Recent research indicates so-called ‘junk DNA’ is not junk at all, but rather quite important to the functioning of the human body. These bits of DNA play crucial roles in how cells, tissue and organs all work. The question for those interested in the news, and investors in particular, can say the same thing about ‘junk content.’

Paul Wilson writing at Poynter makes an analogy between the rise of “high-frequency trading” in the financial markets and the rise of ‘high-frequency journalism.” This HFJ is inundating us with content that is focused on speed vs. accuracy and content that adds little in the way of additional reporting or analysis.  Wilson writes:

With so much at stake, are the two industries, essentially, engaging in competition for competition’s sake, and dismissing the public good that is supposed to be part of the bargain?

Sarah Lacy at Pando Daily weighs in a similar vein. Lacy notes how much of today’s content is a big game of ‘bait and switch’ where readers are led to content that does not fulfill their expectations. Indeed much of the Internet is built on a page view model that requires ever more readers and page views in light of falling ad prices. Hence the dilemma any one who published on the Internet, bloggers included faces. Lacy writes:

Six-plus years into professional blogging, one thing is pretty clear to me: You can either go for huge page views or you can focus on influence. That’s not too different from the old media world, which was delineated between large national publications and regional ones and trade pubs.

This helped put into perspective the news that Michelle Leder will buy back from Morningstar ($MORN). Leder’s fine site would by all accounts fall into the influential camp. Leder’s team does the hard work of trudging through SEC filing to dig out information that can have a real impact on investing decisions. This process is by definition not particularly scalable and therefore not amenable to a page view model. It would be great to think this is a sign that original content is likely to see a brighter future, but we are still skeptical.

No individual can change the current state of web content, but you can make more conscious decisions that better use of your time. Junk content not only wastes your time it also extracts a psychological toll. Original, potentially influential content is out there, but it is at risk of being drowned out by a wave of junk content. Here’s hoping business models emerge that allow more thoughtful content to flourish in the future.

Items mentioned:

Junk DNA, not so junky after all.  (NYTimes)

How high-frequency journalism is like high-frequency trading.  (Poynter)

Turns out blogging is easy.  (Pando Daily) to be independent once again.  (, Morningstar)

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