Links for October 14th 2009 through October 19th 2009:

  • Judges have final decision after Twitter enters court [The Australian] – “The Federal Court will leave it up to individual judges to decide whether to allow cases to be covered from within their courtrooms on new media platforms such as Twitter. The issue arose after two technology journalists, Andrew Colley from The Australian, and Liam Tung from website ZDNet Australia, started using the microblogging site to publish running reports of the landmark iiNet copyright case being heard by judge Dennis Cowdroy in Sydney and which is big news in Hollywood. [... ] But the Twitter reporting is also a first for Australia, although court cases have been reported on Twitter overseas. The reporters published their “tweets”, which are limited to a maximum of 140 characters, using their personal Twitter feeds, on which they identify themselves as journalists and name their media organisations. Both used laptop computers. Mobile phones and recording devices are prohibited in court. Justice Cowdroy soon became aware of what was happening but opted not to stop them.” (While only being reported in relation to the iiNet case, this is actually quite a big deal about reporting technologies being allowed in Australian courtrooms.)
  • Effective Twitter Backgrounds: Examples and Current Practices [Smashing Magazine] – Great examples of what makes (and breaks) a good Twitter background. (I really should do something about mine, one day …)
  • Don’t Call Me a Slut [The Daily Beast] – Meghan McCain (John McCain’s daughter) calmly and sanely responds to a stupid Twitter-fueled minor media scandal: “On Wednesday, I posted a hastily taken self-portrait on Twitter—which I thought was funny and silly—and within a few hours I had caused a minor media scandal. I spent most of the next day thinking about what exactly was so shocking about the picture, why there was such an immediate and nasty overreaction. After all, it’s not like I was caught making a sex tape. I certainly didn’t pose nude for Playboy. And I hadn’t even exposed a nipple. So why all this Sturm und Drang? Could it be it’s because I have breasts? Because for those of you who didn’t know, I have two. They’re larger than some women’s and not as big as others. I don’t usually show off my cleavage—as I did in the photos I posted—which I will admit is not the smartest thing I have ever done. But it’s just not worth the drama it caused. To be honest, I don’t feel that I have anything to feel ashamed of.”
  • Hey, showbiz folks: Check your contract before your next tweet [The Hollywood Reporter] – “Hollywood is coming down with the Twitter jitters. There’s a growing number of studio deals with new language aimed specifically at curbing usage of social-media outlets by actors, execs and other creatives. The goal: plugging leaks of disparaging or confidential information about productions via the likes of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. A recent talent contract from Disney includes a new clause forbidding confidentiality breaches via “interactive media such as Facebook, Twitter, or any other interactive social network or personal blog.”” (The dream factory just isn’t ready to share the candid reality …)
  • Berners-Lee ‘sorry’ for slashes [BBC NEWS | Technology] – “The forward slashes at the beginning of internet addresses have long annoyed net users and now the man behind them has apologised for using them. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, has confessed that the // in a web address were actually “unnecessary”. He told the Times newspaper that he could easily have designed URLs not to have the forward slashes. “There you go, it seemed like a good idea at the time,” he said. He admitted that when he devised the web, almost 30 years ago, he had no idea that the forward slashes in every web address would cause “so much hassle”. “

Links for October 4th 2009 through October 8th 2009:

  • Angry Outbursts on Twitter Prompt Lengthy Legal Discussions [NYTimes.com] – “Times are tough for the “tweet before you think” crowd. Courtney Love was sued by a fashion designer after she posted a series of inflammatory tweets, one calling the designer a liar and a thief. A landlord in Chicago sued a tenant for $50,000 after she tweeted about her moldy apartment. And Demi Moore slapped back at Perez Hilton over a revealing photograph of the actress’s daughter. A growing number of people have begun lashing out at their Twitter critics, challenging the not-quite rules of etiquette on a service where insults are lobbed in brief bursts, too short to include the social niceties. Some offended parties are suing.” (Yes, as with all social media, if you think things you post or tweet will ever go away … they won’t.)
  • Hotmail users advised to change passwords following information theft [Technology | guardian.co.uk] – “Hotmail users are being advised to change their passwords, after thousands of account details were posted online. A list containing more than 10,000 apparently genuine account names and passwords was posted to a website last week, where it remained until being spotted over the weekend by Microsoft security researchers. The list, which has been seen by the Guardian, appears to be genuine. It only contains usernames beginning with the letters A and B, but covers accounts ending in @hotmail.com, @msn.com and @live.com – three services owned by Microsoft which have more than 280m users worldwide. Although the stolen details have since been taken offline, copies of the list are already available elsewhere on the web – meaning that the details are potentially in the hands of criminals.” (Putting the HOT back into hotmail …)
  • Not a Nobel Headline [The Content Makers] – “What on earth is this shit? Australia gets its first female Nobel prize-winning scientist, and The Age runs with the following headline on the front page of its print edition: What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing with a Nobel Prize? Perhaps its meant to be all very po-mo and “oh look we’re so not sexist that we can actually pretend we are sexist in an ironical kind of way, ho ho”. And it is written off the first para, which says that this was what Elizabeth Blackburn was once asked by a family friend. But as a front page splash, it demeans the story to the level of cute human interest, rather than serious breakthrough. It leaves me thinking: What Are Nice Boys Like You Doing With a Newspaper?” (I couldn’t agree more!)
  • The life cycle of social networking sites. [Democratic Underground] – Amusing visualisation of the life-cycle of social networking sites, from the ‘New & Cool’ through to the inevitable ‘Cash Grabbing’ phase. Facebook is probably between steps three and four! :)
  • Google Wave’s unproductive email metaphors [Scoblizer] – Robert Scoble on why Google Wave isn’t really like email at all (which is good, apparently, because email isn’t that productive!).

Links for September 22nd 2009 through September 28th 2009:

  • Creators’ Corner [YouTube] – YouTube have just announced ‘Creative Corner’, a series of resources to help aspiring digital video creators learn better techniques, add special effects, and make the most of getting views on YouTube.  Seems like a useful resource.
  • Online Aussies: ‘We won’t pay for news’ [mUmBRELLA] – “A large majority of Australians say they would not pay for online news, a survey suggests. According to a poll of more than 18,000 Australians released today by Pure Profile, only 5% said they would be willing to pay for “high quality articles”. A further 7% said they would be willing to pay if there was no advertising. 10% said they would not pay because the quality of online news was unimportant to them, while the vast majority – 78% – said they would simply refuse to pay for online news.”
  • An Infusion of Another $100 Million Is Seen for Twitter [NYTimes.com] – “…the start-up appears to have chalked up another achievement. Twitter, which has no discernible revenue, is set to raise about $100 million of new funding that would value the company at around $1 billion, a person briefed on the company’s plans said Thursday. … But Twitter’s cash infusion and exospheric valuation are not easily reduced to the level of the blind bets of past dot-com bubbles. In its three and a half years, Twitter has become a magnet for media attention, and its Web site now attracts 54 million visitors a month, according to comScore, the tracking firm. Along with Facebook, it is helping to remake the Web as a forum for the perpetual sharing of even the most trivial bits of information about people’s lives.” (A billion dollars … seems a lot to me.)
  • ‘Nigel the Crazy Noonga’ Website Shut Down | Racism Outrage – “A website set up by a Perth student about a fictional Aboriginal character has been shut down and is being investigated by police amid racism claims. The website, which Radio 6PR reports was created by a 19-year-old Curtin University student, features audio excerpts of a character called “Nigel the crazy Noonga”, who prank calls businesses and fast-food outlets with a fake Aboriginal accent. The portrayal of negative Aboriginal stereotypes has sparked outrage from the Aboriginal community. Craig Somerville, lecturer at the Curtin University Centre for Aboriginal Studies, told 6PR he believed the material on the website had crossed the line between humour and racism. “This is very nasty, rude and bad material,” he said. “It’s not only bad humour; it perpetuates a wrong judgment about Aboriginal people.” Mr Somerville expressed his disappointment at claims the student who set up the website was from his university.”
  • Ubiquitous Media, Rare Earths [sean cubitt's blog] – “… we act as if computing and network resources were unbounded. But materials, manufacture, use and recycling put boundaries round the materiality of internet and convergent media. The squalor and penury associated with extracting metals, building computers and recycling mobiles, TVs and digital devices are one half of a story which includes toxic waste, toxic working conditions, human waste from the maquilladoras, atnospheric and water pollution in the recycling villages of Africa and China, species and habitat loss . . . Like any other form of organisation, maintaining the negentropy of the internet requires vast amounts of energy, physical and human. It also requires materials that are becoming more strategic and costly by the minute. “
  • US proposes net neutrality rules [BBC NEWS | Technology] – The US has proposed new rules that would require internet firms to respect the principle of “network neutrality”. The head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said that “all web traffic should be treated equally”. The new rules are intended to prevent firms throttling bandwidth-sapping web traffic such as streaming video. … [The FCC] proposed two new rules to guide the FCC’s approach to network neutrality. The first would prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminating against bandwidth-intensive web-content and applications by slowing or blocking it. … The second would mean that ISPs would have to be more transparent about how they manage network traffic. The two new rules join four previous guiding principles of the FCC, which state that all consumers must be able to access “lawful” content, applications, and services, and attach non-harmful devices to the network.” (Network Neutrality FTW!)
  • In Facebook Fracas, Beauty School Goes After Student for Online Comments [The Wired Campus] – “A beauty school in Illinois is suing a student for his “defamatory” comments on a Facebook site that encouraged students to vent about their instructors. The Salon Professional Academy of Elgin, Ill., says Nicholas Blacconiere created a site called Tspa RobinHood that looked similar to TSPA Elgin’s Facebook page because it used the academy’s logo. The suit, filed in July, also says that he posted libelous comments about school officials on the site. Print-outs of the Facebook page included in the suit show several posts by “Tspa RobinHood.” The site says it gives “the students a voice, because what happens when we need to be heard? Nobody gives a s___.” It encourages students to send messages to the site, which it says will then be posted anonymously.” (Reputation management: it’s a game everyone can play!)

Links for September 18th 2009 through September 21st 2009:

  • RIP Facebook Beacon [Mashable] – “Facebook launched its ad platform “Beacon” in Nov 2007, hoping to revolutionize advertising by posting updates to your Facebook profile when you interacted with its partner sites. This week Facebook said that it has settled a class-action lawsuit against the product, agreed to shut it down completely, and will establish a $9.5 million “settlement fund” to fund initiatives related to online privacy. … Facebook Beacon was a system that posted your activity on third-party websites – Blockbuster, Gamefly, Overstock.com and more – back to your Facebook profile. Privacy advocates rallied against it, however, arguing that data was being sent without the users’ explicit permission. The situation worsened after a report claimed that Beacon was collecting data from partner sites regardless of whether users were Facebook members …” (Beacon remains one of those most teachable examples of Facebook’s privacy woes, but I’m delighted with the idea of money being spent privacy initiatives.)
  • Nigeria ‘offended’ by sci-fi film [BBC NEWS | Africa] – “Nigeria’s government is asking cinemas to stop showing a science fiction film, District Nine, that it says denigrates the country’s image. Information Minister Dora Akunyili told the BBC’s Network Africa programme that she had asked the makers of the film, Sony, for an apology. She says the film portrays Nigerians as cannibals, criminals and prostitutes. An actor from the film said that it was not just Nigerians who were portrayed as villains. … But Mr Khumbanyiwa said Nigerians in the cast did not seem worried by the portrayal of their country. He suggested that the film, which depicts people wanting to eat aliens to gain the superhuman powers, should not be taken too literally. “It’s a story, you know,” he said. “It’s not like Nigerians do eat aliens. Aliens don’t even exist in the first place.”” (Well said, Mr Khumbanyiwa, well said.)
  • Welcome to the (anonymous) rabbit hole [Unleashed] – Mark Pesce’s playful take on the largely unsuccessful attempts by Anonymous to take down the ACMA and Australian Prime Minster’s websites on 09/09/09/
  • VICTORY: FCC to Mandate Net Neutrality for the Web [Mashable] – “The Federal Communications Commission has been in the middle of it, as it has outlined loose net neutrality guidelines in the past. But according to The Wall Street Journal, the FCC is about to propose definitive rules that could have major repercussions for the entire web. The new rules, expected to be announced Monday by Julius Genachowski, the FCC Chairman, will outline requirements for ISPs to treat all traffic on the Internet equally. This means that Comcast can’t decide that Google gets less bandwidth and Microsoft/Bing (Bing) gets more for any reason (i.e. one pays for preferential treatment). It’s also expected that the net neutrality rules will apply to wireless services, meaning they would be in effect for Internet data via your phone and 3G networks. The impact of this cannot be understated, especially as iPhones and other smart phones make the mobile web a major part of our lives.” (Excellent!)
  • Google slams Murdoch plan to charge for online news [The Age] – “Publishers of general news would find it hard to charge for their content online because too much free content is available, the chief executive of Google said. Speaking to a group of British broadcasting executives via video link, Eric Schmidt said he could, however, imagine niche providers of content such as business news succeeding in this area. Schmidt was responding to an announcement by News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch that he could start charging for content online. “In general these models have not worked for general public consumption because there are enough free sources that the marginal value of paying is not justified based on the incremental value of quantity,” he said. “So my guess is for niche and specialist markets … it will be possible to do it but I think it is unlikely that you will be able to do it for all news.””
  • Meme Analysis: Kanye Interrupts, the Internet (and Obama) Listens [NewTeeVee] – Everything you ever wanted to know about the Kayne West interrrupts Taylor Swift meme …

Links for September 2nd 2009 through September 3rd 2009:

  • Copyright protection without the court action [Blogs - Twisted Wire - ZDNet Australia] – An excellent little podcast looking at the challenges challenges to copyright in the digital age, but more importantly exploring alternative distribution models which could circumvent many of the current big media strategy of litigation against a few file-sharers. Comments from Nic Suzor (Australia's Electronic Frontiers Australia), Peter Coroneos (Internet Industry Association (IIA)) and Mike O'Donnell, (CEO of iCopyright in the US). Amazingly, the idea of having better, quicker, more efficient ways to buy movies over the web was one of the main ideas put forward! :) (See also the previous week's show & podcast where AFACT argued with Suzor and Coroneos about the role of ISPs in policing the content viewed by Australian internet users.)
  • Web2.0 tools for Gov2.0 beginners: a practical guide [Centre for Policy Development] – A useful beginner's guide looking at web 2.0 tools and social media in relation to campaigning and building links and conversation between government and citizenry in particular ways. Gives a solid sense of the benefits and potential barriers with each platform mentioned. Written by Barry Saunders.
  • YouTube Said to Be in Talks on Pay Movies [NYTimes.com] – "YouTube, the largest video site, is in negotiations with major Hollywood studios for a deal that would let its visitors pay to watch full-length movies, according to two people briefed on the negotiations. If an agreement is reached, it would be a major change for YouTube, which has built a huge audience by offering an eclectic collection of free video clips and earns most of its revenue from advertising. It would also put YouTube, which is owned by Google, in direct competition with services from Netflix, Amazon and Apple, which allow users to buy or rent movies online." (YouTube's creep away from a primary focus on supporting user-generated content continues …)
  • Media favours Coalition, study finds [ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)] – "Newspapers are left wing, television is right wing, and the media as a whole tends to favour the Coalition. And surprisingly, according to researchers from the Australian National University, the ABC Television news is the most pro-Coalition of them all. Former Liberal prime minister John Howard railed against the alleged left-wing bias of the ABC, but the researchers found Aunty was more likely to favour his side. Researchers pored over news stories from 1996 to 2007 to establish if the media was biased. The results, released today, point to the media being generally middle-of-the-road, with the coalition tending to win out."
  • Conroy urged to 'end net censorship farce' [The Age] – "The Federal Government's internet censorship trials have been repeatedly delayed over the past nine months, leading to claims from the Opposition that the Government is deliberately withholding the results to avoid embarrassment. The Opposition's communications spokesman, Nick Minchin, today called on the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, to "end this farce and produce his long overdue trial results for independent assessment". Live trials of the filtering policy, which is intended to block "prohibited content" for all Australians as determined by a secret Government blacklist, were initially slated to begin in December last year and take about six weeks. They were then pushed back until July, then September and, today, the Government is still unable to put a date on when it will release the results to the public."
  • TV facing 'iTunes moment' warns Microsoft's Ashley Highfield [Media | guardian.co.uk] – "The TV industry has as little as two years to create viable digital businesses or face a version of the "iTunes moment" that saw the music business cede the online future to Apple, according to Ashley Highfield. Highfield, the the managing director of consumer and online at Microsoft UK, said he believed the reluctance advertisers feel to advertise on sites such as Facebook will soon be a "non-issue", putting more pressure on broadcasters' advertising revenues. "Once this happens the shift of spending from TV to web will accelerate even more," he said, giving the Futureview address at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival today. "So realistically I think the industry has about two to three years to adapt or face its iTunes moment. And it will take at least that long for media brands to build credible, truly digital brands. But, importantly, I do believe TV does have a small two to three year window in which to respond.""

Links for August 25th 2009 through September 1st 2009:

  • Twitter is Now Bigger than MySpace in the UK [Mashable] – "According to Hitwise UK, Twitter has overtaken MySpace for the first time on the list of most visited UK websites. Last week, Twitter was the 27th most visited website in the UK, while MySpace was 28th. Looking at social networks alone, Facebook was the biggest UK site, followed by YouTube (YouTube) and Bebo, with Twitter in the 4th place and MySpace in the 5th. And that doesn’t even take into account all the visitors that used one of the many 3rd party Twitter applications such as TweetDeck (TweetDeck) or Seesmic Desktop (Seesmic Desktop). "
  • Bad news for newspapers, great news for journalism [bronwen clune] – Bronwen looks beyond the paywall: "Of course the argument for paid content is about defending commercial news organisations and not journalism. Problem is the two aren’t mutually exclusive anymore. For starters, it excludes the competition from government subsidised media – SBS and ABC – who probably can’t wait for News Corp and Fairfax to start charging for their content. A senior news person at SBS told me just yesterday that he “WANTS those sites to charge!” – not because he believes in paid content, he doesn’t, but because it certainly brightens his future."
  • ABC most reliable network, Nine worst -readers [TV Tonight] – "The ABC is the most reliable network -according to readers of TV Tonight- and Nine the least. In the Audience Inventory, the public broadcaster was a clear winner in the key question of starting TV programmes on time by a huge 55% win. It was followed by Foxtel (22%), SBS (11%), TEN (7%), Seven (3%) and Nine (2%). The question was completed by 99% of the survey respondents, which totalled over 800." (That certainly matches with my thoughts!)
  • Murdoch attack on 'dominant' BBC [BBC NEWS | Business] – "News Corporation's James Murdoch has said that a "dominant" BBC threatens independent journalism in the UK. The chairman of the media giant in Europe, which owns the Times and Sun, also blamed the UK government for regulating the media "with relish". "The expansion of state-sponsored journalism is a threat to the plurality and independence of news provision," he told the Edinburgh Television Festival. The scope of the BBC's activities and ambitions was "chilling", he added. Organisations like the BBC, funded by the licence fee, as well as Channel 4 and Ofcom, made it harder for other broadcasters to survive, he argued." (Or: if the BBC stays free and Newscorp puts everything they create behind a paywall, James is rightly concerned people will just read the free BBC stuff instead!)
  • Wikipedia Will Limit Changes on Articles About Living People [NYTimes.com] – "… as the English-language version of Wikipedia has just surpassed three million articles, that freewheeling ethos is about to be curbed. Officials at the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit in San Francisco that governs Wikipedia, say that within weeks, the English-language Wikipedia will begin imposing a layer of editorial review on articles about living people. The new feature, called “flagged revisions,” will require that an experienced volunteer editor for Wikipedia sign off on any change made by the public before it can go live. Until the change is approved — or in Wikispeak, flagged — it will sit invisibly on Wikipedia’s servers, and visitors will be directed to the earlier version. The change is part of a growing realization on the part of Wikipedia’s leaders that as the site grows more influential, they must transform its embrace-the-chaos culture into something more mature and dependable." (With great power comes great(er) responsibility?)

800px-Dead_sea_newspaper On Friday evening I attended and spoke at the ‘Future of Journalism’, an event organised by the Media Alliance & Walkley Foundation which was styled as a “Blueprint for progress”, featuring healthy discussion and debate about the future of paid journalism and, amongst other topical issues, whether news consumers would actually start paying for content they’ve already been enjoying for free.

I was part of the final panel for the night, joining Ralph Nicholson (formerly with Reuters, now the publisher and editor of The Beach Times, a free newspaper in Costa Rica), Jo McManus (who has 30 years experience as a journalist and now lectures the next generation at ECU/WAAPA), and Australian political blogger William Bowe (the Poll Bludger) for a very spirited conversation chaired by Jonathan Este, the Media Alliance’s director of communication.  We were briefed that the discussion would be pretty informal, which held true, but it was very wide-ranging, discussing everything from possible business models for online news through to the role of social media and blogging both by, and in opposition to, traditional journalists.

From the outset, I should by saying I have no idea what the best business model for journalism is in the online age, but I am quite certain it is not putting all content back behind a paywall.  That way, I’d suggest, lies disaster, one the reasons for which I outline a little below. 

There isn’t time to touch on everything that was discussed, but I wanted to re-visit three points that were raised during our panel (or earlier, and to which our panel then responded):

[1] The relationship between bloggers and paid journalists.  For whatever reason, the ‘bloggers’ (or ‘amateur bloggers’ now, since so many journos write blogs) still attract the ire of professional journalists because the bloggers are seen as a vast, untrained, amateur army of low-quality content creators who aren’t bound by a code of ethics but do get read by people who should be reading proper journalism.  To be fair, many of the people who spoke didn’t share this view, but at least a few did, and there were plenty of barbed asides to be heard.  Let me reiterate what I said on the night: there are certainly some bloggers who write as well as journalists, are just as ethically-driven as good journalists and who can research and investigate as well as paid and trained journalists. However, the vast majority of bloggers do not consider themselves journalists, do not seek to compete with journalists and still value (and enjoy) quality journalism done by paid professionals.  Despite what Rupert Murdoch might now believe, bloggers are not the enemy and those who do engage in debate with, or commentary on, professional journalism are usually amongst the strongest supporters of good journalism as a profession.  Indeed, a  blog post written by blogger and journalist Steven Johnson back in 2006 called ‘Five Things All Sane People Agree On About Blogs And Mainstream Journalism (So Can We Stop Talking About Them Now?)’ did a far more elegant job of making this point. Perhaps a few more people should read it.

[2] Digital media tools are not names to be feared, but rather processes than can be readily understood.  There were a lot of comments from old hands in the industry about the difficulty keeping up with the latest new technology – the main mentions were MySpace to Facebook, and now to Twitter.  MySpace, Facebook and Twitter all share many commonalities: they’re all about making sharing ideas, conversations, links and media (broadly defined).  Rather than asking how Facebook is different from MySpace, or Twitter different from the first two, what might be more fruitful is to ask what the latest technology does that’s similar to something you are familiar with.  Rather than treating Twitter as something new, and thus something alien, if it’s examined as primarily replicating the conversational style of Facebook, but without anything else from that platform (including those annoying applications) then you start to come to terms with what it is.  Sure, it takes a little while to become familiar with a new tool, but starting to use these tools, rather than spending copious time fearing them and lamenting all these new-fangled technologies, is surely a better use of peoples’ time. Many journalists have embraced Twitter, for example, and it’s paying real dividends.  It is, of course, important to verify any ‘facts’ gathered via Twitter, but that’s true of each and every source. During our panel I suggested that people interested in journalism can become part of the media conversation long before they become active professionals or even before any formal training using social media tools – tomorrow’s journalists can sharpen the skills they’ll need via Facebook, Twitter or whatever comes next, and that should, in my opinion, be seen as an asset.

[3] The relationship between social media and news. Many more entrenched journalists seem to think that social media tools, like blogging or Twitter, might be valuable since they let journalists talk to their audience, but they still seem to see the gap between themselves and the audience as a chasm; their audience, by contrast, is increasingly thinking of themselves as participating in a conversation, and often a conversation amongst equals.  That doesn’t mean everyone thinks they’re a journalist, but the era when journalists were set apart by their training and ethics has by and large ended thanks to a lot of very bad journalism in the world and a lot of very smart people in that audience. Indeed, the word audience might just need to be rethought altogether. As Dan Gillmor, amongst others, have eloquently described the change: “Journalism is evolving from a lecture to a conversation, and the first rule of good conversation is to listen.” This, incidentally, is the main reason I think putting news behind a paywall will fail: stopping people from participating in the conversation about the news you report or create will reduce the impact and spread of that news.

A different way of thinking about this is that many people engage with news not by visiting a newspaper’s website, but by coming across a link via Google or, increasingly, a link that a friend or contact has posted using a social media tool.  These are conversational contexts, and any media links posted in these contexts are seen as things to be discussed. In the coming months, this will be even more pronounced thanks to Google’s newest invention, Google Wave.  As I understand it, Google Wave is about taking all of the disparate bits of conversation that can happen using online communication tools and making it possible to retain and continue the conversations, regardless of where it starts (be that email, a blog, or wherever else).  Thus, for Google Wave, conversation is content.  While we’ll need to see how Google Wave works once it’s officially launched, we know today that newspapers are already put in a lot of effort into trying to gain solid Google rankings. In the coming months, that may very well involve being more conscious of news as a conversation rather than a lecture.  I can understand how that might sound daunting to journalists and the industry, but figuring out how to be part of more conversations may very well be part of successful business models for the quality journalists of tomorrow.

Those points aside, I must admit I enjoyed that Future of Journalism event; the very fact that the night was organised shows that news journalists in Australia are trying to figure out new, sustainable ways of plying their trade in the digital age.  Moreover, while there were definitely a few dinosaurs in the room, some of the newer faces of journalism, including Tim Burrowes from mUmBrella (his response to the event here), and Stephen Brook from the Guardian, showed that many journalists are definitely already in tune with the tides of the digital world in which they operate.

[Photo: ‘Dead sea newspaper’; CC BY SA]

Links for August 6th 2009 through August 14th 2009:

  • Gaiman and Doctorow Discuss Giving It Away [Tor.com / Science fiction and fantasy] – A few short questions with Doctorow and Gaimain about the usefulness (and profitability) of giving books away for free online. This quote from Neil Gaiman about giving away American Gods for a month is probably the most important: “It’s been really fun in my own slow way nudging HarperCollins out of the stone ages and into the dark ages. As far as I’m concerned the entire argument [of the validity of giving digital books away] was won at the point where I got them to put American Gods online…we gave it away for free for a month, and during the course of that month and for about four weeks after, the number of copies of all of my books…went up three hundred percent. As far as I’m concerned, that answered that question.”
  • Bringing the power of Creative Commons to Google Books [Inside Google Books] – Google Books now supports Creative Commons licenses: “Rightsholders who want to distribute their CC-licensed books more widely can choose to allow readers around the world to download, use, and share their work via Google Books. Creative Commons licenses make it easier for authors and publishers to tell readers whether and how they can use copyrighted books. You can grant your readers the right to share the work or to modify and remix it. You can decide whether commercial use is okay. There’s even a license to dedicate your book to the public domain. If you’re a rightsholder interested in distributing your CC-licensed book on Google Books, you have a few different options. If you’re already part of our Partner Program, you can make your book available under CC by updating account settings. If not, you can sign up as a partner. You can select from one of seven Creative Commons licenses, and usage permissions will vary depending on the license.”
  • apophenia: Teens Don’t Tweet… Or Do They? – danah boyd unpacks the claim that teens don’t tweet and finds the data lacking and misinterpreted.
  • Murdoch signals end of free news [BBC NEWS | Business] – “News Corp is set to start charging online customers for news content across all its websites. The media giant is looking for additional revenue streams after announcing big losses. Mr Murdoch said he was “satisfied” that the company could produce “significant revenues from the sale of digital delivery of newspaper content”. “The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive methods of distribution,” he added. “But it has not made content free. Accordingly, we intend to charge for all our news websites. I believe that if we are successful, we will be followed by other media. “Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalising its ability to produce good reporting,” he said.” (It’s far too late to put the free genie back in the bottle … this plan could easily materialise as the move which killed NewsCorp!)
  • News Corp records £2bn loss [guardian.co.uk] – “Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire, News Corporation, slumped to a [US] $3.4bn (£2bn) net loss for the 12 months to June as a combination of plunging advertising revenue, impairment charges and online losses contributed to the company’s worst year in recent memory. The group suffered hefty accounting charges related to a drop in the value of its assets. After stripping out these one-off items, its full-year operating profit dropped by 32% to $3.6bn, with growth in revenue at the group’s cable television networks failing to make up for a slump in income from films, newspapers, books, magazines and online offerings. … n the final quarter of the year, News Corp made a $203m loss, compared to a $1.1bn profit for the same period in 2008, hit by a $680m impairment charge at Fox Interactive Media – the division that includes the social networking website MySpace, which recently shed 400 staff as it struggles to compete with larger rival Facebook.”

Local citizen journalism evangelist, Bronwen Clune, often describes the news media corporations and mechanisms as ‘control media’.  While this is certainly a striking expression, and no doubt fair when thinking about the likes of Rupert Murdoch, I’ve wondered if it’s at times a bit of a harsh brush with which to paint the news media in general .  However, the Associated Press (AP) seems to be doing out its way to take the idea of control media literally, which has not been embraced by the interwebs at large; AP recently described a system of Digital Rights Management (DRM) to police the uses of its news content online.  Their explanatory graphic and been, how shall we say, reinterpreted by the public they’re expecting to pay for AP’s services:

AP_DRM

[Source for the top half of the image: AP’s Press Release “Associated Press to build news registry to protect content”; source for the full image: “What the AP really meant to convey”. Via Boing Boing]

At the same time, Chris Anderson on the promotion trail for his new book Free, has been enjoying himself by being as provocative as possible in interviews (conducted, oddly enough, by journalists).  For example:

In the past, the media was a full-time job. But maybe the media is going to be a part-time job. Maybe media won’t be a job at all, but will instead be a hobby. There is no law that says that industries have to remain at any given size. Once there were blacksmiths and there were steelworkers, but things change. The question is not should journalists have jobs. The question is can people get the information they want, the way they want it? The marketplace will sort this out. If we continue to add value to the Internet we’ll find a way to make money. But not everything we do has to make money.

While change is definitely in the air, suggesting that journalism is a redundant profession is going too far.  We need good journalism; we need people who are willing to take risks and invest huge amounts of time into investigative reporting; and they need to be paid.  I’m not suggesting the status quo even means anything any more, and the last few years have definitely forced the news industry to decide whether it’s just an entertainment business or something more, but amongst all of that I think we need to try and figure out sustainable models that support journalism (but not sensationalism).  I think unpaid citizen journalism and random acts of journalism by netizens will definitely play a significant role in the news media landscape that’s developing, but I don’t every think the culmination of citizen journalism will ever be enough by itself.  I can’t live without the ABC or SBS, and I’m delighted they’re mainly government funded, but I know that’s not the only answer.  And I also realise that answers aren’t readily available yet.  We should, however, be looking for them.  While the news industry is definitely having a rough time, and the future is uncertain, I also don’t think AP’s approach hard core ‘lock it all up’ approach, or Anderson’s dismissive suggestion the all journalists need to get real jobs and write news as a hobby, are really helping the debate.  Not one little bit.