Sep 30, 2008

In Drudge we trust

In his latest blog post, Alan Mutter declares that "Drudge shows how to do news."

Matt Drudge, of course, has the luxury of employing the entire English-speaking media for free; he doesn't have to spend time or money checking the accuracy of their work, nor does he have to take responsibility for their mistakes. He doesn't have to make difficult judgments on deadline about sensitive issues, or plan coherent coverage for major events. He doesn't have to send anyone into dangerous territory for story, go to court to protect a confidential source, or sit patiently all day waiting for just the right shot.

None of this to say Drudge Report isn't an interesting and valuable website. It is. However, it's silly to argue that Drudge stands as a model that other news organizations should - or even could - emulate.

Here's what Mutter says:
But with all due respect to the penetrating stories, elegant writing and dazzling multimedia presentations the mainstream media create, they can’t get the hang of delivering breaking news when their readers/viewers – and potential reader/viewers – most crave instant enlightenment.

By effectively conceding this opportunity to sites like Drudge, the mainstream media forfeit in significant measure their value and credibility, which, in turn, will constrain future audience growth and revenue prospects.

When are they going to learn how to compete?
I don't know what he means in saying the mainstream media is "conceding" an opportunity. Does he mean the Washington Post and CNN and the Pasadena Star-News should cherry pick stories from across the Internet and publish them on their websites?

The chief concession mainstream media (and alternative media) is forced to make is hiring a staff - there's nothing to post unless someone reports it. Staff requires salaries and salaries require revenues and that often leads news organizations to take a proprietary interest in their reporters' work. At the same time, the best media seek to boost their value and credibility in the marketplace by exhibiting good judgment, consistent standards and strong editing.

I know Mutter's argument centers on Drudge Report's presentation of breaking news. Still, whatever Drudge's talents in putting together his Web page, he needs to mine the entire media landscape to fill it. He can pick the best headlines from 30 different papers. When news breaks, he doesn't have to worry that his economics reporter is sick or his political writer is suffering from writers' block or his stable of reporters too small to get every angle (or is busy trying to get video for the paper's blog). Even with multi-layered media partnerships, I'm not sure that any one organization can match Drudge's palette.

How do you compete with free?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is "fair use" of the content produced and produced by another news outlet. Then there is Matt Drudge, who is operating, for profit in the millions, competitively, as a de facto news organization himself. He absolutely uses the work of these other news organizations to compete against them. It's way past time news organizations sued him to put an end to this practice; he's not a reviewer, he's not merely an aggragator, he's a for-profit competitor. Were he to be forced to rely only on the content he actually produces or pays for as a for-profit competitive news organization, he'd have one very poorly written and poorly sourced article at most per month on his Web site.