Wiley Miller—the cartoonist behind Non-Sequitur—was one of the cartoonists who laid into Scott Kurtz about his venture to supply PVP for free to newspapers. In Miller’s professional opinion, Kurtz was ignorant of newspapers and newspaper editors as well as syndicates and syndication and Kurtz couldn’t even hope to pay editors to run his strip let alone give it away for free. Not that the editors got away unscathed as Miller apparently feels they make decisions devoid of logic and common sense. Miller didn’t offer much more of his valuable wisdom once Kurtz himself got into the discussion on the ToonTalk thread, at least not during the time I was actually paying attention to it, but it appears that the issue is still on his mind. At least it appears to be based on yesterday’s Non-Sequitur:
The cartoon is amusing if only because it reveals Miller’s own ignorance. The idea that how many page views your website gets is irrelevant seems to be a common view among the cartoonists that have been critical of Kurtz’s idea, but that’s often one of the biggest determining factors used by advertisers when deciding whether or not to put ads on a particular web page. It also factors into what page rank your site is assigned by various search engines including Google. You can get a pretty good estimate of the size of your audience from it and a consistently high amount of page views is considered an indication of the popularity of a particular website which can lead to recognition and interest from the more traditional forms of media.
For example, bloggers were invited by a couple of the news organizations to cover the election primaries for the first time ever this year. This wasn’t because the bloggers who got invited had proven themselves as credible journalists, but because their blogs were popular. There were plenty of professional journalists who reacted to this event the same way many of the syndicated cartoonists reacted to Kurtz’s plan: Indignation, condescension, and long rants about how the bloggers didn’t have a clue what it meant to be a “real” journalist and the fact that they have a high page view count doesn’t mean they should have been invited to participate alongside the professionals. Much like the Kurtz uproar, some of the comments from the journalists were valid and some were ignorant. Quite a few of the comments from the pros were clearly driven by concern for their own profession becoming less valued. If folks are willing to accept some random idiot spouting off on his blog as a viable source of good information then what will become of the professional journalist? Certainly there are more than a few bloggers out there who consider their efforts on par with anything produced by the pros and in some cases that might actually be the case, but it’s also true that a lot of them are the hacks the pros accuse them of being.
What isn’t debatable, however, is the fact that a lot of people are paying attention to them and the traditional media is taking notice as a result. Clearly page views can and do mean something to the folks who make the decisions and more than one person has achieved no small amount of fame simply for having a popular website. Whether that fact is a good or bad thing is open for debate, but it remains true just the same. Miller’s comic shows that Kurtz may not be the only cartoonist demonstrating his ignorance.