There’s a fair bit of noise around at the moment about how established, quality media outlets conduct themselves online. Crikey and Media Watch have both had a go in the last few days, targeting SMH.com.au. By total coincidence, the Crikey piece seems to have been written at almost the same time as I Tweeted my surprise about the current content of SMH.com.au.
My second Tweet on the subject was a very early thought on the issues here.
For me, they revolve around brand. The Sydney Morning Herald projects itself as a serious, considered newspaper that people who live in Sydney need to read to understand the life of the city (and therefore the world) they inhabit and the ideas, events and forces that are making it tick. That brand promise is not, however, expressed as well online, where stories about all manner of events are more prominent.
The mismatch between the established values of the newspaper and the very different values of the website are bound to rankle many readers. I think that a subtle re-branding of online to set different expectations could work wonders.
Reaching that conclusion also got me thinking about what happens when and/or if the content that sells comes to dominate the print version of the Herald, a scenario suggested in the Media Watch piece.
If this nasty outcome eventuates, I think the role of public broadcasting will become even more important, as only outlets that are not beholden to page impression-driven thinking will be able to contemplate what we now call “quality news.” Of course we will all be poorer if only public broadcasters even make the attempt, or if they do not get the funding to do so.
The funding issue is often put down to the fact that governments of all stripes think the ABC is biased against them. I find that natural, in a weird way. Even Labor governments, after all, are basically dominated by capitalist and monotheist discourses. Those are almost impossible to analyse from the right, because they are OF the right, in my opinion, leaving most journalism easily perceived as carrying a left bias. But that’s a thought for another day ….