Pulsating with every characteristic & odious trait of the Dickensian avaricious philistine who knows the price of everything & the value of nothing, Rupert Murdoch lectured a journalism conference in Washington, DC on Monday. The Dirty Digger sidled his way to the podium & sneered that online payment for news articles, something he wishes to persue for his titles via a paywall, is necessary & normal, declaring that there is no such thing as free news. Well, we all know that everything has to be paid for. However, it has been the cue for another tedious round of BBC-bashing from the Murdoch empire; his son & appointed heir James couldn't get it into his skull recently that we do pay for the BBC's news services via the licence fee.
It fell to Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.com/ ), to put Murdoch's myths into the shredder of web reality (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/dec/01/arianna-huffington-murdoch-ftc ).
[The full text of Huffington's address can be found at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/journalism-desperate_b_374642.html .]
Huffington observed that "playing nice has suddenly become a one-way street -- suddenly the air is filled with shrill, nonsensical, and misplaced verbal assaults on those in the new media."
What was striking, however, was that there were passages of her address which didn't just pertain to the world's most famous Australian-born US citizen. The speech could well have been considered germane to a certain operation on Oldham Hall Street:
"In most industries, if your customers were leaving in droves, you would try to figure out what to do to get them back. Not in the media. They'd rather accuse aggregators of stealing their content."
Another excerpt which rattles uncomfortably at the doors of the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo:
"It's time for traditional media companies to stop whining and face the fact that far too many of them, lulled by a lack of competition and years of pretax profits of 20% or more, put cashflow above journalism and badly misread the web when it arrived on the scene. The focus was on consolidation, cost-cutting, and pleasing Wall Street -- not modernisation and pleasing their readers.
"They were asleep at the wheel, missed the writing on the wall, let the train leave the station, let the ship sail -- pick your metaphor -- and quickly found themselves on the wrong side of the disruptive innovation the internet and new media represent. And now they want to call timeout, ask for a do-over, start changing the rules, lobby the government to bail them out, and attack the new media for being...well, new. And different. And transformational. Suddenly it's all about thievery and parasites and intestines.
"Get real, you guys. The world has changed."
The reference to Wall Street notwithstanding, there's an observation which may induce a few sweaty collars in Big Al Machray's fiefdom.
But wait, there's more, oh yes, & it might just cause a fit of the vapours among what's left of the thinking elements on Oldham Hall Street:
"The same people who never question why consumers would sit on a couch and watch TV for eight hours straight can't understand why someone would find it rewarding to weigh in on the issues -- great and small -- that interest them. For free. They don't understand the people who contribute to Wikipedia for free, who maintain their own blogs for free, who Twitter for free, who constantly refresh and update their Facebook page for free, who want to help tell the stories of what is happening in their lives and in their communities...for free."
Alaistair, Mark, you just don't understand, do you? And I'm telling you that. For free.