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Bill Bennett


The Australian stops tweets from iiNet trial

Liam Tung wasn’t the only Australian journalist providing coverage of the trial between Perth-based ISP iiNet and the Australian Federation against Copyright Theft (AFACT, now the Australian Screen Association). See: When Twitter is great journalism.

Until Monday Andrew Colley from The Australian was also tweeting regular court reports in addition to his regular reporting duties.

Colley ran into technical problems. But he was ultimately ordered to stop by managers at the News Corporation newspaper.

Although it may have got him into hot water, Colley deserves praise for pioneering what is already proving a viable alternative news channel.

Twitter isn’t going to replace conventional journalism – 140 character tweets are not enough to convey complex ideas – but it complements traditional news reporting.

Hidebound, timid, sensible?

Some commentators see The Australian as hidebound or out of touch with modern technology for banning tweeted reports. They have good reason.

The newspaper’s representatives have a point when they say there are legal risks associated with a high-profile publication sending unfiltered messages directly from the scene of a breaking news story.

On the other hand, this doesn’t bother the BBC, which allows tweets and even provided Twitter coverage of The Ashes cricket series earlier this year. And it clearly doesn’t bother ZDNet.

Where’s the money

Don’t forget journalism is a trade and newspapers, web sites and other media outlets are businesses.  News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch, the founder and owner of The Australian newspaper has already voiced his concern online news sites don’t pay their way.

But at least web sites can display advertising and earn some revenue. There’s no obvious way to make money from offering a Twitter news feed.

ZDNet is experimenting. It also publishes Liam Tung’s tweets on a conventional web page with online advertising. There’s some value and traffic coming from the feed – but on its own probably not enough to pay Tung’s salary.

The Australian has higher overheads than ZDNet. There’s a danger a Twitter feed could not only fail to generate revenue. It may replace revenue-generating news reports.

This is an issue that goes beyond the current paid content argument and something likely to stifle Twitter’s growth as a new channel.



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