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No use playing Canute

Written By: - Date published: 1:57 pm, July 8th, 2009 - 15 comments
Categories: blogs, Media - Tags:

I noted with obvious interest on Stuff today that News Ltd CEO John Hartigan is having a go at bloggers and blogs.

“In return for their free content, we pretty much get what we’ve paid for – something of such limited intellectual value as to be barely discernible from massive ignorance,”. Blogs often give a platform for “radical sweeping statements unsubstantiated with evidence”.

In an oblique way, it reminds me of the way in which some viewed movies after TV industry threatened to steamroll the movie industry. The film industry has responded by providing a better service to the punters better product, better facilities, and so on.

In a way, the blogging world relies on the ‘real’ media to provide a topic to discuss this is a classic example.

At the same time, the rise of blogging in particular reflects a dumbing down of the news industry and you only need to check out the ‘human interest’ stories across the media to see where serious matters are discussed.

It’s also interesting to see the way in which Web 2.0 is changing organisations including political parties. The normal mode in the past was very much one-way communication where increasingly readers want to interact with those behind the news and others who are likewise interested. Blogs have lead stories, caused genuine
change and most importantly raised the bar in terms of encouraging robust political debate above the usual staple of why we lost the world cup. Labour now has its own blog (bugger, there goes that right wing conspiracy theory) as a direct result of the success of this and THAT other site.

Look, we all know on most matters you lot are right and I’m wrong. Actually, I’m confused now because I thought I was right and you were left? Point is, I think this is one topic we can agree with blogs have
a role to play in politics and the wider community. It’s up to the news media to up their game and co-exist with the amateurs who in many ways are showing up the pros.


15 comments on “No use playing Canute ”

  1. Rex Widerstrom 1

    Hartigan’s actual speech is worth reading.

    It points out that an online reader brings in about 10% of the revenue that a paper reader does, and thus for every reader it loses a newspaper must win 10 online.

    He goes on to point out that media outlets – including The Australian invest a lot in covering news [one could argue they should spend even more, but let’s leave that aside for a moment] and that they need to show a return on that investment if it’s not going to become uneconomic.

    In contrast, the business models of those who feed off MSM reporting involve much less cost. And here Hatrigan doesn’t just mention blogging – he also points out that Yahoo and Google News, the Huffington Post and Australian sites like Crikey all rely on News Ltd and other journos to produce the news about which they then comment.

    In criticising blogs, Hartigan first cites (without naming) some Australian examples:

    It started as a moralising soapbox; boasting about its lack of standards. Positioned as an underdog, it lectures mainstream media every day… Radical sweeping statements unsubstantiated with evidence are common… One Australian blogger who shoots first and checks facts later is proud to boast that his site is “Not wrong for long’.

    He then goes on to draw a much broader conclusion:

    …amateur journalism trivialises and corrupts serious debate it degenerates democracy into mob rule and rumour milling.

    Certainly it’s unfair to tar all blogs with the same brush, but then I could cite many a comment (and the odd post or two) which makes just such a claim about certain NZ blogs, a stance with which most visitors here would agree (and thus, indirectly, be in a agreement with Hartigan).

    What Hartigan seems to be getting grumpy about – and I don’t blame him – is being the SST to the blogosphere’s HoS, doing the hard and expensive work of news gathering while the opposition grabs your early edition and cannibalises it for a fraction of the cost 😉

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      All of which is a lot of great reasons why journalism needs to become state owned again.

      • Rex Widerstrom 1.1.1

        Oh lordy.

        The NZ Herald: Editor-in-Chief, M McCully.

        No thanks (though I wouldn’t mind reading more of his girlfriend’s stuff).

        It needs to be locally owned and operated with a diverse shareholding. I’m not sure we can round up that particular long-since-bolted horse and get it back in the stable, but we should try.

        Or, in Kiwibank style, scrounge up the seed capital but keep the state well away from any operational matters, even if it’s just choosing the fonts, or else we’d have had Heather Simpson decreeing that all bad news was henceforth to appear in 6 point Garamond ultracondensed. Between the classifieds 😛

        • Draco T Bastard

          Oh, agreed, definitely don’t want the government in charge – just want them paying for it.

          The idea is basically that the government provides the money for the journalists to do their job. Remove the need to make a profit and leave the journalists in charge of what they’re investigating and reporting. Have the facts available after the original article is published so that the bloggers can then do an analysis of the article/story same as they do now.

          The journos can’t complain on behalf of their owners about bloggers using other peoples work because the bloggers would be the tax payers that are supplying the money anyway. On top of that we get better reporting and analysis which strengthens our democracy.

  2. lprent 2

    Gidday Daveski… Good to see you posting here.

    I saw this in the online Herald a few days ago. There was a blog having a go at a New York judge sounding off on the similar topic – that links to news sites should be banned.

    This is on top of a number of other statements on similar topics over the past few weeks by MSM money people bemoaning their lot.

    I think that the basic problem is that they’re realizing that there are few or no takers for the tightly constrained net (net 2.0) that has been promoted for the last few years. One of the intents was to control the revenue stream. It didn’t work, no-one really wants to use it.

    The MSM have been doing a piss poor job over the last decade or so. In NZ the most obvious example of this is on the online Herald where it is difficult to find any news of substance outside of the business section. The world news is better elsewhere. Sports I ignore. For tech news I read specialist sites. Politics – the commentary is better in the blogs – we can read press releases as well.

    What is left is the “who is screwing whom” and accidents? Scoop is better.

    • Daveski 2.1

      Ha … the irony of it all, eh LP 🙂

      Actually, it was a point of principle that encouraged me to send something through and I was delighted to see a positive response. I actually thought my posting about this topic here underlined the positive roles that blogs have to play. Anyway, I appreciated the opportunity to post here under my own moniker and hope PB is doing well in cardiac care 😉

      My fundamental point is that the MSM has to learn how to use the blogosphere rather than try and deny it. Ironically, the MSM is starting to use bloggers (DPF for example) as being credible in the MSM because of their blogs!

      Fundamentally, I agree with Lynn that the problem with the MSM is that they aren’t performing leading to blogs filling the gap.

      PS did you know that Simon and Alison are splitting???? OMG!

      • jarbury 2.1.1

        My fundamental point is that the MSM has to learn how to use the blogosphere rather than try and deny it. Ironically, the MSM is starting to use bloggers (DPF for example) as being credible in the MSM because of their blogs!

        Well a Herald article today quoted extensively from a blog post on Red Alert by Phil Twyford. The article even mentions what was said in a couple of the blog comments.

        A sign of things to come?

        • gingercrush

          Red Alert has been mentioned a number of times since it came online. Even The Standard gets mentioned on occasions.

      • lprent 2.1.2

        ….Simon and Alison are splitting???? OMG!

        Who are they? (For that matter who cares?)

  3. andy 3

    Daveski, nice post!

    The thing that gets me with John Hartigan is that he just got my eyeballs on his site for free by me clicking through to the linked article. He otherwise would never have had that page view.

    I wonder how many extra page views Kiwiblog, The Standard et al actually create, enough that it must work to there advantage.

    Sounds like they want it both ways, extra clicks but no criticism when they don’t get it right.

  4. The Voice of Reason 4

    This quote is a classic:

    “amateur journalism trivialises and corrupts serious debate it degenerates democracy into mob rule and rumour milling”.

    He’s talking about bloggers, but it more accurately reflects the MSM. APN and Fairfax have been dumbing down their newsrooms for years. Particulaly hard hit are the sub editors. These are the folk who fact check, suggest stories, leads and likely interviewees to often inexperianced journo’s and provide context within the individual titles.

    APN has just got rid of the last of their provincial subbies and news gathering in the non Bombays is now just rewriting press releases and promoting pop trivia. It couldn’t be more amateur if they tried.

  5. Trevor Mallard 5

    Isn’t it great not to have Hartigan’s team deciding who can see what.

  6. Frack-checker 6

    Canute. The irony is that he tried to turn back the tide in an effort to show his yes-men courtiers that he wasn’t infalliable, not, as is usually thought, to show that he had superhuman powers.

  7. the sprout 7

    “radical sweeping statements unsubstantiated with evidence’.

    i wonder if Hartigan gets irony?

  8. r0b 8

    Hey what? I turn my back for a few hours and now we have righties posting here? What next???? 🙂

    Good post Daveski, be good to more from your side of the fence guesting here.

    As far as I can guess the momentum towards online media is pretty much unstoppable. In a few decades no one (at least in wealthy countries like ours) will be getting their news from clumsy sheaves of paper. The good folk at the Daily Show have fun making this point! But will web media of the future be dominated by big fortress paywall sites (such as the grumpy Mr Hartigan imagines), or by grown up versions of seat of the pants grassroots indy sites like this one? We live in interesting times.

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