This was my presentations for the ‘Do journos do it better’ session at the Media140 conference in Sydney. It was a fascinating day. Next time around I’d love to see a few of the ‘new media’ evangelists mixed into the same panels as the ‘old media’ protectionists.
EDIT: Just added the video – sorry it’s ropey as a workmate screen-captured it direct from the live stream:
Talking to many of the attendees last night it was obvious there are SO many other issues people want to discuss – the paid content debate, the internet filter, the future of mainstream media in a rapidly changing media environment. I hope we can do it again and really set the cat amongst the pigeons! Anyways… my blurb below:
Do journos do it better? “Of course they do – as long as they know the rules before breaking them”
I am the bastard child of Old and New media.
As such I hope to provide some unique insight into this debate as I – like a child of a broken home – care deeply for both my divorced parents, despite their temporary differences.
I’m a child of the 80s who grew up with the daily newspaper, the six o’clock news over tea, The Goodies on the ABC, A Current Affair with Mike Willesee (when it was actually current affairs), movies on VHS and a love of the mixtape.
But ever since my Dad borrowed an early Macintosh for a week in about 1985 and spent the whole time playing Moon Lander – something always fascinated me about technology.
So for those who know me – it’s no surprise that after 5 years in radio and TV news at the ABC & SBS – I launched into new media the first chance I had.
I’m deeply passionate about the opportunities provided by the real time web and the instant impact it’s had on journalism – especially after witnessing so many historic moments this year. (Plane in the Hudson, Iranian uprising, Michael Jackson’s death etc etc).
But after being beaten into shape by so many sub-editors over the years I’m glad my fan-boy tendencies are tempered by a healthy dose of cynicism and just a touch of distrust.
So yes – I reckon journos do it better – but only if they respect the rules of Old Media, before breaking them in an increasingly New Media world – because the role of the journalist is changing … fast.
The new role of the journalist
I’m still surprised me that so many “mainstream media” types scoff at Twitter, dismiss the blogosphere and ridicule Facebook – when in reality, being a one-platform pony is an express ride to oblivion.
Look I know the language sounds ridiculous… Tweeting? The Twitterati? Tweet & Meets? Followers? It sounds like a religious cult.
BUT – it’s no longer enough to present a weekly radio show, write a newspaper column or bash out a single TV news package a day.
You must self-publish. You must go to your audiences instead of expecting them to keep coming to you. Because the media game has changed… permanently.
However – there is a massive upside to this new responsibility – by taking control of your destiny, you can find yourself suddenly at the centre of your own media network.
Take Leo Laporte – a radio jock and TV presenter who freely admits he’s had more programs cancelled on him that hot dinners…
“Leo the tech guy” eventually went out on his own – starting a This Week in Tech podcast – or Twit – which has grown into a network of 16 tech-related podcasts. Last month Leo told the Online News Association conference in San Francisco that Twit is pulling in annual revenue $1.5 million – a number that’s doubling every year.
Old Media – meet your new competitors.
As the audience fragments into a thousand niches – mainstream media will need to fight hard to maintain its place as the dominant voice of credibility. Savvy journalists who are on top of this trend can leapfrog many budding bloggers and establish instant credibility by association – depending on the association…
But the line between old media cred and the new breed of publishers is blurring. The passionate blogger does as much verifying and fact-checking as a good journalist – and is more transparent in the way they go about it. The audience is often the toughest sub-editor out there.
With blogs increasingly curating the best content across the web media organisations need to embrace the real time web.
So forget embargoed content– if you don’t meet the demand for instant gratification – your audience will find someone who does. Your audiences – young and old – expect more from a classy old dame such as yourself.
Follow these new media rules and apply your old media nouse… and you can’t go wrong.
In the meantime this kid from a broken home will continue to split his weekends between his Old Media and New Media parents… until they can get their acts together…
Let the great paid content experiment begin.
After months of hints, guarded comments and innuendo from publishers around the globe, it was the big kid in the playground, Rupert Murdoch, who has ended the speculation in one foul swoop with plans to charge for all the online content of his newspapers and television news channels.
In a rare move by the savvy media mogul, Mr Murdoch clearly outlined his plans to begin charging for online news following the success of the Wall Street Journal, which keeps much of its content behind a pay-wall, and was acquired by News Corp in 2007. Obviously it’s hoped that dozens of other global publishers will see the move as an open invitation to follow the huge stable of Murdoch mastheads into what they hope is a river of cash (come on in, the water is green!), or at least enough to stave off the wolves at the door.
Here in Australia, Fairfax have opened the door to charge for content via a two-tiered system, claiming “we can’t afford to keep the big newsroom staffs we have”.
Can it work? Sure – it can work – and in my next entry I’ll show you five ways how.
But will it? Here are my five reasons why I think it won’t…
News is a commodity
The reality about many online newsrooms is there is almost no discernible difference between much of the wire-driven copy from one masthead to another – just plug a breaking news story into Google news and click on a few results. Short, text-based breaking news simply doesn’t have enough value to exist behind a paywall, especially as there are competitors in every market who are willing or even keen to give it away for free. Sure newspapers are the repository of some of the world’s best journalists who are able to craft articles or comment pieces of incredible insight and clarity, but in this fast moving world of 24/7 news, are they able to keep up with the demand in time. And what about the rapidly growing notion of news a service instead of a destination? How will you charge to get your news onto the platforms where your audiences are gathering (Facebook, Twitter, mobile phones) when news starts to find them.
Net natives don’t have masthead loyalty
The idea that new media audiences will continue to flock to a masthead simply because it’s an old-guard newspaper or broadcaster is, put simply, delusional. Not only is the credibility of these organisations drying up at a rate of knots, but Net Natives are going to respond to new news organisations that reflect their needs via the thousands of niche sites who represent them. It’s time to respect the audience and deliver news on their terms, not ours.
Journalism is not a profit-making exercise
It’s pretty simple really. Newspapers made their money from classifieds and advertising, not from charging at the news-stand. Unfortunately thanks to the internet that business model is broken. But without the cost of printing and distribution, it’s going to be a tough sell to charge on the basis of the content. Slapping a membership or a micropayment system on an existing infrastructure will result in disaster. It’s time the business model was pushed aside for a whole new type of thinking.
Online shouldn’t prop up bloated newsrooms
As a journalist, this will get me into trouble, but it’s time we all acknowledged the elephant in the room. Newsrooms are cumbersome and over-staffed with journalists filling up dozens of sections that barely get lip-service in a daily newspaper. It’s time to make decisions based on what audiences want, not what advertisers want. Do that and suddenly a whole crop of new business models and niche markets will unfold before your eyes.
Blogs are a credible alternative source of comment
Another furphy of old-school thinking by old-media journalists – that bloggers simply can’t do the job of trained journalists when it comes to commentary and analysis. The notion of bloggers as over-opinionated, ignorant raving lunatics is as out-dated as the newspaper model itself. Today’s blogs are a collection of professionals or passionate observers whose expertise often circumvents the knowledge of their so called professional peers. To denigrate The Daily Beast, Talking Points Memo, The Huffington Post, Mashable (for all things social media) and individuals like Jeff Jarvis, is akin to ignoring a dozen new competitors opening up within a block of your retail store. And unlike newspapers, they want to give away their product for free.
Don’t get me wrong – despite the gloomy points listed above, I do think the great paid content debate can be resolved by a compromised, workable solution. But it requires far more thought than simply throwing a bunch of content perceived to have value by old newspaper hacks behind a paywall.
What’s needed is a far more considered and somewhat sophisticated approach that treats consumers of new media with a lot more respect than is traditionally given by the old-media guard of newspapers and TV broadcasters.
In the next day or two I’ll give you five ways the paywall can work – but it will require media organisations to tear down the notion of what’s valuable and rebuild it from scratch.
Thanks to the release of 450,000 pages of receipts in pdf format the overwhelming task of uploding all these documents online was made simple – the whole thing took a week from a software developer, a few days work from others in the department, and a mere 50 pounds to rent temporary servers.
Within the first 80 hours the Guardian audience has investigated 170,000 documents with a staggering participation rate of 56 %. That has slowed but even now 23,000 readers have trawled through 199,000 pages of documents – with the Guardian continually updating the story with new material.
Importantly it’s worth reading this article from the Niemen Journalism Lab on why it worked – as it’s not just a matter of whacking up the documents and letting the audience run riot.
The developer behind the project – Simon Willison – offered four big tips on making it work:
- Your workers are unpaid, so make it fun.
- Public attention is fickle, so launch immediately.
- Speed is mandatory, so use a framework.
- Participation will come in one big burst, so have servers ready.
He goes into details on all these so make sure you check out the story behind the story – but it’s a stunning example of using simple media technology for citizen journalism and the rich rewards you can reap as a result.