Mike Haduck, a product manager for ads at Facebook, vented all kinds of frustrations about the media in a mega rant — where else — on Facebook.
He goes off on everything from A to Z: CNN is “the network of kidnapped white girls”; newspapers are “are ghosts in a shell”; the three big papers — The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post — “seem incapable of breaking real, meaningful news at Internet speed”; “[e]vening newscasts are jokes” as is Meet the Press. Most media is terrible according to Haduck.
Once he’s vomited all of his complaints and his gut is empty, he ends with this: “It’s hard to tell who’s to blame. But someone should fix this shit.”
Nothing that Haduck says here hasn’t been said before, either specifically or in general. What’s interesting, however, is that he doesn’t seem to see (or at least to highlight) the ways in which media has benefited from social media sites. Like the one he works for.
The fact is media companies are pressed for advertising, ratings, clicks and readers. And while there is a vein of laziness and sensationalism that courses through some journalism, there are some who are doing what they can to find a balance. But Haduck’s complaints are, in many ways, subjective. It sounds like he’d like to see more hard news. The beauty of the state of media nowadays is that it can be customized so you can get what you want. Consumers spend lots of time creating the perfect Flipboard, for example, just so they don’t have to see the content that doesn’t interest them. (In fact, that’s what marketers are banking on so they can target their campaigns appropriately.) Should the media be more diligent about good, solid reporting on the most pressing stories of the day? Sure. Do a lot of people want to know about X-Men and Don Draper and the sad goat that got his burro friend back and overcame depression? Yes. Media capabilities are such that you can have both. It turns out that there are a lot of people who want to find out if that goat is OK.
This personalization of news is much the point that The Atlantic‘s Alexis Madrigal, quoted on Business Insider, makes. And he uses Mark Zuckerberg’s own words to make his counterargument:
“And your own CEO has even provided an explanation for the phenomenon with his famed quote, ‘A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.’ This is not to say we (the (digital) media) don’t have our own pathologies, but Google and Facebook’s social and algorithmic influence dominate the ecology of our world.”
These days, traditional media and online media work together in many situations and in many great ways. Media companies of all kinds have to respond to market forces. At times they do so in ways that aren’t great. Hopefully, anything that should be resigned to the rubbish bin will get there. In the meantime, the onus is also on the reader to pick through for their personal juicy bits. Haduck makes valid points, but if he’s not going to take these new media conditions into account or use his own digital powerhouse to exact the change he’d like to see, it seems pointless to simply be angry.