Friday, February 27, 2009

The Coming Crisis of the Creative Class: Charles Leadbeater on Digital Britain

Would a book on Australian media seem odd if it made no reference to News Corporation, Australia's most globally significant media company?

I mention this because of a recently conversation with Graham Meikle from Stirling University, where he pointed out that a recent collection of essays on The Media in Scotland made no reference to Scotland's most globally significant media company. That company is the Edinburgh-based Rockstar Games, the people behind the wildly successful Grand Theft Auto series.

This continuing aversion to thinking of new media as part of The Media (films, newspapers, TV networks etc. - the 20th century mass media) comes at some cost. Charles Leadbeater indicates this in his recent critique of the Digital Britain policy document released by the UK Government.

According to Leadbeater, Digital Britain works off the premise that wider access to faster broadband will boost demand for the products of Britain's established media and creative industries. But what we know about what people do with faster broadband suggests that this is far from the case - it may in fact accelerate the decline of 20th century Big Media, as more and more people adopt a more do-it-yourself to the media tools and materials available to them.

Far from being a win-win policy, the push to accelerate the spread of the web
through broadband puts political leaders in a painful bind they are keen to overlook.

They want to tell us about a brave new future full of opportunity that broadband will open up. Yet the investment in broadband will only make sense if more consumers use the web to access, create and share media content and services in new ways, exploiting the web’s capacity for interactivity and collaboration.

If more people do that, more intensively, however, it will just accelerate the painful disruption of established media and cultural industries – newspapers, film, television, music recording, books – which rely on a mass market advertising, physical distribution and copyright protection. The incumbents in these industries were already fearful that the web was eating away at their business models. The steep decline in advertising revenues brought on by the recession has only made things more perilous, especially for the weakest players such as Channel 4 and those dependent entirely on advertising revenue such as ITV. Most commercial old media groups are in the midst of painful redundancy programmes. The remaining staff will be asked to do much more with and for less.

Accelerating the spread of broadband will not save these industries but make their
predicaments more difficult. Here’s the truth: plans to invest more in digital
technologies will only pay off if they bring further disruption to economies that are
already in turmoil. We will know when politicians are really serious about the coming digital revolution when they start to admit that it will have to cause significant disruption to established business models if it is to pay off.

This is particularly tricky in the UK. The implosion of financial services, long the
flagship of the services economy, means the cultural and media industries, in which
Britain has a strong position, will take on an even more important role. Many
established businesses in these industries were already alarmed by the impact of the
web on their business models. Now they face the steepest recession in modern history, certainly since the start of commercial television and the rise of the tabloid press. Public spending on arts and culture is likely to further constrained due to the
recession. The creative class which breezed its way through the 1990s is about to hit
the wall. The crisis will not be as sudden and shocking as the one that has hit banking but it could be as profound.

For more read here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

News Corporation's financial result

As was predicted on this blog (!!!!), Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation announced a dramatic fall in earnings in the second quarter of the 2008-9 financial year i.e. the period that the economic crisis hit from October-December 2008, with an operating loss of $US7.6 billion ($A11.6bn).

It gives no joy at all to foresee significant job losses at Rupert Murdoch's Australian newspapers. But I always had a sense, during the reporting of Fairfax's difficulties last year, of misplaced schadenfreude among News journalists. Moreover, a mindset of Murdoch good/Fairfax bad seemed to take hold, particularly at last year's Walkley awards, with Rupert Murdoch repeatedly hailed as the last, best hope for journalism.

Just as demonisation of Rupert Murdoch as the media antichrist was always misplaced, so too was his championing by the MEAA and others. At the time, it struck me that "I'll give this six months", as there was no apparent reason why the same forces hitting Fairfax newspapers (plummeting classifieds revenues, recession-hit advertising, declining newspaper sales, online competition for news) would hit the News stable.

As Matthew Ricketson notes, much of this commentary came from the pages of The Australian, where it was argued that News had invested in 'real' journalism, whereas Fairfax had succumbed to the dark side of online and celebrity fluff. What is not clear at News is the extent to which The Australian is insulated from the quite substantial cuts now coming to the rest of the News publications.

There is appeal to a 'flagship' publication, and the economics of online news do point to an opportunity here (e.g. The Economist, The Guardian, and Murdoch's recently acquired Wall Stret Journal), but the extent to which investors are pressuring media businesses that have a strong stake in newspapers or advertiser-financed television also cannot be underestimated. Link

Friday, February 6, 2009

Texas zombies and Illinois Nazis

I knew about the Illinois Nazis problem, but not about about Texas zombies.

COLLINSVILLE, Illinois - Pranksters in at least three states are messing with electronic road signs meant to warn motorists of possible traffic problems by putting drivers on notice about Nazi zombies and raptors. And highway safety officials aren't amused.

The latest breach came Tuesday during the morning rush hour near Collinsville, Ill., where hackers changed a sign along southbound Interstate 255 to read, "DAILY LANE CLOSURES DUE TO ZOMBIES."

A day earlier in Indiana's Hamilton County, the electronic message on a board in Carmel's construction zone warned drivers of "RAPTORS AHEAD — CAUTION."

For more read here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"Come on Turnbull" Facebook site gets 10,000 friends in one day

In an intriguing milestone in social media based campaigning in Australia, the Facebook page "Come on Turnbull, don't take away my $950 bucks" has attracted over 10,000 friends in one day.

Developed as a response to the Federal Coalition's decision to block the $42 billion economic stimulus package put forward by the Rudd Labor government, the site also provides resources for members to lobby the Greens Senators and independent Senators Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding to pass the package, which promises (among other things) $950 to all taxpayers earning less than $100,000 a year.

Update: At 2.15pm Friday 6 Feb, this site had 31, 206 members. This cycle has some momentum.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

10 Tips for Student Networking

For those PhD students and others, who want to know about how to network, but don't want to attend an all-day workshop on it, here is some advice from the most recent newsletter of the International Communications Association.

I recall a presentation where it was pointed out to students that 70-80% of new jobs in Australia are no longer advertised. Someone has a job requirement, meets a person who can meet the need, and employs them. As we are shedding jobs in 2009, these skills may be becoming more important.

10 Tips for Effective Networking

Establishing a successful career in the academy or business often depends upon the ability to develop and maintain beneficial networks. Dave Sanford (2009) is the Executive Vice President of Client Services for a staffing firm in Waltham, Massachusetts. He suggests that there are several steps involved in effective relationship building. Experts estimate that 60% or more of working people access their employment through social or professional networks. Competent networking skills improve the likelihood that people will be hired, promoted, and/or recommended. The following will briefly preview 10 methods for improving your networking skills.

  1. Develop a Specific Target List: Compile a list of all the individuals/groups you currently know or would like to know. Such a list may include family and friends as well as classmates, professors, and colleagues (past/present). You may even want to add people who you have worked with in financial, legal, medical, or political situations. Include members of the community service organizations you have been active with (religious, professional, or civic). Finally, consider including people from online forums and collectives.
  2. Ask to be Introduced: Think of individuals who may influence your career and connect with others who can facilitate an introduction. In the academy, such a list may include other academics, administrators, publishers, and research connections. In business, such a list may include local business owners, media representatives, hiring recruiters, and industry specialists.
  3. Prepare Messages: Initially, prepare a "30-second elevator speech" describing yourself, your professional goals, and what sets you apart from others. Develop a message that you are able to articulate genuinely and enthusiastically. Share a condensed version with your network contacts, so they have an appealing introduction with which to describe you when advocating for you.
  4. Attend Events: Get involved in important professional associations, social groups, or community collectives that will benefit your career. Make sure to introduce yourself to several individuals and discuss potential areas of similar interests with colleagues.
  5. Utilize Online Networks: Facebook and LinkedIn are two websites that may enhance your networking capacity. Keep a current profile that describes your past and current professional positions, employers, responsibilities, special skills, degrees, and awards or recognitions. Join online groups that will promote your career and make sure that other online profiles are professional. Some MySpace or YouTube accounts display pictures and text that will detract from credibility and may leave potential employers questioning about character. When you have done the background work, send contact and friend requests to individuals who are on your list of desirable contacts.
  6. Strive to Overcome Shyness: Although outgoing individuals are often more at ease with social networking, there are several ways to reduce the impact of shyness. One of these methods is to develop a list of relevant questions for new introductions. You may want to ask questions about the industry, necessary technology or program training, companies that are looking to hire, or positions that may be available. Consider asking about other individuals who would be willing to meet with you to talk about the department.
  7. Monitor Behavior: The power of a first impression will profoundly impact how others perceive you and what opportunities you are given. In general, try to integrate the following behaviors during professional interactions: Be on time. Plan for 15- to 30-minute meetings. Wear professional attire. Pick up the tab. Don't flirt. Don't smoke in front of the person (or smell like smoke). Meet for coffee or breakfast (not drinks). Eliminate annoying distractions (e.g., cell phones). And, talk about appropriate topics (industry, project goals).
  8. Set Goals: Develop concrete attainable networking goals and hold yourself to them. For instance, make a goal to e-mail five new contacts a week or to call three new contacts a week. Vow to attend two events per month and to spend 2 hours a week looking for potential network targets.
  9. Reciprocity: Mutually beneficial networking is reciprocal. Although you may be asking for assistance now, the chances are high that you will be in a position to help others at a future time. There are several ways to express gratitude to others, including offering to introduce them to another person in your network, sending relevant articles or research you may find, or bringing one of your networks to a professional event as your guest.
  10. Contact: E-mail a "thank you" message, or send a handwritten "thank you" card, to every person you have met through networking. Such things are a common courtesy and allow you to stay in touch with networks. When staying in contact, reinforce your desire to reciprocate in the future. Follow through on any promises you make and do so during a reasonable amount of time. Every 6 months, send an e-mail to your networks and let them know you've thought of them and hope they are well. Avoid mass e-mails and ensure that messages appear to have been sent individually.

Although effective networks may take time to build, good networks will ultimately help you realize your career goals through useful introductions, recommendations, and referrals. Remember, set realistic goals, follow appropriate protocol during interactions, and maintain networks through e-mail, cards, or telephone calls. Consider your own experience establishing networks and strive to assist emerging scholars, in the future, through guidance, referral, or hiring.

Sanford, D. (2008). "Flex your networking skills: 10 tips to building, maintaining, and using your professional network in a job search." The Boston Globe. Retrieved from

Monday, February 2, 2009

Big things - Iraqi style

One of the most fascinating recent events was that of the Iraqi journalist Muntadar Al-Zaidi who threw his shoes at George W. Bush at his last press conference in Iraq, farewelling him with the words "This is from the widows, the orphans, and those who were killed in Iraq", and "This is a farewell kiss, you dog".

In the city of Tikrit, this bronze-coloured fibre-glass monument to the now-imprisoned journalist had a brief life on display near an orphanage until Iraqi authorities ordered that it be taken down. Intriguingly, the authorities were quoted as saying "We will not allow anyone to use the government facilities and buildings for political motives."

Speaking of "political motives', Mr. Al-Zaidi apparently "has reportedly been beaten in custody, suffering a broken arm, broken ribs and internal bleeding", according to the BBC. He has been charged with aggression against a foreign head of state, and faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted.