Here’s David Pogue’s charming video review of the iphone. It made the front page of digg. Given the excitement about iphone, it probably deserved to be.Here’s a gizmodo page that contains nothing but a link to the youtube video. It also made the front page of digg. Here’s the difference. The gizmodo review contains 23 words–dashed off in 30 seconds. And yet it also made the front page of digg. (Please note: gizmodo/gawker media has four sponsored ads on this page–a page that contained absolutely no content to speak of).
Here’s a crunchmedia list of iphone reviews. In addition to linking to the usual four reviews, it contains three sentences of blather. This blog has 4 different sets of ads.
Both gizmodo and crunchmedia have poached web traffic of other sites by embedding videos. There are actually potential infringement issues to think of. But more seriously, it calls into question the very value of audience filtering sites.
Up until now I have viewed A list bloggers with polite indifference. Clearly I am not trying to make money off my blog; I have never put advertising on the site (although that may be more a matter of other priorities than any clear intention). Perhaps I could have installed the Digg This plugin for wordpress. But frankly, it irritates me that the reading crowd prefers promoting all these Me Too stories. The hive mind seems to prefer stories about the familiar, the enthusiastic, the scandal-mongering.
Moments like this are when individual bloggers lose confidence. I have occasionally submitted some of my own content to digg–things I thought might have interested digg readers. But none have ever received more than 10 diggs. Contrast this to gizmodo’s empty post –which at the moment has received 700 diggs. Why bother saying anything original, bloggers say to themselves. If you can write next to nothing and still attract eyeballs (and ad dollars), what’s the incentive to say anything? Why not just call it in. Believe me, if I wanted web traffic, I could easily spend my blogging time talking about Paris Hilton or Ann Coulter, Weapons of Mass Destruction or Da Vinci code or American Idol.
Audience ranking/filtering systems quickly become bad at uncovering cool stuff. After a certain critical mass, it simply becomes too easy to game the system and orchestrate reader campaigns. For me, I’d much rather spend the time blogging about interesting things than simply self-promoting without useful content to speak of. I can appreciate the value of an occasional links dump. When someone does their homework and actually gathers useful information, that can be incredibly useful (see for example my post about tariffs on imported ethanol). Part of the problem is that gawker media bloggers have blogging quotas for each week. Quantity (not quality) is what pays the bills.
So instead of having sitting down and collecting my thoughts on this blog, should I instead clutter this space up with nothing but youtube videos of cats jumping on trampolines.
Update: Looks like Gizmodo got another empty story (a bullet point list of features that iPhone lacks)promoted to the top of Digg. Oh, the hard-hitting journalism!