Friday, July 31, 2009

Is small media the future of big media?

Michael Arrington at Tech Crunch develops an interesting proposition. What if the best 50 writers at the New York Times left the NYT, and developed their own lost cost, low overheads online start-up? Would their readership follow them? Would investors be interested?

Like everyone else I’ve watched the print media world fall apart over the last few years. The poster child for that industry is the New York Times, of course, and their many missteps in recent memory have been well chronicled. In early 2008 Marc Andreessen started a New York Times Deathwatch, and the company’s financial performance has degraded since then.

I keep wondering what would happen if the top 10% of the writers at the NYTimes just…walked out. I know it’s crazy, but let’s just explore this a bit for the heck of it.

Today the company is worth just a little over $1 billion. As recently as five years ago it was worth nearly 5x that much. You have to go back to the early 1980s to see a lower stock price.

I certainly don’t think the NYTimes is going to be shutting down any time soon. The company still pulls in nearly $3 billion a year in revenue, down just 10% or so from 2005. But massive overhead, and more than 9,300 employees, make profitability an increasingly difficult goal for The Gray Lady. Her age is showing.

Full article here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The app economy

Interesting discussion in The Guardian about the rise of the app economy, or the revenue shares between Apple, developers and advertisers from the large - and, for Apple, somewhat unexpected - surge in demand for iPhone applications.

Tube Exits is just one of an estimated 100,000 apps that will exist by the end of this year. Apps are mobile applications designed to be used on smartphones such as iPhones or BlackBerrys or devices such as the iPod Touch. Ilja Laurs, chief executive of GetJar, a leading independent application store, told the MobileBeats conference in San Francisco earlier this month that apps could be bigger than the internet by 2020. Some 65,000 apps are currently available for Apple's iPhones from the corporation's App Store, which marked its first anniversary earlier this summer. But in that year, the apps industry has grown exponentially – the total number of Apple's App Store downloads recently passed the 1.5bn mark.

The App Store's success is reportedly a surprise to Apple, but presumably an even bigger and nastier one to competitors such as Research in Motion (who make BlackBerrys) and Nokia (the world's biggest mobile phone maker). The App Store's staggering success has led nearly every maker of a smartphone operating system to mimic Apple's business model: make it very easy for smartphone users to buy or freely download software created by from third-party developers.

At the moment Apple has something of a stranglehold on apps: Tube Exits is typical in that it can only be used on Apple mobile hardware (ie iPhones and iPod Touches). Apple has even won, if unwittingly, the battle of nomenclature: apps could have just as easily been called programmes or software but instead they are called apps, echoing the corporation's first syllable and thus stressing their seemingly umbilical link to one particular supplier of smartphone hardware.

What are apps? Some are games (such as Who Has The Biggest Brain?, which was played by 25 million people on the internet before being launched as an iPhone app, and its rival The Moron Test), some are silly (one allows you to download the image of a fan on to the screen of your iPhone, the aim being to make you feel cooler), some are edifying (one app consists of an audiobook of Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of History, whose text scrolls on the phone's screen as you hear it read aloud). Among the most popular is a now venerable one called iBeer, which transforms your iPhone into the simulation of a beer glass. Tilt it to your mouth and you seem to be drinking beer. There is even a way of seeming to pour virtual beer from one iPhone to another. And they say technology is all about progress.

Full article here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Review of New Media in New Media and Society

Following on from a blogging idea form my friend Mark Deuze, I have decided to start including reviews of my books on my blog.

The first is a review of New Media: An Introduction by Helen Kennedy from the University of Leeds. This review appeared in New Media and Society, Vol. 11 No. 3, May 2009.

The full text can be accessed from here, but a sample is provided below.

Flew’s text is an interesting, introductory overview – not the definitive
overview, for such a text does not exist. It is broad in reach. After the
introduction, the first three chapters attempt to define the key concepts to,
key approaches in, and key writers about, new media. In the remaining
chapters, Flew addresses what he sees as central issues in new media today.
These include social networking, participatory culture, gaming, citizen
journalism, creative industries, the global knowledge economy and the law–
policy–governance triangle.

How do you choose 20 key concepts in new media? Like Flew, I would
include convergence, cyberspace, networks, participation and virtuality, but
I am not convinced that all inclusions belong here. Also, how do you do
justice to these important concepts in less than a page? While many authors
have dedicated whole books to the topic of participation, Flew settles for a
couple of paragraphs (although admittedly he does dedicate a whole chapter
later in the book to participatory media cultures). The result is that these
brief summaries are very dense and some of them, such as the section on
surveillance, need a lot of unpacking.

Similarly, the chapter addressing approaches to new media mentions only
five. Flew defines these as: beyond hype and counter-hype; approaches to
technological change; social psychology; technology and culture; and political
economy and cultural studies (this last approach is arguably not one but two
different approaches). Many more exist; or at least, different categorizations
and classifications could be brought to bear. The same could be said for his
list of 10 key theorists. His choice is interesting and I am glad to see that
Tiziana Terranova has made it to the list for her work on the politics of
network cultures, but my choices (and probably everyone else’s working in
the field) would be at least a little bit different.


The discussion of the technologies and modes of production of new
media, found in the introduction to this book, is a welcome change. Other
new media overviews fail to attend to the means by which new media
products are made and, as a result, the production process in the ‘circuit of
culture’ (defined by du Gay et al. (1997) as constituted by representation,
identity, production, consumption and regulation), is left out and
understandings of new media are subsequently limited. In this sense, Flew’s
interest in creative industries approaches makes a valuable contribution in the
field of new media.

If this review contains some gripes, they are not really major ones. The
book is an interesting read and it engages with a broad range of contemporary
debates. It is a thorough and comprehensive volume, shaped inevitably by
the author’s own interests in relation to the canon-free field of new media. I
might have written it differently, but then, I did not write it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Journalism in the 21st Century - keynote podcasts available

The Keynote sessions at the Journalism in the 21st Century: Between Globalisation and National Identity conference is now available as podcasts from the SBS Radio site. I participated in the session titled "Journalism in the New Digital Age: New Directions for national and international media outlets", with Valerio Veo (Executive Producer Online Current Affairs SBS, Sydney), Christoph Lanz (Director Television, Deutsche Welle, Berlin), and Bruce Dover (Chief Executive ABC International TV, Sydney).

The theme of the session was:

The currently proclaimed ‘crisis’ of journalism is caused by new increasingly complex technology developments. Traditional media are deeply challenged by a number of different developments which question not only their business models but also ways of journalistic practice. New transnational interactive journalistic formats but also forms of a ‘global presence’ of local, national or international outlets have an impact on business models as well as journalism practice. Questions asked are: is there a role for national journalism in such a globalized sphere? What are quality standards of new forms of ‘interactive’ journalism? What are the new models of covering worldwide events? What is the role of journalism as a 4th estate in an international context?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Overcooking Neoliberalism: Des Freedman's The Politics of Media Policy

I have observed that the term neoliberalism is in my view over-used, and has lost much descriptive clarity as it has become something of an omnibus term of abuse for anything or anyone who you happen to disagree with. Increasingly, the term functions in much the same way as the word "bourgeois" did for radicals in the 1970s.

In order to clarify with an example, I have provided a link to a review I have undertaken of Des Freedman's The Politics of Media Policy (Polity Press, 2008). An edited version of this review of Des Freedman's The Politics of Media Policy appeared in Australian Journalism Review, Vol. 30 No. 2, December 2008, pp. 127-129. This journal, however, which can be hard to find online, as the Web site is four years out of date (NB: this link may not be accessible to you - I got it from the Informit database which QUT subscribes to).

My conclusion on Freedman's book was:

The Politics of Media Policy opens with a highly insightful analysis of how to do media policy studies in original and significant ways. Unfortunately, by anchoring its empirical analysis closely to a desire to expose the hidden machinations of neo-liberal ideology, it loses focus the more that it moves out of the dominant terrain of political economy in the study of media ownership. Des Freedman has pointed to important new directions in media policy studies, but has unfortunately only got half way to developing a new synthesis for understanding the relationship between policy institutions and broader ideas.
For more read here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rudd government walking both sides of the street

The Rudd Government is starting to position political discourse in such a way that it becomes the "sensible centre" of Australian politics, by sending out different messages to different audiences.

As noted yesterday, Kevin Rudd took the opportunity in The Age/SMH to again attack "neoliberalism" as the source of the nation's woes, and his own government as the compassionate alternative. Railing against neoliberalism does not win a lot of votes in marginal seats, but keeps the left-leaning middle classes happy and has the added virtue of sending The Australian's opinion writers into paroxyms of anger and furious rage. The fact that their only readers these days may be the left-leaning middle classes, who continue to feel the comfort of having The Australian to hate as a reminder of the good old, bad old days of evil John Howard, needn't matter.

Meanwhile, his Employment Participation minister Mark Arbib can rail against young people being "job snobs", speaking the language that Today Tonight viewers in marginal seats readily respond to, and stealing the clothes of their political opponents such as Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott.

I think the planning for a Federal election in early 2010 may have already begun.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Kevin Rudd on the economy

Kevin Rudd has written a long essay on the Australian economy again. This time it is in the Sydney Morning Herald. Shaun Carney at The Age predicts that:

The article will, predictably, be dismissed and ridiculed by his opponents and other media outlets, not only for what it is but what it argues. Rudd has, as a small part of his argument, quite intentionally climbed right up the noses of free marketeers and neo-liberals over what he sees as their culpability for the global financial crisis. This is a reprise of another one of his long-form essays, which appeared in The Monthly magazine a few months ago.
Anyway, here is part of the article. The rest can be found here.

When Australia last experienced a global recession worse than this one, Jim Scullin and Joe Lyons were prime ministers of Australia, Don Bradman had just begun his Test cricketing career and Charles Kingsford Smith had just made his first flight across the Pacific. Of Australia's current population of nearly 22 million, only 1 million of our number were alive to experience the traumatic impact of the Great Depression.

In its response to the global recession, Australia has sought to learn some lessons of recessions past. To cushion the impact, the Government took strong, early and decisive action through the Nation Building for Recovery plan to support jobs, small business and apprenticeships today by investing in infrastructure for tomorrow.

The alternatives were to do nothing or, worse, effectively replicate the Premiers' Plan of 1931 when governments cut expenditure, thereby compounding the problems created by a private sector already in retreat. The result, of course, was an economic rout, appalling unemployment and a decade of negligible growth through the 1930s.

By contrast, the economic data today suggests the Government's plan is working so far. Australia is performing better than most other economies, with the fastest growth, the second-lowest unemployment and the lowest debt and deficit of all the major advanced economies. And we remain the only advanced economy not to have gone into recession.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Economics in crisis

The Economist contains an article on the crisis of economics in the wake of the global financial crisis. Its particular reference points are macroeconomics and financial economics, and in particular the "rational expectations" school and the "efficient markets hypothesis". The critiques of Paul Krugman and Brad de Long, amoing others, have been developed in the Australian context by economist and blogger John Quiggan.

OF ALL the economic bubbles that have been pricked, few have burst more spectacularly than the reputation of economics itself. A few years ago, the dismal science was being acclaimed as a way of explaining ever more forms of human behaviour, from drug-dealing to sumo-wrestling. Wall Street ransacked the best universities for game theorists and options modellers ...

In the wake of the biggest economic calamity in 80 years that reputation has taken a beating. In the public mind an arrogant profession has been humbled. Though economists are still at the centre of the policy debate—think of Ben Bernanke or Larry Summers in America or Mervyn King in Britain—their pronouncements are viewed with more scepticism than before. The profession itself is suffering from guilt and rancour. In a recent lecture, Paul Krugman, winner of the Nobel prize in economics in 2008, argued that much of the past 30 years of macroeconomics was “spectacularly useless at best, and positively harmful at worst.” Barry Eichengreen, a prominent American economic historian, says the crisis has “cast into doubt much of what we thought we knew about economics.” ...

two central parts of the discipline—macroeconomics and financial economics—are now, rightly, being severely re-examined (see article, article). There are three main critiques: that macro and financial economists helped cause the crisis, that they failed to spot it, and that they have no idea how to fix it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Whatever happened to work-life balance?

This from The Daily Dish reporting on Jack Welch's view that women face a choice between having children and corporate success. Given Welch's influence on corporate thinking around the world, you would have to imagine that he is not alone in the higher echelons of the corporate world in these views. Comments on Welch are from Conor Friedersdorf.

Corporate Chutes and Ladders

by Conor Friedersdorf

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Former General Electric Co. Chief Executive Jack Welch has some blunt words for women climbing the corporate ladder: you may have to choose between taking time off to raise children and reaching the corner office.

"There's no such thing as work-life balance," Mr. Welch told the Society for Human Resource Management's annual conference in New Orleans on June 28. "There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences."

Mr. Welch said those who take time off for family could be passed over for promotions if "you're not there in the clutch."

I am unsure whether Mr. Welch is speaking descriptively or prescriptively. Either way, I've got two responses:

1) Imagine that three people, all about 50 years old, are competing to be named CEO of a large company like General Electric -- one that pays a premium to compensate its top executive on the theory that singular talent at the top, drawn by necessity from a small pool of applicants, vastly increases corporate worth. Does it make sense that this decision would rest heavily on whether or not one of the applicants took a year off in her late twenties to care for her child? It makes perfect sense that the woman in question would be passed over for promotions that became available during her absence. Were Mr. Welch justifying a statistic showing that the average female CEO reaches the top at a slightly older age than the average male CEO, I'd buy into his theory.

But if what he's actually saying is that once you step off the corporate ladder it is impossible to get back on at the same rung, or to climb as fast once you do, I'd say that's a flaw in the corporate ladder, not a rational structure for penalizing employees who aren't "there in the clutch." Doesn't Mr. Welch's approach artificially limit the number of qualified applicants considered for top jobs where the applicant pool is already smaller than optimal? Doesn't it prevent some people with singular, extreme talent from ever being considered?

A similar sort of irrational behavior exists in corporate law and business consulting, where the time to join a prestigious firm is during recruiting season for your law school or MBA class. A job candidate who would have garnered offers from several top firms in that process might well find he can't get hired at any of those places if he applies after spending a year doing almost anything else. In my experience, folks who take conventional, highly codified steps toward success irrationally come to ascribe greater worth to those who follow the same path.

2) It is no coincidence that in our current corporate structure, a lot of CEOs and law partners lead miserable lives rife with lost friendships, dysfunctional relationships, divorces, alienated children, ludicrous attempts to use consumption as a stand in for actual happiness, etc. Perhaps if we stopped viewing these jobs as what we're aspiring to reach, and begin seeing them as fool's gold largely sought by folks with too narrow a conception of ambition, men and women who never reach the C suite would better count their blessings.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Apropos of nothing at all, I found myself thinking again about the impact of Kraftwerk. Kraftwerk emerged for me at about the same time as punk rock, and I saw both as doing something that was profoundly subversive of the rock aesthetic of its time (mid-late 70s).

In some respects, Kraftwerk were more subversive because (1) there was always something weirdly compelling about the apparent dullness of the music; and (2) it looked like the attack of the office accountants.

Kraftwerk were also one of two things that shaped my perception of Germany and Germans for some time. The other was German goalkeeper Harald (Toni) Schumacher who famously flattened French forward Patrick Battiston in the 1982 soccer World Cup, in an action for which he was lucky not to face criminal charges, let alone stay on the pitch that day.
If you didn't grow up with Kraftwerk, enjoy both the music and the visual styling of The Robots and Trans Europe Express:

Also enjoy Bill Bailey performing one of Kraftwerk's lesser known hits:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Arts versus Creative Industries?

Marcus Westbury has a discussion in The Age about whether the perceived conflict between "arts for art's sake" and "creative industries" is overstated (link to Marcus's blog, as this doesn't appear to be on The Age online site). I include his discussion below.

One point I would make is that the idea that "the industries will take care of themselves" seems odd to me from a policy point of view. It avoids the question of what policy settings enable cultural production to take place in Australia, particularly in the higher risk and more capital-intensive sectors such as film and television.

We wouldn't assume that the existence of a lot of car enthusiasts give you a car industry, so are we being too nonchalant in assuming that the energy of artists gives you an arts industry. I'd agree with his points about the cultural - and economic - signifgicance of "design, architecture, contemporary music, mass media, digital media and video games".

SHOULD governments fund the arts “for art’s sake”, or should they be developing “creative industries”? It may seem like an abstract philosophical argument but at stake in this heated debate are the reasons why, how and even whether governments fund and support art and culture.

The two camps at times have much in common. They can and do form workable alliances but discussions can degenerate into the kind of hostility that student communists reserve for splinter groups that are less ideologically pure.

Historically, governments funded and promoted the arts for reasons that had little to do with money. Governments supported the arts because it was good for us, or a sign of civilisation, or it asserted our Australianness. The arts made it a better world to live in. Today the role that government plays in the arts is constantly being questioned.

The “creatives” who argue that governments should let go of dated ideas of “The Arts” range from frustrated designers or web workers or architects through to economists, bureaucrats and postmodern academics. They’re supported by some in the high art world who figure that any case for subsidies needs a little economic jargon, the odd research report, and some friendly sound bites about how many direct and indirect jobs the sector supports.

Those who advocate supporting art for art’s sake range from staunch defenders of artistic independence to stridently anti-commercial artists, to the opera lovers, the landed gentry and reflexive defenders of the status quo. They’re supported by every artist and community worker who is sick of justifying self-evidently beneficial projects and programs with elaborate pseudo-economic nonsense for Treasury and political press releases.

To the creative industries crew, the capital “A” Art types look like unreconstructed elitists, with an antique view of what is and isn’t proper art. All the subjective talk of “intrinsic value” seems a lot like code for elevating whatever they are personally into, and getting the Government to underwrite it, no questions asked.

To the capital “A” Art types, the creative industries crew look like the bastard children of shallow pop culture and decades of economic rationalism. They dangerously reduce everything to the dollar and miss the central point that culture is about something bigger than making a buck. They seem destined to stuff culture with the same free market that has so spectacularly stuffed up everything else.

I’ve regularly found myself popping up behind enemy lines on both sides. I alternate between finding both sides compelling and hopelessly and frustratingly wrong.

I believe passionately in the principle of art for art’s sake – and yet I also believe that arts policy is desperately behind the times. The traditional art forms of theatre, dance, classical music, opera and the visual arts still dominate government spending and focus while the so-called “commercial” arts touch our lives far more than the traditional ones.

If we want to make this world a better place, then design, architecture, contemporary music, mass media, digital media and video games have a cultural significance that far outstrips the impact of the high arts. They are art forms, not cash cows. They demand to be taken seriously because of their intrinsic worth and impact. It is an insult and not an elevation to talk of them only in terms of industry development and export earnings.

Just as importantly, any cultural policy motivated by picking economic winners is doomed to fail. You can’t pick the next cultural movement. Last year’s trends are next year’s cliches and any attempt to pick them as policy is likely to go horribly wrong.

The paradox of creative industries is that artists rarely behave like industries. Artists can be good business people but for the great ones, money is rarely what drives them. Thinking of them as economically rational players motivated by the desire to maximise their profits is a recipe for failed industries and terrible art.

Policy needs to celebrate the creative imperative in all its forms. It needs to provide fertile ground for creative people and encourage and support them to take risks, experiment and innovate. It shouldn’t matter whether you are a painter, a sculptor, in a rock band, a theatre maker, an architect or a computer-games designer. The industries will take care of themselves.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The End of Fortress Journalism

Peter Horrocks, Director of the BBC World Service, has contributed to a collection of papers published by the BBC on The Future of Journalism. The full report can be accessed from the link provided, but a sample of what he refers to as the "end of fortress journalism" can be found below.

Most journalists have grown up with a fortress mindset. They have lived and worked in proud institutions with thick walls. Their daily knightly task has been simple: to battle journalists from other fortresses. But the fortresses are crumbling and courtly jousts with fellow journalists are no longer impressing the crowds. The end of fortress journalism is deeply unsettling for us and requires a profound change in the mindset and culture of journalism.

Fortress journalism has been wonderful. Powerful, long-established institutions provided the perfect base for strong journalism. The major news organisations could nurture skills, underwrite risk and afford expensive journalism. The competition with other news organisations inspired great journalism and if the journalist got into trouble - legally, physically or with the authorities - the news organisation would protect and support. It has been familiar and comfortable for the journalist.

But that world is rapidly being eroded. The themes are familiar. Economic pressures - whether in the public or private sectors - are making the costs of the fortresses unsustainable. Each week brings news of redundancies and closures. The legacy costs of buildings, printing presses, studios and all the other structural supports of the fortress are proving too costly for the revenues that can now be generated.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Digital Economy report

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has released its report Australia's Digital Economy: Future Directions. The report develops the following argument as found in its Executive Summary:

Advancing Australia’s digital economy requires action by government, industry and the community.

The key areas of focus for government, industry and the community in order to maximise the benefits of the digital economy for all Australians are:

•• for Government, to:

−− lay the foundations Australia’s digital infrastructure

−− facilitate innovation

−− set conducive regulatory frameworks

•• for industry, to:

−− demonstrate digital confidence and build digital skills

−− adopt smart technology

−− develop sustainable online content models

•• for the community, to:

−− enjoy digital confidence and digital media literacy skills

−− experience inclusive digital participation

−− benefit through online engagement.
The report makes reference to the 2007 You Decide project undertaken by a QUT-based team as "Australia's first experiment with collaborative, citizen journalism online". Details of the case study can be found here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I'd like to turn your Powerpoint into a book

As this is the second time VDM Verlag have requested that I turn a Powerpoint presentation they found on my ePrints site into a book, I feel happy to share the email with you.

I pointed out after the first request that, had they opened the file, they would have found a Powerpoint presentation. For those PhD students who are approached by VDM Verlag about turning their thesis into a book, you may want to consdier this in terms of the amount of attention they pay to the contents of their products. Others have discussed this online.

Dear Flew, Terry,

I am writing on behalf of the international academic publisher, VDM Publishing House Ltd.

In the course of a research at the Library of QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, we came across a reference to your thesis on "Communication for the 21st Century, or, How to have your blog and read it too!".

As we would like to make your work available to a larger audience, I am wondering if you may be interested in publishing your thesis in the form of a printed book.

Your reply including an e-mail address to which I can send an e-mail with further information in an attachment will be greatly appreciated.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours,
Kumar Dhora

Acquisition Editor

VDM Publishing House Ltd.

17, Meldrum Str. | Beau-Bassin | Mauritius

Tel / Fax: +230 467-5601 |

Business Registration No.: C07072290

Board of Directors: Benoit Novel , Saleem Chotoye

Friday, July 10, 2009

Beyond Globalisation

My paper Beyond Globalisation: Rethinking the Scalar and the Relational in Global Media Studies has just been published in Global Media Journal: Australian Edition.

Earlier versions of this paper have been presented at the World Communications Association conference in July 2007, the Seoul Symposium on Mobile Communication in October 2007, and the International and Intercultural Communication in the Age of Global Media conference at Monash University in August 2008.

Thanks to Hart Cohen for his support with this publication, and to Caroline Hatcher, Song Gi-Baek and Ron Gallagher for their invitations to present at these events.

The abstract for this paper is below, and the full paper can be accessed here.

This paper traces how the concept of globalisation has been understood in media and communications, and the ongoing tension as to whether we can claim to be in an era of ‘global media’. A problem with this discussion is that it continues to revolve around a scalar understanding of globalisation, where the global has superseded the national and the local, leading to a series of empirically unsustainable, and often misleading, claims. Drawing upon recent work in economic and cultural geography, I will argue that a relational understanding of globalisation enables us to approach familiar questions in new ways, including the question of how global large media corporations are, global production networks and the question of ‘runaway production’, and the emergence of new ‘media capitals’ that can challenge the hegemony of ‘Global Hollywood.’

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Economist viral marketing campaign

Interesting developments in market testing. A personal email that I received from Chris McCrudden from Speed Communication to gauge my response to a new campaign being launched for The Economist. The email read:

I’m getting in touch with you on behalf of The Economist in the UK as I notice that you’ve written about the magazine before on your blog.

The Economist has just launched a new cinema ad campaign which it hopes will help attract a new generation of readers. We’re very interested in hearing your thoughts about it as it’s very different to the ‘white out of red’ posters it’s used for over 20 years. It’s intended to grab the attention of the “intellectually curious”, the estimated 3m+ people in the UK who, thanks to the expansion in university education, care about the range of big global issues that The Economist covers every week.

You can see the video here at

It uses the image of a wire-jumper (Florent Blondeau) walking through a city on a series of red wires and the strapline “Let your mind wander” as a metaphor for the pleasure we get from connecting different ideas, suggesting that you can get a similar experience from reading a copy of the magazine.

I hope you enjoy the ad. If you’d like any more info on the thinking that went into the campaign please let me know.

Best regards, Chris

Note both the personal turn and the feedback loop between my use of The Economist in my blog and an email back about their new marketing campaign.

The video is here.

Friday, July 3, 2009

If I'm going to pay for The Australian, I want better sub-editing than this

If John Hartigan believes that "the willingness of readers to pay for [news] will depend on the quality of the content", he may want to note how his own pieces are sub-edited in his own News Limited papers. Kudos to Tim Burrowes from Mumbrella for spotting this.

The bad sub-editing seems contagious Rod McGuinness spotted this with Christian Kerr's House Rules column online, which has remained untouched for three days.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Jeff Goldblum: Back from the dead?

If Richard Wilkins, New Zealand police and Twitter say you are dead, then you must be. Or maybe not. Stephen Colbert investigates.

Are the suburbs neglected in Australian higher education?

A report commissioned for the Bradley Review of Higher Education by Monash University's Centre for Population and Urban Research (both boring web sites, BTW) argues that school-leavers in the outer suburbs of Australia's capital cities face a "triple disadvantage" of distance form a university campus, modest family incomes, and medicore schooling affecting their final scores adn therfore entry to university.

Guy Healy deals with this in The Australian today.

SCHOOL-LEAVERS in the middle to outer suburbs of Australia's capitals are often "triple handicapped" in their access to university, according to expert advice to the government's Bradley review obtained under Freedom of Information.

The report, Higher Education: Demand and Supply Issues, was written by Bob Birrell, Ernest Healy, Daniel Edwards and Ian Dobson from Monash's Centre for Population and Urban Research.

As the Senate estimates committee recently heard, the government plans to recruit an extra 100,000 university students by 2025.

The advice from demographer Dr Birrell is that the push will have to come from under-prepared suburban frontiers of the nation's metropolises.

"Young people located in outer suburbs often suffer a double or triple handicap as regards access to higher education," says Dr Birrell's report, which appears to have influenced the government's recent equity-based push in tertiary education.

These young people live long distances from a university, their family income is modest and they have often gone to poor-performing, vocationally oriented government schools where the median equivalent national tertiary entrance rank score is generally below that for career-specific courses.

Dr Birrell told the HES: "You can characterise all the capital cities in the same way. (But) it's really serious in southeast Queensland, where you have a rapid spread of suburbs north and south of Brisbane, but there are very limited facilities. And it's pretty extreme in Perth."

The chances of young people from these social backgrounds successfully competing for career-specific university places are limited, the report says, especially since "competition for HECS places in (these) courses has become increasingly fierce in Australia over the past decade".

Such is the demand for HECS places - especially at highly ranked universities - that increasing numbers of parents are willing to invest in private school education for their children while public school parents invest heavily in the residential zones of select high schools.

Dr Birrell said access to the high-demand universities and courses was increasingly dominated by students from private schools and high performing or select government schools. He quoted a report from the Australian Council of Educational Research that found 60 per cent of students from an independent school received an offer and enrolled in 2002, compared with 50 per cent from Catholic schools and 32 per cent from government schools generally.

However, in the case of those from government schools, the share of those from high-performing schools - such as Melbourne High, MacRoberston Girls High, Glen Waverley High and Balwyn High - who received an offer was "way above" that of government schools located in outer suburbia.

The report highlights outer southwestern Sydney, outer western Sydney, Fairfield and Gosford-Wyong in NSW, and southeastern outer Melbourne, Frankston and Mornington in Victoria as areas with low participation and most potential to recruit young people to university.

The report notes that there has been very little increase in the number of completions at the undergraduate level at Australian universities since 2000.

It calls for university places to be targeted to outer suburban areas with low participation rates and backed by increased student support.

In the budget the federal government announced $437 million would be invested in boosting participation over four years, including $108 million for universities to build long-term partnerships with schools and communities in disadvantaged areas.