The 9pm Edict #19

Years ago, a bloke got frustrated at the end of a long day, and swore a bit. And suddenly the entire fucking media in this country is buzzing around this one pissy little story like blowflies to the corpse of a dead horse.

Yes, less than two days since I posted episode 18, today’s bullshit reportage on a video in which former prime minister Kevin Rudd swears a few times — shock horror! — and a bunch of unsubstantiated rumours from Canberra have triggered this episode.

Just look at this crap, from ninemsn. Even the ABC, which is supposed to be a credible, non-sensationalist news outlet, covers the swearing but then has two “related stories” about the speculation about a leadership challenge, that the cabinet is supposed repeatedly testing support for Julia Gillard and that attorney-general Nicola Roxon had declared her support for her.

The Australian has at least six stories linked from its home page, including some irrelevant commentary from opposition leader Tony Abbott and even Rudd saying he’d do it differently now.

Seven is reporting that independent MP Andrew Wilkie reckons Rudd will launch a challenge, describing the video as “explosive”.

This entire episode is an embarrassment. It’s this sort of Canberra pseudo-insider bullshit that’s precisely the reason I don’t read newspapers or their websites and don’t watch TV news. It’s all a sideshow, the so-called journalists who perpetuate this bullshit know it, and yet they continue to do it.

Why?

Well I think I know why this fucktardery happens, and I have a modest proposal for fixing it.

You can listen to the podcast below. But if you want all of the episodes, now and in the future, subscribe to the podcast feed, or even subscribe automatically in iTunes.

Play

Um, except… no… oh fuck no, not this!

News has just come through — well, Dennis Shanahan says — that Rudd’s leadership challenge is on. Really. May God have mercy upon our souls.

If you’d like to comment on this episode, please add your comment below, or Skype to stilgherrian or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733. Not that anyone ever does.

[Credits: Audio grabs from ABC News24 and, of course, the video in question. The 9pm Edict theme by mansardian, Edict fanfare by neonaeon, all from The Freesound Project. Photograph of Stilgherrian taken 29 March 2009 by misswired, used by permission.]

Has Google Trends data made me look a goose?

Yesterday I wrote an article for Crikey plus a post here based on Google Trends data which, it now appears, is dodgy.

Google Trends shows a steady decline in traffic to various websites since about September 2008, based on the metric “unique daily browsers”. But I was howled down. Everyone else’s metrics were not showing such a decline.

Indeed many, such as this chart of Nielsen NetRatings’ unique dailies, provided by Andrew Hunter (@Huntzie), Head of News, Sport and Finance at ninemsn, showed the exact opposite.

Nielsen NetRatings unique daily browser chart, showing steady rise in audiences: click to embiggen

For example, news.com.au grew from 250,829 average daily unique browsers (UBs) in July 2008 to 346,367 in October 2009, a 38% increase. Not the roughly 50% drop shown by Google Trends.

Google says:

Trends for Websites combines information from a variety of sources, such as aggregated Google search data, aggregated opt-in anonymous Google Analytics data, opt-in consumer panel data, and other third-party market research. The data is aggregated over millions of users, powered by computer algorithms…

In other words, it’s some Google Secret Sauce. But has the sauce gone off?

Photograph of an angry goose

The Google Trends forum is rather quiet. There were only three questions or comments posted for the whole of September, none of which received a reply, and nothing since. I can’t see that anyone from Google has responded to anything for months and months — I gave up looking back any further. Others have noted that Google Trends data differs wildly from Google’s own Analytics product — usually complaining that it shows significantly less traffic.

Google Trends is a Google Labs product, i.e. an experiment, I’m starting to think that it’s been abandoned and we’re just seeing a slow degradation due to lack of maintenance.

Meanwhile, I have changed my Twitter avatar to a goose for the rest of today.

Tom Connell: When the last ink’s dried

[Recently I was interviewed by Tom Connell, a journalism student at RMIT University, about the future of newspapers. Here’s his resulting feature article. I haven’t edited it, apart from imposing my own idiosyncratic typographical pedantry and linky goodness. You read it now, and I’ll add my own comments tonight. It’s long, but I think it outlines the key issues rather well.]

Newspapers are folding in the United States at an astonishing rate. According to Paper Cuts, a website tracking the newspaper industry, more than 120 have folded since January, 2008. While Australian broadsheets have not succumbed just yet, there is a real possibility that they may not survive in the long-term. But is that such a bad thing? Tom Connell reports.

Mark Scott’s recent comments about the Australian newspaper industry would have sent chills through journalists and editors across the country.

“It does strike me that much of the bold and creative thinking about the future of print seems to be happening outside the major publishers — probably because the talented people within are too busy simply attending to the fire in the building,” Scott said, in and article in The Age on 9 April.

This was hardly the first doomsday article on newspapers, but what set this apart is that Scott, current head of the ABC, was until 2006 a newspaper executive at Fairfax Media –- the second largest newspaper owner in Australia.

Continue reading “Tom Connell: When the last ink’s dried”