The established mastheads, the well-known daily papery news tomes such as The Age and The Australian have seemingly been wrong-footed by the popularity of the digital medium. They were slow to adopt and put transitory plans in place and, in some cases, chose instead to build a beach head of resistance. A resistance that has proved flimsy to the irresistible avalanche of changed news reading habits.

The loss of revenue by old newspaper revenue stalwarts – such as real estate listings, job advertisements and motor sales – to emerging web companies such as realestate.com.au, seek.com.au and carsguide.com.au is demonstration how unprepared Fairfax and News Ltd were to the changing publishing landscape.

Into the vacuum created by the perceived indecision to ignore the attractiveness to newspaper readers of the web, have come a host of Australian produced news websites.

The Enthusiast

Crikey

The Punch

– are three that have been launched successfully in the last years. All three are in competition with the established news companies and their digital offering. All three look different to the ‘newspaper look’ of their rivals.

Just as there was reluctance to acknowledge the changes in news publishing due to the popularity of the internet, it seems the established news publishing companies are reluctant to deviate much from how their online paper looks to how it looks for sale on a news-stand. Internationally, a number of ideas are being experimented with in an effort to learn more about a perceived alteration in news reading habits from paper to digital:

The Economist: Thinking Space

and this radical idea Read a Twitter stream as a daily newspaper, a site that creates a newspaper based on the links associated with a chosen twitter account. As the site back-end churns through its processing, a waiting motion graphic of newspapers whirring through a press is seen. Is this truly the fate of the printing press? Will a news reader be able to create their own newspaper, with themselves as editor, based on news they alone wish to read? If so, then journalism will be as much about understanding what compels news readers to engage with social networking programs as writing and reporting.

Here is a link to a newspaper I created by punching in the twitter account name for Rolling Stone magazine political and economics reporter, Matt Taibbi

Articles, blogs and other content still needs to be published – the self-edit paper needs content to link to. Self edit, should it take off, likely means much control will be lost by existing established editorial management. Is this a bad thing? It seems reasonable to think Australian newsreaders will still want to link to Australian journalists for their local news but should this process prove popular, they will do so at their own whim. Agenda setting or cosiness between publishing management and commercial or political enterprise will be more difficult to enable.

Advertisements

The effects of the web on how people communicate and how they receive information is undoubtably a global affair.

My aim will be to present the effects of the web on the Australian news industry. I’ll analyse two examples that each represent the polar views expressed in an earlier post.

In relation to these two examples, I’ll ask: How will the web change the look of Australian news?

I’ll discuss the wider, global implications of the web, and then focus on the two Australian examples.

With the onset of digital publishing, brought about because of the popularity of the internet, the portal, the hub, the first point of contact – perhaps the digital newspaper’s masthead and front page – is arguably the most important feature of online news. How do sites drive people to this portal? How do they entice them to explore further? Is it necessary to have a local tone in the same way as The Age is favored by people living in Melbourne over The New York Times?

The digital hub, the look of it, the make-up of it and its functionality, is a vital component of today’s successful news journal. It is therefore an important area of knowledge in a journalist’s skill-base.


I’ve drafted the crux of my interview focus and posted it here for review. This is the letter I propose to send out to my interview candidates in the next few days.

WHAT WILL A SUCCESSFUL NEWS PUBLICATION OF THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE?

At first this may seem fatuous. But I disagree. I think that the look – the first impression given to a discerning, digitally savvy and technology hungry future Australian newsreader – is more important, in the digital age, than it was before. The ability to create ‘intuitively functional’ news applications is now, I hypothesize, just as important a skill in news as writing or photographing.

I think it might be a fun angle and one that is also loaded with important considerations for Australian journalism, to try and anticipate what success will look like. How will it materialise into our lives? Will it be via things like the iPad or Kindle? Will it be a new piece of paper-like screen technology that can be put onto or into anything? Is it something we haven’t seen yet?

A comparison between two existing examples is still relevant. My research is telling me that there is a polarisation of views. One view is characterised by a reluctance to change or remodel behavior. The other is more yielding to trends and adaptable to the changes that these trends force on them. A good example of the second category is Twitter. Twitter has been widely used for two years. Millions of people around the world use it in a very targeted manner. Users select their own feeds. There has been no revenue raising system in place until this was announced today (via twitter itself through a number of subscribers who I feed into)

Anyway. I’m still researching so i won’t go into it until I have some grounding in place, as per the advice given.

I am going to draft the interview questions and organise my chapter headings in the next few days. The headings will be a way, as Mandy suggested, to drag some structure into my discussion and serve to focus my thoughts further.


Musings du-jour

09Apr10

The rise of ecology, which, incidentally was what George Lucas was on about when he dreamt up ‘The Force’ as a law of social adherence for Jedi knights, is touched on in the extensive writings of Clay Shirky. He says the compulsion to be social, a trait that’s been with us since monkey-dom, is now cascading over into our behavior when we log onto online social media. It’s an interesting suggestion to me. It suggests an inevitable and positive metamorphosis.

In terms of my thesis question, this is especially interesting when comparing a progressive example of a journalism interface with a regressive one. I won’t go too much into defining exactly what i mean as it’s in an earlier post in more detail, but, in summary: progressive involves embracing the changes brought about by the rise of things like online social media and the hardware that supports it, regressive resists it in favor of things like a quantifiable, logically understandable pay-wall system.

What has ecology got to do with journalism?

I watched a documentary on TV last night. It equated the human alpha male as an unnecessary, self-fulfilling, stress causing baboon. In it, a biologist studied the social behavior of baboons and the ramifications of stress on their health. What caused them to be stressed was rage enacted on them by hierarchically superior baboons. The biologist theorised that the case is identical for humans. Acts of rage are a way of emphasising superiority. Without emphasising superiority in your social group, you regress backwards in the hierarchy and become stressed and therefore become more prone to health problems. Ecology affects everything. Social behavior is at the root of existence. Darwin’s theory of evolution suggests that it was the intellectual effort needed to become successful as an individual in a group that gave rise to the marked superiority of the human intellect with that of any other species’ intellect. Social behavior is at the crux of our ecology.

Ecology is, according to Shirky et al, at the root of the digital revolution. It’s important to realise that ecology is entirely positive. The demise of journalism as we used to know it, is due to a massive shunt forward in our ecological advancement.

The documentary echoed Shirky’s use of ecological evolution as a descriptor for the digital age. Like the ecologically determined, irresistible urge to connect socially online, there are ecological similarities about how stress behavior in a baboon community is similar to stress behavior in a human community.

The onset of new ways of practicing journalism should be seen as an ecological problem and not a commercial enterprise one, because the urge to be social is an ecological pre-determined trait. It’s stark how something as new, fresh and popular as Twitter hasn’t yet worked out how to make money. So sensitive are they about alienating their users that they tread with caution about causing imposition with blatant advertising or some other type of established and irritating revenue raising system. This is in contrast to the likes of News Ltd who are aggressive advocates of a pay-wall system. News Ltd aren’t listening to the ecological argument being put forward by Shirky and other luminaries of this theoretical voice.

For me it is the ecological explanation about the devastating popularity of social media put forward by the likes of Shirky that is the most plausible and interesting.

Baboons, biology, journalism, computers; all in one grand ecological tumult. Do you love it Mandy?



Still reading.

08Apr10

Interesting grab from an article written by Clay Shirky, lifted from his blog.

To pick a couple of examples more or less at random, last year Barry Diller of IAC said, of content available on the web, “It is not free, and is not going to be,” Steve Brill of Journalism Online said that users “just need to get back into the habit of doing so [paying for content] online”, and Rupert Murdoch of News Corp said “Web users will have to pay for what they watch and use.”

Diller, Brill, and Murdoch seem be stating a simple fact—we will have to pay them—but this fact is not in fact a fact. Instead, it is a choice, one its proponents often decline to spell out in full, because, spelled out in full, it would read something like this:

“Web users will have to pay for what they watch and use, or else we will have to stop making content in the costly and complex way we have grown accustomed to making it. And we don’t know how to do that.”

Shirky, I imagine, would loath to be described as a ‘futurist,’ and actually I’m not too happy using the term either. The argument about the future of news isn’t one between futurists and luddites. Rather, it’s the arrival of a new technology – a new way of life – that’s being described by the likes of Shirky for the first time. The established practice of media companies hasn’t dealt with an affront like this before. Anyone with a computer, an internet connection and a social media profile can network out a piece of journalism about anything they choose.

So, rather than oracles talking about theories about what may become habit, these people – people like Shirky – are merely articulating, with near scientific zeal, what media is becoming. In this way it shares a simpatico with the current climate change Vs climate change denial debate: The debate about the future of how media is made and sold is being peer reviewed. Vast media companies, like vast power companies, are not happy with what has been said to them for years about what’s happening to them now.

In the context of my own thesis, the original idea of a direct comparison between a progressive example and a regressive one seems a good one:

PROGRESSIVE:

A news publication which embraces the causal effect of change brought about by the world wide web. They typically see this change as a means to take advantage of available technology to stimulate readership and increase circulation by catering to an increased expectations for broader and full context coverage. By this I mean an expectation to have visual, audio and written excellence to any given story.

REGRESSIVE:

A news publication that fails to understand the premise of the argument put forward in the excerpt taken from Shirky’s blog (above). Making news publications is now cheaper and the tools for doing so – in all facets from design and layout to distribution – are available cheaply to everyone. Enforcing potential customers to make a choice to pay for content or not, will perhaps castigate customers needlessly, driving them into the arms of amateur, or perhaps more accurately, progressive, commentators.


Hi,

I reckon a blog could be a fine and reasonable way for our triumvirate to flourish.

I’ll endeavor to outline my thesis plan under the page headings i have created on this blog. These being:

  • Introduction. Clearly expressed mission statement/ What i’m doing.
  • Interview candidates. Interview schedule. Draft of interview request form.
  • Textual analysis. Musings on research. Possible angles.
  • Argument and discussion of hypothesis. Chapter headings. What i’ll be adding to the existing research body.
  • Conclusion.

To update my progress: I’m hacking through my usual mental weeds. I took much from Mandy’s parting advice, “talk to yourself Aaron, you’ll find things are much easier if you start talking to yourself”.

So I have.

My elective this semester is Transient Spaces, the subject matter of which is kind of complementary to my thesis ambitions. I’ll be making a documentary about a community theory and publishing this digitally and linking to existing publications related to my documentary subject. Ideally, my doc will then be shared around and become a fixture in the community. My subject is RAGE! – trivial episodes of rage! sometimes experienced during fleeting community memberships we who live in cities must routinely form in or day to day lives. Funnily enough, there are thousands of groups that exist on the many social networking sites that discuss occurrences of rage! in society. Anyway, i digress.

Please feel free to comment. Perhaps me updating my progress via blog provides you with a convenient way to frequently critique, monitor and advise at your leisure.

I’ll make a start at adding content to the pages during the course of the weekend.