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Not so fast

I just stumbled across The Faster Times, which bids itself as “A new type of newspaper for a new type of world.” It was launched in June of last year. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s always nice to see people starting new things. All media is moving onto the Internet sooner or later, and the sooner that process is complete, the sooner I might actually have some sort of career ahead of me.

On the other hand, is this really a new thing? Looking at the “About us” page, I see the same line-up of under-employed New York City freelancers one would probably rub elbows with at a Media Bistro party in Midtown. For some reason this gives me the creeps.

On the homepage, they’ve got links to articles about nuclear proliferation, the stock market, baby hair-cutting myths, and an all-white basketball league. Click through and the articles are short summaries with links to other news or documents, or longer commentary pieces.

In other words, The Faster Times is basically a blog about, well, everything.

That’s OK, I guess. But it certainly isn’t as revolutionary as their manifesto on the “About us” page leads one to believe (manifestos pretty much always disappoint, don’t they?). Also, I continue to insist that in order to be successful in Internet media, you need a theme, or a motif. Dare I say a niche?

Slate is contrarian: “You thought it was this way? It’s actually the opposite!” BoingBoing is totally random, but they bring it together with short, easily-skimable posts and the slogan “A directory of wonderful things.” Gawker has an Economist-grade fanaticism about consistent editorial voice. TalkingPointsMemo has a very well-defined audience.

What’s The Faster Times’ motif? The New Newspaper? I’m not feeling it.

2 Comments

  1. Sam Apple wrote:

    Hey Peter,

    I appreciate you writing about The Faster Times, but I don’t think you’ve really given the site a fair shot. First, I think if you spend some time reading through the site, you’ll see that the quality of the writing and thinking is far better and more original than what you’ll find on a typical blog. That’s not to say that every post is a work of art, only that if you read enough, you’ll see that our writers are turning out very high quality work every day. Also, if you check out our world section, you’ll see that we have correspondents stationed all over the world and that they’re turning out pretty fascinating accounts of life in their respective countries. Considering that just about every major paper is cutting its for foreign reporting down, I think it’s pretty exciting that we’ve been able to put an operation like this together. We’ll be doing something similar across the U.S. in the coming months. We’re also rather idiosyncratic in our coverage — see our baseball and philosophy or death or pro wrestling sections. I could go on about how we’re unique, but I do think it’s fair to say that we haven’t yet achieved two of our most important goals — making real money for our writers and breaking news on a regular basis. Of course, the more money we make, the more we’ll be able to spend on reporting. I think that if we pull off the money and the reporting, we’ll have really done something pretty exceptional and to that end, we’re introducing a bunch of interesting experiments in the months ahead. We’ve only been up and running for six months and we’ve already developed quite a large readership. I hope you’ll keep reading and give us a shot. -Sam Apple

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010 at 20:21 | Permalink
  2. pjk wrote:

    Hi Sam! Thanks for your comment. I did, in fact, poke around the site quite a bit, specifically looking at your Latin America articles, as that’s a part of the world I live in and follow pretty closely. Frankly, it reminds me of the Global Post, where you’ve got lots of correspondents, but they don’t write all that much, so your coverage ends up being broad and shallow, which is basically what I get from Reuters and the AP on a daily basis. Here’s a piece of friendly advice: No one’s interested in reading about the whole world, but plenty of readers are interested in specific regions or countries. However, in order to get people like me to add you to my morning reading material, your coverage of those regions or countries has to have BOTH a unique angle AND lots of content. In that sense, I don’t care how well-crafted and thoughtful the two articles per month you publish about Venezuela (for instance) are; odds are I’ve already read something similar somewhere else. Of course, those articles might be great for the casual consumer of world news, but then you’re competing with Google and Yahoo, which, you know, good luck. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll keep doing what you’re doing. I’ll poke my head in once in awhile to see how it’s going, and best of luck to you!

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 07:44 | Permalink

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