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Industrial Journalism

Critiques of News Media by Replay-Relay Audiences

The next speaker at Transforming Audiences is Christian Christensen, who begins by highlighting the emergence of what he calls the 'replay-relay audience'. One example here is the discussion between Daily Show host Jon Stewart and MSNBC financial host Jim Cramer about the quality of MSNBC's financial coverage; another is Stephen Colbert's White House Correspondents' Association dinner speech in 2006, which tore into both the Bush administration and the mainstream media for their coverage of Bush's administration; yet another is Jon Stewart's 2004 appearance on CNN's Crossfire, which ultimately led to the demise of that show after Stewart fatally critiqued the show's format and its effect on journalism and public discourse in America.

Changing Patterns of News Media Use in Austria

The next session at Transforming Audiences starts with Birgit Stark, presenting a longitudinal study of Internet and traditional news media in Austria. This operates in the context of the question of whether online news is replacing ot complementing print newspapers and other news sources. Here, current research is not yet conclusive, Birgit says - the phenomenon of media substitution, if it does exist, is still in development, and while there are some indications that especially younger users are replacing older news media with online news, it is unclear how far this trend may go.

The Power of News Agencies over Journalism

The final speaker in this ANZCA 2009 session is Jane Johnston, whose interest is in the economy of news agencies - and she begins with a couple of hoax press releases which were converted into mainstream news stories by the Australian-based press agency AAP. Such stories were widely published by a number of Australian mainstream online news sites and newspapers.

This is great success for the press release writers, but it was conversion into stories by the AAP which created such wide coverage; it highlights the role of press agencies, and points to the near-monopoly of the AAP as a news agency in Australia.

New Models for Journalism, beyond the Citizen

The next session at ANZCA 2009 starts with a paper by my colleague Terry Flew, who is also the chair of the conference. He begins by noting the old trope of the journalist as hero (as embodied for example by Messrs. Woodward and Bernstein in the Watergate affair), and its decline (Glenn Milne is the anti-hero in this context). There are substantial impacts of Web 2.0 technologies on contemporary journalism, of course, and there are serious questions about the future role of journalism. News organisations have most trouble, in fact, not in coming to terms with new technologies but with this new lack of deference to their once powerful position.

Editorial Independence versus Product Placement

The next speaker at Alcatel-Lucent Foundation / HBI 2009 is Volker Lilienthal, Augstein Foundation Professor at the University of Hamburg. He notes the reception theory-based definition of quality which Rainer Esser highlighted in the previous presentation, but himself continues with a production theory-based definition, which holds that journalists can also produce quality journalism even if their audience is no longer interested in such content.

Product placement, he notes, may be acceptable if editorial independence remain unaffected. But how can this work in a concrete case - editors and journalists, after all, are employees of their organisations, and are unlikely to be entirely independent from their economic agendas. Journalists must try, though, to make clear decisions about what content is relevant, what audiences should be confronted with, and what content is merely a result of particular business or other interests.

Quality Journalism Is Defined by Its Audiences

Up next at Alcatel-Lucent Foundation / HBI 2009 is Rainer Esser, Managing Director of the Zeit publishing house (which publishes Germany's leading weekly newspaper). He begins by suggesting that there will always be a market for quality journalism - but what is defined as quality journalism may be changing. If conventional 'quality journalism' no longer has a market in the current environment, this isn't the fault of users who 'are no longer interested in quality' - it is a problem with diverging definitions of 'quality' between producers and users.

Business Models for Journalism: Forget Paid Content!

The next speaker at Alcatel-Lucent Foundation / HBI 2009 is Holger Schmidt, from the conservative daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (but he is quick to point out that he does not speak on the paper's behalf here). He asks what business models exist online, and notes the suggestions (by Rupert Murdoch and others) to implement paid content models - not least since free content models online are supposed to undermine paid models for print newspapers (but, he notes, the audiences for online and offline news content are hardly identical).

Funding Quality Content?

We move on now to the economic perspective on quality content at Alcatel-Lucent Foundation / HBI 2009, and begin with Klaus Goldhammer from Goldmedia. He notes the current financial crisis; Germany's economy is expected to shrink by 6%, for example, and this has led not least also to the demise of a number of major magazine publications in the country. There has been a 20% decline in the circulation of German newspapers over the past ten years (leading some to increase their sales price); there was a 82% decrease in the stock price of leading commercial television company ProSiebenSat.1; while at the same time proceeds from television licences to the public broadcasters have increased substantially.

After a Lengthy Silence...

Never go on holidays... Looks like a few days into my holiday on the Sunshine Coast, one of the electrical storms sweeping through Brisbane these days knocked out the server, even in spite of various forms of surge protection. Ah well - a motherboard replacement and some serious fiddling with Linux later (massive thanks to Nic Suzor for pointing me to the tip that enabled my successful necromancy), here we are again.

And while we're here, I might as well note that the audio and Powerpoint from my Interactive Minds presentation on 27 November are now online. I'm afraid the audio quality is, shall we say, 'for collectors only', but here it is, for what it's worth. This end-of-year IM event aimed to highlight trends in 2008 and predictions for 2009, and regular readers of this blog will recognise a few of my recurring obsessions. Many thanks to Jen Storey for the invite.

Australian Publishers Online: Still No Clue on the User-Generated Content Front?

The final Australasian Media & Broadcasting Congress panel for today shifts our focus from broadcasting to (print as well as online) publishing. Hugh Martin, General Manager of APN Online, opens the discussion by noting the long history of developing online counterparts to print newspapers (and the slightly shorter history of doing the same for magazines). He points to the recent announcement that the Christian Science Monitor is soon to cease its print version, moving entirely to an online newspaper, while magazine publisher Condé Nast has a very hard time working out how to make money online.


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