Newspapers are the Devils Radio

I am so pleased that when I want news I can generally get it direct from the journalists anywhere in the world. Like many I follow news makers on twitter and these days I am more likely to be reading global media like the Guardian, the Economist, the NY Times and pretty much anything except my local newspaper.

My local paper the NZ Herald seems to run on auto pilot. They call it auto-publish. It takes news feeds from other sources and republishes them locally. Much of that content comes from the Daily Mail. Most is unmediated horse shit that no sub-editor ever gets to see. And no-one should have to read that.

Until recently some of the most popular stories in the paper came from a gossip columnist called Rachel Glucina. On Monday Rachel launches a new gossip site for Newsmedia NZ who own TV3 and a bunch of radio stations.

It seems very much like a race to the bottom brought on by the search for a revenue model to replace the “rivers of gold” lost when classified advertising was captured off the news publishers by the likes of TradeMe, Seek (jobs) RealEstate dotcom and Carsales dotcom who decimated the Australian media.

killing_fairfaxAt one time Fairfax media owned TradeMe which was a very smart move by them to recapture the classified advertising revenues. I wrote about that over here.

At that time I couldn’t understand how Fairfax could sell down a future proofed golden goose. That was until I read the book Killing ‘Fairfax – Packer, Murdoch & the ultimate Revenge’.

It turns out that the Fairfax management team were too busy fighting each other to notice anything else. David Kirk – the CEO at Fairfax who bought TradeMe was under siege.

As a parent it pains me to have to tell my daughter that school yard bullies are still alive and well in business and still as stupid as ever. The role of politics and power in business should never be underestimated.

Strategy and the facts should be much more important but sadly many businesses are run by the venal and the stupid.  Killing Fairfax is an entertaining read if you want to follow the demise of old school mainstream media and the rise of the new generation Packers and Murdochs.

Lachlan Murdoch and James Packer made a number of strategic moves to capture the classified advertising revenue streams lost by Fairfax and the other newspapers of the day.

Which brings us to 2015 and the present day. If you are a mainstream media newspaper publisher it seems the strategy has indeed been a race into the gutter. Click baiting and gossip is used to drive page-views and ad impressions. Sadly even the Economist has more than its fair share of half digested articles which have no punchline.

For example this story: Under the volcano – A telescope designed to be pointed into space is turned in the opposite direction would have benefitted from having a sub editor sharpen it up. It reads like a collection of leads that might have been a story but quits well before the denouement.

Tomorrow NewsMedia NZ is launching a new hive of slime on the world. Former gossip queen Glucina has her own cess pool to wade in. It is called Scout.

Hat tip to Rob. @rmi These gossip mongers give journalism a bad name.

I think they are just following the money and in the case of TV3 and NewsMedia NZ the managers there just want to “pump and dump” the company so they can get off the hook with the bankers who have had to write off hundreds of millions of dollars over the last 20 years or so.

Luke Hurley retells a true story from the late Graham Brazier. Graham Brazier – a Danger to Shipping. In a series of messages to Luke Graham referred to gossip as the “devils radio.”

I wondered where the reference came from. It turns out to be a George Harrison song.

“Gossip, gossip, gossip, gossip

I heard it in the night, words that thoughtless speak
Like vultures swooping down below on the devil’s radio
I hear it through the day, airwaves gettin’ filled
With gossip broadcast to and fro on the devil’s radio”

It is hard to be positive about a world where businesses are being run by cynics pumping out bad news and gossip just to find a revenue model where they can make money.

I’d much prefer I didn’t have to tell my daughter to to watch out for the politicians of media who mistake sleaze for news. We don’t want newspapers / news media to become the devils radio but it may be too late.

On a more positive note – here is what I am listening to at present. Sufjan Stevens – Should have Known Better. I want to write about the Elevation effect next week.

For another view on media models see below