The joys of recycling
Friday, October 11th, 2002
When you next hear a journalist smear webloggers, ezinists and other thin media moguls as news recyclers, recall this article.
The nut: “in the past four months, three major articles and numerous broadcast stories have covered collegiate sex writers, portraying their work as controversial, buzz-worthy and part of a growing campus trend.” The college sex columns are moldy news. The buzzing torrent of coverage seems to have been triggered by a June article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The point, however, is not that these news services are doing something bad. It is that they are excelling, and we should study their strategy.
First, recycling a story makes economic sense: it conserves publishing resources.
Second, news is relative. If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, it ain’t news. Conversely, information is “news” as it reaches each new audiences. The end of WWII was still news to Japanese soldier Hiroo Onada when he emerged from the Phillipine jungle in 1974.
Third, publishers can only aim to serve some of the people most of the time. Good editors realize that each story only hits 2-20% of their readership. Even within a tight demographic, passions and interests just aren’t that congruent. So a publication is only doing a bad job if a) most of its readers have already heard a story and b) those people are sick of it.
Finally, most of us don’t really absorb what we read. For example, how many of your relatives have seen 10 articles about blogs but today still claim never to have encountered the word?
So part of a publisher’s duty is to make sure his/her audience members miss nothing they, as a pseudo collective, care about. And this means lots of recycling.
The same goes for the weblogger’s responsibility to her audience. In fact, because we blatantly link to sources, webloggers are more credible and useful than institutional peers. (Confession: I’m only guessing that the articles mentioned above did not site The Chronicle of Higher Education or recognize that college sex columns are years old.)
Yes, it may be silly to be the 98th person to blog Daypop’s top link. But if your audience cares about the topic, you should do it. And at least you’ll know you aren’t dumber than thick media.
The article I cite above was blogged first by Jim Romenesko.