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Tag Archives: news
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?)
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):
 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.
 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.
 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.
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:
[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.