Earning money online is a tricky business. Earning money online when there’s no exchange of goods involved is even trickier.
For anybody running a website which offers nothing more than content, volume is everyting. The principal source of income is advertising revenue and - variables aside - the site’s worth is predicated on the number of visitors it attracts.
This simple formula is responsible for the state of the digital sports media. As football publishing is increasingly tailored to the online environment, consumer treatment is changing.
The modern game is rightly accused of having an instant gratification culture and that’s something which has begun to infect the way the sport is covered. Old values are being replaced with new ones and we’re witnessing a shift away from quality, engrossing content towards something which really doesn’t have much more than a fleeting value.
This is not a universal truth. A lot of the mainstream broadsheets are still home to some of the most talented writers in the country and there are hundreds of supplementary websites which house all the reading that the contemporary fan could ever need.
The problem is, though, that the provision of substance increasingly seems like an unsustainable gesture. There is an obvious commercial merit to conforming to the lowest common denominator and so, over the long-run, there must be a temptation for all websites to dilute their coverage and move in a more crowd-pleasing direction.
Because of the need for financial viability, easy to produce, simple to digest content is becoming the norm. Think-pieces are being replaced by Vines, analysis is giving way to soap opera style melodrama and challenging debate is being usurped by peripheral triviality.
Click. Look. Close.
So much of our sports coverage is being chopped-up into bite-size, ten-second portions. A funny video here, a copied and pasted transfer story there.
The emphasis seems now to be on simply getting readers through the door at any cost and having little concern over what they find when they get inside. That they may feel deceived or intentionally antagonised is incidental, that they are simply ‘there’ is all important.
That isn’t about the quality of writing or the originality of thought, either, it’s false presentation; how often are you enticed by a headline which bears almost no resemblance to the story underneath it. How frequently are you fed a definitive-sounding Twitter link, only to find a story which is comprised only of ambiguities? How many times have you read something which drips with insincerity and which has been written purely to provoke?
You learn eventually, of course, and you start to tune the serial offenders out, but isn’t this all rather insulting? It’s the reduction of the reader to a statistic in an advertising pitch. It represents the abandonment of editorial pride. It’s now more important that we share the content and less so that we actually enjoy it.
No, it’s not fair to paint the entire industry with the same brush, but so much of it is now built on keywords rather than quality that it feels toxic.
This may be a sign of the times and an industry’s inevitable attempt to adapt to a changing world, but it’s also a bastardisation and a truly lamentable movement.
Worse still, logic dictates that this will increasingly be the trend.
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