New media networks are undermining traditional media formats yes, but…

Nice piece from Noel Whelan on media change in Ireland (and further afield)… What makes it interesting is the debate (originally between Conor Brady and John Bowman) about which medium was the main ‘significator’ of change in Ireland, newspapers or television.

Whelan is in the Bowman (ie TV) camp:

The Irish Times and other newspapers may have been creating ripples among their own readership segments, but television was the big change agent. There were also, as Brady points out, “clear-minded analysts” who sought to bring “political science to bear on issues that had been smothered in rhetoric” – but it was television that made stars of the best of this generation of political scientists. Television gave them a means for communicating their insight in a way newspapers could never have done.

I don’t question the critical importance of the Irish Times. But in terms of societal impact, this is form pitched against content. Television v print in Ireland, as elsewhere, was a non contest.

The power and centrality of RTE (not to mention the BBC) is jealously sniped at by print journalists, even to this day…

All of this, according to Whelan’s argument, is being replicated (only moreso) in the transition onward towards a new media paradigm:

Social media, blogs and micro-blogs now provide a variety of means through which those wanting to make news or offer views can get the attention of broadcast media or communicate their message directly.

If change in media continues or intensifies on current trajectories, then all newspapers will struggle to exert even a fraction of the influence they currently hold. That is in addition to the commercial pressures they face in order to survive. Broadcast news is likely to be better at adapting, but it, too, will have to adjust to a less significant role.

The question of whether it was television or newspapers what done it matters when considering social and political change in Ireland since the 1960s, but is unlikely to matter much in the coming age of new media.

All of which, naturally enough of course, I agree with… Except in this case, I suspect it goes a lot further and deeper.. not least because newspapers and broadcasters are not by any law of politics or physics preventing from competing in this brave, new, disaggregating world…

There is no predicting the future… As noted on Friday in the latest #DigitalLunch most newspapers have to make a profit otherwise they would not continue to exist.

This is both their advatage, and their burden. Despite the petty corruptions noted by Leveson, along the way the they do a lot of social good, not least paying mortgages and put food on the table for a lot of folk. Blogs, on the whole, do not.

But underneath, the predominant form of human interaction is changing, because the technology by which we communicate has has changed. And changed utterly.

That is not a challenge for media companies alone. New media networks are undermining traditional media formats yes, but more profoundly it is transforming all manner of traditional (ie, hierarchical) institutions: political and commercial.

For instance, It is no longer possible to subdue the imagination of a nation by capturing the TYV station

No one I know articulates this more crisply and more thoroughly than Adriana Lukas… If you watch nothing else this week watch her presentation in Trieste last week:

It is human culture (not just journalism, or politics) that’s being rewired. And, according to Lukas, this is more about how human commerce is changing in its entirety than just money, power and their distribution.

John Waters has made more than his fair share of stupid remarks about the Internet. Yet in his op ed last Friday he got one thing dead right. The Internet IS debasing our public discourse, only it is doing so in way that escapes his own particular analysis.

Waters fights faux offence in the kinds of looked for (and found) idiocy on Twitter with his own mock offence. The Irish Times’ reward is a cool 560 comments (and counting):

Personally, I would prefer if, instead of pursuing individual tweeters, the police arrested Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, and closed his network down. Actually, i wish they wud burn the Twitter founder in oil & leave his carcass out for the buzzards. Seriously.

Seriously (no really, this time) Socrates was forced to drink hemlock for doubting (and encouraging doubts in others) the legitimacy of elective democracy. Yet it has been a feature of the democratic era that the expansion of knowledge (and its own legitimacy) has thrived on such public expression of doubt.

As James Surowieki has noted, “the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise”. Political leaders like Seán Lemass never really ‘got’ TV. His successors had no choice but to trim their sails to the new winds.

These winds may take just as long to work out, but I suspect may have more profound effects on the exercise of political power.

When, as John Pollock notes, you can set up your own satellite truck in the back end of a revolution, taking hold of the minds of the people is no longer as simple as taking over the national TV station.


  • Brian Walker

    All very interesting. Mick is of course a revived phenomenon, a courtly knight of cyberspace helping to create new world of reality and fantasy based on new relationships. Even the word avatar is medieval. For most of us peasants, how difficult it is to achieve perspective in a fast changing world. I’m resting for a moment by trying to relate change to older concepts. Not good enough maybe but it’s how I’m coping with my own share of change so far.

    Social media means we can all opt to listen in to each other’s conversations. It’s certainly interesting that the power of Twitter seems greatest in unfree or chaotic societies. If Twitter had been around in the seventies at the height of the Troubles the propaganda war and maybe the intelligence war would have been very different.

    But today, how many tweets can I, do I want to, take in? How many are worth listening to? How many would many would I know about in MSM, didn’t cover them, reinforcing the celebrity culture? What am I missing? I’m afraid my Twitter and Facebook accounts are languishing and I’m largely deaf to their pleas that pop up on old fashioned email.

    Finding things out and sharing them is part of human nature. Newspaper content as we know it is as essential as ever whatever the platform. New kids will come on the block who have never had their hands stained by printer’s ink. Can they make a living? Can the shared experience needed to create discourse survive? The established media have a head start in the globalising English speaking world.

    Signs are cautiously favourable for the survival of many of them, even though circulations haven’t bottomed out. Mail On line is the world’s biggest new paper website and so on. The FT is following the Guardian’s invasion of the US market. The business models are shaky and the risks are pretty big. But since when did most newspapers make big profits? And what is journalism? A trade, a profession, a hobby? All three these days.

    Broadcasting v newspapers? An increasingly redundant debate, in the coming era of convergence. For public service broadcasting, newspaper opinion is essential to create the elements of debate. PSB (the BBC,RTE), will survive if its stays responsive as well as innovative for the not wholly palatable reason that the State can still set the rules.

    Newspapers will have to meet the challenge of Babel simply by getting better or dying. My local paper the Ealing Gazette , now a free sheet, is covering more local news than ever, sustained by a blizzard of useful local advertising. Judging from the website, the Irish Times badly needs living up and tighter editing. It almost seems to be two papers, one quite hip, the other traditional It should take a stronger consistent lead on economic and political reform and give more space to guest contributors to match their excellent sketches and cultural coverage. More think pieces on economics and whole or half page news features that pull together running themes are essential for those who don’t follow every latest twist in tangled stories.

    Who else is going to do it? There is some good material on Irish blogs. It should be part of the Irish Times’ job to aggregate and develop then in coherent strands. That’s what editing means in a newspaper. It’s not a job for the lonely knight on his quest through cyberspace.

  • Hi, Brian and Mick,

    The current future information and intelligence exchange environments are considerably more nuanced and advanced [simply complex to an immaculately secured, perfectly protected degree] than are able, or is necessary to disclose and expand upon, to be accurately and fully covered and reported upon by any present and/or traditional establishment means, and what they encounter will not be at all dissimilar to that which is freely shared and revealed to all with a need to know and/or an interest in knowing all headlining the lead in 0day post here, dated ….. 120807

    Which apparently in some curious fields of research in development is a great alien landing day for remote space control of smart robotic metadata/mining machines, primed full of dumb simple human tasks with basic programming awaiting a systems upgrade before its work, rest and play cycles begin.

    What could possibly go wrong with such an horrendously long communications chain/link?

  • There’s a juicy piece, just come up, by“>Mark Halperin of Time Magazine.

    Halperin is defining ten “rules” for US journos, trying to second-guess the GOP nomination for the “bucket of warm spit” [© “Cactus Jack” John Nance Garner — I’ve used my ration of hot-links, so if it doesn’t register with you, look it up].

    The connexion with this thread is that Halperin, in passing, notes how the pols are now “playing” the new media:

    5. We’ve never had a veepstakes like this, with so much new media and social media. That gives Boston [i.e. Romney’s central team] fresh opportunities, and also presents new challenges for keeping the pick a secret.

    In every “difficulty”, seek the countervailing “opportunity”, as so many have been able to find in the Mensch affair.

    If you want sauce with that, try Glenn Greenwald at, not overlooking the spiky “update”.

  • Memo to self: treble-check those HTML pastes.