Talking The Global Mail on 2SER’s Fourth Estate

2SER 207.3 Real Radio logoThe ructions at new media outlet The Global Mail have been in the media a bit, from Matthew Knott’s damning piece at Crikey to my own whinge, Sydney Harbour “giant gambling den” bullshit reportage.

I wasn’t surprised, therefore, when I was contacted by journalist Charmaine Wong from the Radio 2SER media program, Fourth Estate. After all, the outlet has just celebrated its first birthday.

Here’s the full audio of her final story, which also includes comments from Dr Matthew Ricketson from the University of Canberra, publisher Graeme Wood, and a student who didn’t seem to be aware that The Global Mail does actually have a Twitter account.

Ricketson reckons we shouldn’t be too harsh on The Global Mail in its “early days”, but it’s been an entire year now. Some of these problems should have been sorted long ago, in my opinion. What do you think?

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This audio is presumably ©2013 Radio 2SER. This is a re-compressed version of the original on their website.

Sydney Harbour “giant gambling den” bullshit reportage

Map showing "giant gambling den in relation to Sydney Harbour: click to embiggen“Is A Billionaire Former Scientologist Shaping Sydney Harbour Into A Giant Gambling Den?”, asked the headline in an email this morning from The Global Mail. Is he? Let’s see!

The story in TGM, the philanthropic media project of Graeme Wood, also a key investor in The Guardian’s forthcoming Australian edition, is obviously about plans by James Packer to build a casino at Sydney’s Barangaroo development.

The proposal is controversial, certainly. But Sydney Harbour becoming a “giant gambling den”? FFS! If it’s not immediately obvious why this is complete bullshit, I’ve drawn a picture for you. A special kind of picture called a “map”.

The black bit is Sydney Harbour, traced from Google Maps. The red bit is the entire proposed casino complex, assuming this report in the Sydney Morning Herald is still roughly correct. You might have to click through to the full-size map to see the red bit.

Sydney Harbour is clearly not becoming a “giant gambling den”. Sydney Harbour will be changed in a way that will be barely noticeable, at least if your global perspective manages to make it any further west than Glebe Point Road. And I’d have thought that the intelligent, well-educated people at TGM would be able to figure that out for themselves.

We were told that The Global Mail was about “quality journalism”, but apparently it’s just another in a long series of comfortable colour supplements for Sydney’s whining middle class, with bonus points for waving the good ol’ Scientology scare-stick.

The story itself is by Nick Bryant, whose work I like. He’s got a biography of Packer coming out, so I assume the article — which I haven’t read yet — is an extract from that book and somewhat better than the promotion it’s been burdened with suggests. I’ll let you know once I’ve read it.

Guardian Australia not the droid you’re looking for

The Guardian masthead: click for media releaseThere’s something weird and creepy about the way journalists and other media tragics have been fawning gape-jawed over this morning’s official announcement that The Guardian is launching an Australian edition. Mummy England will save us from the evil Mr Murdoch!

What, like some weird hybrid lefty combat nanny droid, constructed in the UK’s finest media laboratories out of the Queen, Sigourney Weaver (as Ripley) and Brooke Vandenberg, strapping itself into the drop ship to bring quality journalism back to the colony planet?

I even saw one highly-experienced media professional say it was great to see people trying new things. “New”? Which bit about this is “new”, exactly? Words and a few pictures on a website, written by the same kinds of people that have always written them?

It’s all being spun as a positive thing, of course, and the reporting so far seems to be swallowing the party line. The Guardian expands, challenges existing operators, media diversity quality journalism democracy commitment innovation groundbreaking unique take blah blah effing blah fuck it kill me now.

Knowing nothing more than what’s in the media release, let’s do a bit of old-fashioned follow-the-money…

Continue reading “Guardian Australia not the droid you’re looking for”

Talking “The Global Mail” on Radio 2SER

I thought I’d be too busy today to pay much attention to the new quality Australian news outlet The Global Mail. But then around 2pm I got a call from Radio 2SER in Sydney asking for a comment.

And so it was that at 2.30pm I was interviewed for the station’s current affairs program The Wire by Calliste Weitenberg, along with The Global Mail’s managing editor Monica Attard.

If you haven’t caught up with this yet, The Global Mail has no advertising and no subscription fees. It’s funded entirely by philanthropy — in this case $15 million over five years from Wotif founder Graeme Wood, a man I previously called an arsehat over another matter.

The radio story includes my approval of the new masthead’s long-form journalism and the experience of the editorial team, and notes that it’s easy to differentiate between Wood’s open philanthropy or the similar position held by Al Jazeera and the more power-hungry approach of Rupert Murdoch or would-be media magnate Gina Rinehart.

What it omits is my observation that despite Attard’s claim that everyone is their audience the staff seem almost entirely white middle-aged middle-class types, that you can’t possibly be everything to all people, and that I’m hanging out for things like database journalism and innovative storytelling techniques.

And don’t get me started on the custom sideways scrolling that simple doesn’t respond to trackpad gestures on my MacBook Pro.

But all that said, it’s only Day One for The Global Mail. I wish them well.

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The audio is ©2012 2SER-FM 107.3, and you can download a podcast of the entire episode. But as usual I’m archiving and mirroring the relevant segment here.

Why Wotif founder Graeme Wood is an arsehat

Wotif is, undoubtedly, an Australian internet success story. But that doesn’t mean its founder Graeme Wood’s opinions about the future of the internet are worth listening to.

Wood spoke at the 21st World Computer Congress in Brisbane yesterday and, as Fairfax reports, he said this about the National Broadband Network:

If all you do is download the same stuff — only faster — how can you justify that as an investment?

If the mix of the normal usage — email, music, video, Facebook, gaming, stays the same, but just happens faster — is there an economic or social benefit in that for the private user?

See that “if” part? His whole critique is based on the premise that if you have broadband a hundred times faster that what anyone has now, there still wouldn’t be any new applications. Really?

All arguments depend on their assumptions, and at least we can credit Wood for pointing out what his assumptions are. But his assumptions are crap and should be ignored.

If the moon were made of something different and were a different colour, then it would be green cheese. But it’s not.

If vastly faster bandwidth were available then new things do become possible. The fact that you, Mr Wood, can’t think of them isn’t a critique of the NBN. It’s a critique of your limited imagination. Or, even if you have no imagination yourself, your inability to stay in touch with the people sketching out those future applications.

Let’s invert that and go back a few years to the mid-1990s. Instead of the 10Mb/s or more ADSL2+ connections that suburban homes have now, and that most regional users still dream of, we have 56kb/s dial-up links.

Remember 1995? No VoiP telephony, unless there’s no-one else using the internet link. No Skype. No video chat. No AJAX-based software as a service — including Wotif’s own rich interface for booking hotel rooms. No streaming video from the ABC’s iView. No waiting for rich, graphics-filled web pages for news sites. No YouTube. Sure, there were MP3 files, if you were prepared to wait half an hour for each one. Waiting hours to download your monthly Windows updates.

And everyone else in the home waiting until you finish, so they could have their turn.

Wood would be there, saying, “If the mix of the normal usage — email, Gopher, FTP downloads of a text file, web surfing to GeoCities stays the same, but just happens faster — is there an economic or social benefit?”

Of course there is. Even with no new applications, everything happens faster. So everyone can consume faster. Generate profits faster. Do work instead of waiting for software to download.

That someone who purports to be an entrepreneur on the internet has forgotten all this so quickly is appalling.

Thank you for playing, Mr Wood. Now fuck off.