Warning: Bad Content Is No Joke

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We chuckled earlier this week at Tom Scott’s journalism warning labels featured on the inventor’s website. Scott has created a series of labels designed to be printed onto Avery’s 5160 sticker sheets to mock the new breed of bad online journalism. It’s a smart, tongue-in-cheek joke with seemingly pointed relevance. Our favorite is the PR warning label which reads “Warning: This article is basically just a press release copied and pasted.” Others include jabs at unfounded medical research, unverified sources and plagiarism. Scott demonstrates how to use his handy little stickers on actual publications but notes that the articles used in his examples are not examples of bad journalism. We believe him, but we’re pretty positive that Scott’s labels could be used in most published pieces, especially online.

Underneath Scott’s parody lies a genuine commentary about crappy content. On a national level, the conversation about what we read and where it comes from has been on the lips of media watchers, politicians and marketers all summer long. A few weeks back, it was Wikileaks that stirred the pot regarding journalism ethics. Then Digg got some much-needed press a couple of days ago when news outlets wondered if the site was responsible for tainting journalism objectivity. Yet the ongoing dilemma of new media and online journalism appears to be one of content.

As marketers, we are constantly testing the quality of our content to make sure it fairly represents our clients and products and small businesses. Yet big time media appears to be struggling with the marriage of traditional reporting and Internet spin. First-rate content, news or otherwise, is now the litmus test for a website’s respectability. User-generated content, too, has become a delicate balance between letting the readers sound off and having the nut jobs take over the tone of the content.

Scott’s labels, while certainly parody, are not off-base when it comes to the looming issue of content gone bad and journalism gone wrong. So the question we’d like to toss your way, dearest readers, is how does content affect your web reading experience? And while you’re at it, tell us some labels you’d like to apply to bad Internet writing.

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