I definitely think that the emphasis on measurable circulation is a real issue for the industry a large since it pushes a real race to the bottom. In a click-obsessed industry, the actual content becomes irrelevant once the “click” has been harvested. Reading itself becomes irrelevant. The result is often a race to the bottom.
Absolutely – and in many cases, the distinction is irrelevant since these articles might also exist in print. What seems to be interesting from a journalistic point of view, is that the attitude of “communication professionals” seem to have changed radically over the last few years, as they understood that in the right context an online article can be much more rewarding from a PR perspective: it can be shared and read an infinite number of times, is easy to find and archive, and will remain accessible, if not forever, at least for the foreseeable future.
I’m always surprised by people coming to me to comment this or that piece I might have written – so to that extent, yes. Do these kinds of feedback constitute an active, engaged audience? I’m not sure, but I’m not sure it is any lesser, qualitatively, than readers flicking through a coffee table art magazine, stopping here and there for a piece they might be interested in.
The length of the piece really depends on the outlet. Online publishing often comes with an accelerated publishing schedule. Everything has become more compressed, a site has to change a lot to be seen as active, which creates an insatiable demand for content. This leads logically (and very unfortunately) to smaller research and editing time. The importance of things like images and headlines, i.e. the whole “package” around the piece itself, is exacerbated since these are often what will trigger the click.
Yes, in most cases, but that’s mainly because online platforms, or at least the kind of online platforms I’m working for come with a different set of requirement: brevity, catchiness, topicality and so forth (in my answers, I’ll concentrate on these platforms, which at what I know best). And they don’t necessarily accommodate the kind of writing more associated with print publications, i.e. long features and long form writing in general.
Having said that it’s important to point out that this is only true for a certain kind of platform – newsy, social media-driven, and relent on clicks as their prime business model. Not all writing online is like this, and indeed, the very flexibility of digital publishing, and its correlate i.e. self-publishing, has allowed numerous other forms of writing to come to the forth.
Lastly, if I write a review for an online news publication, I’m very likely to write it in the same way that I would have for a print magazine, although I’m likely to have to produce it more quickly that I would have had for print.