Networks versus corporate journalism?

This defence of the ‘old media’ agin the young pretenders from Guardian Ed Alan Rusbridger: though surely some of us bloggers have been around long enough to begin to feel their way beyond petulence of early (and irresponsible) youth!! He argues:

…no one will actually go to the risk and expense of setting up a global network of people whose only aim in their professional lives is to find things out, establish if they’re true, and write about them quickly, accurately and comprehensibly.” Mr Rusbridger said the “blogosphere, which is frequently parasitical on the mainstream media it so remorselessly critiques, can’t ever hope to replicate that”.

However…Suw Charmin questioned this conventional idea of one way benefit to bloggers at an LSE seminar several years ago. It is also ironic that it comes from Rusbridger since the paper’s online brand substantial presence in the US, has largely been achieved through its early notoriety amongst right wing US bloggers.

And connecting with those off site conversations is the thing that has made the Guardian second only to the BBC, as the largest news site in the world. Where I disagree with Russbrigder is in the idea that that kind of corporate capacity cannot be more cheaply achieved by new ‘communities’ of ‘expert’ bloggers and taggers similarly committed to the best journalistic values with advent of the connective Internet. Indeed, the truth is that the best of his team simultaneously hold multiple memberships of the professional (ie salaried) cadre, and a whole slew of more specialist ad hoc communities, out there on the net.

As John Naughton has pointed out there will be no meltdown of the mainstream in the short term. Yet the challenge to create and maintain value is profound. Even advertisers are scratching their heads as to the best way into this new disaggregated landscape, where there are no grand narratives to disrupt. Alan Moore:

New revenue streams have to be created, and also new value. Big media also will no longer be able to dominate markets as it once did. Networking technologies have slain the bockbuster economics of mass media.

  • Although things have changed, changed utterly I am not sure if a terrible beauty will be born or if Chairman Mao’s maxim that a 1,000 flowers should bloom (or some such bs) will come to pass. I feel, in some ways, sites like yours are quasi replacements for bar room talk and though useful, cannot compete with more commercial site, the biggest and meanest of which is Google.They do give their readers a touch for what they are interested in and often, i na ,imited context, much more information that a deadline pressed hack can hope to give.
    The World Cup just goes again to show the flexibility of all the tentacles of the BBC and it will remain centre stage. Nothing will move that. But, meaida wise, sport loses money as it takes a lot to cover and it attracts reades, not advertisers.
    Where the old media lose out is in being the media of record. The Irish Independent, for example, poached Kevin Battle of the Boyne/Somme from the Irish Times. Bad move I think as the crap he specializes in is freely strewn all over the virtual highways and byways.
    Another interesting site in this regard is run by the Irish Jesuits. Its prayer section, now outsourced to Carmelites in Co Down, gets something like 500,000 hits a day. But the Catholic Church has the same problem as Bill Gates: it is platform specific (ein God, ein Pope). People are going to look around a lot more and cherry pick.
    Also, the first two things people look at on newspapers are the TV section and the horoscopes. Maybe you can include them to get your traffic up and make the pinko Guardian see red. The you will be like the Times: readers up, quality down.

    A big kick up the transom for the old mewdia wil be when births, marirages and deaths are put on line. Now there is a business idea.

  • Pete Baker

    The other interesting quote from Rusbridger in the article is this:

    Blogging, he said, was “wonderfully enabling, intoxicatingly democratic, exhilaratingly anarchic” but that it was not going to bring about the end of newspapers or journalistic authority.

    While I agree with the initial point, he appears to mis-diagnose the problem – The threat to newspapers will come when, or rather if, the number of people paying for a particular paper [printed or otherwise] start to drop combined with the potential loss of advertising revenue identified by John Naughton.

    That ties in with his mis-daignosis of the threat to journalistic authority.

    Blogging can, and frequently does, challenge that, often assumed or presumed, authority. And often with very good reason.

    The only way to defend that authority is to keep to a consistently high standard of journalism in the first place – people will grant authority to those who prove themselves consistently to be accurate, whether in print.. or in a blog.

    btw Mick, I was surprised no-one has [yet] posted on this speech at Comment is Free.. seems the natural place to note it.

  • The main place this guy is wrong, imho, is the printed word lacks the speed and flexibility of the e world. So, when a story breaks, say Saddam arrested, we might pick it up on BBC Breaking News. Then we will scour Google-news to read about it and curse BBC for not “having the story yesterday”. All this in a 5-10 minute spell any hour of the day or night. The hard copy guys are meanwhile having to produce more to meet tighter deadlines. Unless they have a Kevin Myers type thing or are really good spinmeisters, they have a problem.
    The Independents on line edition often gives a snippet of Kevin Myers and then say: if you want to read all his crap, buy the Indo. Bad sales pitch imho. Also, when Vinnie Doyle was at the helm, there is no way Myers would have joined the team. Vinnie wanted Irish news, ie news that belongs todaym not tomorow, yesterday or July 1916.

    The Daily Maincihi, a Japan based scandal rag, stopped its hard copy sales and are now totally on line. They monitor their traffic and tailor their stories and the prominence they give them. They also supply Japanese copy to MSN as part of MSN’s global hearts, minds and profit operation.

    The Guardian, meanwhile, is playing its own blog game and though the article cited here has not got many responses, others have. The Guardian, besides being a $%&* paper, lacks the homeliness of a blog. So some people would prefer to post here rather than there. And if there are 1 million heres and only 1 there, there is a problem.
    The BBC as the biggest beast in the jungle is a different animal. They are really big boys’ league and can cut out, gobble up and spit out the smaller animals, The Guardian included. The age of the dinosaurs is back. And those dudes lasted millions of years. And the crocodiles, the species most naturally adapted to their environoment are still with us and occasionally consume us for lunch.
    Check out the bebo and other kiddy sites. Many of them, when asked their favourite book ,say they don’t read at all. Bad news there for The Guardian in an era when mass reach (BBC) or niche reach (slugger) might be upon us.
    Bottom line: Things are changing.

    President Rutherford B. Hayes to Alexander Graham Bell in 1876 on viewing the telephone for the first time: “That’s an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them

    I remember the same talk about the cell phone.

  • Pete Baker


    An interesting follow-up article in the Guardian today:

    “From tomorrow, the Guardian will publish stories first to the web, ending the primacy of the printed newspaper.”

    Has anyone told the editor?