Why The Media is Failing

(And no, it’s not the Internet’s fault)

I recently found myself in a little hot water. Without naming names, or going into specifics, I wrote a story that was deemed unacceptable by the parties involved. This is of course, not the first time this has happened (nor will it be the last), as I run a website that pokes fun at just about everything. But this time, the offended party happened to owe us money. So upon a threat to withhold money owed, I initially removed the post. Screw it, I got bills to pay. After a bit of thought though I realized, the money in question wasn’t nearly enough, and frankly that went against everything I stand for, so I put it back up.

Then I received a panicked phone call from someone who genuinely seemed to feel their job was in jeopardy over said post, and although I explained that though their ad contract wasn’t worth it to me, I am not a monster (and the story was old news anyway) so I again removed it. Of course, it had already found it’s way to another blog at that point, because well, that’s just the nature of the internet.

But the whole situation illustrates the exact reason the media is failing, and it’s the same reason we’ll probably never get universal health care. Corporations (or in this case advertisers) control everything. With YoBeat, I put up a little bit of a fight, because we’re small enough that I can, but when you run a magazine, newspaper, or even website, with a staff and large overhead, you certainly can’t say no to someone who is paying those bills. Or at least, that’s how it seems.

What happens is pretty soon you’re only reading what the companies want you to read. If that’s what the readers wanted though, there would be no magazines at all. Everyone would be content and excited to flip through catalogs to get their news and information (when of course, they can’t get online.) But if things don’t change, (the American media needs how to make subscriptions the primary source of income as they do in Europe) pretty soon all we’ll have left are catalogs, so you better learn to love them!

Of course, you can try to blame it on the internet. People don’t need magazines and newspapers because there are a million websites just giving information and entertainment away for free! But the reality is the internet is full of useless information and terrible blogs. If you want quality information, you are most likely to find it on a site that is run like a media business, meaning, they are reliant on advertising to pay the bills. Believe it or not, it still costs money to produce content and if (college) educated and informed people aren’t doing it, it’s not going to resemble anything near journalism. I went to J school, so I can tell you, even I (who knows everything), learned a thing or two there (including the right to fair comment and criticism.)

The other big problem with the online media is it’s easily bought (but more easily disguised.) In the old media, advertorials have always been frowned upon, and when they are done, clearly marked. On YoBeat we have one sponsored feature (well, we did.) When the agreement was first reached, the plan was to host a banner ad for the company alongside the column, but when it launched, they decided they no longer wanted the ad attached to the content. I explained (in sales terms) that this is what they were paying for and they eventually agreed. Honestly though, even with the permanent banner, it was not made nearly clear enough that the content is on the site only because they are paying for it to be there. But it’s the Internet, so no one seems to care. Since I care, I have added one line to each column: This column brought to you by: and it makes me feel much better.

It will also hopefully save me an $11,000 fine, as the FTC just announced new regulations requiring even bloggers to disclose any gifts or payments they receive for promoting a product. A few of the bloggers I know have expressed concern over the matter, the more honest ones actually going back to make sure they divulged which products they got for free. But most bloggers I know don’t care. Is the FTC really going to go after small action sports blogs because they got a free snowboard? Some how I doubt it, but you know what? It would be great if they did. And while they are at it, crack down on the print magazines as well.

Because I work in snowboarding, no one seems to care about any of the ethics usually involved in the media. It’s not exactly world ending, you know. But ethics and quality journalism aside, the overall content of quality is suffering because it is paid for by people who think that entitles them to dictate what the content is (or is not.) Because a brand wants to send its team of rookies into the backcountry instead of experienced riders who can actually ride the stuff, the photos suffer as does the overall quality of the feature. Stories that everyone seems to be enjoying (or at least are stirring things up) get taken down because someone owes money. And it continues like this until the only things left are the advertisements themselves. Enjoy!

  1. ah yes, snap, the alleged one surfaces. hah.

    The best part about this whole thing, is that all the Cool-Aid drinkers expressed concern that a private party shouldn’t be written about…. after doing some digging around its site, they posted a fucking blog about the party on there. And it’s not a whole lot different than Brooke’s.

    Only they did it three days late, and they only have 200 views, when at this point this whole clusterfuck has thousands across the different blogs.

  2. Wow, all this drama over the lack of lights in the toilets? I must have missed something… This one’s gotten pretty muddled from both ends if you ask me.

    Souney, I think you’re definitely sinking to their level by now. Send a yobeat shirt and full call-out to Burton corporate and call it good.

    I kinda just wanted to talk about the FTC ruling, conflicts of interest (including those had by honest bloggers) and blogging ethics. If we don’t care, why should anyone care? Blog ethics roundtable anyone?

  3. Hey Graham… you are right here in Portland right? You should come by the office for sure.

  4. Yeah. Shoot me an e-mail.

    PS Burton will now equal decadent and depraved in my mind forever…

  5. It’s more about educating them in the form of discussion and parody at this point, not taking it to their level. I agree, a story about port-a-johns never should have gotten this out of control. But at the same time it says a lot about the company that it did, especially given that not a single PR rep has reached out to anyone.

    When it comes down to it, the media is in a horrible predicament right now, largely because they’ve let advertisers and large corporations walk all over them for many, many years. But things have changed, and these brands need to realize that, and learn how to interact with new media in a positive way. Not by demanding phone calls and anonymous shit talking.

    After all, I thought snowboarding was about having fun, and we sure as shit are.

    And yes, if you would like to talk about feelings and cry for Burton, we are in SE PDX.

  6. Borton Drone

    we’re not all tools.
    but hey, you get 200-250 people in one place and you’re bound to have a few, right?
    Funny thing is i think the party has become more for people like brooke as a pr event rather than a good time for the employees.
    which isn’t to say it’s not appreciated. keep the 4th estate alive brooke. by now you already knew journalist don’t really have friends, just people in the stories along the way.

  7. Milen

    What ever happened to that other girl on yobeat, the hipster one that did her weekly recap things? Is she good looking in real life?

  8. The sad thing about all of this is that Tomas is a really good guy.

  9. mutty

    whats my tattoo say?

    piss in the bush’s next time.

    thanks for the entertainment.

  10. actually Lance P

    fact is, i like no one.

  11. good for you, burton thinks they are the shit cause they og’s but do they make anything in the us anymore… As far as are society is concern they want you to think it’s a democracy but the irony kills me, the same people who fucked this up for the last 8 years are now pointin fingers as if they are fuckin smart… keep it up… thinking about prescription drug ad’s… may result in anal bleading

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