It’s not really a surprise to anyone that I’m a giant geek, and like many giant geeks, I follow a number of tech websites via RSS in order to stay on top of the mountain of news that piles up in the tech world every day. My RSS list includes a number of major tech sites – Slashdot, Engadget, Ars Technica, TechCrunch, etc. Until today, I also followed Gizmodo, but have done so with increasing distaste, so I’ve finally gone ahead and removed it from the list of sites I follow.
I don’t really know what happened, but in addition to Gizmodo’s widely-hated site redesign earlier this year, it seems like the writing quality has rapidly degenerated into the tech blogger equivalent of some little boys in a schoolyard trying to play “look at me.” Much of the language in any given article is now less about technology and more about trying to come up with clever one-liners, usually snarky ones, that don’t really add anything to the conversation – this is 1) annoying as a transparent cry for attention and 2) actively irritating as it takes me longer to sift through articles looking for the news. I suppose specific Gizmodo writers are more to blame than others – Jesus Diaz and Sam Biddle spring to mind as the foremost examples – but there are also an increasing number of articles coming through on topics that are only tangentially related to technology at all.
I realize that blogging companies exist to make money first and foremost, but I guess the purist in me still wishes people would write about subjects with some degree of concision rather than the verbal gaudiness that seems to occur. Technical people are often busy above all, so wasting our time is not really usually appreciated.
I think part of this phenomenon can be attributed to the fact that, increasingly, bloggers and online writers are being paid ridiculously tiny amounts of money for their work, so they have to compensate by deliberately over-writing, and/or writing tons of not-really-useful articles in order to make a useful amount of money. A look at any freelance site for writing work will show you that most companies are not willing to pay more than a couple of dollars for an article, at most; most of that work is writing articles basically padded with keywords for search engines (SEO “optimized” articles) to drive ad traffic, or just wanting people to write “exciting” things to do the same. From what I can tell, Gawker is ad-driven, so its child sites (including Gizmodo) seem to be sliding into that sort of black hole at an increasing pace. I suspect that their full-time writers are paid more than a couple of dollars an article — but with bonuses for traffic, it pays for them to be flashy and overwritten instead of simply writing what needs to be said.
With consumers mostly unwilling to pay for content, and companies short-changing writers, I don’t really see commercial blogging going anywhere but down in terms of quality. Long-term, independent bloggers will be producing more useful content because they actually care about what they write — only, without aggregation, it’s harder to find them.
I’m still following Lifehacker, which is another Gawker blog. If I’m right, though, it’s only a matter of time before that, too, turns into an unreadable mess. Anyone know of any DIY blogs that are decent competition?