Teaching Examples

Pitchfork: The filter that influences the influential
September 9, 2006, 1:17 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Anyone could see that this guy is into music. The piercings (not too many), the large tattoo, the ragged Weezer T-shirt. To my surprise, he had never heard of Pitchfork. That was Thursday. He’s a student of mine.

I thought Pitchfork would be well-known among young people with deep interest in new music. When my students blog about bands I have never heard of, I always Google the band to see what other writers say about it. Almost always, I find a review from the Pitchfork Web site. The reviews are well-written. I end up reading more than I intended.

Synchronicity in action: Today I found that Wired ran a big article about Pitchfork in their September 2006 issue.

Though the music industry has seen drastic changes in recent years, what has remained constant is the fact that most listeners still find their music with the assistance of a filter: a reliable source that sifts through millions of tracks to help them choose what they do (and don’t) want to hear. The filters we traditionally depended on -– music magazines, radio stations, music video channels, even the recommendations of a trusted record store clerk -– have diminished in influence enough to give a player like Pitchfork room to operate. Pitchfork is a small site: The traffic it draws is too tiny to be measured by Nielsen//NetRatings. But like the indie bands that are its lifeblood, Pitchfork has found its own way to thrive in an industry that is slowly being niched to death: It influences those who influence others.

Even though the writer is a former editor at Spin magazine, I have to wonder about that. Is my tattooed student less hip to the current music scene than he appears? Or are the real music consumers — the early 20somethings — not reading reviews at all?

Or is it like the writer says: Those who influence the hip young masses are reading Pitchfork — but the masses are not?

Writer Dave Itzkoff says the Spin editors came to depend on Pitchfork:

As Pitchfork’s influence grew, we consulted the site as both a resource and a measuring stick -– if it was lavishing attention on a new band, we at least had to ask ourselves why we weren’t doing the same: By then, our value as a trustworthy and consistent filter had waned.

That’s the part that struck me as relevant for all of us in the journalism field.

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1 Comment so far
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I find myself having the same sort of reaction about sites and techniques that I think students would surely know more about than I do – like Stumbleupon or del.icio.us. I think this might just be evidence that the diffusion of innovation maintains within younger generations.

Comment by Murley

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