Do Social Media Sites Like Tumblr Need Their Own News Publications?
We learned last week that Tumblr is shutting down Storyboard — the news blog responsible for reporting on creative and noteworthy posts by Tumblr users. Tumblr’s cofounder, David Karp, posted his explanation for Storyboard’s closing on the site’s staff blog, saying: “What we’ve accomplished with Storyboard has run its course for now, and our editorial team will be closing up shop and moving on.”
Karp mentions that Storyboard partnered with the likes of WNYC, Mashable, Time, etc. and was even nominated for a James Beard Award (to name a few accomplishments). So, why is it best to “move on” when the project has been so successful?
The consensus (here, here, and here) seems to be that Tumblr needs to downsize to turn a profit this year. However, in an interview with The New York Times, Charlie Warzel, deputy technology editor at Buzzfeed, suggested Storyboard is closing because there’s no point in writing about what you can just go and see for yourself. He said:
It is always peculiar when a social network branches out into publishing, it just seems odd to bring on even excellent editorial talent to cover what is already going on organically.
And he’s not the only one who shares the sentiment.
The New York Times calls attention to Dan Fletcher (a journalism school graduate) who quit his “amorphous” job as managing editor of Facebook in 2012. His position required him to write about FaceBook trends. He said that reporters aren’t needed on FaceBook and that articles detract from user activity that is “inherently more interesting” than the articles themselves.
FJP: Why is it “peculiar” that an excellent editorial staff would be reporting on the “organic” events of social media communities? Isn’t that what journalists do? Just because social media communities exist in the cyber-verse doesn’t make them less newsworthy.
Admittedly, Storyboard and other social media news blogs (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) aren’t exactly watchdog reporters (they want to talk about the posts that make themselves look good, after all), and that should make us question whether these publications can really be “journalistic.” But social media news is in its larval stage. Maybe, in the future, social communities will be publishing articles about juveniles who break copyright laws, and sites will be locking people’s profiles in cyber-jail-blocks for weeks due to hazing. Surely, social sites are gonna need some objective, guardian watchdogs for that, right? Eh? — Krissy
Image: Screenshot from Storyboard.