In this week’s edition of The Daily Banter Mail Bag, Bob, Ben and Chez discuss Salon.com click-bait, Colbert stepping in for Letterman and a round of marry, fuck, kill.
1. I liked your article on Salon and completely agree that it’s lost its way. With so much media out there, how important do you think it is now that websites that claim to be about real journalism not resort to overhyped click-bait?
Ben: It’s more important than ever in my view. Some time ago, I was wrestling with how to grow the Banter into something viable (and that meant doing it very quickly given our size), and I admit that we went through a spell of doing some Buzzfeed style viral posting. Both Bob and Chez begged me not to go down this route, and I had to take a very long, hard look at who we were and what we wanted to become. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to build something we’d all be proud of, and that meant cutting out the garbage at the expense of easy page views.I’ll never go down that route again as I would rather fail doing something with real substance than succeed with something as embarrassing as Buzzfeed. Our traffic is growing at around 8% per month and it’s not slowing down, so it looks like people do want genuine content, not the click bait garbage you see all over the Huff Post etc. They may be much bigger and more powerful than we are, but they’re becoming pointless content mills, not serious sites.
Chez: Very important. I mean, important if that site wants to be taken seriously. One of the things we’ve tried to do here at Banter — and we all understand that we’re a small start-up at this point — is call out bullshit journalism. We make mistakes like anybody else, but when we do we try to cop to it and correct it as quickly as possible and take smart, constructive criticism when it’s given. What we try not to do, though, is resort to posting crap that’s really nothing more than a headline (and one that doesn’t deliver within the piece). There’s nothing wrong with attemtping to sell your material as best as possible and get people to read, but when all you’re about is selling, as opposed to actually creating quality product, eventually people will catch on and ignore you. Hopefully we’re not guilty of that here.
Bob: Boy, that’s everything. Digital journalism offered so much promise, but the urge to publish click-bait has seriously tainted it. And it’s no secret that I’ve found The Guardian and Glenn Greenwald to be far more egregious offenders than anything Salon or Buzzfeed or Gawker has ever done because Greenwald et al aren’t just posting listicles or screeds about cisgender transphobia, they’re publishing misleading information that’s changing the way the U.S. is viewed on the domestic and international stages while deliberately misinforming an important debate about security versus liberty. I can’t fully describe the damage Greenwald & Company have done to digital journalism, not to mention the NSA debate. It’s bad. And now I should stop typing or else this will end up being a 5,000 word answer.
2. I have mixed emotions about Stephen Colbert replacing Letterman. On one hand I’m excited he’ll be moving up because he’s so talented and funny. On the other, the Colbert Report will be no more. If Comedy Central does change up the show and put someone new in Colbert’s place, who do you think they should get?
Chez: It’s rare that I agree with Salon on anything, but when they’re right they’re right: Samantha Bee. Hands down.
Bob: Colbert’s coming up on his tenth year successfully pulling off a very, very delicately-crafted character. I think he’s ready to let “Colbert” go. Ten years seems like a logical ending point. Get out before it gets old. Leave ’em wanting more, etc. Meanwhile, bringing him over to The Late Show was an inspired choice by CBS and Worldwide Pants. Colbert is absolutely going to rule that time slot. That’s my prediction. As for a replacement, Samantha Bee is way up there. I seriously think Patton Oswalt would be an excellent host to step into that slot — not as a Colbert-style character, but as himself talking about stuff he’s into (the nerdier the better). I wouldn’t miss it. And Letterman? I could literally talk for hours about the greatness of Letterman. I haven’t watched regularly in a long time, but he’s the Patient Zero for comedy/broadcasting among my biggest influences. In other words, Dave is the primary influence for most of my influences. When I was first getting into broadcasting and journalism, I always said, “When I grow up, I want to be David Letterman.” I’m 42-years-old and I still occasionally repeat that to myself. So yeah. Hey — wanna buy a monkey?
Ben: It’s such an interesting move to have Colbert take Letterman’s spot. I’m fascinated to see whether Colbert uses his position to continue his genius social commentary through his unique satire (I suspect he will), and I think there will be a lot of surprises down the line. Who should take his spot? Damn good question. I have to say that I really have no idea. While there are some talented comedians around, no one does what Colbert does. He’s a once in a generation talent who can never, ever be replicated or replaced.
3. I was playing Marry, Fuck, Kill with a friend the other night and it got me thinking, which one of you would I want to marry, which would I want to fuck, and which would I want to kill?
Bob: Chez, Chez and Chez. It’s almost happened to him several times already, so he’s obviously kind of into it. But before you make up your mind, Ben’s got the British accent. As for me, I’m happily married already so that eliminates two options.
Chez: I’m definitely the one you’d kill. If you fucked me THEN killed me — or killed me by fucking me — I’d be into that. Or you could marry me and then maybe I’d kill myself.
Ben: I’m pretty sure you’d want to marry Bob. He’s a great dude and as honest as they come. As for the fucking and killing bit, I’d imagine Chez and I would be fairly interchangeable. Depends on your mood really. You’d probably end up killing Chez though, even if you fucked him.