Rewarding Quality Journalism in The World of Clickbait
Sanchit Gera
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I agree with your analysis of the problem, and as a journalist I’m worried about the industry too. However, I’m equally worried that an iTunes-style approach to the problem would only accelerate the decline of true journalism. When the music industry faced the problem of piracy, the solution was to offer greater choice in the form of à la carte downloadable content and personalized streaming services that serve up what you want to hear. The problem is, this is the exact opposite of how good journalism should work. You can see a bit of this today with the accelerated growth of hyper-partisan “news” outlets (on both sides) that serve up only content that their readers want (at best) or misleading and biased analysis. As a money making strategy, this has worked. The audience these sites attract tend to be similar in terms of demographics which tend to make it more valuable for targeted advertising. If we remove ads from the equation, we have to ask, what type of content are people willing to pay for? There’s a lot of research on “confirmation bias” that suggests people avoid reading, or even clicking, on content that doesn’t support their existing beliefs — not to mention pay for it. What I think would happen is that people would pay for some news, but only the news they want to read and supports their existing world views — not the news that promotes and informed population by providing an objective, unbiased story. I’m afraid this will lead to a less-informed population that clings even more tightly to its existing beliefs in a confirmation bias feedback loop. I don’t have the answer, and you can bet I want to be paid for my work, but I don’t think an à la carte model is the solution.

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