Where newspapers sit in the bigger picture

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While the numbers will be somewhat different in New Zealand, the message is clear. Just three years after the first modern tablets went on sale, they are almost as popular as printed newspapers.

Newspapers still make plenty of money. I suspect that for every dollar spent on advertising to New Zealand tablet users at least ten times that amount is spent on newspaper ads.

 

When I worked on the NBR Rich List

Rich List 2013 banner FOR WEB“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”

- F. Scott Fitzgerald

And New Zealand’s rich are different from those elsewhere.

I worked for the NBR in the 1990s and wrote stories for the paper’s Rich List edition.

My job meant getting short interviews of rich listers and checking details about their wealth. It didn’t take long for one thing to become clear, New Zealand’s rich did not like talking about their wealth and went out-of-the-way to downplay their success. Many tried to persuade me they didn’t belong on the Rich List. One hired a publicist to persuade me he didn’t belong on the Rich List.

Compare this with the big noters in Australia or the US who would pay publicists to get their names on local equivalents of the Rich List.

One possible explanation for New Zealanders coyness is that the day after the Rich List is published, Inland Revenue tax officers would pore over the estimates before taking a great deal of interest in any mismatches between tax returns and the published estimates of wealth.

Maybe. But I don’t think that’s the only reason.

In praise of Wiki New Zealand

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 7.55.16 PMHats off to the team behind Wiki New Zealand, an exciting project to make data about our country accessible and understandable. The site is packed with graphs, charts and maps, all of them clean and clear.

It’s already a fabulous resource. No doubt schools can make great use of it. And as a journalist I’ll be checking facts there.

Wiki’s were a big deal five or six years ago. They are a great way to share data, particularly when people collaborate. Since their peak, wikis have fallen out of favour, mainly because many people find them difficult to use.

The good news is the Wiki New Zealand team seem ready to do all the hard work, so if you want to contribute, it’s a matter of handing over raw information and not knocking it into shape.

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New Zealand needs an informed, independent technology press

Today, more than ever, technology touches every aspect of our lives. That isn’t going to change.

And yet New Zealand no longer supports a viable, vibrant technology press. I want to change that.

There’s no time to lose.

The New Zealand government has embarked on huge infrastructure projects to support a national fibre network to urban New Zealand and upgrade rural broadband.

Fibre is going to change our lives and transform our economy. It means new ways of doing education, health, government and business.

Meanwhile home grown technology exporters are pushing on to the world stage and our telecommunications sector is adjusting to a new, highly competitive market.

And on the world stage a revolution is underway as PCs give way to tablets and smartphones, while everything is connected by clouds.

It’s an exciting time to be a technology journalist. It’ll be great for readers too.

I hope you’ll join me on the journey. We’re going to see things that make us breathless.

Come on, let’s get started….

Bill Bennett, Auckland, July 2013

Into tomorrow

Publishing has changed. The old media rules have gone.

Readers are in control. They have new ways to share knowledge.

And everything happens at breakneck speed.

You don’t need a large company to publish. You don’t need print. You don’t even need your own servers, designers or developers. You could get by without an office – but that may not be the best idea.

You certainly don’t need a bloated management corps sucking ideas, life and resources away from the frontline operation.

A computer, smartphone or tablet is enough so long as there’s a decent connection.

You no longer need large amounts of capital – although some money is necessary. Almost all income can go to the people producing the words, pictures, audio or video.

People still want information. Facts come first. Informed opinion is good.

Publishers, editors and front-line journalists are no longer remote from audiences. They can’t preach from ivory towers. Readers respond almost immediately correcting mistakes, disputing facts, opposing views.

That’s something to celebrate, not run from.

NetHui 2013: The real trouble with journalism

TLDNR – too long, did not read.

It’s the kind of comment you might expect to hear in an online forum, not from a senior news executive at the nation’s largest newspaper. And certainly not in the context where it was used in front of former New Zealand Herald feature writer Chris Barton.

That snide comment tells you the real trouble with journalism – the people running the industry simply don’t get it. There’s a lot they just don’t get.

Depth and prestige

For the best part of a decade Barton worked on the kind of long-form, in-depth feature stories which win prizes and readers for newspapers. They add depth to the paper and prestige to the masthead.

Perhaps they weren’t read by everyone, but many readers would buy the Weekend Herald especially to get the more expansive, intelligent features.

By the time Barton left the Herald last year, the feature department was effectively finished. In depth features are no longer part of the paper’s mix.

Read on

And anyway, Too long, didn’t read is nonsense. People do read long form stories. They read them online and they continue to read them in magazines.

They read even longer stories. There’s a special name we give to those even longer stories, we call them books, They can be printed, although increasingly they are digital.

The Scoop Foundation

Barton was speaking at a session run by The Scoop Foundation, a public interest journalism organisation set up by Alison McCulloch and Alistair Thompson to fund journalism projects.

Also at the presentation was The Science Media Centre’s Peter Griffin who talked of his experiences looking at how similar organisations in the USA have stepped into to cover some of the issues journalists might have covered for large newspapers. He says there’s potential to raise money in New Zealand from philanthropic trusts.