When a Tassie Devil resembles a badger you have to wonder what it’s hiding

October 23, 2016

Over the last couple of days I’ve had an interesting exchange with someone calling themselves ‘Lushington Dalrymple Brady‘. this person acknowledges that the name is a pseudonym, and the avatar that ‘he’ adopts is supposed to be a Tasmanian Devil; to me it looks like a foppish badger imitating an 18th century dandy. What do you think?

Looks like a badger 'toff' to me

Looks like a badger ‘toff’ to me

‘Mr Brady’ calls himself a ‘liberalist’ and I must confess it is a political label I’ve never heard of. I immediately assumed ‘he’ meant libertarian and perhaps that is what ‘he’ is. But, I’m willing to take ‘Lushington’ at his word, here is a definition of liberalist. It is apparently an adherent of the philosophies of John Locke.

liberalist-2016-10-23-10-15-07OK, so I went to the source — American Thinker — to see what this is all about and yes, ‘libertarian’ is probably a good synonym. It is certainly an anti-left, anti-Marxist position that has everything in common with modern right-wing libertarian thinking that argues ‘Today’s a liberal is in fact a socialist [sic]’. Why are these batshit-crazy folk also grammar-challenged?

The ‘liberalist’/libertarian is anti-state, pro free-market, and adheres to a total buy-in to the myth of individual supremacy over the social totality. In short, as I told ‘Mr Brady’ in an email, a ‘Fascist with manners’.

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Malcolm in a muddle:Media reform for the big end of town

October 20, 2016

The journalists’ union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), is concerned that the government’s proposed media regulation reforms will lead to a loss of jobs in the news industry and less choice for media consumers.

The Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Media Reform) Bill 2016 is currently before a Senate committee; but even before it has taken effect, the MEAA says the current rules that are supposed to ensure a variety of news ‘voices’ in the marketplace are not being properly observed.

The MEAA estimates that over 5000 jobs in the media industry have disappeared in less than a decade. According to the union’s submission to the Senate review of the Media Reform legislation, the government’s mooted changes favour existing providers, will entrench the near-monopoly power of existing players, and will see less diversity among news outlets, not more.

For example, last month, the so-called ‘consumer watchdog’ (actually a government lapdog) the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) approved NewsCorpse’ sale of Perth’s Sunday Times newspaper to the Kerry Stokes-owned SevenWest Media.

When the deal is completed next week, it will give Stokes a virtual monopoly over print media in Western Australia, it has created a mood of fear and apprehension among Sunday Times staff.

MEAA’s WA regional director Tiffany Venning says her members are ‘deeply disappointed’ with the decision. There were 37 editorial jobs lost at The West Australian in the lead up to this transaction being approved, and Venning says there is ‘considerable concern’ for the jobs staff at Sunday Times and its online affiliate PerthNow.

It’s no surprise that union members are concerned. The entire printing staff at the Sunday Times are about to lose their jobs. That’s about 100 people, some of whom have been at the paper their entire working lives.

Tiffany Venning told EM that out of the 60 editorial staff at the Sunday Times, ‘less than half’ are likely to have jobs once the merger is complete. Rumours crossing the newsroom floor at the Times are that as few as seven existing editorial staff are likely to make the transition.

In an interview with EM, Ms Venning described this as a ‘bloodbath’ that will see over 100 people unceremoniously dumped onto the already depressed WA job market. However, it is unlikely that either Kerry Stokes or Rupert Murdoch will lose any sleep over adding to the west’s unemployment queues.

The Sunday Times was one of Rupert’s first purchases when he began to expand his empire in the 1960s, but he is hardly the most sentimental billionaire on the planet. He needs to sell the Times to fund the purchase of a cartload of regional newspapers in Queensland.

The ACCC has expressed some ‘concerns’ about the American mogul’s proposed $36.6 million purchase of Australian Regional Newspapers from APN. However, the ACCC’s remit does not include being concerned about the further potential loss of journalism jobs in the Sunshine State; it is only interested in competition in the local news market.

Given that the regulator didn’t allow similar concerns to stop the Sunday Times deal, printers, journalists and sales staff at the 76 newspapers and 60 websites affected by the APN deal should probably start looking for another job.

As I have written previously in Media Sauce, the media owners don’t have to be so worried. For them it is likely to be ‘business as usual’ and it seems that they can carry on with the government’s blessing.

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Bleeding the ink from newspapers: How long have we got?

August 29, 2016

I have to say it: “I have a grudging respect for Chris Mitchell, the former editor-in-chief of The Australian.”

Under Mitchell’s leadership from 2002 to 2015 The Australian cemented its place as the go-to source of news and opinion from the centre-right perspective.

Mitchell’s ‘take no prisoners’ editorial style and his willingness to pick fights with anyone to his left (that’s a lot of people) has helped The Australian to survive for many more years than it should have.

Apart from a brief period in the 1980s and 1990s, The Oz has been a loss-making paper for most of its life. As early as 1975 Murdoch complained bitterly about the cost of producing a national daily broadsheet. The printing, transport, newsprint costs and the wages of journalists were all out of control in those days.

It’s not much different today. But, ever optimistic, Chris Mitchell was bravely spinning the line that all is well at The Australian. According to Mitchell’s latest comments, The Oz is still making money on its subsidised sales to hotel guests and airline customers and News Corp is committed to keeping the title alive, even though it appears to be shrinking before our eyes.

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The future of newspapers – ABC podcast

March 8, 2015

I recorded this interview with Glyn Greensmith of the ABC on the future of newspapers.

All you have to do is click and listen.

future of news

The view from Disneyland — you can see the Newscorpse bunkers from here

February 8, 2015

There have been two important speeches at the National Press Club in the past week or so. One of them got bucket loads of media coverage and has turned into a national story of gargantuan significance. EM covered it here.

The second NPC speech received some coverage, but there have been few ripples across the pond and the story has died. However, EM can’t let it go because it is a subject dear to our heart — Freedom of the Press.

Just two days after Two Punch delivered his wooden and self-wounding speech on Monday, perhaps fatally injuring his own prime ministership and his political party in the process, the chair of the Australian Press Council, Professor Julian Disney, gave an address to the gathered scribes and interested onlookers.

Disney’s speech won’t kill off the Press Council, but he is leaving soon anyway and his replacement has been announced, Professor David Weisbrot; so, in some ways, the address was a valedictory.

Disney also used the speech to make some thinly-veiled comments about the role of destabilisation and undermining of the Council’s authority by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorpse.

newscorpse log

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Statement about disciplinary action at Deakin University

July 30, 2014

As part of the settlement of disciplinary action taken against me by Deakin University on an allegation of “serious misconduct”, I am pleased to be able to publish the following agreed statement.


On 15 and 16 April 2014 two articles were published on the Herald Sun webpage that included tweets I had posted. In those tweets I used inappropriate and offensive language, including profanity. My behaviour was then linked to my profession, as an Associate Professor in Journalism at Deakin University.

There has since been commentary about this being a matter of academic freedom; however, this has not been the University’s position and I agree that this is not at issue here as the University remains steadfastly committed to the principles of academic freedom. Their concern was not with any robust, critical enquiry, but rather with the inappropriate and offensive language I used which was not consistent with Deakin’s Code of Conduct.

I am remorseful for my actions, and for the impact they have had on Deakin University. I apologise unequivocally for my poor judgment and for any reputational harm caused to any individual and to the good name of Deakin.

I am pleased that the University continues to acknowledge my standing and expertise as an Associate Professor in Journalism, which is not in question. I look forward to continuing with my work at Deakin and to supporting the Deakin journalism program and students.

You can read my earlier statement about this matter, if you wish to.

At this time I am making no further public comment.

Coverage in Red Flag  The Australian and in The Guardian



Yahoo! Here comes the new news

November 30, 2013

It’s been an interesting week in the new business, both globally and here in Australia.

At home some new start-ups, including another import from the UK. This time it’s the Daily Mail announcing an Australian edition. One Twitterati quipped that this would at least provide some much-needed competition in the right-wing junk journalism stakes currently dominated by The Australian.

But on the downside, one or two less happy stories of ailing start-ups and mooted closures.

On the world stage, it seems that Yahoo’s new business model is taking shape, following the surprise announcement that the NASDAQ-listed search and mobile App tech-giant has hired a group of well-known and high-profile journalists and editors to staff its own news portal.

The key hire is the award-winning and sometimes controversial Katie Couric, who will leave the American ABC network to join Yahoo. According to Yahoo, Couric will host a monthly interview program on the portal, but few details are available beyond that.

But why would a second-ranked search engine and internet portal want to buy into news and serious journalism?

The investment in Katie Couric and senior reporters from The New York Times signals that Yahoo wants to move into Web TV and take on the the giants of American network and cable television, and perhaps even Netflix, which is rumoured to also be looking at an Australian launch next year.

In recent months Yahoo, which is valued at around US$35 billion, has made a series of takeovers, mainly of Internet start-ups like the picture-blogging site Tumblr. But analysts think that it is still figuring out how to turn a profit from these acquisitions.

Tellingly, Yahoo’s share of online advertising (about 7%) is still behind Facebook (8%).

Recruiting Couric to be the new face of Yahoo’s news operation is an attempt to get a stock market bounce and attract eyeballs, which in turn should attract advertisers.

The key question though is where will those eyeballs be? In recent statements Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, has said the company’s future is in mobile delivery.

However, mobile is “the right path” to be on according to Mayer, rather than an instant boost to advertising revenues. Digital plays take a while to turn from money sinks into profit centres.

Australia: following the leader?

Australia is following the bigger US and UK markets in seeing a wave of new start-up news providers both entering and leaving the market, which is creating both excitement and apprehension among journalists looking for new opportunities and among news consumers looking for something a bit more palatable.

Here at home this week, a new news start-up arrived and one recent entrant is in difficulties. In the past ten days or so, three new news publishers have announced their arrival in the Australian news market.

The biggest fish to enter the Australian news pond, since The Guardian six months ago, is the British-based conservative tabloid, The Daily Mail. Just this week it announced the imminent arrival of dailymail.com.au. It is a joint venture with Nine Entertainment, the Mail’s online arm dmg media and mi9 (a digital spin-off from the Nine group). There’s been very little said so far about who will head up the Australian operation, but its reported that up to 50 editorial positions will be created.

Two smaller and homegrown publications are launching into the Australian market; The New Daily and The Saturday Paper. The Saturday Paper will feature long-form journalism and will be published by Morry Schwartz (pubisher of The Monthly). Schwartz hopes it will be profitable with an initial printed circulation of between 80,000 and 100,000.

The New Daily recently launched entirely online and is financed by three major players in the Australian superannuation industry. The managing editor is former Fairfax and News Limited editor, Bruce Guthrie. The New Daily is running an advertising model and, like the imported Daily Mail, is not going behind a paywall. The New Daily’s backers hope it will be profitable within three to five years.

On the downside, Politifact, a fact-checking and independent journalism venture founded by former Fairfax editor Peter Fray has announced severe downsizing and possible closure as the sponsors who came on board during the 2013 federal election wind-down their commitment to the project. Politifact was based on an American model that calls out politicians for mis-statements and gives them a “truth-o-meter” rating. If it sounds like a gimmick, maybe it was, as the site only lasted seven months in Australia. Politifact is currently running on a skeleton staff and seeking new sources of funding.

The digital dilemma: How to make money from content

The question of how profits can be made from online news has several answers, but none yet a proven winner.

A recent American news start up NSFW Corp, which billed itself as “The Economist written by the Daily Show”, has this week closed its print edition and folded its digital business into another company, which is, itself, still reliant on angel investors from Silicon Valley.

And here lies the dilemma for the big global brands like Yahoo and The Daily Mail and for the more modest local start-ups, particularly those with a focus on serious journalism. NSFW Corp attempted to combine serious with hip and ironic, but that hasn’t worked out and perhaps the market for serious journalism is not where we think it should be.

On top of that uncertainty, the process for monetising the digital click-stream, whether on the desktop or via mobile devices, is still a large known unknown.

Television still dominates the global advertising market, while print advertising is in decline. On the other side of the ledger, digital revenues are not yet strong enough to support a reliable profit stream. NSFW Corp was offering a niche product and it was behind a paywall; not quite the same as ad-supported content, but another example of trial and serious error when it comes to financially-modelling new news.

Yahoo has a model that relies on volume-selling online and mobile advertising, but at a fraction of the price that print or broadcasting can command. The difficulty is that when you do this, the slice of total revenue you take from the cake has to be substantially bigger than your rivals if you are to survive and make a profit.

So far, no one has come up with a content formula that stacks the eyeballs high enough to satisfy all comers; with or without a paywall. The booking agents currently have the upper hand in setting prices for online advertising.

Over at Yahoo, Marissa Mayer is a smart CEO, she has a strong track record in the digital economy (she was formerly at Google) and her sense is that this expanding digital giant will eventually make money from its investment in Couric and news content. However, it is not a given that her vision will succeed.

There are nervous investors, from Nasdaq to Australian superannuation schemes, that hope she’s right about Yahoo, because their fortunes will also hang on the uncertain success of this bold experiment and others like it.

[This is a slightly longer and edited version of a piece I wrote for The Conversation, published 30 November 2013]