By Steve Murch
The internet is an incredible resource and has helped society advance. Approximately half the world is now on the World Wide Web, and for the most part we really enjoy it. Like anything else, it isn’t perfect. But as a whole it helps more than it hurts. It also offers some head-scratching.
Thanks to the internet, we have information at our fingertips at all times. We have fun and games, we news, entertainment, sports … you name it you can find it. And the information is updated constantly. If it’s news, politics, celebrity, it’s all there.
So the question is: Do we really need to receive updates on the minutiae? When something happens, be it news, sports or entertainment, it doesn’t take long before we find out. Then it isn’t too much longer before we find out more and more details, whether they really matter to the bigger story or not. It’s part of who we are – or so it seems – that we need to know every detail. Why?
Thirty years ago we didn’t have that problem. We watched the evening news and read the newspaper. There was CNN back in the day when it covered lots of different news stories, unlike today where the cable news channels cover a handful of stories ad nauseum. Then they analyze, over-analyze, analyze the over-analyzed, then over-analyze the analysis of the over-analyzed in the first place.
When I first started working in the newspaper industry the internet was somewhat of an afterthought for newspapers. They had a presence, but no one knew what to do with it as part of their newspaper brand. Our newspaper limited the number of stories we posted. Monetizing the information was a foreign concept. Eventually all newspapers started posting everything daily and worked on making them successful business models (they’re still debating about the best way to do that).
For the most part, newspapers post their stories daily and then just post updates or breaking news, leaving the rest of the daily coverage the same as when it initially was posted online – much of it exactly like the newspaper with maybe the headline different so as to be clickbait. Part of the difference between newspapers and other media is that subscribers are an important aspect of the business model for newspapers, whereas TV and radio have always had advertisers carry the freight. So constant updating by those two media is an easier call. Newspapers want to be relevant and timely, but they also aren’t going to just spend all day updating lesser stories.
Much of the media really hasn’t found a great way to monetize their offerings on the internet, though there are certain people who have found a way to make it happen to some degree. And to those who say the information should be free, information is never truly free and those who work to bring it to you are doing it as a career. Do you work for free? Didn’t think so.
But coming back to initial question about the minutiae, let’s close with this: Do we drive the need for more, up-to-the-second information, or does the internet control and push our desire for the information whether it’s important or not? It might be a little like the whole chicken or the egg conversation.
Steve Murch is a former managing editor and award-winning columnist for The Alpena News. He’s a lifelong Michigan resident, a broken and defeated fan of the Detroit Lions and a forever optimistic fan of the Detroit Tigers. His column will appear most Thursdays.
Image credit: andinarvaez