Sunday 9 May 2010

Deveny and a free press

I was so impressed with this comment that I left at Iain Hall's place that I have decided to republish it and expand on it.

I disagree with this idea that “if you dislike this rubbish on twitter, just ignore it”. Deveny has been running the media-convergence play. That is, she has been using her column and social media as a mutual system to boost her profile. What she says on twitter is important as it is completely designed to be picked up by the wider media, giving her the maximum audience possible. She’s been very good at getting herself the maximum airplay on TV and radio by using these methods. It’s a cross-over ploy.

It doesn’t matter if I don’t follow her on twitter – she produces this stuff solely so that it will leak into the old media and give her a bigger run. This was simply a cunning plan that was too cunning by half. What she failed to understand is that she is operating in a number of different media markets, and the consumers in those markets have different tastes and standards. What is acceptable by her twitter followers fell flat when it hit the pages of the Age. She was smart enough to use these new media outlets to gain a celebrity that she never deserved; but not smart enough to understand the differentiation between the old and new media markets.

I love the fact that we have freedom of speech in this country. It is one of the things that allows us to stand above the despotic hell holes that the world is still littered with. It is a freedom that we must defend, even at the cost of having the likes of Deveny causing our ears to bleed.

We don't really have a free press though. Journalists and commentators are not free to have everything they write published. They have editors to get past first, and those editors have to answer to the CEOs of their organisations. All professional writers scribble away within limits, and those limits are set by the taste of their editors and owners.

And then there are the advertisers.

In the end, the editor is tasked with making a simple calculation - is a particular writer attracting more of the right kind of readers (ie, readers that his advertisers want to advertise to), or repelling them? If there is a net gain of the right sort, the writer is rewarded. If there is a net loss, they are dropped. A newspaper is, after all, a business. It has to make money. It makes money through advertising. Those writers are only paid to write because they have the ability to attract eyeballs, and your eyeballs may occasionally wander over an ad placed next to their columns - and that is valuable real estate.

It's not good if Deveny attracts 1,000 smelly yet penniless Arts students to the paper if she turns off 100 well-heeled adults out in the suburbs. The adults with money are the people that the advertisers want to reach; not the grotty people with too many facial piercings. (If she was writing for Rolling Stone, it would be different - but Rolling Stone wouldn't employ her - they tend to go for very good writers, and Deveny is controversial but crap).


1735099 said...

That's the beauty of blogging - no editors, no advertising - no CEOs - and very few plaintiff lawyers.

Anonymous said...

It's the only reason I can get away with writing as badly as I do - blogs are a godsend for me to actually post my blatherings. Some bloggers are damn good writers, and interesting, and fun...and those are the ones I read on a regular basis, whether political or not.

Ride Safe, Boy!