Thursday, July 02, 2009

Blogging a dead horse for News Ltd

Despite my sentimental feelings for the print media I tend to have a morbid fascination for watching the mediums slow demise. Rupert Murdoch's chief Australian minion, John Hartigan delighted my sick obsession no end when he recently chose to attack a symptom rather than the disease.

Obviously you don't need to have insight or intelligence to be a Murdoch minion, so Hartigan seems eminently qualified for the job. Concerned about shrinking interest in print media he chose to attack bloggers:

  • 'all tip and no iceberg' (Incidently stolen from former PM Keating)
  • bloggers, he said lacked resources, training and access to key decision makers.
  • Bloggers make "radical sweeping statements unsubstantiated with evidence"
  • less than 10 per cent of their content was original reporting

Pot calling the kettle black?
I can easily recall Murdoch's media being among those who gleefully promoted a non-existent pandemic, even after the 'deadly' virus was proved to be a dud. Then there where the eager reports of a passenger jet being blasted into the Atlantic ocean, despite there being no available evidence on that mishap at the time of reporting. Oh! Then there were the breathless claims of an incriminating Prime Ministerial email which turned out to be fake. You really need to watch out for those key decision makers.

I'm not about to launch an all out defence of blogging, but will say, lacking the resources of corporate media and depending on genre, blog hits rates are pretty much the same as big media. The fact is there is little by way of new news in either and both systems rely heavily on background and opinion for content.

The future of print
We are undergoing the most dramatic media revolution since Gutenberg, and Gutenberg will doubtless become a hapless victim in the end. Even so, there is still a solid place for print media until the axe finally falls.

My early media training was with a Tasmanian regional paper, The Advocate, under the Harris family. They had a simply and effective rule – local people. They proved that readers wanted stories and pictures which portrayed people in their region, they wanted news of events in their region. This is probably the area Fairfax Media have the drop on News Ltd – Fairfax control much of Australia's regional and local print media.

The old Advocate saw content as more than just something to stop the ads banging together, they saw content as a method to attract readers and buyers. Part of that strategy included outsourcing to local stringers. The fact is there are a lot of talented, potential contributors out there who might better serve print media by being given the opportunity to contribute. Otherwise blogs are one of the few available alternatives.

Still, I doubt Murdoch will understand any of this. After all his publishing failures are more notable than the successes, and News Ltd has only been sustained by... (ooops, I nearly slipped. Sweeping statements unsubstantiated with evidence are the province of corporate media not mere bloggers.)

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