Filling the Fairfax/NZME gap

Talk of a merger between Fairfax and NZME has prompted discussion about opportunities to fill the gap left by an expected further contraction of MSM news and analysis.

The Daily Blog was launched as a left leaning alternative several years ago, and Waatea news (also driven by Martyn Bradbury) is trying to provide a new way towards a so-called 5th estate. While Waatea is useful it is not providing much new nor balanced.

Regan Cunliffe is still hoping to launch Freed. With a close association with Cameron Slater that will be seen as right wing whether it is or not.

Scoop continues to fund raise for it’s crowd funded model.

In a Scoop post Gordon Campbell on the proposed media merger:

To state the bleedingly obvious: the blogosphere does not have the resources to compensate for the reduction in competition (and the loss of journalistic resources) that will be the inevitable outcome of this merger.

Why not? Sure, online startups are lively, thriving and multiplying : there’sScoop, The Spinoff, the Daily Blog, , the Hard News stable, No Right Turn, The Standard, Pundit, the Dim-Post, Eric Crampton’s Offsetting Behaviour,Paul Buchanan’s 36th Parallel….to name just a few. Theoretically, the merger opens up a market opportunity for them. In reality, all of them will be damaged by the merger.

How come? Well for starters – and as this RNZ report explains here – and also here the blogosphere is poorly positioned to pick up the slack. It is run on a shoestring. It has few resources – or no resources at all, in most cases – to do news gathering. Its strength lies in its analysis and commentary; an essential role that the mainstream has carried out timidly, or not at all. In other words, a genuine symbiotic relationship currently exists between the blogosphere and the traditional . We rely on their news gathering and increasingly, they rely on our analysis and commentary. So… if there’s a decline in news gathering capacity, this will damage the ability of the blogosphere to carry out its valuable contribution to the public discourse.

David Farrar responded to that suggesting he was considering expanding Kiwiblog and has followed that up with Can blogs pick up the slack?

…I have been thinking about what I would do if Stuff and NZ Herald combine and go behind a paywall. The initial impact would be a hassle. Rather than quote stories from their sites, and comment on them, I’d might have to use other sites such as Radio NZ or Newshub. But they have far fewer stories.

But the other thing I can do is start reporting the news more directly. 80% of stories seem to originate for PRs. I know this as I now get all the PRs. They tend to go into a folder I check once a day or so (if I have time). It is rare I’ll do a story based on a PR, as easier to quote a media story already summarising it.

But if two million NZers get blocked from most content on the Herald and Stuff sites, they’ll look elsewhere for it. I doubt many will pay for it.

I could hire someone to write a few news stories a day on interesting NZ issues. I already have good sources for overseas news.

I could also hire someone to cover parliamentary news and try and get them accredited to the press gallery.

Hiring people costs money, so the business aspects of that would be a risk.

If DPF has a crack at it I’m sure who would do something worthwhile and aAny addition to news and analysis is a good thing, even if I can hear the spluttering from TS and TDB from down here.

How ever well DPF does it Kiwiblog News will be deemed by some to be a National/right wing/Crosby Textor mouthpiece with a Dirty Politics smear.

What’s missing from these options is a relatively neutral (politically) approach.

I’ve considered what else I could do to expand on what we’ve established here but I’m not in a position to put in much more timer or resources. It’s already equivalent to probably a half time job, albeit unpaid. It will be quite a few years before I can retire and put full time into it.

Trying crowd funding or attracting and managing volunteers also diverts time and attention.

I could only manage it if I could give someone a specific task, like reporting on Parliament, or reporting on political media releases, or reporting on political social media, or aggregating blog posts and Facebook posts, and leaving them too it.

Farrar has already tried some of that and it hasn’t really taken off. There are not many people around with the political interest, time and passion to give it heaps.

Perhaps we just have to accept that media will continue to both consolidate and fragment, and international players like Google and Facebook will increase their growing domination.