Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

I’m on the cranky pills… you’re all full of shite

FFS, that’s it, I’ve had my fill. If I have to read one more blog-post from armchair critics lecturing Big Media as to how it should be doing this and why it shouldn’t be doing that, I’m going to do something really extreme. Like eating a donut. On Sunday. For breakfast. And not brush my teeth afterwards.

Do you people really think that large media companies aren’t watching what’s going on in the blogosphere? Do you really think they aren’t paying new media gurus squillions of dollars to provide them with advice as to where this is all going and how it’s going to impact their business? Don’t you think they’re crunched the numbers, analysed their traffic stats, surveyed their readers and viewers. Don’t you think that once the blogosphere, RSS and other Web 2.0 tidbits reach mainstream, they’ll just buy up whoever they need to buy to get a seat at the table.

I have no doubt there will be elements of Web 2.0 that will prove disruptive to Big Media, particularly edge economics, and there will be a few players like Yahoo and Google did in Web 1.0 that break down the doors to the kingdom, but you’re naive if you think Big Media doesn’t know what’s going on. So when Big Media decides partial RSS feeds make more sense than full feeds, when it takes measured steps into blogs and so on and so on, please don’t presume to think it’s because Big Media is full of blinkered, old fools with their heads in the sand. You’ll meet just as many brilliant minds in the media sphere as you do in tech. Fact is, nobody knows exactly where all this is going to lead, so please resist the temptation to think you know better and talk down to people who live and breathe content consumption. You might find there’s actually some reason to their ‘madness’ and you might learn a thing or two yourselves. Or else come back and talk to me when you’ve actually got up out of your armchair and run a big, successful media company.

In fact, I’m going to devote any blogging time I get this week to debunking a lot of your Web 2.0 better-than-thou ideologies, beginning with Scoble and his full-feed fetish. See you soon.

Filed under: Big Media, Web 2.0

“Most people are morons”

My ‘old media’ mates think I’m a raving, lunatic radical. My ‘new media’ mates thing I’m a closed-minded dinosaur. For our part, how anyone can not understand that Squash is clearly the voice of reason, is quite simply beyond us.

However, the torrent of comments that my recent post Why RSS will never “break through”, showed me once again that people who have worked in the mass media and those who work in ‘new media’ are generally worlds apart.

A bunch of you, the new media one’s reckon I’m a goose or as Chuck Houghton put it in his blog “[Squash]’s taking a pretty good beating in the comments”.

Kevin Leversee, of Web 2.0 consulting company Pandora2 said:

Phil, man what an arrogant statement, bro. Get out of the stoneage. RSS and other technologies that support the remixing of information to that user’s selection and relevance is exactly the whole meme behind what we are all doing…

Of course, Kevin would say that.

Kai Turner made an interesting point..

Whether or not people ‘get’ the technology is a moot point. The technology will be integrated behind the scenes and people won’t notice the difference… I think your assertion that ordinary people don’t need media filtering is a bit short-sighted. You’re speaking in terms of the text/blog space. When downloading television programmes and movies becomes commonplace, people will want to tweak their feeds as part of the discovery of “what’s on tonight”

While ‘drx’ argued:

RSS has already broken through in this field, even people who don’t use a newsreader read information edited by people who do so.

Meanwhile, all the people I know who work in the mainstream media and who dropped by with comments agreed.

For example, Simon Sharwood commented:

The problem with so much of this debate is that we assume Everyone is Like Us.
But not everyone is… Tabloids and “current affairs” shows… that’s where the audiences are in truly significant numbers. There’s little evidence [average consumers] are interested in trawling the blogosphere to find weight loss technqiues or tales of plucky kiddies beating the odds. Until online media meets their needs, most of Web 2.0 will remain avant garde.

Indeed, as David Flynn noted:

Interestingly, I believe it’s journalists like Phil (and Simon and myself) who have enough experience in dealing with the ‘real’ world (rather than a more closed-circuit community of peers) that we can balance our own RSS rapture against the reality that for most people, rabid world-changing RSS consumpion just ain’t gonna happen.

I think the ‘real world’ experience David is talking about, relates to the reality that it is almost always harder than anyone ever expects to effect change. How many entrepreneurs actually hit those numbers they put in their business plan. How many editors manage to grow circulation by the numbers they originally forecast. Dot Com Episode I surely showed us that.

At the moment, a revolutionary is happening – down in this corner of the world. One day, the rest of the world may catch up. I just won’t be holding my breath for it to happen – I value my oxygen far too much.

All, of which can be summarised by Matthew Ingram’s brilliant comment:

True, Phil. But that’s because most people are morons

Amen.

Filed under: Big Media, Feeds, New Media, XML/RSS/Atom

Show some respect to your elders

I’ve just been listening to the latest GilmorGang podcast and it just rammed home to me how much mainstream media bashing takes place, more often than not from a position of ignorance and naivety.

Mike Arrington could barely contain himself in declaring that MSM was getting it’s arse kicked, claiming that all the scoops were being broken by bloggers and that big media is basically a dinosaur facing extinction.

Now, I agree with a lot of the criticisms of MSM. For the most part they still don’t get what’s happening, but it’s the height of hypocrisy for many “new media” folk to think they understand everything about “real media”. Let’s be real. Most of the latest breed of “new media” people aren’t actually media people, they’re technologists. They haven’t been out in the field competing for scoops or writing under the pressure of having zillions of eyeballs analyse your every word. They haven’t edited a magazine, understood the importance of building voice, personality, authority and community. They haven’t been a publisher so they don’t understand that quite often you have to kill great content that readers love, because you can’t make a buck from it.

Let’s be very clear that your memeorandum’s, digg.com’s, reddit’s, etc are piss ants to mainstream media executives today. They’re numbers are still relatively insignificant and they’re certainly not stealing ad dollars. Despite what Mike Arrington said, outside of this incestruous little Web 2.0 community that’s so fond of feeling each other up, big media still dominates the agenda for bloggers to feed off. And any time they want, big media is thinking they can step in, make an acquisition, and catch up in a single, swoop without having to have poured big dollars into trials and prototypes like they did during the first dot com boom.

So show a bit of respect. The best thing any of these new breed of aggregators could do is partner up with a really, really smart “old media person”, who understands a whole bunch of stuff that you don’t have a clue about.

Because the reality is that we’re going to arrive at a point that it is part-man, part-machine. Part old media, part new media. New media models still have a long way to go, the game has yet to begin so before any one gloats about eating anybody else’s lunch, you might want to wait until you see what’s being served up for dinner.

(BTW, I continue to admire Gabe Rivera – who was the special guest on that podcast – for his modesty and acumen. He actually gets that there’s a long road ahead, that Big Media is part of the story and at least from the outside, seemingly refuses to let, himself of memeorandum get too big for its britches).

Filed under: Big Media, Content Aggregation

Why Google should concede to newspapers

If I were Google and the World Association of Newspaper came to me claiming I was violating their copyright with Google News, I’d say: “Yes sir, you are right. As long as you maintain your copyright stance against all players and are prepared to follow through with legal action then I’m prepared to pay you this wad of cash to license your content”.

Google News isn’t in a battle with the newspapers. As much as they can fight it, there role as gatekeeper to content will be slowly eroded. But it does compete with far more intelligent, sophisticated aggregation engines like memeorandum, tailrank, digg, etc that I’m tipping will dominate this space in coming years.

Therefore it wouldn’t be a bad thing for Google News if the barrier to entry in this market suddenly rose. If you suddenly need to pay a million bucks in license fees to play in the game, how are all your little startups going to compete.

It’s a very similiar situation to the two-tier Internet. The big players could easily afford to pay the telcos and gain an advantage over start-ups. Both these issues are perhaps the best litmus test of the Do No Evil position at Google. It really would make commercial sense for Google to bend on both of these issues, as neither would even dent its earnings, while dramatically easing the competitive environment. On the Google News issue, it has even greater incentive to concede because it would then be free to start monetising the service without legal concern.
To its credit, Google has so far fought the good fight, which surely it is doing more on behalf of the wider internet community than for its own interests. And for that Google, we salute you. Big Media would love nothing more than to cripple the amazing benefits of emerging media models. We need someone big enough to stand up to them.

Filed under: Big Media, Content Aggregation

The slippery slope

Further to my Marxism 2.0 post… Time Inc. is cutting 100 jobs, according to the New York Times.

It’s cutting 100 jobs because its moving away from print to online. Moving from just publishing magazines to doing web, wireless, events and broadcast with less people? That’s a pretty neat trick. A Time Inc. spokesperson said:

“We’re moving from being a magazine publishing company to a multiplatform media company, and we have to reallocate our assets. The people you need, the investments you need to make, are different if you’re going to be building Web sites and making TV shows and doing wireless deals and events and partnerships.”

Being a multiplatform media company is all very well, but if you let the quality of your core assets, which for Time Inc is its magazines, slip then you undermine the stable platform that you want to leverage with your alternative tiers.

Filed under: Big Media

Marxism 2.0 – has Karl finally got it right?

Scott Karp this week initiated another interesting meme, this time on media economics, basing a post on the work of Mr Plastic Fantastic himself, Umair Haque. Karp called Haque “possibly the most brilliant mind looking at what’s going in media, and thus in technology”. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t but Umair is certainly the dude most capable of extrapolating the most graphs and buzzwords per theorum. Undisputed.

I have no arguments with most of what Haque has to say, although I think he’s dressing up a lot of conventional wisdom in bedazzling terminology just so as to wow and amazie and I also think he comes from too much of a technology-oriented point of view. I think concepts like community, voice, and authority are too difficult to plot on a graph yet essential to any modern media analysis and therefore go MIA in Haque’s PowerPointing.

But the one point I did want to make is that Karp uses the Haque-isms to suggest there is a bubble in the media forming that will in turn spill over to the wider tech sector.

To which Squash says one man’s bubble is another man’s bust.

If we’re going to talk economic models here, let’s revisit a classic oldie – Marxism.

Blah, blah, blah, to cut a long story short, the ruling class rules because it controls the means of production which enables it to exploit the labour of the working class to create “surplus value”. In media terms, this means Big Media contols the printing press and the broadcast stations, which enable them to create surplus value, ie profits, from the sweat of its content creators.

Fast forward to “media 2.0″ (quite amazing that this is the first major upgrade of hundreds of years of media thinking isn’t it?). The Internet means big media no longer control the means of production. The content creators themselves can blog, podcast, videostream. They can outsource their advertising department (and their accounts receivable department for that matter to Google). All they need is to be able to market on an equal footing. That’s where content aggregation comes in. When Big Media company ceases to control the gatekeeping mechanism, all content creators are reduced to a level playing field.

Big media now has to rely primarily on its superior content produced by their superior content creators. However, as Haque notes, the democratisation of media makes the role of Big Media more difficult. Their costs increase, their revenues decrease – profits slide. The only place they can cut costs are their labor costs (if you’re in Australia, does this sound like Fairfax people?).

Suddenly, those superior content creators find that they can strike out on their own as mini-media and snatch a slice of the surplus value themselves thereby increasng their overall share. Quality at Big Media sinks and falls behind micromedia. Slippery slope ensues. Big Media dies. Micromedia flourishes. Capitalism is dead.

And the means of production? Maybe we exist in a socialist world; ie the means of production is controlled by the people’s elected representative – Google?. Maybe, we operate in a communist world, wher the means of production is owned communally – Open Source? Long live the revolution, Comrade.

So what the hell, hey. If we must insist on slapping a 2.0 suffix on the end of every word in the dictionary then here’s mine: Marxism 2.0.

Filed under: Big Media, Content Aggregation, Media Models, New Media

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