Online music media challenge
As you can probably already tell, the golden age of music journalism was back in the days when newspapers (remember those?) and monthly music news publications like Rolling Stone were at their top form. Back in this period, there was enough money to fund the grittiest and most intensive music journalism. Well, after the Internet put many newspapers under and killed of all but the strongest music magazines, a new music media landscape has emerged and a lot of the advantages and perks of music journalism are the first victim of this sea change. Nowadays, music blogs hold their own, in terms of quality, against traditional music journals and magazines. These blogs also generate enough cash for their operators to make a decent income (given the circumstances). These blogs are also hyper local and hyper niche specific. They are faster, more nimble, and can drill down much deeper than traditional music media. (Not to mention the added perks, such as live presale codes and such.) And they do all of this on a shoestring budget that is just enough to cover the needs of the blog’s owner-and only writer. Depending on how you look at it-music blogs are the future of music journalism or they are the enemies of music journalism.
What sets traditional music journalism apart?
One of the biggest complaints traditional music journalists have against the huge swarm of music blogs that popped up out of nowhere-much like mushrooms after a hard spring rain-is the lack of journalistic standards. Journalism is all about cultivating and contacting credible sources. Journalism is all about backing up everything you write. Journalism is all about research-deep research at that. Well, with today’s music blogs, you can expect a wide range of difference in how the blog owners and writers subscribe to these traditional guarantors of journalistic quality. Sure, you don’t automatically get a Tom Wolfe-style article if you have these standards but, at the very least, you can rest assured that the stuff you are reading is truthful.
This is not necessarily the case with blogs. In fact, there seems to be a feeding frenzy regarding who can be the most shocking or who can find the most eye-popping angle or twist. This one-upmanship is primarily a mad dash for online traffic. Whoever gets the most traffic gets a higher chance of living to the next month. The problem is the truth is often the first victim thrown under the bus as blogs scramble for the most buzz and viral appeal on the Internet. It is not surprising to see the same tired rumors rehashed for a few cheap ad clicks. It is not unusual to see otherwise routine or bland stories ‘spiced up’ by a provocative headline that could easily play fast and loose with the truth.
You have to remember, most of these blogs don’t have editors. Whenever the writer feels he or she has the right coverage, that’s going to the story. Period. There are no checks and balances. There are no grownups in the room. Given how fast stories blow up in social media, it can be downright confusing for the reader. Which blog can he or she trust? Which blog is all hype? Which blog delivers the truth on a consistent basis?
Narrative or news
While I do think that since music blogs are here to stay, the term ‘music journalist’ should be extended to the people responsible for these blogs. With that said, it would be nice to have a blog standard regarding the dividing line between narrative and news. While music news have always been quite liberal and soft on introducing narration into news pieces, there was still a fine line most music journals and magazines wouldn’t cross. It would be nice for news blogs to know where this line is and, for purely self-preservation purposes, hold back from crossing the line. Journalistic standards exist primarily to serve and protect the public from lies and exaggerations. However, being vigilant against hype and sensationalism also benefit blogs and other digital news outlets because it protects their bottom line. How? By maintaining readers’ trust, journalistic standards for blogs enable blogs to preserve their traffic volume. Let’s face it-you can’t maintain a hot blog solely on hype, exaggeration, or outright lying. Eventually, people will get sick and tired of the shtick. Eventually, all the lies will catch up to a publication. Also, solid journalistic brands are based on the brands’ ability to deliver value over the long haul-not hype.