Here we go again. Fleet Street Blues reports on a user comment which “seems to makes quite a lot of sense”. It reads as follows:
“Five years or so ago, there was a certain kind of old-school journalist who, converted to the cause, as it were, banged on at length about the importance of hacks having a web presence of the highest order to demonstrate the new skills. It turns out, however, that the new skills are a piece of piss (particularly with current web technology), and promoting a yarn via Google, Facebook, Twitter etc is, in reality, an administrative task rather than a journalistic one. If you want to employ a proper journalist rather than a cheap web monkey, the SEO stuff really is secondary. (Of course, there is the fact that many employers actively want web monkeys rather journalists because they are so much cheaper, but that’s a whole other debate.)”
What is wrong with this picture?
Well even before we get to the conclusion, the premise is flawed.
The headline is indicative: “The difference between promoting a yarn… and writing it”
This is the usual ‘drawing a line’ waste of time (“Is ice cream strawberry?”) that seeks to establish some kind of higher ground that journalists can occupy, rather than actually asking what we want to do in our journalism.
If you want to have a web presence to demonstrate new skills for your career, fine. If you want to use those skills to produce good journalism while you’re at it, however, then you’ll probably do a great deal better.
The point of community management/SEO/social media optimisation etc. from a journalist’s point of view is that it should seek to involve readers as early as possible, and so improve the editorial product while it is produced. Not only that but also so that, once published, any errors/additions etc. are likely to be added by users.
It’s the difference between seeing users as passive audiences, or as active collaborators.
If you see them as audiences then, yes: SEO/SMO/community management is an administrative job akin to being a papergirl or delivery man. Let’s all look down on those poor web monkeys who fail to live up to our own high standards.
If you see them as collaborators and users, however, then no: SEO/SMO/community management is not something you can comfortably leave entirely to someone else.