What does the future of Journalism look like?

Public Address held a special Journalism  / Media event back on August 23rd. I couldn’t be there at the time but I was very pleased to see that a full clip has been loaded up on the 95BFM YouTube channel.

Russell Brown already wrote about the event Orcon IRL on Journalism: The Video To watch the full 2 hour clip see below. First up was Guyon Espiner of Radio NZ or (RNZ). Interviewing an interviewer must be a little tricky but getting some behind the scenes insights into what works for that show was excellent.

I actually watched the whole clip today. Kudos to Hugh Sundae and all the other helpers who got this clip up almost straight away. There was a live stream and a Facebook live stream which reached respectable viewing levels. Today someone has split the various discussions out into separate clips which is even better for time poor people which is all of us.

Ironically even though the discussion was recorded it takes a bit of time to see all of the interactions. I made a few screenshots off the clips so you can more easily visualise the various discussions. Kirsty Johnston and Alex Casey covered some serious ground and some not so serious.

Leone, Kirsty and Alex

Kirsty Johnston and Alex Casey. Watch out for these two 🙂

Kirsty Johnston & Alex Casey

It was all good but for me the really, really interesting part was the section featuring Tim Murphy and Mark Jennings. One of the first things they spoke about was the Commerce Commission failing to reach a decision (delayed by 7 months -see Commission link below) on the proposed merger of Fairfax and NZ Herald related media companies – primarily the newspapers.

I’m pleased Comcom hasn’t rushed a decision surprisingly (to me) they are concerned with the quality, accuracy and range of the news media in New Zealand. As various people have noted before and also mentioned by both Jennings and Murphy there is a race to the bottom as the newspapers (especially) chase numbers and views rather than any other kind of metrics.

Regarding the proposed merger of Fairfax and NZHerald I wonder if the Commerce Commission is also thinking about the elaborate clusterf**k going on with Vodafone and SkyTV.

In fact others think this also. To have all four of these dinosaur companies struggling to stay relevant at the same time is a remarkable thing to have happened – in my view.

Sky Network Television chief executive John Fellet says he’s concerned the proposed merger between the country’s dominant publishers, NZME and Fairfax NZ, could slow down clearance for Sky’s planned tie-up with Vodafone New Zealand, which was overwhelmingly approved today by its shareholders.”

The most hopeful news came from a partial update on Murphy and Jennings new venture that sounds like it will be focussed on current events. The other bright spot was in their ongoing discussions with all parties they mentioned a sense that many people are concerned at the current “race to the bottom” in NZ media.

Tim Murphy & Mark Jennings

There was mention of the Daily Mail / Mailonline model by various people. It was pointed out that for all the “noise” the actual numbers from that experiment are not very compelling . See Economies Of Mail for more on that. MailOnline Wins Readers, Will Target Profit is a bit more up to date. While NZ newspapers haven’t gone that far yet it is not a viable business model.

Silicon Valley’s hoover leaves newspapers hunting for profit covers off the impact of FB + Google domination of the online ad markets with over 50%. This was something that was also discussed on the night. I suspect % share of digital ad budgets claimed by Google and FB in NZ is way higher.

There was another panel at the end that covered more ground on possible scenarios for media futures. It was noted that the NZHerald for all its clickbait and mindless dribble actually has around 7 or so investigative journalists doing great work.

I wouldn’t know as I only look at 2 sections of that paper and I actively avoid the front page because it is mostly rubbish. Journalism as a vocation was mentioned and the rise of specialist media like the Transport Blog were bright spots.

The event looks like it was quite brilliant for anyone who is interested in media futures. I’m heartened that it lives on as a series of videos and hopefully this will stimulate more thinking. I think the quality of the discussion and the production values very high. As Espiner said at one point – NZ is a $250b economy and only $80m is in the government budgets for “public good” journalism and that includes all media with the largest share going to TV.

Like all events of this nature it did seem that there were almost more questions than answers. It is easy to be cynical about business models and whether the government will ever do anything about the taxation of Google and Facebook before they finish “blowing up” media business models is another thing for another day. I’m not holding my breath but this story Facebook could face extra $5bn tax bill after US investigation offers a glimmer of hope.

The existential summary was “don’t waste a good crisis.” I do hope we see more great news in the media sector soon.

Footnote: Russell mentioned a project called DON’T DREAM IT’S OVER: REIMAGINING JOURNALISM IN AOTEAROA NEW ZEALAND which is a book of essays on the topic available now for $40.00 that is next on my book list.

Update: I spotted this EU proposals could see news publishers paid by Google and Facebook late last week.

“The protection, known as “neighbouring rights”, already exists for performers, record labels and broadcasters. The commission wants to extend it to the producers of news – publishers who produce largely text-based journalism.”