Jul 02, 20184m read
Spot.IM Manifesto: A Web that Looks More Like All of Us
“A good newspaper… is a nation talking to itself”… is probably more truism than profound reflection. Yet if anyone knew the need for good and honest journalism in the midst of the Cold War, it was Arthur Miller. Just flash back fifty or so years, to a time when demagogues like Senator Joseph McCarthy had dangerous amounts of sway. When it was up to journalists and publishers to mend the slowly tearing fabric of American democracy. When someone had to ask questions that few others wanted to. What a time that was.
That time, though, is also right now. While today’s political challenges aren’t necessarily those of the Cold War, the need for good and honest journalism hasn’t waned — not even a bit. Replace “a good newspaper” with “good content” and suddenly Miller’s truism sounds like a call to action, made even more current by the scourge of what has come to be known as “fake news.”
“Fake,” not as in politically inflected, or even biased reporting, but as in false, untrue, mendacious writing, disguised as reality.
Unsurprisingly, the proliferation of fake news has fed national distrust of the media. According to Gallup, 71% of Democrats and 76% of Republicans agree that the “spread of inaccurate information on the internet is a major problem.” And who can blame them? People want to be able to trust the content they consume, and social media silos like Facebook and Twitter make that almost impossible. By eroding confidence in all media, they’ve impaired the crucial service that journalists provide — and have always provided — to their readership. They’ve managed to convince us that what’s on our newsfeeds equates to news. But publishers and journalists know otherwise.
What were once platforms for keeping in contact with friends who moved out of town or perusing high school graduation photos have become media behemoths, and more eerily, vehicles for mass influence. They know that the biggest piece of fake news didn’t really come from Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but from Facebook’s CEO, when he testified before Congress that Facebook isn’t a media company. It is — but it’s one that neglects the trust that for so long defined the relationship between quality publications and curious consumers.
The web has grown, and drastically so. It houses far more content today than ever before. But despite this explosion in content, users are faced with fewer and fewer ways to discover and engage in meaningful conversations around it. The web is anything but stagnate, yet our experiences there seem to have become exactly that.
The problems outlined above are the products of an increasingly global and interconnected web — problems that no one could have foreseen. But now that we’ve achieved a clarity that was before unavailable, it’s on us to develop solutions that meet the realities of the web in the 21st century. “A globalized world is by now a familiar fact of life,” wrote an ever optimistic Jon Meacham. “Building walls or moats may sound appealing, but the future belongs to those who tend to their people and then boldly engage the rest of the world, near and far.”
At Spot.IM, we’re committed to building bridges. We want to create conversations and communities between people with similar interests and passions. We know that competition between publishers breeds the best content. Most importantly, we believe that the challenge of our time is to build a web that looks more like all of us. After all, people aren’t monoliths — why would they want the web to be?
People care about their communities — and want to talk about them. Provoking conversation — and keeping us accountable — is what journalists and publishers have always done best. Democracy works, not by abandoning users in nebulae of fake news and word viruses, but by introducing them to content they care about. We believe, unequivocally and resoundingly, that good content has always been, and will continue to be, our intellectual currency.
It’s for this reason that, when it comes to the future of the web, we couldn’t be more confident — and prepared. We know that publishers are already producing extraordinary content, and that their readers are famished for conversation. We’re doing our part to bring them together.
Democracy needs good journalism to survive. And though the need for good journalism might be just as urgent today as it was fifty years ago, the challenges of delivering it have become far more complex. Now more than ever, the shape of democracy depends on the shape of the web.
Will you help us craft it?