An interesting speech by Rupert Murdoch discussing the mainstream media’s shortcomings (as he sees it) in embracing the Internet age in an effective manner:
What is happening is, in short, a revolution in the way young people are accessing news. They don’t want to rely on the morning paper for their up-to-date information. They don’t want to rely on a God-like figure from above to tell them what’s important. And to carry the religion analogy a bit further, they certainly don’t want news presented as gospel.
Instead, they want their news on demand, when it works for them. They want control over their media, instead of being controlled by it. They want to question, to probe, to offer a different angle. Think about how blogs and message boards revealed that Kryptonite bicycle locks were vulnerable to a Bic pen. Or the Swiftboat incident. Or the swift departure of Dan Rather from CBS. One commentator, Jeff Jarvis, puts it this way: give the people control of media, they will use it. Don’t give people control of media, and you will lose them. …
They don’t just want to know about terrorism, but what it means about the safety of their subway line, or whether they’ll be sent to Iraq. And they want the option to go out and get more information, or to seek a contrary point of view.
And finally, they want to be able to use the information in a larger community to talk about, to debate, to question, and even to meet the people who think about the world in similar or different ways. …
For some, it may have to become the place for conversation. The digital native doesn’t send a letter to the editor anymore. She goes online, and starts a blog. We need to be the destination for those bloggers. We need to encourage readers to think of the web as the place to go to engage our reporters and editors in more extended discussions about the way a particular story was reported or researched or presented.
At the same time, we may want to experiment with the concept of using bloggers to supplement our daily coverage of news on the net. There are of course inherent risks in this strategy — chief among them maintaining our standards for accuracy and reliability. Plainly, we can’t vouch for the quality of people who aren’t regularly employed by us and bloggers could only add to the work done by our reporters, not replace them. But they may still serve a valuable purpose; broadening our coverage of the news; giving us new and fresh perspectives to issues; deepening our relationship to the communities we serve. So long as our readers understand the distinction between bloggers and our journalists.
To carry this one step further, some digital natives do even more than blog with text they are blogging with audio, specifically through the rise of podcasting and to remain fully competitive, some may want to consider providing a place for that as well.
Sounds like Murdoch is looking for ways to appropriate blogging and incorporate it into his media empire. Of course, Fairfax has already tried this with dubious success at best, with Margo’s Web Diary and the assorted in-house blogs that hang off it. Arguably, Web Diary’s equivocal success is mostly due to the fact that it has attracted an overwhelmingly anti-Howard/Bush audience and contributor group, thereby excluding around half of its potential audience. Moreover, Margo’s own inimitable writing and editing style tends to give the site a distinctly immature Indymedia-ish flavour.
But I’d be very surprised if any efforts Murdoch might make to incorporate blogging into his online newspaper world turned out to be any less ideologically slanted than Fairfax’s efforts, albeit in an opposite direction. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that; in some respects the two would counterbalance each other, and readers would gravitate to the “virtual community” where they felt most comfortable.
That phenomenon will inevitably occur in any event, as we’ve repeatedly discovered here at Troppo. A significant portion of the left-leaning audience of both Chris Sheil and Mark Bahnisch made it very apparent that they simply didn’t wish to associate with or be subjected at close quarters to significantly more right-leaning views than their own. The same is true in an opposite direction, and to an even more extreme extent, with much of the readership of RWDBs like Tim Blair.
It would be nice if people were less tribal in their instincts and more open to having their views challenged, but the reality is that most aren’t, and neither bloggers nor media moguls like Murdoch can change human nature.
At the end of the day, I suspect Murdoch isn’t going to be wildly successful in “capturing” the anarchic, dynamic, creative, interactive spirit of the blogosphere and turning it into big bucks. And even if he does, bloggers needn’t feel threatened. In fact any large-scale moves Murdoch makes in this direction are likely to benefit the blogosphere by drawing its existence to the attention of many more people.