Great big media fuss across the pond this weekend. In brief: A couple of weeks ago Ian Shapira, a Washington Post writer, penned a 1,500-word piece on a silly “Generation Y” guru. Gawker picked up on it, cherry-picked the best quotes, and applied their customary snark. Normal.
But then the Shapira got pissed off, and this weekend wrote another 1,500 piece on how Gawker “stole” his story. A big hullabaloo ensued, most of which laid into Shapira and the Post. It’s a very timely hullabaloo. I’m writing this in my lunch hour in the offices of a broadsheet newspaper, where everyone around me is feeling a bit shifty about the the future. When livelihoods are at stake, people will hit out. But fights should be picked very carefully.
Here’s some suggested ground rules for Big Broadsheet when it comes to dealing with pesky Big Blog. Ground rules that Shapira and the Washington Post would have done well to heed. Feel free to add your own in the comments.
1) You can’t beat the link economy…so join it.
Pieces I’ve written for the Guardian and the New York Times often get linked to from blogs. This makes me very happy. It increases page views. This makes my editors happy. It makes their bosses happy. It makes the coffers of the companies incrementally better off through ad revenue. The link will help the page’s Google page rank and searchability. This increases the companies’ brand equity. Yippee! Everyone wins. Jeff Jarvis nailed it in a tweet: It’s the link economy, stupid.
2) Maintain your dignity, and don’t eat yourself
If big Big Broadsheet can salvage anything from the big media cull that cometh, it is its dignity. Classiness is one of the few fields in which the MSM still has a competitive advantage, and will do for a long time. In the eyes of a still-mighty band of older consumers, blogs are horrible little cottage operations, while Big Broadsheets have pedigree. For now, pedigree still means something. So son’t dirty your brand with whinges about how the new kid stole your lunch money. It’s very undignified.
3) Keep your enemies closer
It is surely folly to think of Big Blog as your enemy. They are probably going to win. If you can’t defeat them you should flatter them, link to them, and talk about them. Hell, why not employ them? And crucially, you should learn from them (if anything, Gawker added the salty opinion that the initial piece lacked). If all else fails, (continue to) riff on stories they break first, then write them better and deeper because that’s what you’re good at.
4) Don’t invade Russia
When people go to a restaurant they like, they tell three people. When they go to a restaurant they don’t like they tell 10. Same applies with Big Blog’s coverage of Big Broadsheet. They just love it when the MSM screws up. It’s juicy content and it vindicates their existence. It’s their rocket fuel. So whatever you do, do not provoke them. The Gawker piece wasn’t saying the article was shit. It was simply saying that it exists (and linked to it three times in the piece). As already mentioned…yippee! You have been linked to by the snark-masters of the web, and they haven’t called you a doofus! Do. Not. Complain. Because they’ll fight back dirtier.
5) Check the party line
This bit really is priceless. Predictably, Big Blog fought back dirtier. Turns out the communications department at the Washington Post sends Gawker regular “highlights” emails, positively encouraging the “theft” that Shapira’s article bemoaned (scroll down to bottom of the post). Oops. Remember that thing I mentioned about class?
So there you go. Any other suggestions?