Tits and bums behind the paywall: Why bother?

September 20, 2010

Despite the online goss that The Times and Sunday Times have lost a packet since disappearing behind a paywall in July this year, the Murdoch family is intent on pushing the pay-per-view strategy. Scion James has just announced that the juicy tabloid News of the World will put up the paywall in the next few  months.

Why would you bother? TNotW is just about as low rent as you can go without becoming The Truth Weekender or the weirdly named Daily Sport.

These papers rely on a steady diet of soft porn and boast the longest list of escorts and massage parlours ever to grace the classifieds. There’s money in muck for sure, but it’s the kind of NSFW content that you won’t be cruising in the office over morning tea. In any case. you can’t surf it at work; trust me on this, there’ no need to check. If you really want to see some dorky reality star’s ‘ladyboy bits’ you will have to txt ‘Nadia’ to 89560 and the photo will be sent to your smartphone.

But over at TNotW you can see the ‘yummy mummy’ X Factor entrant and alleged hooker ‘Chloe’ dirty dancing on a hidden camera for free – at least for now. And how is TNotW going to sustain its notorious sting operations once it disappears from Google’s searches and expects people to pay for the pleasure of watching a drunk Fergie disgrace herself again, or a low life crook gambling away cricket’s good name.

There’s actually some doubt that ‘racy’ tabloids even have a future. According to blogger-analyst Peter Kirwan, the British tabloids are all heading down the pipes. Layoffs and revenue plunges are not prevented by ‘upskirt’ and ‘down blouse’ journalism.

Circulation, rather than advertising, is the lifeblood of tabloid newspapers. Unlike broadsheets, the red tops make the bulk of their revenues at the newsagents’ counter. Last year, Trinity Mirror’s tabloids generated £460m in revenue. Almost two-thirds of this amount came from copy sales.

Historically, vast print circulations have elevated the most successful tabloids into an elite category of media that could be relied upon to reach the mass market. In the process, the tabloids became a default choice for advertisers.

Unfortunately, the tabloids’ lifeblood is ebbing away. At its peak, in March 1996, The Sun recorded its highest ever full-price circulation of 4,783,359. Today, the paper sells around 3 million copies a day. The Daily Mirror sells 1.2 million copies.

Read more at wired.co.uk
Would the world be worse off if the tabloids were to bite the dust?
Unfortunately for the dedicated band of bloggers who keep an eye on the British tabloids so the rest of us don’t have to are worried they might be out of work if the tabloids close down, or disappear behind more paywall pranks.

As social media enable links to spread faster, more and more people are likely to discover this particular corner of the Internet. But the bloggers themselves have no illusions about their impact.

Chris Spann explains: “We’re not having an impact on the papers – they’re such powerful structures. But for every person who reads something on these blogs or passes it on there’s a groundswell.”

“The four main tabloids we cover are selling, between them, 6 million copies a day,” agrees MacGuffin. “Our blogs can’t hope to challenge that (and if they all disappear behind paywalls, we’re probably finished).

“The blogosphere is growing in influence, but it remains to be seen if there is a bigger impact – we’d probably need to pool our efforts into one site so it’s all in one place.”

But, he says, the relationship between the media and their readers is ever so slightly changing as a result of the sort of work carried out by blogs.

Read more at the European Journalism Centre

Tabloid Watch is also useful and has a nice take on this week’s beat up about an alleged plot to kill the Pope while he was in the UK. Unfortunately, no Vatican plotters were arrested and the six Muslims who were bailed up by Scotland Yard have all been released without charge. You might not know this if you only read the Daily Express.


Monetizing UGNC: Is this how the news industry will survive?

April 27, 2010

I’m in that usual happy-anxious phase that authors get into when their manuscript is in the production process, but the first pages have not come back with editor’s queries and comments.

It’s a double-edged feeling because you are happy to have the MSS off your hands, but anxious because you don’t really know what the editor thinks and, even worse, stuff keeps happening. Stuff that would be good in the book. “Damn!”

This is really obvious in the world of News 2.0. The rate of change has not slowed, just because I’ve reached my contracted word length.

However, I’m also feeling a little smug (dangerous, hubris inducing, I know) because I see evidence again that one of my key theses is correct.

In my exposition about why I’m arguing for the term User Generated News-like Content (UGNC), rather than “citizen journalism”,  I make the point that the once radical posture of Indymedia and citizen journalism and the innovative use of collaborative technologies has been superceded by the MSM’s attempts to monetize the stream of cheap and free content they get from consumers – iReport on CNN is the best example, but not the only one.

Now I am a bit disappointed, but not surprised, that one of the world’s leading media and journalism research institutes is touting a conference for news executive at which they can learn how to exploit UGNC for profitable ends.

Stretching your news budget with user content will be at Poynter’s HQ in St Petersburg Florida and no doubt it will be a fun-filled affair.

Participatory journalism. Crowdsourcing. Pro-am. Whatever you call it, you’re probably debating how to create or expand user content for your organization.

Explore the benefits (and drawbacks) of enlisting volunteers or semi-professionals to cover the stories your professional team can’t. Learn how to maximize impact and create a system that makes sense for your newsroom.

Another interesting development from Poynter is a scheme to give some training to these UGNC newsroom volunteers.

Yes, lift your jaw up off the floor. It’s actually about training them to a level so that they can attain a Poynter Institute “certificate of understanding of journalism basics and skills”.

That is, turning them into real “journalists”. Perhaps not, it will be a low value qualification; probably more aimed at making your volunteer feel special and to not really mind being exploited.

In News 2.0 I suggest that monetizing and exploiting UGNC is going to become more common and that it totally undercuts any suggestions that UGNC will be a real defining challenge to the mainstream.

The MSM is fighting for its survival – this is no more than the dynamic of global capitalism – and it will do so by any means necessary.


World Media Summit – the future of news is in safe hands…not

October 13, 2009

OK, so can you tell me what’s wrong with this picture?

Chinese President Hu Jintao (7th L) poses for a group photo with co-chairpersons of the World Media Summit prior to the summit's opening ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, on Oct. 9, 2009. The two-day summit, hosted by Xinhua News Agency, opened here Friday morning. (Xinhua/Li Xueren)

Chinese President Hu Jintao (7th L) poses for a group photo with co-chairpersons of the World Media Summit prior to the summit's opening ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, on Oct. 9, 2009. The two-day summit, hosted by Xinhua News Agency, opened here Friday morning. (Xinhua/Li Xueren)

Talk about a nightmare featuring Men In Black. This comes pretty close.

The World Media Summit was held in Beijing from 9-11 October 2009 and brought together the leaders of 170 global news media companies to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the news industry in the age of News 2.0.

A number of important speeches were given by eminent people and a long-winded weasel-word statement was issued at the close of the summit.

It’s remarkable for the lack of irony, but the statement called for the news media to be a conduit for “world peace”. Yes, if this sounds like some lame beauty pageant, that’s exactly what it was, viz:

We hope that media organizations around the world will provide accurate, objective, impartial and fair coverage of the world’s news events, and promote transparency and accountability of governments and public institutions, and thus facilitate the mutual understanding as well as exchange of views and ideas among peoples from different countries and regions.

A fine sentiment, particularly given the summit was hosted by the Chinese regime and the keynote address was given by that well-known democrat and champion of media freedom Hu Jintao.

Read the rest of this entry »


The revolution will not be Twitter-ized

June 18, 2009

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

Revolutionary black musician Gil Scott Heron released “The revolution will not be televised” in 1971. It was the first track on side 1 of Pieces of Man.

I put it out there because I think it’s important to reign in a little the “Twitter Triumphalism” around events in Iran over the past few days.

I want to paraphrase GSH: The revolution will not be twitter-ized”

I was on TVNZ this morning discussing the Iran-media/Twitter Revolution stuff.
Vodpod videos no longer available. Posted with VodPod

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A war crime by any other name – Israel’s “shake and bake” attrocities

January 16, 2009

UNRWA Director John Ging said UNRWA’s headquarters — located in a densely populated neighborhood — was hit repeatedly by shrapnel and artillery, including white phosphorus shells — the use of which is restricted under international law.

“It looks like phosphorus, it smells like phosphorus and it’s burning like phosphorus,” Ging said. “That’s why I’m calling it phosphorus.” (CNN 16 Jan 2009)

Under international law, technically, white phosphorus (WP) is not banned as an “obscurant” – but the Israelis know full well that the “secondary” effects are deaths and horrific burns for anyone caught in the hot, burning rain.

Does the use of WP in Gaza constitute a war crime. I think it might.

Read the rest of this entry »


Epic 2015 – what’s beyond the horizon?

September 13, 2008

I was fortunate today to meet and interview Matt Thompson. He’s a journalist, blogger and thinker. He’s also the guy behind the wildly successful viral flash videos Epic 2014 and Epic 2015.

The premise of these 8.5 minute creations is to predict the future of the media in our digital world. They were both created a few years ago now and they tried to look ahead 10 years from when they were produced.

Epic 2014 was made in 2004, but a year later Matt decided it needed updating.

While I was in Columbia, Missouri at the Missouri School of Journalism 100th anniversary celebrations I met Matt and heard him talk about a new project. He calls it “Wikipedia-ing the news”, but admits the name doesn’t really capture what he’s doing.

Matt is a visiting fellow this year at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at MU that was also launched today.

I was able to grab a few minutes with Matt between his break-out session and the official launch where he and the other RJI fellows were announced.

I asked Matt why he had changed some of the content from Epic 2014 in the second version, a year later.

Read the rest of this entry »


The new journalism syllabus?

April 13, 2008

I was pleased a couple of days ago to see a good debate on Mindy McAdam’s excellent Teaching Online Journalism blog. When you read through the entry and the response comments it’s easy to see that journalism educators are struggling with what should be in a 21st century journalism curriculum.

On the positive side, there’s some interesting and useful suggestions being made and some neat stuff being trialled in various journalism schools. The generosity of those who are willing to share what are, essentially, trade secrets is laudable.

I’m not going to repeat all the suggestions and advice here, but I thought an annotated aggregation of the links might be useful. Read the rest of this entry »


If we must teach shorthand what are we not teaching?

March 8, 2008

A friend, Helen M, sent me this link to a recent piece in the US online publication, PR Weekly, it talks about how journalism and journalism education are changing in response to the convergence factor of digital technology.

It lists a whole lot of new stuff that journalism educators and students are/should perhaps be doing in the classroom.

If we continue teaching shorthand,where do we find room for new stuff? What do we leave out?

It might be tempting to argue that more practical stuff should be included at the expense of what detractors call “theory”, or “media studies”. But what about journalism theory?

Isn’t there a place in journalism education for an intellectual discussion about the values and meaning of journalism.

To deny space for such discussions is to doom journalism education and the reporters of the future to repeat the same mistakes over and over. Self-reflection is necessary for the news industry to cope with change; so to is a willingness to embrace change.

In particular, as the industry is changing younger reporters will need new and different skills; the definition of who is a journalist is also changing.

This is not necessarily a new idea, I’ve written about it in Communication & New Media (Hirst & Harrison 2007, OUP) in terms of the changing reportorial community.

Now this is an even more pressing issue because of the rise of the “accidental” journalist, not just the “citizen” journalist. Do we ignore this or embrace it?

There has to be room in the journalism curriculum for these issues to be put in front of students and we also have to think of these issues in terms of our current and future research.


The Future of Citizen Journalism

July 5, 2007

AlterNet: MediaCulture: The Future of Citizen Journalism

This is an interesting column from AlterNet on the future of citizen journalism.

I’m collecting this sort of stuff now because I’m writing a book. The working title is Journalism in the Digital Age: Reporters, reportage and the public sphere. I’m interested in commentary as I go along and I’ve decided on a small experiment: I’m going to blog the book as I write it.

I’m not quite sure what that really means at this point. Perhaps I’ll put extracts or ideas up here for you to question and comment on. I suppose this is really the first entry in that process.