My “ideal” turn-around time to produce a column started at thirty-five minutes, then was gradually reduced to half an hour, then twenty-five minutes. Twenty-five minutes to research and write about a show I had never seen — and this twenty-five minute period included time for formatting the article in the AOL blogging system, and choosing and editing a photograph for the article. Errors were inevitably the result. But errors didn’t matter; or rather, they didn’t matter for my bosses.
But now, I am not so mystified. With the recent release of a top-secret business document from AOL, things have been clarified. “The AOL Way,” as the document is called, lays the whole plan bare — long flowcharts, an insane number of meaningless buzzwords… the works. One slide is titled “Decide What Topics to Cover.” It then lists “Considerations” from top to bottom. “Traffic Potential” is the top consideration, followed by “Revenue/Profit” and then “Turnaround Time.” “Editorial Integrity” is at the bottom.
I still have a saved IM conversation with my boss, written after 10 months of employment, when I was reaching the breaking point:
“Do you guys even CARE what I write? Does it make any difference if it’s good or bad?” I said.
“Not really,” was the reply.
I’d quote the whole damn thing if I could. This is a must-must-must-read if you’re in journalism, digital, print, news, features, anything. “In the age of Internet news, Google ‘keywords’ matter. …Regular old words, not so much.”