Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 has posted an article entitled Contecting the Dots of the Web Revolution. A quick summary of his points on how the internet has affected media creators:
- Shorter reads. People don't want to invest the time to read long articles online. Get the gist of what's going on, move on to something else.
- Old media needs to credit their online sources. Most major news outlets post their stories verbatim. Blogs link off to their sources.
- Traditional media is too attached to long form writing. New Media relies on links, and therefore, multiple sources to address a broad issue. Old media would write a book.
Its easy enough to agree with the first two points. It's the last point that is the interesting one.
The obvious flaw in the logic is that there are some stories that need to be addressed in a longer form. Karp specifically mentions books as an example of old media that is out-of-date.
It's not a problem for me to get behind the idea that New Media needs to adopt a short format style. But, the idea that books are going out of fashion doesn't sit right with me. Several points:
- Books make the authors money. eg: Scott McClellan.
- Books are still seen as a reputable academic resource.
That's because books are reviewed and their worth is determined.Strike that one. This is possible to this online too. Wikipedia is a good example of it in action. The problem then, is that the internet is just not recognized yet as a legitimate source. That's happening, slowly, but it's got a ways to go yet.
- Anyone can write anything online. Getting a book published means that the author has convinced the market that they has ideas that are worth paying for. This guarantees a minimum standard of quality that isn't yet achievable online.
- There are some topics that do take the length of a book to address.
- Applying Karp's point that people don't like to read long form online, it's reasonable that an alternative, books, are a better medium to present long form topics.
If you have read my post immediately before this one, in which I argue that the print newspaper is dead, it might seems as though I've contradicted myself.The question then, is where does this leave the newspaper industry, which I've said is not going to be able to rely on it's printed form much longer.
In the same place.
Newspapers are not long form writing. True, there are the occasional long articles. But, these will continue to work fine online. The occasional in-depth article is a good to see, but as a whole, the business of producing daily (hourly) news belongs online. The business of presenting long thesis belongs in book form.