Mike Arrington vs. The Mainstream Media

Super Blogger Robert Scoble with the Man of the Hour Mike ArringtonRobert Scoble and Mike Arrington Hosted on Zooomr

CrunchNotes — I’ve Had A Long Weekend: Arrington is out with a somewhat personal post about an Online News Association conference that he attended in Washington DC this past weekend.

Apparently Mike was a panelist there and all did not go so well.

“I wanted to go because the organizers said I’d be welcome, and that the people who attend (traditional journalists) really were trying to understand this whole blogging phenomenon.

So I went. And what a mistake it was. I thought this was going to be an attempt to bridge the gap between blogging and big media. All I saw was a fear and an unassailable resistance to change.

Frankly, I have no idea why I was invited. I suspect the organizers knew that there’d be fireworks (they asked me to speak my mind) and knew full well that I’d be the sacrificial lamb of the conference.”

And so the debate continues pitting journalists against bloggers and bloggers against journalists.

First off, I’d say good for Mike for standing up and sticking to his guns. It sounds like he basically went to Washington, told the truth, and got booed for it.

Personally I find most of mainstream journalism pretty boring these days. I don’t read newspapers anymore except online. Newspapers largely print about crap that I’m not interested in. That’s not relevant to me. They print things about sports and politics and manufacturing in Taiwan and some guy named Dennis Hastert that I could care less about.

When they do write about tech it’s mostly superficial puff pieces that are boring and designed to be read by the person who doesn’t really understand technology.

Do I care if the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times writes up a review on Zune? No. Because it will largely be just a regurgitation of crap I already know. Do I care if Engadget covers it two months earlier with not only, “what we know,” but with “what we think we know,” and “what we don’t know,” and with 7 full pages of reader comments to follow? Hell yeah I do.

Or do I want to watch an actual video of an interview of the Zune team by Robert Scoble? Robert and I were out on Saturday and he mentioned that he has an upcoming interview to be published with them that he just filmed. Hell yes I want to watch this, because it’s going to be straight from the source. Robert is going to ask relevant questions and I’ll learn again a hell of a lot more than I’ll learn about the product from reading the New York Times. Plus I can actually talk to Robert about it personally and get his opinion and I can participate in a conversation about it on his blog as can anyone else in the world.

And what’s Engadget saying about Zune today? See for yourself. Now that’s relevant. Engadget gives me interesting hard hitting commentary and the New York Times re-reports what everybody already knew, that the Zune is going to have a 30GB hard drive. Yawn.

The online world is doing such a better job covering tech news than the crappy mainstream media.

But it’s not just tech news. If I want an awesome calendar of events do I go to SFGate to just see the same old boring things listed over and over again? No. I go to upcoming.org or Scott Beale’s Squid List.

If you want to buy something you go to eBay or Craigslist not the paper anymore. I’m right on this right?

Don’t get me wrong. Occasionally the New York Times actually has some interesting journalism. Their piece, “Through His Webcam, a Boy Joins a Sordid Online World” that made the rounds a while back was one of most strongest pieces of investigative journalism I think I’ve ever read.

But do I go to the New York Times, or the Los Angeles Times, or CNN or any of these places for tech news. No.

Mike’s right. If you want something that breaks news fast go to digg. If you want something that is more in depth and less of a puff piece watch the early reviews at Engadget.

If you want something that covers a niche area like Web 2.0 go to TechCrunch.

I’m beginning to think that being associated with a paper beyond what it takes to build a reputation there is a detriment to a journalist’s career. And a lot of the best ones are in fact making the jump away from mainstream journalism. Matt Marshall and his excellent news site at VentureBeat. Om Malik over at GigaOm.

So Mike goes to Washington, tells the truth and gets attacked. He gets attacked by those more interested in defending an archaic crumbling model for news delivery and justifying their jobs than anything.

Every disruptive technology has it’s detractors who somehow long for the good old days. The film companies before digital cameras came along, The music industry and their fat cat profits before mp3s came along, television networks before TiVo — why should the news industry be any different?

Good for you Mike for telling it like it is. Digg *is* in fact largely more relevant than the New York Times. And perhaps, although I suspect an exaggeration to make a point, the best thing that the New York Times could do with their money is give it back to their shareholders — if their news reader is the best thing that they come up to do with it. How about opening comments on the New York Times? How about linking to relevant bloggers in their stories? So much could be done with that that is not being done today.

The funny thing is that in the end none of this will matter. It’s like the age old adage that you can’t fight mother nature. Certain things are inevitable and the laws of economics will sooner or later teach this lesson to the news industry much more powerfully than Mike Arrington ever could.

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5 Comments

  1. Dave Zatz says:

    “So Mike goes to Washington, tells the truth and gets attacked.”

    I wonder if they had a problem with the message, the way the message was presented, or the messenger himself?

  2. Au revoir? says:

    Newspapers largely print about crap that I’m not interested in. That’s not relevant to me. They print things about sports and politics and manufacturing in Taiwan and some guy named Dennis Hastert that I could care less about.

    Obviously, the crap that you are not interested in is interesting to the subsribers of the newspapers. But it’s always nice to attack the vast majority and to be on the side of the poor and helpless. You are a little rebel and I hope it feels good. I do not think that your point is very realistic though.

    In provocative terms, I see it the other way round: Bloggers largely write crap that I am not interested in. That is not relevant to me. They write things about some portable music players, gaming platforms, operating systems, search engines and some guys named Arrington, Scobble etc. that everyone could care less about. Mostly, bloggers write about and for themselves anyway.

    I suggest you pay special attention to the last sentence, Thomas. In the last few weeks, your blog seemed to have changed. When I began to read your blog, I had the impression that you were writing stuff about you and your photography for me (as a reader of your blog). However, since you became involved in the Zoomr thing (I do know that there is an o missing but I prefer it with only two of them), I have more and more the impression, that you are writing stuff just because you want to show some people how cool you are and how much you know about the ultra latest tech things and how close you are with all those other giga cool guys and how networked you are. But this stuff really does not interest me. I feel that you are not writing for me anymore, but for the other cool guys that you are writing about. I do not know if I am right on that (the changement of your blog), but that is the way I feel. You are close to drop off my favorites. But maybe you do not really care and I would perfectly understand that. There is a lot of money lying around in this industry and waits to be collected. So if you want to collect some of it, it’s better you start positioning yourself today than tomorrow. But your blog is not the same thing as it used to be.

    When they do write about tech it’s mostly superficial puff pieces that are boring and designed to be read by the person who doesn’t really understand technology.

    Hey, most of the people do not really understand technology and most of the people do not even care that they do not really understand it. All they want is that it works. So I do not see what is wrong with an article that is designed to be read by a person who does not really understand technology.

    Digg *is* in fact largely more relevant than the New York Times.

    Really? I think the most interesting articles I found on Digg were from the evil mainstream media such as NYT, LAT, WP etc. I have not read any relevant article written by Digg though.

    It’s like the age old adage that you can’t fight mother nature. Certain things are inevitable and the laws of economics will sooner or later teach this lesson to the news industry much more powerfully than Mike Arrington ever could.

    See my posting above about dropping your blog off my favorites. That might be also inevitable if you continue to write about the same things as everyone else is writing (or blogging, if you prefer). You do not seem to be unique anymore and posting that Xblog just wrote this and Yblog just wrote that is not what I am looking for on the net. You might object that newspapers are also all writing about the same things. I say maybe, but it’s harder to compare and I am not as loyal to bloggers as I am to “my” newspaper. I think that bloggers are easily replaceable (or, and more important, replaced), newspapers are not.

    If you are talking about fighting mother nature, laws of economics etc., let me remind you that there is also a law that rebels become less rebellously once and if they have grown up. 😉

  3. Anonymous says:

    Does it have to be such a religious debate? I got the impression that the whole thing was a setup from the get-go, both from Arringtion and the conference. Michael didn’t seem too enthusiastic to go in the first place — claiming it was a “pain” to go, that he didn’t get paid, that he wasn’t “feted”. So I’m not surprised that he sounded surly or combative to the audience. And of course, the conference people threw him in as a lightning rod — how else to get some “buzz” and “noise”?

    But, I’ll be honest, the blogosphere has it’s insular qualities as well — Scoble says that Arrington says that Hawk links to my Zoomr / Flickr / 30 Boxes event. I read blogs and the newspaper (Washington Post) — for different reasons and different content. I like stories that appear to have been editted and had their facts checked. I like a paper that has an Ombudsman. I like papers that allow readers to discuss stories (Boston Herald). Heck, I like the “medium” of a newspaper that I can hold in my hand. Do I totally trust the editor’s decisions? Heck, no. But digg has too much of a slashdot feeling to me — trolls and mob mentality.

    For tech news — you’re absolutely right. But again, as a techie, I know where to go on the net to find what I want. For the non-tech crowd — the papers tech articles server as tame introductions to stuff they’ve only heard about.

    I don’t care for the debate — Blogger: I’m a crusading rebel, breaking down paradigms!; Journalist: no, you’re a rank amateur without talent!. I’ll let the quality of the articles win in the end.

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    Au revoir?, I tend to write about things that are interesting to me, mostly around tech, social networking, and photography. I also post photos that I take regularly.

    Although Digg and other sources on the net are primarily based in tech today this is changing. Digg is offering more channels, TechMeme is offering more channels, Reddit consistently serves up interesting stories, etc. It’s not going to happen overnight but all you have to do is look at the stock prices, the subscription data and the newspaper sales to understand that there is a trend here.

    For a bunch of people in the mainstream media to bash Arrington because he happens to have an opinion that their delivery model and business practices are largely outdated doesn’t sit right with me.

    I always speak my mind and always will. I’ll lose readers and gain readers based on that.

    I make mistakes. I apologize for mistakes, but what you always get here is my honest opinion and assesment of a situation.

    I don’t begrudge anyone who happens to read or like newspapers.

    As to your sentence about what bloggers write about. Absolutely they write about themselves a lot. That is why blogs are human and individual. I like it when Scoble and Arrington and the other bloggers that you name are personal. It’s more meaningful and from the heart.


    Obviously, the crap that you are not interested in is interesting to the subsribers of the newspapers.

    And obviously less and less of them every day as the subscription data would suggest.

    I did of course recognize that very good investigative journalism does take place in newspapers. It’s more the regular old news that I’d rather do without.

    Bottom line is that there are lots of ways that newspapers can make things more engaging. Allowing reporters to link out. Allowing comments, etc. immediately come to mind. Here in San Francisco, Violet Blue started a new column for the Chronicle and she couldn’t even link to her own blog.

    Certainly I do piss off a lot of people. I don’t necessarily mind that. I suspect that if I pandered to more people my readership could be higher. But this is the way that I see newspapers, it’s my opinon. I love the fact that you can dissent and that we can have a conversation about it here on my blog. This same thing wouldn’t be happening at the NYT.

  5. Rob Sanheim says:

    (crossposted from seekingalpha)

    While I agree 100% with the changes you talk about, and welcome it, I think its going to take a long time for the mainstream to turn to digg or reddit before opening up their local newspaper. Right now digg is still very much a tech site, despite their attempts to go mainstream. I personally find much more relevant and engaging news via sites like reddit or metafilter, which might lead to a blog or to a old-world newspaper site, but I’m a blogger and a programmer and I realize I’m still very much in the minority in how I find news.

    Also, I really wish the NY Times would “get it” and just open up all their content without registration. They would gain a lot more value from people deep linking their site versus the demographics they get from the stupid registration.