David Carr and Brian Stelter know how to put on a good show. Going for a little more than an hour, the Riggs and Murtaugh buddy duo from the Gray Lady entertained audiences at Internet Week with an oft-insightful conversation about all things media. Here are some highlights from the keynote.
Print Still Moves the Needle
Sure, we can wax poetic about the Web and the wonders of social publishing, but few of us straddle the worlds of powerful print circulation and Web content like journalists at The New York Times. According to both Carr and Stelter, nothing still drives name recognition and news cycles like a piece in the print edition of the paper—and brands and companies seem to agree. "Companies still try to make an event around news," Stelter told the crowd. "They desperately want stories in print to keep momentum of an event moving."
Stelter, one of the fastest metabolizers and producers of content around, told the audience that it is hard not to get caught up in the world of microscoops and quick news breaks. "I keep telling myself not to care about the microscoops," he noted with a hint of exasperation. Carr, the veteran, seemed less concerned. "Consumers don't even know where the news came from," he argued. "Scoops are fleeting points of pride for the reporters only. The race to be first, especially in commodity news, is not nutritiously advantageous to readers."
'Twitter Is a Chatroom for Reporters'
Stelter and Carr both cautioned that the Twitter echo chamber exists, much of the time, in an alternate reality. "Don't mistake Twitter heat for real heat," Carr said. "There is a coastal bias. Twitter cares about Twitter." Stelter, who essentially lives on the social network, characterized it as "a chatroom for reporters."
Writing with Web metrics in mind is a part of the job description for any working journalist today. That said, Carr notes that writing for Twitter shares or SEO purposes is a dangerous game and a process he called "a little bit corrosive and damaging." The discussion led to the issue of credibility and the importance of providing a quality service with respect to a particular beat. Both reporters noted that while sites like Gawker can provide a good, entertaining service and oftentimes beat the original source in pageviews, nothing can replicate the opted-in body of paying subscribers. If we're seeing one theme here in the media presentations at Internet Week it is this: Cherish all readers, take them any way you can get them, but there is nothing more critical and sacred than the paid subscriber.
An Eye to the Future
"The lesson of the Web is to iterate, iterate, iterate," Carr told the crowd. He urged journalists to "give it a whirl" and adapt to the tools of the Web. Of the future, Carr speculated that navigation is the primary concern for those who develop and shape technology. "The problems with navigation in the current Web and TV models is all that is keeping the old system in place," he said.