April 11, 2014

"I am ecstatic over that kind of mockery."

Says Ezra Klein.
If media professionals look at this and think, That’s ridiculous, I already know all of this, that’s wonderful for us. It’s great on two levels. One is that if we are not aiming beneath our colleagues’ knowledge level, we’re making a huge mistake. We’re leaving tons of readers behind. 
Absurdly uninformed people need stuff to read too. There's traffic there.
Two: The more folks in the media feel like it’s beneath them to answers questions like, “What is marijuana?” or “What is Ukraine?” the more we don’t have to compete with them.
Can I get something to click on that would answer my question: How is that 2 levels?

ADDED: "A whole new lifestyle... Levels... It's all in my head.... It's a simple job. Why, you don't think I can?... Well, I got the tools. I got the pillows. All I need is the lumber...."

51 comments:

Bob Loblaw said...

On the one hand, Klein says a few things I agree with, like "journalists are consumed with writing for other journalists." I agree with that, and I agree with him that there is room for other 'kinds' of journalism that are more explanatory. One of my beefs with the MSM now is that so many politically-left assumptions are put out there as starting points, as settled facts, when in reality they are very subjective. A journalism that uses more data to test these talking points is sorely needed.

But then he goes and says stuff like "Sebelius quit because she won," a highly-subjective, unsupported assertion masquerading as fact. And that is why he will fail in this endeavor.

MayBee said...

Who is financing Ezra?

amyshulk said...

Ah, so the LIV's are their target!

AJ Lynch said...

I think Ezra's 15 minutes of fame have been up for a long time. Though he might enjoy the dustbin of history since so many of his librul heroes will be joining him there in a couple years.

Bob Ellison said...

Klein says "One is that if we are not aiming beneath our colleagues’ knowledge level, we’re making a huge mistake. We’re leaving tons of readers behind."

Bro, if you don't reach above your colleagues' knowledge level, you're making a huge mistake.

Ann Althouse said...

Whatever happened to My Weekly Reader?

tim maguire said...

Can I get something to click on that would answer my question: How is that 2 levels?

Thus proving you are not his target audience.

Henry said...

Given the existence of Television, writing-for-stupid will have a very low baseline.

I decided to validate my hunch that newspapers are already written at a very low grade-level and found this from Tim Porter's First Draft blog, circa 2005:

READING THE VANISHING NEWSPAPER, 6: READABILITY

Quote:

The Flesch-Kincaid tool is built into modern software like Microsoft Word, so it's easy to measure the readability of anything. [Professor of Journalism Philip] Meyer offers some examples:

* Average newspaper story: 70-80 (about eighth-grade level).
* John F. Kennedy's inaugural address ("Ask not what …"): 10.3.
* Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death" speech: 6.6....

Meyer then compares the newspapers' reading-level gaps with their circulation and finds the papers with the biggest gaps have the deepest market penetration....

In other words, the dumber the writing, the higher the readership.


So Ezra is on to something!

But wait a minute. Can Ezra's writers write like Patrick Henry? Dumber doesn't mean stupid. Or boring.

Illuninati said...

The site reminds me of an online encyclopedia with a strong leftie bias.

Tank said...

The uninformed people he's talking about are uninformed for a reason.

They are not going to be looking for his site to better inform themselves.

Incidentally, these "uninformed people," are most people.

LarsPorsena said...

"....Two: The more folks in the media feel like it’s beneath them to answers questions like, “What is marijuana?” or “What is Ukraine?” the more we don’t have to compete with them..."

Klein doesn'tknow about Wikipedia?

Jason said...

This little punk really has an inflated view of his own intelligence, doesn't he?

Leit Bart said...

When was Ezra going to tell us he's competing against the Onion?

http://www.vox.com/2014/4/10/5602670/kathleen-sebelius-is-resigning-because-obamacare-has-won

damikesc said...

There is little evidence that Klein knows what he's writing about in the first place.

Eric said...

Now that he's the boss he gives himself the gold stars.

Bob Boyd said...

So he's telling me if I like his site I can consider myself a low level reader and that he sure does?
Vox is the short bus of the interwebs?
Here's a question, Ezra. What is marketing?

madAsHell said...

I'm guessing that this is the same sales pitch that Jeff Bezos heard. It's no wonder that Mr. Klein left the Washington Post.

eric said...

He's going to be ecstatic quite often. Twitchy is having a field day today mocking his column on Sebilius.

Brennan said...

Vox is financed by Accel Partners.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accel_Partners

Ezra won't be making any money for Vox. It's SBNation property drives most of its alleged 30 million in annual revenues.

richard mcenroe said...

The problem is not that Ezra is answering questions like "What is Ukraine?"

The problem is, he doesn't know either and doesn't care and will say anything that buys him what he thinks is a moment's political advantage.

richard mcenroe said...

"Dumber doesn't mean stupid. Or boring."

Usually does, once the novelty wears off.

Has anyone seen any traffic numbers for Ezra's brainbubble?

richard mcenroe said...

Ezra is caught in the cleft between "writing for the common man" and his self-appointed and -imagined elitist's contempt for that same reader.

George Bernard Shaw could get away with addressing his audience as "Hello, you boobs," in a newsreel but a) he was George Bernard Shaw and b) at that point in his life his affection for monsters had reduced him to cheerleading for monsters like Stalin.

Ezra Klein is not George Bernard Shaw and at best he gets to cheerlead for Barack Obama. Much steeper slope.

richard mcenroe said...

Ezra is caught in the cleft between "writing for the common man" and his self-appointed and -imagined elitist's contempt for that same reader.

George Bernard Shaw could get away with addressing his audience as "Hello, you boobs," in a newsreel but a) he was George Bernard Shaw and b) at that point in his life his affection for monsters had reduced him to cheerleading for monsters like Stalin.

Ezra Klein is not George Bernard Shaw and at best he gets to cheerlead for Barack Obama. Much steeper slope.

Michael K said...

"The site reminds me of an online encyclopedia with a strong leftie bias."

Wikipedia has that locked up although on real facts it's pretty good.

jaed said...

I'm still stuck on the concept of deliberately writing beneath the knowledge level of journalists.

In all seriousness, that's a very low bar. This is a group that's poorly-informed enough to continually refer to the employee half of the Social Security tax as a "payroll tax". It's the group that decided that "collateral damage" actually is a new, cool term for "civilian casualties". A politician says he needs to assign Arabic translators for duty in Afghanistan and they don't even bat an eyelash.

Many, many other examples of this sort of thing, and journalists as a group are so ill-informed that this sort of thing becomes a fad among them, with not enough of them informed enough to firewall it.

B said...

The first level is about market size.

The second level is about competition.

Henry said...

@richard mcenroe -- I could have written "dumber doesn't necessarily mean stupid". It's a play on words, of course, with "dumb" a reference to the Flesch-Kincaid algorithm and "stupid" a disparagement of the actual depth and meaning of the written work, no matter its grade level score.

Patrick Henry was called a lot of things, but stupid wasn't one of them.

If I wanted to avoid the possible confusion of my play on words, I might substitute "clear" for "dumb" and "dumbed down" for "stupid."

Ezra Klein's problem seems to be that he doesn't get the difference between clear and dumbed down.

Drago said...

madAsHell said...
I'm guessing that this is the same sales pitch that Jeff Bezos heard. It's no wonder that Mr. Klein left the Washington Post

I am reliably informed that Bezos and his immediate staffers never heard the pitch.

The "pitch" was pitched to Washington Post senior personnel and members of the Graham family (specifically, Katharine Weymouth), the publisher.

The decision not to fund the venture is primarily due to a policy established at the Post to cease funding ventures that did not advance the Washington Post brand.

MayBee said...

Thanks, Brennan,

Drago said...

Brennan: "Vox is financed by Accel Partners.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accel_Partners
Ezra won't be making any money for Vox. It's SBNation property drives most of its alleged 30 million in annual revenues"

The Klein addition to the VOX lineup of properties simply fills a content gap the the VOX team has wanted to fill for some time.

The particular technology platform developed to deliver the content was one of the main selling points.

Henry said...

One thing about the flash card format: It actually makes things more opaque. So much clicking. Every card is titled, but the information is hidden behind the click. Where the hell is search?

p.s. A simple test. I played through the Obamacare card set and tried to find any mention of the narrowing of health insurance networks. It's not even in "What is the conservative case against Obamacare?" card. No search!

p.p.s. Don't you love the word "conservative" in that card title? Why not "the case against Obamacare"? Or a separate card for "the liberal case against Obamacare". There is one, by the way, and most liberals use it as escape-hatch when pressed. "I was always for single payer anyway."

Ann Althouse said...

The yellow highlighter is the main visual idea, and it's not attractive!

MayBee said...

So much clicking means more page views to boast about.

Howard said...

The great thing about VOX is that the market will have the last word. I don't particularly like Klien and don't agree with his worldview.

However, if you believe in free-markets and free speech, you have to respect the fact that he puts his time and money where his mouth is.


...or not. Keep up the hateful vindictive petty attitude of a Yenta.

Bob Loblaw said...

Henry, your postscripts are a great example of what bugs me about Klein. He's making a typical lefty claim to empiricism while serving up highly-partisan content. And the highly-partisan content is considered the unimpeachable starting point. He's still operating under the fog of lefty media bias.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Cut the guy some slack, won't you? Ezra is being a proper Popperian scientist. He's attempting to disprove this hypothesis: "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

Big Mike said...

@Henry, thanks for going there; it spares me the effort.

Do they have a flash card that explains why garage and Klein had the same (phony-as-the-day-is-long) White House talking point before he White House?

khesanh0802 said...

@ Ann
Whatever happened to My Weekly Reader?

Great comment! That is just about the grade level these cards seem aimed at.

If Klein is successful it will be because he has attracted the same orthodox liberals that he attracted at the Post. It is clear that his "facts" begin with liberal assumptions - see Bob Loblaw. So-called journalists seem not to have been taught how to research or report on both sides of an issue. It's a lot easier to click on the WAPO for slanted reporting than go hunting for the dweeb Klein.

Biff said...

I've been working closely with journalists and "media professionals" who specialize in healthcare for the past couple of years, and I can say that I have never walked out of a room thinking, "Wow! These people are so well informed!"

Related: just today, one of these journalists who specialize in healthcare said, in my presence, "Have you seen the stuff on Obamacare at Vox.com? Now, I finally understand all this stuff!"

A little piece of my soul died in that moment.

Chris Lopes said...

@Howard
I don't think anyone here is saying we should all band together, go down to Klein's house, and rip his laptop from his cold dead hands. We are simply questioning the feasibility of aiming at a core audience that is ill informed and boasting how ill informed (read stupid) that audience is. Even stupid people don't like their stupidity pointed out to them.

While the market will decide, I don't think we should give Klein any credit for putting himself at its mercy. He really has no choice if he wants to e more than a WAPO blogger.He's using his own money because his previous employer wasn't willing to pay him to do it.

RecChief said...

our little juiceboxxer Ezra has some competition for stupid:

Alex Wagner claims the IRS is the real victim in all this.

Mayeb she is auditioning for a job at VOX?

Marshal said...

Henry said...
p.p.s. Don't you love the word "conservative" in that card title? Why not "the case against Obamacare"? Or a separate card for "the liberal case against Obamacare".


Klein's single accomplishment is convincing the leftist media they can be more agressive in their bias without much blowback. Of course that's going to be the defining feature of anything he directs.

chrisnavin.com said...

But Fred, it's quite possible to go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public AND boring them to death with technocratic progressive wonkery and educratic journo-pedantry.

Rush Limbaugh is unabashedly ideological, but entertaining and really good at his chosen medium.

There are people after all, who could rely on Vox like they do Wikipedia and Huffpo, but it's a smaller market in a competitive field. They're most likely fellow progressive/ Left-liberal travelers, not just information-seekers.

He could end up with a Huffpo-Drudge like model for google traffic and pageviews...but then he might fail in his aspiration of pure demo knowledge.

Will it end up overrun with ads and escort services and pop-ups and catvideos?

Possibly, if it had to survive on its own.

Will it end up dominating traffic with its pretensions to universality and unbiased knowledge?

Maybe, but it'd have to cannibalize the competition and his target market (which, he'd do, I suspect) and convince a lot of people that it was unbiased.

RecChief said...

Howard said...
The great thing about VOX is that the market will have the last word. I don't particularly like Klien and don't agree with his worldview.

However, if you believe in free-markets and free speech, you have to respect the fact that he puts his time and money where his mouth is.


...or not. Keep up the hateful vindictive petty attitude of a Yenta.



No kiddin'? yes, the market will decide. In fact, I think he will be successful, as there are a whole bunch of left liberals in this country who can't be bothered to actually think for themselves. This is precisely the audience that Explanatory Journalism and VOX are designed for. The people who can't remember that actual journalism at one time wasn't partisan opinion pieces from one side or the other. Mocking Klein because he thinks he has hit on something new (he hasn't really); the sophomoric (that's being kind) content; and the awful way the stories are laid out (again being kind); all while basically recreating Wikipedia at a 3rd grade level, isn't hateful. I for one am happy to sit back and watch things unfold. I suspect that he will be mildly successful, but in the way MSNBC can be said to be mildly successful, if only because there are so many people in this country who fall into my description of his intended audience. If I'm wrong and he's hugely successful....eh... It makes no difference, it don't make any difference to me what a man does for a living, you understand.

Sam L. said...

The Triumph Of The Self-Esteem!

Tarrou said...

Bahahahahahahaaha!

He's aiming BELOW journalists? How do you do that? Knock rocks together?

Journalism is already the most frothy collection of imbeciles in the nation, now Ol' Ezra is looking for a readership even lowlier? Good luck with that, mate.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I find it troubling that the end result of this venture, if successful, is that the formerly uninformed may emerge from an encounter with Vox feeling that they are now informed, when the reality is that they were provided with biased talking points interposed with a few hard facts.

You know--the people who read the Huffington Post article about euthanasia and the Catholic Church that their cousin posted on Facebook about and then think they have a really good grasp of religion & end of life issues.

Howard said...

Chris:

There are always safe choices and Mr Klein choosed (sic) risk. I thought republican apologists were supposed to admire free-market entrepreneurs.

RecChief:

You are right, it will be a leftist echo-chamber with a patina of journalisticism just like FoxNews. Their motto's could be:

We Pontificate, You Regurgitate

Chris Lopes said...

@Howard
You can't start out by saying "why yes, I am aiming at people who have no idea what is going on, and who need to be treated like 8 year olds." Insulting your core audience isn't risk, it's stupidity.

Real American said...

Absurdly uninformed people...

that's a description of Vox readers AFTER they've read the site.

Drago said...

Howard: " I thought republican apologists..."

Full stop.

"..republican apologists.."

What's that?