May 2010


So the new paywall websites of the Times in the UK have gone live. They look mighty impressive (images here courtesy of Press Gazette). Will they work? A survey says 90 per cent won’t pay. Perhaps not, but anyone who is a fan of the Times is likely to be tempted by the additional content.

It got me thinking about whether good old Rupert might look home and think about doing the same Down Under.

And then I realised he simply couldn’t. The problem is the internet in Australia is terrible. Unless you are happy to pay through the roof for unlimited downloads, you normally have to settle for a cap. And most are truly rubbish (I’m currently suffering with a 2GB cap, which is really nothing).

What, you may ask, does that have to do with newspaper websites? Well judging by the Times preview there is a massive focus on multimedia, be it exciting photo galleries or video news. Added to that are live Q&A and other interactive features.

All fun and games but guaranteed to eat at your download limit quicker than readers flip to the Beeb’s site. Aussies are unlikely to want their precious download limit to be destroyed by reading a newspaper online every day.

So where does this leave Murdoch? If his paywall is a success (and that is still a big IF) then one imagines  he will want to roll it out elsewhere, particularly America. But will we reach a situation where users of UK Murdoch sites are paying for content, while users of Aussie Murdoch sites get theirs for free. And what about the ex pats who want to read about news at home via the Times? One can’t imagine any will want to sign up given the free alternatives – if your download limit is going to be eaten, you don’t want to pay extra for it to happen.

It will be very interesting to see News Limited’s move in Australia after the paywall experiment in the UK…

Some more on the Times paywall here and here

 
 

So the big media news from last week was the sacking of Catherine Deveny over her Twitter comments on the Logies.

Some unwise remarks on Twitter got Catherine Deveny the sack

While the remarks were very poor taste and extremely stupid, the event has opened a huge media can of worms. Already this week I have received guidelines from up on high as to how to project myself on the world-wide web in order to not reflect poorly on the company I work for. No matter it may be in my own time and with no specific reference to publications, if I am an idiot and say something grossly offensive, I am risking my career. Scary stuff. Indeed even writing this is flirting dangerously with danger.

It is just the latest in a line of indiscretions on Twitter, not just in the media. In the UK, footballer Darren Bent tweeted a tirade of abuse to his bosses for not being transferred and got in a bit of a pickle as a result.

Darren Bent was also a naughty boy on Twitter

And as this article shows there have been many others, including a local council allowing a worker to run free under the council’s official banner until they realised what he was up to and shut the whole thing down.

To avoid the above misdemeanours, the guidance offered to us went along the lines of don’t bitch about anybody online (unless you can make sure you’re anonymous), don’t defame anyone, and realise even if you hadn’t realised, being a journo gives you a public profile, and if you don’t like it then get lost.

Useful, though not rocket science, but the Deveny case is worrying as it shows activities away from the newsroom can affect you in the newsroom.

It also leads down the path of whether social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are “a good thing”. I myself am torn on the subject. I can see the appeal of them, and when used well (and perhaps this is my problem) they can be a great tool. David Higgerson shows you can really make some progress if you put in the hours and I know many Twitter converts who think it is the bees knees in terms of community journalism and the like.

But I am also very wary of Twitter. It really gets my goat when what people put on Twitter is used as the basis of a story, not least because there is no way to tell if it as the person themselves that put that up. Particular grievance came when a story on the wires about cyclist Jonathan Cantwell used a tweet as a quote. It shows as well as a force for good, Twitter can be exploited by lazy journalists, producing lazy journalism. The fact the quote was restricted to 140 characters and had to be puffed with numerous explanatory brackets did not seem to put the author off.

So where does this leave us? With a new social media wave (which some argue – and I am tempted to agree – is mainly filled with media luvvies and tech geeks anyway) which could continue to boom or fade away like so many others. It leaves us having a great avenue to listen to what our readers are thinking and the chance to catch real-time news. Conversely, we can send up-to-the-minute news to thousands with regular updates and instant feedback which could help deliver a story.

But we also have a medium that is not controlled, that is open to abuse, that can only be trusted to a limited extent and that offers as many pitfalls and dangers as it does positives.

The main advice would be to play it safe. Set up a Twitter account and try to use it for stories, but don’t personal opinions and keep it solely work focussed. But also be wary. The internet is never all that it seems and while lifting that Tweet seems like a great way to get an easy quote, is it really the best idea, and is that the sort of journalist you want to be?

Let me know what you think of Twitter using the poll.

I’ve been meaning to blog about that dreaded 21st century journo tool, social networking, but have been pulling double shifts and other such fun so you may need to wait a little while.

In the meantime here’s a couple of interesting links.

The first is an old blog resurfaced praising (though maybe it should be warning) about the consequences of dating a journalist.

http://www.rockmycar.net/2007/05/10/5-things-you-should-know-before-dating-a-journalist/

The second is a UK blog about the truth behind the Newspaper Society’s Newspaper Week campaign, trying to get readers to appreciate their local rag. It’s depressing stuff but on the money.

http://blunt-a-blog.blogspot.com/2010/05/local-newspaper-week.html

Enjoy