Monthly Archives: October 2011

Simple Hypothesis: Murdoch’s Delusions Breed Controversies


Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch addresses a session of the World Economic Forum in DavosRupert Murdoch has many ideas that I believe to be wrong-headed about the direction of news publishing. From paywalls to paper products to iPad apps that fail to take advantage of the medium.

Shackled by those constraints he expects his organization to grow readership and revenues at the rates that his organization once did. It seems to me to be a reasonable hypothesis then, that to achieve these ends in a down global economy with backward looking vision you have to resort to nefarious methods.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) European ciculation scandal is a pretty excellent candidate for this hypthesis’ further examination. Circulation numbers are the key drivers of the price that a publication can charge advertisers. The bigger the circulation the higher the cost of advertising. As a young consumer, using a bevy of forward looking tech products why would you choose a News Corporation product? WSJ can’t make aggressive changes to how they do things and so they must resort to cheating and lying to make things work.

This same logic applies just as well to the phone “hacking” scandal that has recently rocked the Murdoch empire via the News of the World publication. The phone hacking seems to be a symptom of the need to be more sensationalist, to get the newest and most intimate stories about famous people. Few would argue that this is anything but a play for more readers. Many publications have a strong push toward growing their readership, the question is, why do Murdoch publications seem to go further than anyone else?

Undoubtedly there are many reasons for the recent controversies at News Corporation, but I submit that another, and possibly underlying reason, is that Murdoch’s myopic view of media’s future has forced his publications into questionable tactics in order to achieve his view of success.

Photo Credit: World Economic Forum

Used with a Creative Commons Licence

Means or end?

This post is an answer to this month’s Carnival of Journalism.

Video is not and end in and of itself. Video is a means to an end, that end is telling a story.

This has always been true, it’s just never been as easy as it is today to implement that truth. Today’s newsroom, whether it’s in a local TV station, radio station, local newspaper  or local online news site needs to tell stories with all the tools at its disposal. The story is the only complete entity.

Beyond just in theory we are also starting to see the notion that video is only a part of a greater presentation in code and web standards. HTML5 helps video integrate far more seamlessly into a rich media website. HTML5 is an implementation of the thesis of this post, that video is simply a means to an end, at least when it comes to the story telling behind the news.

In practice that means that some types of media will have to produce more video and some will have to produce more of everything else. In the case of online news sites more video is likely necessary to tell a community’s stories.

The difficulty is that small local and hyper-local sites still don’t have the capacity for video and can more efficiently cover their communities without it. The Sacramento Press has gotten by for some time without a significant amount of video. However that has started to change. As the barriers to entry for video lower in terms of both technology and process, video becomes more of an option for those publishers with a smaller budget (both in terms of money and time).

In order to continue to increase both the quality and quantity of video we need to build tools that imagine all types of media as one piece of the storytelling puzzle. By doing so we will significantly diminish the barriers to entry for the creation of video and that has the potential to better inform and engage our various communities.