Jun 11

Miscellany: on getting used to things being free, Mamet, closure on a reporter’s death and more

I’ve haven’t for some time rounded up a diverse collection links in a weekend post because I noticed that the readership of this blog falls to its lowest on a Saturday and Sunday.

But I’ve also been noticing that my posts have quite a “long tail” and get looked at some time after they’ve gone up. So here’s some varied weekend or weekday reading. There is absolutely no common theme.
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May 11

Bin Laden: real time fragments or the whole story?

Very interesting reflections today by John Gapper in the FT arising from the coverage of the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Gapper watched as Wolf Blitzer of CNN struggled to cope on air as rumours swirled about Bin Laden’s death but the fact wasn’t confirmed solidly enough for the channel to broadcast it.

As Gapper predicts, rolling news broadcasters will not get caught like that again. They will feel increasingly obliged to start broadcasting rumours, correcting them as they go, sifting and iterating versions of the the truth as best they can. But as Gapper says, this doesn’t suit every consumer of news, particularly not people short of time or patience. “For the average consumer, the effect can be akin to going to a dealer to buy a car and being presented with a bunch of parts to assemble yourself. It suits hobbyists but has serious frictions for those wanting the full service.”

I wonder if this change in way news comes at us is going to divide news consumers into active and passive. Perhaps a single person will switch between active and passive depending on what they want to know. I’m content to get my news about media in fragments on Twitter because I have the background knowledge and motive to interpret it and integrate it with what else I know. But I don’t necessarily want to follow in detail the unfolding of the Japanese tsunami or the operation to kill Bin Laden in real time. I’m prepared to wait for an integrated, confirmed synopsis.

With fragments of information flying at us in huge numbers, it’s natural that skills and software for aggregation and curation are being developed. Those tools suit the active, time-rich news consumer who wants to assemble the car from the parts. But there will always also be demand for a more integrated picture of the whole. Even if it is a littler slower to arrive.


Sep 10

Rupert Murdoch and the future shape of content bundles

John Gapper of the Financial Times speculates that what lies behind Rupert Murdoch’s bid for the rest of the shares he does not own in Sky TV is the enticing possibility of bundling subscriptions to broadcast and written content. Gapper’s example from the US is the bundled sale of access to Cablevision and Newsday.

That would seem to be one advantage of the bid to won Sky outright, if it succeeds. But you can take the speculation further and in a direction which has profound implications for the established newspaper titles in the News Corp empire – or in any other multi-channel news media business. (Routine declaration: I worked for The Times, owned by News Corp, until 2009).

In what we might call the second phase of digital news publishing – characterised by tablets, tailored apps and more determined efforts to control more of the value chain and customer data – there’s more than one way to change the bundles. One innovation would indeed be to sell a TV+print package. Another would be to recut and re-present material assembled together which isn’t normally seen in the bundle because it belongs in separate titles or brands.

One of the freedoms of the internet which young users in particular like is surfing across a lot of sources. Could a company like News Corp offer to subscribers a football package which allows the subscribing user access to all football material across all its properties…say coverage from The Sun, the Sunday Times and Sky, both broadcast and website?

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May 10

Paywalls: close encounter with a nuance

With the start of the charging experiment by The Times and the Sunday Times apparently close at hand, it’s time to go back to “paywalls”.

By way of a warm-up, here is a recent blog post by the FT‘s John Gapper, who thinks he detected a softening of opposition to charging when he listened to Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger recently. And there’s an interesting comment from Tim Brooks, the CEO of Guardian Media Group.