Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Moving to Armidale - reflections on the changing media landscape

Each change in life situation brings shifts in perspective. This shift to Armidale is no exception. This short post reflects on one element, the changing media landscape, something I have written on before.

It will be no secret that I am a news junky. At first, I did not have an internet connection, so for several weeks I relied on the mobile for my news. Even now, I still use the mobile to check the news because I can do so in the kitchen while sitting in the sun.

Some of my friends argue that we don't need the NBN because of the increasing power of mobile coverage. To me, using the mobile to access news is like an addict being promised a hit and then served a placebo! Part of the problem is structural: stories are designed to fit the small screen, reducing content and making it more difficult to scan to quickly to identify content of interest. Part of the problem is the general decline in content across the media in general.

Whatever the reason, I find that I can scan five main media outlets (BBC, ABC, Al Jazeera, the Guardian and the Conversation) in ten minutes. I also scan the Canberra Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, Newcastle Herald, Glen Innes Examiner, Northern Daily Leader and the Armidale Express mainly to see what's there that I might want to visit. I don't actually visit because of fire wall limitations that limit the number of visits. If I see something that I think that is important I will visit later withing my ration.

When I do have the main computer fired up I will sometimes look at a broader spread. I don't look at the Australian because there is no point given their firewalls. Actually that's a problem. Because I don't read the Australian (I do buy it sometimes) or watch Sky News (I do have local access to the second via free to air tv) there is an entire significant segment of Australian discourse that escapes me. I guess that my justification here is that twitter gives me a heads-up on what those outlets and their readers think.

Both Sydney and, more broadly, NSW politics have suddenly become remote. I pick up a little from the ABC, a little from my scans of the Sydney Morning Herald story headlines, a little from friends, but after just three months away it all seems a bit abstract. Mind you, the on-line version of the SMH at least actually doesn't have a lot of Sydney or even NSW stories preferring broader coverage unless there is a scandal. There is nothing wrong with that, it's a matter of market perception, but if I want to read about Prince Andrew I have rather a lot of choice. If I want to learn what's happening across Sydney, I won't find it in the SMH.

Something similar has been happening in the local and regional media. Looking at today's Glen Innes Examiner website, there are very few local stories, although there are a number of regional stories drawn from other mastheads. Most of these I have seen. There is also a lot of stuff on non-Glen or even regional issues. The restructured website makes it harder to find things. If you go across all the Australian Community Web sites and dig down into some of the category headings you will find old stuff and constant repeats.

 I have to do a proper statistical analysis on this. I will do that on the New England blog. For the moment, I am just reporting a perception.

All the papers have become so thin. I have felt for a while and have written about my perception that the papers have lost sight of their markets and especially the segments in their markets.

Just before I moved to Armidale I went down to Canberra. There I read the print edition of the Canberra Times for the first time in several years. I was a bit appalled. I had been following the Canberra Times website, it was actually my first go-too outlet. This had built up a large following because it had no pay walls and included a range of stories local and drawn from other Fairfax papers. 

When Fairfax introduced paywalls on the Canberra Times website, I suggested that this would destroy the paper's on-line presence. I think that it did. Since Fairfax sold the paper to ACM, I think that it has deteriorated further.

I need to stop here for I am running out of time and this is meant to be a brief post. Still, these are issues that I suspect that I will be coming back too.


Anonymous said...

One of my favourite scenes - sorry about the language :)

Jim Hacker: Don't tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads the papers. The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by the people who actually do run the country; the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; the Financial Times is read by people who own the country; the Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country, and the Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.

Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?

Bernard: Sun readers don't care who runs the country, as long as she's got big tits.


Jim Belshaw said...

kvd. I well remember this exchange! :) One could translate them to the Australian equivalents