The proliferation of the link-bait blog listicles comes at the expense of more serious, long-form articles which used to be a staple of the (print) newspaper and magazine industries. Now that they are suffering a slow but agonizing decline (complete with ineffective paywalls), in their place come a new form of online journalism: highly visual, effects-laden, video and audio and pictorial design showcases that go beyond being just 10,000 words but paint, with the broad brush of a multimedia-scape of 100,000 more words1.
Slate argues that this new form of web journalism is superficially impressive but is ultimately a disservice to the actual articles and topics discussed. While the pictures and videos are flashy and serve to grab the reader’s attention, they’re not a panacea to decreasing attention spans. The reader is still required to slog through long, laborious paragraphs that have themselves become sideshows to the animated attractions in the peripheral. Even if the subject matters aren’t that interesting, it seems like meek surrender when the New York Times’s response to Youtube is better-produced parallax video.
The other consideration to make is that these highly-designed, well-researched, carefully coded articles are reliant on print and wouldn’t be able to sustain themselves if not for the decreasing subsidy of a loyal subscribed readership. The big advantage of reading with technology (i.e., tablets) may be interaction and media, but when the (non-existent) business model is even worse than that of an already dying industry, then its standalone viability is a non-starter. Monetizing eyeballs has determined the eventual outcome of all media inventions, and though this is only an early stab at moving beyond the printed page, there may not be much time left to iterate on experiments.
That said, the front-end engineer in me is very happy to see that HTML, as an authoring tool, is defining what authorship and publishing can look like when the web is considered the lead platform and can flaunt its advantages in accessibility and interactivity. The exciting part is seeing the technology and design become mainstream and reaching a wide audience, setting higher expectations across the board and accelerating tools to make this kind of work commonplace in the future.
Sadly, the Google search “1 picture = ? words” does not make the proper conversion.↩