I had meant toÂ continue yesterday’s blog about a report from HarvardÂ suggestingÂ thatÂ online newspaper growth is slowing. But then IÂ Â read a commentÂ by Mark Hamilton that pointed me to a perfectly good analysis of that very same reportÂ written by Alan (Newsosaur)Â Mutter.Â
I’ll excerpt from that posting later, but first the laughter.
InÂ rootingÂ around Mutter’s site I came onÂ a prior entry in which heÂ reveals how a mention from “Catherine McMillan, an airbrush artist and schnauzer breeder“who maintains a blog called Small Dead AnimalsÂ gave him a much bigger traffic boost thanÂ mentions on name-brand, mainstream media. HeÂ suggested that mass media, aka Large Dead Animals or Large Ones, for shortÂ — are tooÂ conventional for the wild and wacky web:
“With the formidable creative talent, market reach, commercial relationships and financial capability they possess, the Large Ones ought to have an enormous edge over Canadian schnauzer breeders in creating editorially compelling and commercially successful online content. But they are failing, because they try to confine their new media ventures to the tightly edited and carefully modulated conventions of their existing brands.”
As an ill-tempered reporter for a middling metropolitan daily allÂ I can say thus farÂ is: What he said!
IÂ reached Mutter’s Dead Animals rant after reading his “Flat-lining online” post on the Harvard study. It’s a good analysis that drew a comment from media executive and blogger Howard Owens who was dismissive of the study:
“I have direct access to audience metrics for several small newspaper sites, and I talk enough with other site managers and small- and mid-sized to know that the Harvard report is bunk.”
I have no way to assess the overall health of online news traffic or settle the argument,Â but I have previouslyÂ cited the work of Thomas Patterson, the Harvard prof who wrote this report. Patterson is working on the issue of civic engagement which shouldÂ make his work interesting to everyone in this age of interactivity,
Speaking of which, I visited the blog of Mutter’sÂ new friend,Â Our Lady of Dead Animals, who he says creates “editorially compelling” content and has a “commercially successful” site.
Really?Â Small Dead Animals isÂ full of vitality and reader interaction andÂ won best Canadian blog in 2006 (and I think in 2004). But the author is not so much creating contentÂ as she is linking to it andÂ provokingÂ discussions. Her audience sends in stuff to discuss. This sounds familiar. Wait, wait, it’s talk radio with your fingers! I’m not demeaning thisÂ blog, its authorÂ or the engagement of its community.Â There were better than 30 comments on theÂ postings I scanned. What I wouldn’t give for that kind ofÂ engagement from readers, either hereÂ or at my day job!
But IÂ saw no sign whatsover of commercial success. SheÂ solicits donations and sells her airbrush paintings on the site. For all we know she takes in-kind donations of road kill in partial payment.
I definitely feel my bargaining power as a professional writer is declining and IÂ suspect that in the sales offices where my salary is ultimately paid they’re discounting off the rate sheet to keep advertisers in the paper.
But I really think that as a professional contentÂ creator I shouldÂ draw the line at accepting anyÂ compensation package that includes deadÂ animals that been neitherÂ skinnedÂ nor shrink-wrapped.