Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What is mainstream media?

Australia's leading alternative delivery media source, Crikey, has again been excluded from the budget lock up.

As Crikey says, this decision seems to be at odds with the whole thrust of Senator Coonan's media reforms. To remind you this is the suggestion that greater concentration is OK because new media entrants are creating competition (but only if they are able to report).

In yesterday's subscriber edition (not available on line), Crikey correspondant Guy Rundle commented on the world of blogs. He compared their early popularity and subsequent decline to CB radios - which is certainly an OK analogy as far as the rise and fall goes, but perhaps less so comparing what was primarily listened in to person-to-person versus the one-to-many model of media/blogs.

He claims that what staled the CB experience is what is staling the blog experience "its networked capacity, which makes everyone producer and consumer, and hence collapses the notion of an audience (since time does not expand, while blog numbers do).

However it is not all doom and gloom. He goes on;

"Those blogs that survive will and are evolv(ing) into multi-person sites, some with collective and decentred ways of uploading, others with hierarchies essentially identical to paper editing. This repeats the birth of newspapers out of the "pamphlet wars" of the 17th century – the latter a product of the creation of a cheap, single operator platen press. This may be the necessary stage of development required to create a media sphere which genuinely overturns the mass media model – one in which a range of well-edited moderate circulation outlets can charge and get subscriptions. Whether they could turn into full newsgathering organisations remains to be seen."

If he is right, it would be nice to be part of one of those evolving blogs. But this opens a whole new discussion about the distinction between reporting news and providing opinion - most blogs are about opinion. It also seems to miss in the evolution of newspapers the big role played by classified, rather than display, advertising. It is not really that long ago that the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Times was shipping news.

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