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What News Sites Could Learn from TMZ, yes that TMZ… | DesignNotes by Michael Surtees

What News Sites Could Learn from TMZ, yes that TMZ…


I’ve read so many articles and blog posts over the last couple of years about how to save the newspaper that it’s hard to take any of them serious anymore because it seems like no one that is running newspapers (and magazines) are listening. Their typical solution is a walled garden or the assumption that people are willing to pay for news that they can’t see or care about. Digital consortiums are being developed in hopes that a new digital device will be the answer. Good luck connecting with poor internet connections, plus once people get their hands on these new devices they’ll want to do things that A. the devices aren’t capable of, B. stuff that companies want to lock out, and C. the same old corporate thinking of not support stuff people want because they never thought of it first.

All of this brings me to an article by Bob Lefsetz about TMZ being the site of the year—a claim that I have a hard time arguing with. I can recall a couple years ago when I would look to Twitter to get news updates though those days now long gone for me as those that wanted to press the button on news are no longer there. Now that there’s new rolls for people using Twitter at news sites the info flow has slowed considerably. I’d hate to admit this but if I do get a whiff of something interesting going in the news, I will check TMZ first. Regular news sites have adjusted their sites with a headline banner that will let viewers know that they know there’s a story, they just have nothing to report. TMZ will already has a post with a grainy photo typically taken from the person breaking the story—not a reporter but an observer that was right there. Ironically these people aren’t going to CNN or Reuters—but calling TMZ. It’s also known that TMZ is one of the only outlets that will pay for such stuff, though I’m sure everyone does it privately.

One of Bob’s more important points is the facts vs. analysis of news. The irony of course is that all news agencies will claim that they’re reporting the facts, but clearly you compare two news sites and the sentiment analysis would show that each site reports in their own language. The short to the point blog posts that a journalist would snide about are what people gravitate towards. It’s not that people don’t care about good writing, they don’t have time to read it. Everyone has an opinion these days, and everyone can publish on any topic. But there needs to be a starting point and TMZ is getting there first. It’s after the fact that news sites start reporting.

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  • mrmcginnis

    I've never in my life been to the TMZ site. I get all my news starting from my Netvibes page.

  • http://designnotes.info/ michaelsurtees

    Obviously you don't know what you're missing. But in all seriousness I was trying to point out the speed difference in getting information out there. Typically it's TMZ first for most stuff on people.

  • mrmcginnis

    Well, I don't care about the personal lives of famous people.

  • http://designnotes.info/ michaelsurtees

    Not even people that you vote for—I'm assuming you vote.

  • mrmcginnis

    I don't care about anyone's personal life, unless they are telling me themselves and trying to convey something they learned through their own experience, using art, music or literature. And I certainly don't need to know it immediately.

  • http://designnotes.info/ michaelsurtees

    I don't watch Extra, Extra for the same reasons you state, but what I do think that separates TMZ from those type of shows and even “proper” news sites is that they tend to be first (something that's not important to you) and it's usually correct. Access is key while by the time things have been confirmed there's another story to report.

  • mrmcginnis

    I don't agree that it's OK to report something without factual confirmation, and continuously apologize for mistakes later and move on. Doing so may be “the future,” but that doesn't make it correct or healthy. I could run into McDonald's and grab some crap really fast and cheap and scarf it down. That's why McDonald's is successful. Just because something works, and has proven success doesn't mean that's the way it should be done. I avoid fast food and I avoid TMZ.

  • http://designnotes.info/ michaelsurtees

    I'm not sure if you read the Lefsetz post or not, but he does suggest that people trusting their news sources is over, citing Judith Miller and the NYT. Everyone has different values on what's good. While you're comfortable in avoiding TMZ, I suspect that more of your sources of news are going to try figuring out how to beat them to the punch—most likely with poor results.

  • mrmcginnis

    He is giving accolades for unsavory, perhaps unethical, behavior. He thinks it's a good thing. that's what I got.

    Also, I never take anyone's word as fact, and most definitely not the NYtimes. That's why I like feed readers, because you can read MANY stories on the same subject and make your own conclusions. The accessibility of a variety of sources is the great thing about the internet.