Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Good newspapers, bad research, and the failure of market capitalism

Yet another badly researched newspaper article about Wikipedia, this time in The Age.

"Submission of new articles is slowing to a trickle"

Actually, new article creation is up 25% since the beginning of the year. Total editing is down 17% in the same period -- after climbing an exponential curve for several years. Hardly a trickle.

The mistake wouldn't be such a big deal if it wasn't the keystone of the article (the headline is "Delete generation rips encyclopedia apart"). Tellingly, The Age is owned by Fairfax Media, which is a publicly traded company -- which means that The Age's shareholders demand relentlessly increasing profits -- a 20% margin is a common floor for papers.

The New York Times (and other non-public papers) only needs to make around 5 percent. So the Times can afford to do actual research, while the Age apparently can't.

Note to media owners: cutting so many corners that your journalism becomes detached from reality isn't "smart business" -- it's wringing the name value out of your properties until they stop being relevant.

Q: What do the New York Times, NPR, the BBC, and Wikipedia have in common?

A: They all inspire fanatical loyalty.

A: They've all run stories about Wikipedia that are actually accurate.

A: They all have people on the ground in Iraq. (Unlike the Age, the Telegraph, and -- dare I say it -- Fox News.)

A: None of them has to answer to shareholders.

Geoff has much more.

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