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The State We're In

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but last night I got sucked into a British gossip website. I think what particularly struck me was that Rod Stewart was expecting his eighth child (at 66 years old, which I think is terribly irresponsible, but that's a story for another day…). Of course, once you are in a gossip site, you can't disengage. I clicked around for the better part of a half an hour, consuming silly articles about celebs behaving (mostly) badly. I got around to one article about Lady Gaga where the author wrote something along the lines of she'll be performing her next show at "New York's Staples Center."

I could let the reporter slide for not being from the United States, but I won't. For the record, the Staples Center is not in fact in New York but actually in Los Angeles (it is where the Lakers play their games). This error really struck a chord with me in part because it is so lazy. The writer of this article should have done some fact checking prior to reporting something so completely false. If one were to google (or even bing, for that matter) "staples center," it is very clear from the ensuing results (like press releases that begin with "LOS ANGELES, CA") that there is definitely no Staples Center in New York. Furthermore, the writer's editor should have noticed and corrected this pretty egregious error.

In general, though, I've noticed a lot of errors in online journalism (not just the lack of fact-checking, but also spelling and grammar mistakes). It's really a shame because bloggers often are overlooked by mainstream media as amateurs yet it is this kind of thing that fuels that notion. My opinion is if you are doing any kind of journalism (not all blogs do this, but some — like technology-focused blogs, for instance — report on news that very few print outlets touch), you really need to maintain a level of professionalism and maintain that everything that prints (even if it is printed onscreen) has been thoroughly reviewed for accuracy.

Several large magazine retailers (that have been hurting very much with ad sales plummeting) began a campaign a few months back called "The Power of Print." While at first it seemed a bit pretentious, I think they do have a point (besides protecting their livelihood). Something about the nature of a magazine, perhaps the fact that it is written word, makes it tangible. There's also a definite craft to it — a page can only be so long, a layout must be aesthetically pleasing. And I have to say that I do enjoy reading magazines because the distractions (like typos and errant facts) are very rare.

In short, you can distill my thoughts down to the fact that quality control is incredibly important. For any brand, whether you are Conde Nast or Gawker, maintaining a consistent product is vital for enduring in any market.