We want more! We want more!

I have to confess I don’t often read comment threads under online articles. (Finnish newspaper websites have taught me not to, unless I want to get agitated over racism, sexism and other abusive language.) But today, after reading this short article by Alexis Petridis on The Guardian, I checked out the comments. I was drawn to the article because it talked about something I feel a bit nostalgic about: MTV and 80’s music videos. Turns out I’m not the only one who would have liked to have read more about the subject.

Even though ‘critic’s notebook’ is probably not even meant to be a series of lengthy analysis, many of the readers were left wanting.

“Um… Alexis, is that it?” asks the second commentator. “I’ve written longer articles by accidentally leaning on the keyboard,” says another one.

And here’s more:

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And on it goes. The commentators add more information about the life of Billy Squier, whose ‘career-ending’ video Petridis links to. Quite clearly, they want more from the journalist:

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I’ve been going around Finland for the last 12 months yammering on about how people really want quality from quality newspapers. That the core audience of a quality publication doesn’t want to downgrade to shorter pieces, let alone swap analysis and commentary for more gossip and entertainment. And that journalists should specialise and really know what they’re talking about.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think Alexis Petridis is a great music writer. I didn’t choose his piece because I thought it was bad (albeit a bit short). It caught my eye because the readers’ reaction was to demand more. More analysis, more examples, more serious journalism.

In Finland, the weekly magazine Suomen Kuvalehti has noticed that their longest stories very often get shared most on social media. These stories can sometimes make new rounds on the web a long time after they were first published.

This, to me, indicates the same thing as the The Guardian readers craving more from music journalism. People will read long stories on the web. They will recommend long stories to their friends. They might even pay for them.

I propose that quality newspapers/websites leave all those silly attention-seeking headlines, gossip and such to those who do it best. Your audience is getting smaller and smaller – why alienate the ones who actually want you? Decide which readers you want to keep and fight for their attention. Give them what they want: the best in journalism.

About Johanna Vehkoo

Journo, speaker, fact-checker. Formerly Visiting Scholar at Wilson Center, Washington DC, and Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford University. Wrote a book about the future of quality journalism. Founder of award-winning startup Long Play. Blogs in both Finnish and English.
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