A Sign Of The Times, Ctd

Dell York Times

A reader testifies to the local impact of national news brands going the way of sponsored content:

I work at a newspaper in flyover country, and Wolff’s column on the NYTimes’ embrace of “low advertising” hit me like a brick. Not that my organization has anything resembling the cachet of the Times – far from it. But like every other newspaper in America, we’re undergoing head-snapping changes that, at times, feel as if the ultimate goal is to turn us into Buzzfeed, or a local-level clone.

Five things you can do to avoid traffic jams! Here are 10 things you should do when the mercury drops below zero! More and more, our publication and web site are filled with the “cheesy come ons” that Wolff describes – and that’s the supposed NEWS content. I can’t help but think this ultimately devalues us as a legitimate source of real news, even if it drives web traffic higher. Maybe this is the democratization of content, where content that generates clicks is considered the “best” type of content, but best for whom? It’s as if we’re replacing meat and potatoes with Cheetos – delicious but ultimately frivolous and unsatisfying.

When you see the metrics every day, and it’s clear that quick-hit crime stories or freak-show stories generate as many clicks as an investigative piece that took weeks to report, what rationale can there possibly be for doing the investigative work, the longer-form stories that actually help explain the workings of a community to the people who live there? That’s what I fear; that in our relentless pursuit of clicks, in our mania to remake ourselves in the image of Buzzfeed, we’ll ultimately make ourselves less relevant. And then what would differentiate us from any other aggregator or producer of cheesy come-ons?

Another sends the above screenshot:

I saw this when I went to the New York Times website a few minutes ago. “The New nytimes.com” – it’s “Sleeker. Faster. More Intuitive” – just like a Dell?

I should add that I do think that the design – especially the light blue and the blunt disclosure “PAID FOR AND POSTED BY DELL” – put the NYT in a different league than, say, Buzzfeed. But I get queasy reading another disclosure that reads:

This page was produced by the Advertising Department of The New York Times in collaboration with Dell. The news and editorial staffs of The New York Times had no role in its preparation.

This is what we were told yesterday:

The labor and cost of creating native ads is a hurdle, and the Times made it clear that it sees the product as suited to only a limited number of advertisers. It won’t come cheap for the Times, either, which is looking to hire a dozen or so people for a “content studio” to staff the effort.

So I guess the NYT employees who will be writing the copy for a sponsored page with the New York Times brand at the top are not part of the news and editorial staffs. So what kind of staffers are they exactly?

The NYT picked Dell in part because the chief copy-writer has “journalistic chops.” So I assume the new “content studio” employees will also have journalistic chops. What department will they be regarded as being in? Advertizing? I don’t think employees with journalist skills have ever been used at the NYT to help corporations write ad-copy designed to read like NYT articles. What do we call them? Neither pure copy-writers nor independent journalists, they are, I suppose, “content providers.” The deeper you go into this miasma in which public relations and journalism become close to indistinguishable, the more the newspeak has to proliferate. Another reader:

When you first started swinging at Buzzfeed about all of this blurring of journalism and ad revenue, I was thinking “Meh, I hate Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed’s stupid, why would you go there unless to waste some time and braincells anyway?” But Time, Inc. and the NYTimes?! That is bad. Bad for all of us. If the NYTimes morphs into fucking ad copy we’re at a very, very low point of our culture. For this, you guys get more than the $25 I gave last year. I’ll give The Dish as much as I can afford next month at renewal time. Because independent journalism MUST THRIVE.

When we picked a pure subscription model over a year ago, I honestly wouldn’t have believed that a year later, even the NYT was knee-deep in corporate propaganda with the NYT logo and other articles at the top of the page. Especially after their great pay-meter success, why sacrifice something so special as the integrity of the NYT for what cannot yet be big bucks? My fear is that one day – soon – it will be. And your ability to look at a random NYT page on the web and know for sure it’s not a gussied-up ad will slowly atrophy. As, I fear, will whatever reputation for integrity journalism has left.