a rundown of data points, including the most popular search terms on WSJ.com, which articles are generating the most traffic and what posts are generating buzz on Twitter.”

This reminds me WAY TOO MUCH of Network.  And personally, I’m a bit scared that it would dumb down our news to articles only about Lindsay Lohan and folks who AutoTune the news.  Am I the only one who’s concerned?

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One Response to “Big Brother’s Newspaper”

  1. Connor Burgad Says:

    I was going to search for an article on this class website that I would have enough knowledge about to post a comment. As I am not very knowledgeable in cyberspace material, I thought this would have been difficult, however this post above really snagged my interest.

    This type of technology where the consumers, or the viewers, essentially dictate what becomes the news is kind of scary. According to this article, large newspaper companies are trying something different to perhaps make the material in their papers more direct to its viewers or maybe they are just attempting to dabble in internet technology because they are tired of the old, but one thing is for sure, they are certainly trying to maximize their profits. The scary part about this is the fact that with this technology, one in which the viewers generate what news gets published, the whole nature of the “news” becomes completely changed. As you mentioned before, people are more interested in the more dramatic things, such as Lindsay Lohan going to jail. With people only looking at these types of articles, by this new technology, these articles will become our news. The actual news-worthy items will become cast out because they simply are not as appealing as what Michael Jackon’s will stated. News will change from being a hub connecting the individual and the world to People magazine.

    The overall reasoning behind this is, again, the profit-seeking companies who will do nearly anything legal to bring home more money. With this kind of mentality, businesses tend to ignore the negative externalities, especially the negative social externalities. When businesses make this type of blind charge into a potential profit-boosting business decision, bad things certainly can come out of it. As seen with the book we are reading, Code 2.0 by Lawrence Lessig, producers that are blind in their profit-seeking efforts have revolutionized the internet as we know it by adding several regulating layers of archicture on the internet’s foundation. Some may believe that this drastically increased regulability is in violation with the internet because the freedom it issued at its birth. I would agree with them. This problem, like that of the new technology in how the news may be viewer-generated, is directly related to the effects of profit-seeking companies that ignore socially negative externalities.

    I believe that the news should still be generated by those news companies. Even if you are worried about having boring or bad news stories, the beauty of competition in the marketplace fixes that for you! I strongly believe this because the people do not generally know what is best for them. I believe this was acknowledged by the founders of our country and there it was decided to have all of these checks and balances in our government to ensure the benefit to all. Even then, civilizations for thousands of years have always elected leaders of some sort. This indicates that people need someone to make decisions for them whether they have some sort of say in the matter or not. It seems like humans may not even trust their own abilities to know what is good for themselves.

    I believe that things like the news, at least, should still be more largely regulated by the companies that produce the news, and not by the people that view it. Simply put, human beings don’t always know what is best for themselves and thus should hand over the thrown to a centralized power hub (the news companies) to make the appropriate decisions. However, these companies should, before making decisions themselves, take a step back and look down the long-term road to gauge ALL possible negative externalities. With this awareness, business leaders can make the appropriate business decisions while increasing their own profits and not threatening the existence of important things like world-uniting news while filling our minds with useless information like Britney Spears’ mental meltdown in which she shaves her head.

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