As advertising budgets are squeezed, the internet may be the only thing that saves the media, reports Andrew Currah in this month’s Prospect. Thanks to web analytics technology, publishers can offer advertisers much better targeted and more effective adverts; and publishers themselves can learn more about what people want to read. This all could potentially make the news becomes more accessible, engaging and relevant.
On the other hand, it could also mean that editorial values become horridly warped—with news stories ranked on a league table of “most clicked,” editors face increasing pressure to cut costs and boost readership by huddling around a “tent pole” of stories (like Shannon Matthews of Jade Goody) rather than commissioning more expensive (and worthy) stories about Gaza or Afghanistan. Journalists are supposed to be our “civic alarm systems” to the abuses of power that go on around the world. If they can’t do this job properly, is the future of society in peril?