News ⊂ Advertising
For-profit news outlets are financial incentivized to write about things that are easy to write about. The easiest articles to write are the subsidized ones. Public relations firms subsidize news by writing press releases. Then news outlets republish the press releases as news. That’s why so much news is corporate and political advertising.
Here are the top stories on Ars Technica at the time of writing.
Having only skimmed the articles, I suspect they were put there by the following companies.
Have I Been Pwned (breach notification service)
FireEye (security firm)
Armor (global cloud security provider)
The first article lets slip who wrote it in the following line.
Can you spot how this sentence attempts to influence reader behavior?
Different organizations write articles for different news outlets. Ars Technica is unusual in its disproportionate publishing of articles written by cybersecurity firms and its relatively low density of political propaganda compared to more traditional news outlets like The Economist. The Art of Manliness Podcast interviewees usually discuss the books they’re selling.
News is advertising. Ad-supported news is ad-supported advertising. Subscription-supported news is subscription-supported advertising. Advertising can’t directly control what you believe. Advertisers can control what you think about. The more advertising I expose myself to, the more I think about the things advertisers want me to.
Here is what advertisers want me to think about.
Products I haven’t bought
More ad-supported media, such as celebrities and free-to-play videogames
Here is what I want to think about.
Things I can make and do myself
My local community
My friends, my family and me
My personal happiness is inversely related to how much news I expose myself to. It’s not just a subjective feeling. I behave more healthily. I’m even more interesting to talk to.
Amateur blogs make me think about what the author thinks is important. That’s a step in the right direction because amateur bloggers’ interests align better with mine than do the corporate and political machines behind news outlet press releases. But they’re still not me. And some of them are motivated by vanity.
I solve all of these issues by writing a blog myself. That way the author’s interests align perfectly with my own.
If you liked this post, click here.
Edit: jballoch points out that Have I Been Pwned is a noncommercial donation-supported service.
November 3, 2019 at 1:43 am ↩︎
The hyperlink is in the original article. It’s the article’s second link to Have I been Pwned. ↩︎
I pick these specific news outlets because I visit them the most. Aggregators like Facebook and Reddit are different beasts deserving of a separate post. ↩︎
I don’t deny that national politics is important. I mean that the proportion of attention it gets on the news is greater than the proportion of my attention I wish to passively devote to it. ↩︎