On the Web, It’s Freedom 2, Publishing 0

Publishing in the “Old School” Approach (i.e. “Professional Journalism”) is Built upon a Lie

The lie is: We’re not advertising anything. The truth is: All of your “journalistic ethics” are bogus.

Freedom Will Live Long After Traditional Publishing Dwindles and DiesTime Cover: You

The world wide web turned the user into a publisher — this was a “shot heard around the world” for publishing. Freedom scored its first goal: Users.United Colors of Benetton

The second goal was a long time coming. Advertising hasn’t traditionally held up a code of ethics the way that traditional publishing has been flaunting a high-fallutin “journalistic code of ethics” — not only for a couple of years, but rather for several decades. Benetton was perhaps one of the leaders: their ads presented “real” images from around the world (and that was before the Internet). Benetton put the notion of “no holds barred” into the advertising marketplace.

Freedom and Transparency Will Live Long and Prosper

Hittail ad

As the Internet develops, online advertising is also continually developing. More and more, online advertising is engaging communities — basically: it is becoming not only interactive, but also transparent. Indeed, the transparent community (most clearly defined by the “web domain“) is the medium.

CBS 60 Minutes Mark ZuckerbergMark Zuckerburg (the founder of Facebook.COM) is a visionary. Facebook.COM’s Beacon application was an experiment in unmitigated transparency — at least with respect to “users” actions. In the future, transparency will spread into more and more spheres of online activity, and the web sites that take a proprietary stance and/or try to protect proprietary secrets will simply become avoided. That happened to Facebook, and it will happen to Google, YouTube, … it will happen to any website that attempts to “secretly” collect data that users are willing to offer freely and transparently.

The era of “controlled” media (media that are managed by professionals only) is over. If journalists continue to impose rules upon themselves — rules which (if followed) would result in self-censorship (and therefore are incredible) — such “professional” journalism will wane and ultimately cease to exist.

I was present at an address Susan Sontag gave in Tübingen several years ago. She described how it is not necessary to “put all of your cards on the table” — the reader will appreciate it if the writer acknowledges the fact that the reader has a brain and also has the ability to think.

So please, to all journalists — whether very professional or hardly professional: Do not promise to shoot yourself in the foot! If you do, then no one will believe you — and then you might find that you will soon need to look for a new job… and the new jobs will increasingly be found in the context of open and transparent online communities… (with “no holds barred” ;)

2 Responses

  1. nmw says:

    Thank you, Anita, for your (IMHO) straight-talk.
    I think we both agree 100% about how bogus “holier-than-thou” attitudes are. Nobody is kidding anyone here.
    There’s one step further, though — and that’s a step many people find hard to take (it’s actually something I learned from reading an article by Neil Budde around the time he left WSJ Online): the distinction between what is an “ad” / “advertising” and what isn’t an “ad” / “advertising” is becoming very blurry. Or rather: it was becoming blurry — now it is blurred. Indeed, IMHO: It no longer makes sense to artificially make this distinction at all.
    Since most people (well, at least adult people ;) grew up thinking that this was an important, almost “holy” distinction, I normally get a “ruffled feather” look when I suggest that pretending to make this distinction is in fact more bogus than not.

  2. smallbiztrends says:

    Personally, I am not offended or put off by ads or commercial motivations. I am a pragmatic businesswoman and I accept that businesses have to be successful if people want to earn a living. And people have to earn a living — pure and simple. Ads are an important way to help make businesses and the people who work with them successful.

    I like seeing ads that are transparent. I pay attention to ads. I occasionally even write about them if they are interesting enough. To me they are part of the online mix.

    I think your comment is spot on when you suggest that denying you’re selling anything is a lie. No one is kidding anyone.

    But you know, I see this denial even with people involved in new media. For instance, I’m sure you’ve visited blogs of consultants. Some of them go out of their way to proudly announce that they NEVER accept ads and don’t advertise anything.

    But in fact, they are selling themselves and their services as a consultant. So they’re not really fooling anyone. I wouldn’t be turned off if they’d just say: “I’m selling my services on this blog by trying to impress you with what I know. I’m hoping that you will be so impressed you’ll hire me.” If they said that, I wouldn’t be turned off in the least. I’d find it refreshing that they were so open and transparent about their motives.

    But I don’t like it when they act all holier than thou and claiming they would never sully their hands with advertising. Would they truly be spending all that time writing a blog if they didn’t expect it to bring them business? Heck no!

    So I think this idea of transparency of commercial motives has to apply to those who are involved in today’s social media, too. Not just to old-style professional journalism.

    What do you think about this, Norbert?

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