Some Scott Karps are better than others

by Mathew on February 25, 2006 · 16 comments

Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 is getting on my nerves again. Scott, who works at the company that publishes The Atlantic Monthly, removed that fact from his “About Me” page because he didn’t want all that “old media” baggage to colour the way people perceived his blog. And maybe it’s a good thing he did, because I can’t help but think of it when I read some of the stuff he writes — which is almost always very thoughtful and well-considered, and quite often wrong.

Take his latest post for example, which is entitled Audiences Are Not Created Equal. As he often does, Scott is talking about the reams of information on the Web, and how people need filters and so on. He talks about Matt McAlister’s post on “What will be the next PageRank” and so on. So far, so good. Then he gets to his main point, which is that someone — traditional media, he suggests — needs to find a way of getting the RIGHT people to filter things. He says:

There’s an egalitarian sensibility among Web 2.0 and participatory media evangelists that says any participation is good participation. But as anyone who works in media ought to know, all audiences are not created equal.

Scott then goes on to talk about how and are useless because they are so random, and does what many people who make this argument do, which is to pick a random list of headlines from each and make fun of them (I actually found more than half the links in each of his lists to be interesting, which I think is a pretty good signal-to-noise ratio, but I digress). In other words, the people who filter through stuff and post it to Digg are morons, and what we really need are people who read The Atlantic Monthly and/or agree with Nick Carr to filter things for us.

Scott says he often gets “accused of being elitist” and then we see why — because he is elitist. As he puts it:

“The collective intelligence of some groups of people is more intelligent than that of other groups. Why? Because on certain topics, and in general, some people are smarter than others.”

As I often say, being an elitist is great provided you are one of the elite, but it kind of sucks for everyone else. And yes, obviously some people are better basketball players than others, although what that has to do with filtering information on the web is beyond me. What Scott’s post boils down to is that he wants the New York Times and other old media to do a better job of getting their readers to filter things, so that he doesn’t have to read all the crap the morons on are always posting. I would much rather have the best of both. We in the old media need to get past the idea that we are always smarter than our audience.


I seem to have made Scott Karp mad, as you can see if you read the comments on this post. He thinks I’ve missed the point, and been disrespectful to boot – please read my apology after his comment if you have time. Pete Cashmore of has also responded with some thoughts both here in the comments section and on his own blog in this post, and I think he and I agree that Scott is still trying to argue that old media should define audiences somehow, instead of allowing them to define themselves. But I could be wrong (it has been known to happen). Scott has updated his post to respond to Pete’s comments, but so far no response to mine. I guess I’ve been banished from the discussion :-)

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