Time For Journalists To Take A Lesson From (Smart) Musicians

from the the-model-has-changed... dept

These days there are a few types of stories we see and write about consistently: (1) the legacy recording industry’s troubles in adapting to a changing market, (2) the ability of a bunch of motivated, smart musicians, bucking the old way of doing things and finding tremendous success and (3) the legacy newspaper industry’s troubles in adapting to a changing market. Given (1) and (2), you would think that (3) might lead to the obvious (4) of a bunch of motivated, smart journalists, bucking the old way of doing things and finding tremendous success. And, in fact, that is happening, particularly with upstart blogs, but it’s not getting as much attention. Romenesko points us to what should be a must-read essay over at the Columbia Journalism Review, highlighting the fact that worried journalists should be studying up on the success stories of musicians who are succeeding even as the legacy recording industry struggles.

It makes a few key points (which I’m summarizing and paraphrasing in this list) that apply to both, but which don’t always get as much attention in the journalism field:

  • Give away as much content as possible to build a following
  • Share, don’t hoard
  • Really engage and connect with your audience
  • Be authentic
  • Build your personal brand

Some journalists (and musicians!) will likely push back on some of these, but it seems pretty clear that the market is rewarding people who follow these steps, and punishing those who don’t.

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Comments on “Time For Journalists To Take A Lesson From (Smart) Musicians”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Blogs are anti-journalism?

I really cant think of a worse medium in some ways for a journalist, then blogs. Blogs are about opinion and a quick issue overview (usually accompanied with lively discussion that in very rare occasions actually leads to some new understanding among readers). This is the exact opposite format of good journalism, which should provide indepth, factual and unbiased information on issues (it takes a good deal of time to put this type of work together, which makes it by nature poorly suited for blogging).

I think Blogs and the general informational ADD that our world suffors today are at least partially responsible for the death of journalism (in terms of greatly lowering peoples expectations). Certainly many PEOPLE who call themselves journalists, may move between different mediums and use different models, but my guess is, it will continually have less and less to do with any actual “journalism”.

:Lobo Santo says:

Re: Blogs are anti-journalism?

You must be new to the inter-tubes…


For in-depth, unbiased blog information, try perhaps a coders blog, one which is all about how to write programs.

Once you’ve learned to recognize unbiased and in-depth information, feel free to begin looking at other blogs.

Have a nice day!

Matt says:

Re: Re: Re: Blogs are anti-journalism?

And your point? All you are showing is your lack of understanding.

People don’t mind a view as long as it’s not biased.
Honestly, even techdirt has a view, even microsoft has a view.

Nobody’s expectations have been lowered, they’re just not stupid enough to yuck up everything on AP/cnn/reuters since so much is no longer reliable on their own sites. How can you blame blogs for generally shoddy journalism? It’s their own fault.

The difference is a blog isn’t restricted in what they can write about, so it enables people to be real journalists about what they want, instead of specifically covering certain issues to delude the public from what’s really going on (and oftentimes taking money to do so).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Blogs are anti-journalism?

“People don’t mind a view as long as it’s not biased.
Honestly, even techdirt has a view, even microsoft has a view. “

YES both of them are OPENLY BIASED and neither CLAIMS they are JOURNALISTS!

You Blogites are completely reactionary, read what I wrote again and see if you really dissagree (geeez you guys should be good at this since Im a newb and all?) I never said there was anything wrong with Blogging, it is a perfectly good way to exchange ideas, this does not necessarily make it a great platform for journalism (which refers to a very specific type of exchange).

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Blogs are anti-journalism?

1. Blogs don’t *have* to be biased, it’s just a format. Blogs don’t *have* to be about opinion, that’s just the way they’re normally used. More blogs are written by people untrained in journalism, so most blogs are biased. That doesn’t mean that blogs can’t be objective and fair.

2. Other news media are hardly bastions of unbiased and fair journalism. Newspapers, TV and radio news are almost all biased toward a specific political viewpoint, they just don’t tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves as visibly as bloggers do.

I grew up in the UK where, despite a number of well-written and informative newspapers, the most popular paper was The Sun – a “newspaper” built on bingo games and pictures of barely-legal topless women. That is, a large number of people got their news from a rag they picked up to more to ogle breasts than read the political or finance news. Now, every UK newspaper seems to have some kind of tabloid leaning. The rot started a *long* time before the internet came along.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Blogs are anti-journalism?

“. Blogs don’t *have* to be biased, it’s just a format.”

I never meant to imply that there were rules “forcing” people to do specific things, or somehow limiting what they are allowed to do in blogs. However, somethings lend themselves to certain formats. Of course the converse is also true, that is all I am saying here. Quality journalism COULD be done in a BLOG format, its just not a very conducive format for it.

Jochen Siegle (user link) says:

Re: Re: Blogs are anti-journalism?

@ Anonymous Coward: “I really can’t think of a worse medium in some ways for a journalist, then blogs.”
This is real B.S.! Blogging is just a media format, a technique. it is all about the content: if a blogger is authentic and can create relevant and edgy content you’ll have an audience. plus: blogs are a win-win-situation for all sides: the readers and the journalists. every serious blogger or blogging journalist will reveal the sources for his/her story so they can be held accountable. i am in journalism since 1995 and a blogging journalist for a few years now and I truly believe that blogging is the best thing that could have ever happend to journalism overall

Crabby (profile) says:

Journalism has itself to blame for its own demise. Anonymous, you write that good journalism should provide facts and unbiased information — but in reality, few newspapers today can offer their readers any kind of depth or unbiased articles. It’s all about hyping the story. Journalists don’t take the time to do any research and half the time they don’t even try to interview more than one or two people for an article.

People are moving to blogs because frankly, there is more information in some of them than in many newspapers. And if blogs are biased — as many newspapers are — at least the readers have the option to reply in a public forum. Yes, you can write a letter to the editor, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get your 15 minutes of fame or the chance for your views to be publicly aired. At least on a blog, you have that chance to respond, and in turn, be responded to by others.

If newspapers are to survive, they must provide much more credible content, and in-depth reporting (as you note) than they currently offer readers.

Gunnar says:

I don't know about that

There are a lot of differences between newspapers and musicians that make these ideas hard to work out in practice.

For one, bands/musicians are small groups of people who can easily alter their business strategy. The smallest newspaper probably has a much bigger staff than the biggest band. The paper I work at is small, but we’re owned by a big place, and any changes have to go through people who’ve never set foot in our newsroom.

Musicians have something concrete to sell. Whether that’s shows, special CD packaging or their future records. Newspapers sell news and classifieds, two things that people don’t seem to want to pay for anymore.

While musicians have a long history of selling their stuff, journalists don’t. The reason most U.S. newspapers are unbiased (and they are, regardless of what the left or right tell you — just look at the big UK dailies to see real bias) are because the ad and news departments are kept separate. Journalists write the news, ad specialists sell the ads, and a layout editor puts everything on the page.

It isn’t the journalists you have to convince these are good ideas, it’s the people paying their salary. Bands can leave their labels because labels don’t do anything for bands that they can’t do themselves. That’s not true for journalists.

Joel Coehoorn says:


There are some differences between music and journalism:

With music, bands generally get all the attention while the labels stay in the background. That is one reason why the labels are having so much trouble now: they have no real brand power of their own.

With journalism, it’s not so cut and dried. People might be “fans” or a particular columnist, radio host, or tv news anchor. But they’re just as likely to identify with the brand of a particular local paper or radio or tv station.

Also: a band can release a new album and then spend a year or more promoting it. A journalist by himself needs new content almost daily.

For these reasons, journalists still likely have something to gain from banding together. That doesn’t mean things aren’t changing: just that maybe a journalist shouldn’t focus as much on building his own brand as on finding a few other journalists to team up to create combined brand that can create more content and put out a larger message.

Xiera says:

Re: differences

You make some really good points.

Luckily, with the Internet, you’re only as restricted as you want to be when it comes to who you want to associate with. Hold each other to high standards of fair, informational journalism and build your brand around that. Build recognition independently and it’ll strengthen your “company” brand and provide exposure for less-known journalists to build their brands as well.

Furthermore, the more exposure you get, the more you will be able to attract advertising to fund your paper. As far as Classifieds go (as someone else mentioned), entice online dating sites to advertise on your site.

Even better, you don’t NEED a “label” to tell you what to write about, so you can write about something you’re interested in or otherwise passionate about. Have people interested in a variety of different areas? Each of you can become an expert in your particular fields and provide informational or analytical articles. You can keep daily content coming by reporting developments in certain stories, AND (with the Internet) you can easily link the new articles to related articles.

Publish in other media as well to help build your individual and collective brands.

Of course, in addition to increased advertising revenue, brand recognition will gain you more notable journalists joining the team and more notable interviewees to provide fodder for your pen — or keyboard.

Sorry for the disorganisation of this post. I guess it’s just a bunch of ideas thrown at a dartboard. Hopefully some of them stick.

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