The commercial blindspot:Funding news

The idea of the weekend – a £2 levy on broadband that can be used to pay for journalism.

There are almost 20m UK households that are paying upwards of £15 a month for a good broadband connection, plus another 5m mobile internet subscriptions. People willingly pay this money to a handful of telecommunications companies, but pay nothing for the news content they receive as a result, whose continued survival is generally agreed to be a fundamental plank of democracy.

A £2 levy on top – collected easily from the small number of UK service providers (BT, Virgin, Sky, TalkTalk etc) who would add it on to consumers’ bills – would raise more than £500m annually. It could be collected by a freestanding agency, on the lines of the BBC licence fee, and redistributed automatically to “news providers” according to their share of UK online readership.

The logic being, I suppose, that all these big broadband companies make all this money from our hard-earned content, isn’t it about time they paid. Oh, and you consumers need to get that idea of free out of your mind as well.

Roy Greenslade thinks it’s a great idea but there are problems.

Of course there are problems to overcome, such as persuading the various service providers – BT, Virgin, Sky, TalkTalk et al – to become “tax collectors” for news outfits. But a case can be made that they benefit from news production.

The other concern is about big media getting benefits unavailable to start-ups. But I imagine there could be a mechanism to distribute a portion to them as well.

I’m not surprised by the prevailing argument – the web is stripping journalism of it’s inherrent value so they should pay. As much as people would love to think we are beyond it, the anti-digital curmudgeon class still exists in journalism.

I’m more surprised. No staggered by the willful act of ignorance required to simply dismiss the issue of what would essentially be a bail out .

It’s a chilling thought that some of the best, most respected and senior journalists around can still flick a switch in their heads that separates the ‘journalism’ that they do from the organisations that they work for. That somehow journalism transcends the reality of money.

I’m not sure if it’s a blindspot (so steeped in journalism they fail to see the building and infrastructure around them) or blinkers (that many still have a hard-on for making evil digital pay). Whatever it is the idea is as sad for the attitudes it highlights as it is misguided.

Update: Dominic Ponsford has decided that David Leigh’s broadband tax plan is bonkers . But his article is just as bad. Instead of taxing broadband he wants to tax Google.

How well would Google do without all the free editorial content which it is indexing I wonder?

I think (and I might be wrong) they’d be ok, but I digress. Yes, the media benefits from Google…

But with Google UK ad revenues set to top £3bn this year the newspaper industry owners are increasingly looking like householders who, having been woken in the night by burglars, rush downstairs to make them a cup of tea before helping them into their van with the flatscreen TV and the silverware.

The logic might appeal if you are frustrated at the lack of solutions to the complex issue of sustaining journalism. But replacing broadband with google is just as simple and transparent.

More: This response to the original idea is brilliant.


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No such thing as free money to save the local press

As I was leafing through the Guardian on Saturday morning I came across an article with the rather alarming headline

Google news tax could boost local papers, report says

Google and other websites that carry news they do not produce should be taxed and the money generated used to prop up local newspapers, says a report which warns control of the media is concentrated in too few hands.

I tweeted it and got a number of interesting replies:

The report comes from the Carnegie trust UK’s commission on Making Good Society. It does indeed set out a suggestion for Industry levies citing Institute for Public Policy Research research that a 1% levy on pay TV providers of 1% “bring in around £70m a year”

A similar fee imposed on the country’s five mobile operators could generate £208m a year. Making Google meet its full tax liability in Britain would boost the pot by a further £100m.‘ The same IPPR report argues that ‘such sums could save many local newspapers and web sites from closing down, could stop the destruction of local and regional news on ITV and could help new media start-ups to plug these gaping holes in public service provision – all without the taxpayer having to stump up any more cash and without having to raid the licence fee.’

But the report also makes it clear that the money would come with something of price

Levies on the use of aggregated material have the potential to generate significant revenue to support the production of new public service and local content, involving civil society associations. If this form of funding were to be explored, changes in regulation would be needed to ensure that revenues go to original news producers and not just to those who present and disseminate material. Original news reporting needs to be supported so that it is financially viable; this could require charging those who are not authorised to use and distribute this material.

Not quite free money from a google tax.

The whole report makes for an interesting read (I mean genuinely interesting not that other academic definition of interesting)

It’s pretty wide ranging but it singles out “democratising media ownership and content as one of it’s four main areas where “a stronger civil society could make the most difference”

A whole chapter (chapter 3) is devoted to trying to understand the pressures on and drivers of news production and the impact that has. They are clear that technology plays a key part citing radical cultural shifts associated with pervasive technology and the rise of ‘digital natives;’ as an uncertain driver of change. But the discussion is a bit more broad ranging:

…[D]espite the proliferation of online platforms, more of the news we receive is recycled ‘churnalism’ and aggregated content. Trends of concentration in media ownership and increased pressure of time and resources have narrowed the sources from which original news derives. Moreover, the centralisation of news production and neglect of local issues has particular repercussions for access to information across the UK and Ireland, especially in the devolved nations.

And it’s clear where the problem is:

…the central issue affecting traditional news providers is not the decline of audiences or interest in news, but the collapse of the existing business model jeopardising the democratic role of journalism. According to the National Union of Journalists: ‘The media industry is essentially profitable but the business model is killing quality journalism.’

Media concentration.
When I first read the Guardian article I bristled at the idea of a google tax of newspapers. Why? Because we would essentially be propping up commercial organsiations who still work at a profit. It would be akin to a bail out. So I found myself drawn to the areas of ownership and centralization in particular. The report is pretty robust here.

The challenge of creating original content and the diminishing number of newspapers is further compounded by the concentration of media ownership in relatively few hands…..with four dominant publishers controlling 70% of the market share across the UK

That concentration of ownership and the influence it exerts is cited as a “key obstacle to transparent policy-making which incorporates a sustainable role for civil society associations” Which comes from the ‘continuing and intimate relationship between key corporate interests and policy-makers; a relationship whose bonds are rarely exposed to the public’

Their suggestion seems to be that the Scott Trust/Guardian model is more likely to serve the development of a pluralist media landscape than a purely commercial one. But it sounds a note of caution

While independent funds directly supporting journalism can come with strings attached and endowments are not immune from economic pressures, philanthropic funding can help preserve journalistic independence and secure guarantees on public service content.

General suggestions.
The big ticket suggestions like tax breaks and levies are balanced by some more specific suggestions that form the main discussion of the chapter.

  • Growing local and community news media.
  • Protecting the free, open and democratic nature of the internet.
  • Strengthening the transparency and accountability of news content production.
  • Enhancing the governance of the media.
  • Protecting the BBC.
  • Redirecting revenue flows to promote diversity and integrity.

Their ideas for strengthening transparency include the suggestion of a Kite mark that shows no dis or mis-information. Good luck with that one.

But back to funding, the last three points are interesting in themselves.

When they talk about enhancing the governance of the media they say that”

“All news organisations in receipt of public funding should actively engage with the public and with civil society associations, through their governing bodies as well as through their daily practice.”

Which could only really mean the BBC right? But in developing the suggestion of redirecting the revenue flow they:

…want to see new funding models explored: for example, tax concessions, industry levies or the direction of proportions of advertising spend into news content creation by civil society associations, or into local multimedia websites.

The price of public money.
My reading of the report was that nothing comes for free. In an earlier chapter the financial sector comes in for a real battering. But though the media orgs are more delicately handled the implicit message is still the same. All the money that could come from tax breaks, funding and other sources comes at a cost. That cost is de-centralisation, openness, stronger regulation and in transparency (a phrase that seems to disappear mid report to be replaced by integrity)

Would be nice but I can’t see it happening.

The full report is available here.

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Print and the newsroom center of gravity.

“In every newsroom there’s a power center, and the reporters know where the power center is and they will follow it,” says Ken Sands, former online publisher at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash. “I can’t think of one regional paper that is run by a Web person. You have [print] people running them who have been in the same kind of jobs for 25 years. At the regional level, that is jeopardizing the need to make substantial changes.”

That’s a quote from an interesting article on Editor and Publisher which asks When Will a Web Editor Lead a Major Newsroom? . The article is specifically about the changes at the Washington Post. But that quote resonated with me. Especially the part about the regional level.

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‘Councils should not build TV services with public money’ – Press Gazette

Bob says 'come and have a go if you think you're good enough'

In my own life I’ve seen it a thousand times, where there was the old rock’n’roll establishment beating up the punks, which I was part of, or it was the Aid establishment beating up Band Aid and Live Aid. But the reality is that there was room for the Rolling Stones and the Clash; there was room for Save the Children and Live Aid and so too there’s room for Kent Messenger and Kent TV and they sort of supply completely different services; I get my daily paper every day, but I’m also online every day

So says Bob Geldof. One of the founders of uberindie TenAlps and the company running Kent TV, Kent County Councils broadband TV service. But he wasn’t just plucking the Kent Messenger out of the air.

There’s been an ongoing debate about Kent TV, the latest round of which has seen Kent Messenger Group chairman Geraldine Allinson use the Westminster Media Forum debate in London to stress that ‘Councils should not build TV services with public money’.

Of course of course Bob is bullish about the reasons for the Kent Messengers dislike of the project. In his exclusive interview with Kent TV(who else):

This spurious beating up of Kent TV, on the notion that it’s political is rubbish. It’s a commercial attack. So, do it honourably and compete with us. We’ll win because we’re better, and regardless of who initiated this in Kent, they showed foresight. so competing on the commercial level, I love it, I love the challenge and if we lose, we lose ‘cos we’re not good enough, but competing, playing footsie with your political pals, ah that’s naff and it’s not what business should do.

But KMG are not the only ones up in arms. The Press Gazette reports similar worries for ITV Local director of programming and content Lindsay Charlto

“When council taxpayers wake up to the fact that half a million pounds is being spent on a television service on their behalf, they may have something to say about it,” he said.

“If you replicated that across the country I think there would be a public outcry.

“My own view is they shouldn’t be building television networks with public money.”

Outcry at public money being spent on a public service? Really. Well, I suppose it depends on whether you take the public service view or the commercial view.

I think Paid Content pegged the motivation of the council when they reported on the Kent Messenger groups efforts, through FOI requests, to work out just how much this was costing:

In a way, this issue is a mirror of opposition to BBC Local video plans. Is it logical that a local authority launches a web video news operation? Yes – in these days of local news cutbacks, every local government should want to guarantee a line of communication with voters. The side-effect – that much-loved spectacle of competition between the council and its local newspaper.

I think the Kent Messenger are right to question where public money is being spent – -that’s the job of a journalist after all. But when Geraldine Allinson suggests that “Some would argue that is a very unlevel playing field.” You have to have some sympathy with Geldof.

For me the real problem here, and where I think it differs from the BBC question,  is that the regional media cannot compete here. It really is a catch 22.

They can’t get on board with the council as that will simply leave both open to accusations of bias. But they cannot compete with a product backed by that much money because they have no infrastructure to do it.

Rather than throw stones, it may be better to question the process but let it develop (and perhaps fail) on its own. In the mean time they should concentrate on sharpening and matureing that questioning voice in a multiplatform environment. Maybe then they would have something to compete with.

The Grassy Knol: Google’s ‘attack on media’

The appearance of Google Knol seems  to be causing some consternation in the J-bloggashpere.  The general tone is that the search giants new ‘encyclopedia’ is a step too far.

Danny Sanchez frames his (very balanced) take with a quote from Google CEO Eric Schmidt

We’re in the advertising business – 99% of our revenue is advertising-related. But that doesn’t make us a media company. We don’t do our own content. We get you to someone else’s content faster.

Danny’s argument is that Knol is very firmly about generating content (and revenue from it ) rather than simply hosting it. He continues.

Knol also represents a potential conflict of interest in Google’s own search results. If Knol articles are meant to be “authoritative articles about specific topics,” those familiar with search engine optimization will see the red flag.

You can see the dilema. Authority, advertising and effective search. That’s what google is offering whith Knol working alongside its other offerings.  And that’s what the media industry has been spending a good deal of time and money trying to buid.  The truth is Google have always and will always do it better – up to a point.

Stable door…

It’s common sense that Google, like many of the other web giants out there, are something to learn from rather than challenge. So I’m not sure that accusing a company, with an effective business model and sensible development strategy, of killing of the competition, especially if the competition is no competition at all is going to cut much ice.

The economic environment of the web may have changed since Google was a fresh faced start up. But first to market is still first to market. A retrospective ‘monopolies and mergers’ approach to leveling the playing field could backfire. Look at the way the record industries protectionist stance has hit their market.

We are not Google

In this instance I think the market will decide. The ubiquity of Google in the search market will mean that people will start to look around for their content. Perhaps we will see the re-emergence of the metafilter search. Maybe the idea that journalists will become the trusted filters will be where we need to focus. As more than one person has said – we need to do what we do best and ignore the rest.

But here are some things to consder along the way. Perhaps reasons, maybe excuses. But things that we need to think about:

  • Google don’t need to ‘fix’ search results they profit either way.
  • SEO fixes the results- even ethical SEO – that skews results
  • Trust is earned – we have still have a surplus (I think we do) we should invest it wisley
  • I bet the media write a story ‘slamming’ the quality of information on Knol before someone writes a Knol attacking the accuracy of the media
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Music industry lessons.#2million

The Guardian has an article outlining BSkyB’s plans to build an itunes killer in partnership with Universal.

The new service, scheduled to launch this year, will combine an unlimited on-demand jukebox service with a set number of monthly downloads that can be saved, even if users stop subscribing, for a single monthly charge.

There are positives. The music would be DRM free and, as the Guardian points out, this could be the thawing of relations between “ISPs and record labels over a future model that will reduce piracy and establish new revenue streams.”

It will also be available to everybody. But…

…Rob Wells, Universal Music International‘s senior vice-president of digital, said it was “an inevitability” that Sky would eventually bundle music subscription into its broadband and television packages. He said that once consumers became used to a combination of subscription services and paid-for downloads it would become the dominant way of listening to music.

Ahh, if only the future where that easy to control Rob. So, the logic seems to be as soon as we can get people back in to the idea that there is only one place to download this stuff, we are back in the record shop model again. Thank God.

So why is this a lesson from the Music industry? What can the journalism industry learn from this?

I think it comes from asking a simple question: When there is a workable service out there, why build another one?

The only possible answer to that is because ‘we can control it’.

Don’t duplicate. Collaborate and Innovate.

I know that right now there are newspaper groups who are paying developers to code photo share, blogging, ad platforms etc. You are. Admit it. If they aren’t doing that, they are buying them in and re-engineering them. Great. Some innovation there. But it seems to me that the best way forward is to collaborate.

Ownership of the platform only goes so far. What you gain in control you will eventually lose in market share. Surely we know this from the decline in print.

Having a presence, and leveraging that with your core audience is more valuable

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Turning the tide…more lessons from the music industry

The law. It’s a legal minefield isnt it? (always start with a bad pun)

As a journalist time was you only had to worry about libel and contempt and anything else got referred up. Now, the law for journalists, is as much about access to information.

And that’s not just about getting access to information. It’s also about controlling how your information – your identity and content is protected online. But more about legal issues tommorrow.

Bill Thompson has been mulling over the issue of control in a post about the proposed changes to communications and media legislation being suggested by the EU. Some see it as a charter to protect the big Media companies at the expense of freedom of information. Bill isn’t convinced the legislation is anti-freedom.

In fact he goes a step further, highlighting what he sees as a positive step to prevent big Media companies making good on their plans to cut people off from the net if they are repeatedly caught downloading copyright music.

That’s what the music industry wants at the moment – if you dare to damage their economic viability then you have to be excluded from everything the internet has to offer.

Bill has some sensible advice to those who might suffer at the hands of those who wield the heavy club when it comes to protecting their interest.

Perhaps the 21st Century industrial giants might like to have a quiet word with the record industry and tell them to give up trying to stop the digital tide coming up the beach.

Cnut knew it was impossible but had to show his sycophantic advisors that the sea was no respecter of monarchy.

But at an industry level, despite warnings that lessons from the music industry give us, the media often resort to these Cnut tactics. The MSM’s use and threat of legal recourse to protect their interests has been seen by some as fighting fire-with-fire.  But it seems to be behavior that, if it contnues, is sure to kill the changes the indusrty needs to make.

That’s not to say the journalism indusrty should advocate piracy. No. The point here is that the big-gun politics will eventually come back to hurt them. Take the recent AP bloggers debacle as an example.

We know that the industry is attempting to position itself in the middle of the share economy. It relies on the community around it for advertising, for support and, increasingly for content and that means giving ground and changing our behaviour. And in that respect we still have a way to go to really open things up.

It’s a big market out their. Some of it is exactly where the industry should be. Some of it is not. Some of it is where we used to be but aren’t any more. We should go gracefully.

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The EU, blogging, community and ownership

Isn’t twitter great (when it’s working). Mark Comerford shared a link to a report on an EU report – no, no, keep reading, honest it’s good (and not about the Irish referendum.)

The report goes under the title of DRAFT REPORT on concentration and pluralism in the media in the European Union (PDF link) that’s (2007/2253(INI)) if you are interested.

It’s got some great stuff in there. Here are a few of the recommendations and my immediate thoughts on the thing.

Proposes the introduction of fees commensurate with the commercial value of the user generated content as well as ethical codes and terms of usage for user-generated content in commercial publications;

Suggests clarifying the status, legal or otherwise, of weblogs and encourages their voluntary labelling according to the professional and financial responsibilities and interests of their authors and publishers;

Think about the implications of that for community and professional alike. Fees for citizen journalism and full disclosure on ‘professional’ blogs.

The draft report was authored by “Estonian Socialist” Marianne Mikko. Mikko told the EU news service “the blogosphere has so far been a haven of good intentions and relatively honest dealing. However, with blogs becoming commonplace, less principled people will want to use them”.

But here is the headliner.

Asked if she considered bloggers to be “a threat”, she said “we do not see bloggers as a threat. They are in position, however, to considerably pollute cyberspace. We already have too much spam, misinformation and malicious intent in cyberspace”. She added, “I think the public is still very trusting towards blogs, it is still seen as sincere. And it should remain sincere. For that we need a quality mark, a disclosure of who is really writing and why. ”

So be careful next time you blog.

Later: Craig McGinty has a suggestion for Mikko:

if Marianne Mikko wants to see some fine examples of where people have made available information to others in an open and transparent manner drop in on some case studies of Creative Commons projects.

Ownership and diversity

The basis of the report though is not blogging and user generated content. The report identifies those as key parts of the growing richness and diversity of the media landscape. It’s that diversity (the pluralism of the title) that needs defending.

The draft notes:

whereas the primary concern of media businesses may be financial profit, media remains an ideological and political tool of considerable influence, which should not be treated solely on economic terms,

and it isn’t long before the issue of public service crops up.

The report recognises that the public service media needs a sizable and stable market share to fulfil its mission but urges it to avoid unfair competition and pursuit of the market share for its own sake. It point out that whereas in certain markets the public service media is a leading market participant, it mostly suffers from inadequate funding and political pressure.

Isn’t that just made for the current BBC Vs. regional press debate.

But whilst the report:

Recommends that the regulations governing state aid are implemented in a way allowing the public service media to fulfill its function in a dynamic environment, while avoiding unfair competition leading to impoverishment of the media landscape;

The UK newspaper industry continue to be bullish despiet the offer of an olive branch from the BBC. David Newell, director of the Newspaper Society told

“The BBC’s 60 local websites already compete head-to-head with regional newspaper websites and its expansion plans, combined with its cross-promotional power, threaten to steal away audiences and undermine the ability of publishers to pursue their own digital development strategies, which are so important to the future of local media in the UK,”

Perhaps the EU may give the newspaper industry the leverage it needs.

Will regulation protect diversity?

Whatever the result it seems clear that the EU see regulation as the best protector of pluralism. The report…

Stresses the need to institute monitoring and implementation systems for media pluralism based on reliable and impartial indicators;

Part of me can’t help but feel uncomfortable with that. Whilst the report is pretty intellegent (if brief) it seems that the weight of regulation will be on freedom of expression where the only plurality that will be protected would be the plurality of commercial interests.

But what do you think.

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Transparency: Don’t look at me…

A number of browser tabs to consume already today – damn the reader. But rather than tag them all to delicious I thought I would give them a bit more discussion (a la Mark and his Daily squibs)

Speaking of things ‘a la’. Richard Titus over at the BBC internet blog has been thinking flattery rather than theft as a number sites pop up bearing an uncanny resemblance to the new BBC web design. The post has a boat load of useful information about some of the thought processes behind the page design and is a pretty mature response to the issue. There is also a great link to the BBC’s open source project with some nifty flash libs amongst other things.

Whilst I’m on the BBC blogs site I would recommend a quick scan of Steve Herrmanns blog about the physical shifting of journalists to their ‘new’ multimedia newsroom. A nice level of transparency.

And transparency (see what I did there) is a word that pops up in newspaper land. A nifty bit of video from the The Spokesman Review about their efforts at transparency gives the US perspective and, in the UK, the recent efforts by the Liverpool Echo Daily Post,(sorry Alison) and now one or two others, has given pause for thought. Joanna Geary asks just how open should newspapers get and gets some interesting comments back.

A lot of the discussion seems to be around trust and image. Or let’s put it another way, if we look like idiots (as you do on camera) then people will trust us less. Others worry about nutters – plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. And others worry about placing the journalist at the heart of a story – erm, isn’t that where they should be in a community focused local newsroom.

Inching to success

Maybe another reason for not liking an all-seeing-eye in the newsroom is to avoid the bosses being able to get a handle on the amount of content you are creating. A number of pixel/inches have been given over to Sam Zells 50/50 equation for editorial and ads. A good Fortune article outlines the broader issue. But it’s an article in Slate that extrapolates the equation and applies it to Zell’s plans to measure productivity based in word count.

The Slate article picks up on a Editor and Publisher article by Jennifer Saba which highlights just what an accountants wet dream this policy seems to be. Worse still just how preriously close to ‘never mind the quality, feel the width” this is. Saba quotes Tribune Chief Operating Officer Randy Michaels:

Chicago Tribune is typically 80 pages per edition, and then compared that count with the Wall Street Journal — which is around 48 pages on average. “If we take the Los Angeles Times to a 50/50 ratio eliminating 82 pages a week, the smallest papers would be Monday and Tuesday at 56 pages. It’s still larger than the Wall Street Journal. … We can save a lot of money by producing the right size newspapers.”

You might say, Oh, those crazy yanks. But I guarentee there are some UK newspaper execs looking at the logic, and thinking hard.

And finally, whilst some might see measuring word-counts as a step backwards, transparency as too brave a brave new world, Ryan Sholin reminds us that the good old day’s and the past are different things.

If you can’t be bothered to post a breaking news story online after your print deadline, try yelling “Stop the press!” sometime. (Good luck with that one.)

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Braindump -owning up to ownership

Marking has done a good job of getting in the way of things – shows up my inability to multi task doesn’t it – but i’ve been storing up one or two bits to go at thanks to Taboo. So here goes a brain dump on the theme of ownership- sorry

In a kind of last-in-last-out thing taboo served up a story I had tabbed about the process of recovering a stolen laptop. One Joey Carenza III has been remote accessing a friends laptop that was stolen and used it to harvest a large amount of data (including screenshots) before the guy worked out how to stop (most of) it. It’s a great story which reminds me of the infamous stolen sidekick story. My favourite part:

That being said, today I found out this guy is: 27, an ex-con, i know his DOB, his mom’s maiden name (thanks e-bay!! – he has been shopping ebay for a police scanner…i wonder why?), he belongs to local sex/date hook up site , his email address, and today i snapped a screen shot so clear, that you can read the lettering on his ink.

Scary, hey!

Whats yours is mine

Perhaps the techno-donkey thief could argue that possession is 9/10th’s of the law. If he was a journalism manager he could be right.  Over at Poynter Christopher ‘Chip’ Scanlan uses his Chip on the shoulder column (see what he did there) to ask who owns the stories that reporters write. Or rather, he asks who should own them: the journalists who produce it or the companies that publish it? So is it what you write or the means for people to access it?

Interesting question. For what it’s worth (insert magical prediction music here) I predict a state of play where journalists are employed on a profit share basis and editors become content agents. Think football without the salaries and a transfer window rather than silly season.

And on the subject of ownership, the idea of who owns local raises it’s ugly head again. The Newspaper Society has announced the imminent publication of its ‘six-figure’ called Local Matters, that will prove that newspapers are the only ones allowed to exploit local audiences, sorry,  help “isolate the real differences in needs, activities and attitudes across the UK, and how local media continues to play a vital role in people’s lives.”

How much of this is about users/audience/local people? Didn’t see any ‘community’ on the list of their recent, by strick invite only, Local matters conference. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of livings at stake here and I realise the Newspaper society is there to help the industry but here is a little hint. Serve the local community properly rather than trying to keep the compatiton out and you may get a bit more loyalty (and business).


Still, perhaps you can’t blame the trad-media (and that is pretty much newspapers these days isn’t it) for being a little defensive.  They’ve been playing by the rules – all be it ones they made up – for years and then others just ignore them, right? Take this from firedoglake founder Jane Hamsher:

“It’s hurting America that journalists consider their first loyalty to be to their subjects, and not to the people they’re reporting for,” she said. Told, for example, that the Times ethics policy states that “staff members should disclose their identity to people they cover (whether face to face or otherwise),” Ms. Hamsher was dismissive. In the context of political reporting, she said, such guidelines are intended to “protect this clubby group of journalists and their high-ranking political subjects, and keep access to themselves.

Ouch! She was responding to the actions of Huffington post journalist Mayhill Fowler in a  NY Times story earlier in the week.

Eyebrows where at full raise over Fowler’s antics at the front of a press scrum which elicited some off colour comments by Bill Clinton. The big problem – she didn’t say she was a journalist – as she told the LATimes:

“Of course he had no idea I was a journalist,” Fowler said by phone from her Oakland home, recalling her close encounter with Clinton for “Off the Bus,” a citizen journalism project hosted by the Huffington Post website. “He just thought we were all average, ordinary Americans who had come out to see him. And, of course, in one sense, that is what I am.

The death of the gentleman

Phrases like deception and dishonesty have crept in to the debate around Fowler’s actions. I think that’s strong. We have a saying in the UK for someone not playing by the rules – it’s just no cricket. It belongs to a time past when only a gentleman had the time to learn and play cricket. So to not follow the rules, well you weren’t being a gentleman.

In so many ways the trad-media is a gentleman’s club playing cricket. But why are they so surprised when no-one else plays by the rules.

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