Late Afternoon Lamento

Preparing an Online Journalism supplement for a media magazine I suddenly notice how much our trade has evolved in the last, say, two years. Changed to the better, I mean. In principle, albeit not necessarily in practice.

Whereas the focus of online journalism 101s used to be mostly on text-related topics like Writing for the Web (mostly: how to write headlines and teasers, how to handle links and pictures, or how to make long text more easily scannable for on-screen reading), now you can (and have to) confidently tackle more advanced topics like the intricacies of multimedia storytelling, the strategic implications of journalistic blogging, or possible contributions of the collective ‘big brain’.

Not that the german online media are really up to the task, yet. Instead of fathoming and experimenting with the genuine possibilities of their platform, they still follow the dubious imperative of breathless ‘newsiness’. (Do we really need another Google News? No, we certainly don’t.)

Just recall the recent, highly trumpeted, developments. Some Web2.0 features, like comments and recommendation functions, have been added to the mainstream german news sites. Many sites even provide weblogs by staff writers or celebrity guests. The results are mostly arbitrary, with some notable exceptions, like the blogs of Knüwer or Wermuth & Co. But these are not more than disconnected individual achievements, the rest being deservedly ridiculed by the enemies of the trade.

Very rarely, if at all, do the reforms add up to something that makes new sense, that ‘wows’ the reader/user, thrilling him or giving him an as yet unknown and significantly better experience. It may be cheap to summon the ‘vision thing’, but that’s exactly what I feel when I look at this miserable german online media landscape: There is no one around with a coherent and comprehensive vision of what online journalism could be.

No one, that is, who starts from an essentially journalistic point of view and then makes creative use of the medium’s strength. No one who thinks the stories first and then dives into the ocean of possibilities that the Internet provides. Want to know my wish list? I want great, hit-in-the-guts online photo- and videojournalism, like many projects in Fabian Mohr’s impressive link list, instead of brainless picture galleries and Reuters’ standard newsreels. I want blogging being cleverly and incrementally used for daring investigative reporting, like at Talkingpoints Memo, instead of blogger ghettos at the margins of faceless news sites. And I want more services like Perlentaucher or Facts2.0, that use brains instead of stupid algorithms to aggregate the Best of the Web for the users’ benefit.

What I’m looking for has to do with passion and dedication, not with the assiduous fulfillment of Web 2.0 textbook assignments: Comments? Checked. Blogs? Checked. Social Bookmarks? Checked. Being utterly average and boring? Checked.

I want less, but significantly better, content. And I want sites that make exactly this their trademark.


  1. How true! Most of what you say on german media online. But if you look at services like Facts 2.0, you can not see the readiness to invest in journalists. The only goal of this plattform so far is to make money out of other peoples content. And perhaps to create a community. But what are they talking about? To me it seems pretty much childsplay on issues like anonymous vs. blogging with a real name.

  2. Bullocks. FACTS recently hired 3 part time editors. No matter what the usual trolls tell you, FACTS invests all the money it earns (not much) and all the money it gets from the mother ship (not too much either) into the development of the platform and into new employees. The true value lies within its unusually smart community, not in the RSS-feeds.

  3. Trolls? I guess you are talking about me. However, a smart community talking about free and paid content.

  4. Hey, don’t fight! 🙂

    @Oliver: That’s my understanding of your project’s idea and that’s why I mention Facts as a positive example: It’s exactly the combination of staff and collective user judgement that I find outstanding. (And more advanced than the Perlentaucher model, of course – which I also appreciate.)

    @Ugugu: Guiding a good community in aggregating interesting 3rd party content is a very valuable service, especially in a highly distributed media environment. There would be nothing wrong in making money with this. I wish Facts2.0 all the best with their attempts to do so.

  5. I tried to explain several times what i still dont like about Facts 2.0. i cannot see the will to keep the system open, for example, by linking the names of the community-members directly with their blogs? whats the problem with that? and what is this all about? is it to create a closed community, whitch is much easier to monetarise (and controll)?

    for me there are still to many lacking features to take part in this community, maybe one day i will change my mind, but for now i prefer definitely to stay outside…

  6. Yes, I’ve noticed that too, yesterday. Thought it’s due to the chinese Great Firewall, though. I will check next week, when I’m back in Frankfurt.

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