Tom Glocer, chief executive of Reuters, Trevor Butterworth, a regular contributor to the FT Magazine, and Roger Parry of Clear Channel answer your questions on how mainstream media should respond to the new digital revolution.
One of the main criticisms levelled at grassroots journalism by the professionals – and justly so – is that it lacks access to resources as well as lacking the know-how to produce reliable, good quality information. Do you see a way where grassroots journalists who really want to do a good job, might be given access to resources, or some kind of training (e.g. sponsorship by organisations such as Reuters) to improve the quality of their work and give it credibility?
Tom Glocer: I think there are two answers to your question. Firstly, I agree with Arianna Huffington’s position that blogging has indeed empowered the little guy and that in the blogosphere there are already highly talented writers and commentators who are challenging the media status quo. Many of those bloggers are trained journalists with previous publishing experience – just like Huffington. When it comes to improving so-called citizen journalism (rather than professional bloggers), I think those citizen journalists who want to pursue a professional career will inevitably seek professional training (just as they did before) and the journalistic skills of those who contribute on a more ad hoc basis will benefit as the whole blogging and online publishing phenomenon evolves. We are looking at how we might open-up Reuters training to the broader public.
Sites like MySpace offer a window into what user generated content looks like very broadly but what about sites like NowPublic that are more like a MySpace but with a purely news-related focus? At an event in Silicon Valley last week the company said that they had grown to almost 10,000 contributors in 130 countries in less than a year. They claimed that during Katrina they had 2,000 people in the area. If mainstream media chooses not to embrace companies like this then how can they compete?
Trevor Butterworth: The news media has always embraced the amateur in covering major events – at least in the realm of photography. Many of the most famous news photographs were “snaps” taken by non-media people who were in the right place at the right time. The proliferation of digital camera technology will, as the tube bombings showed, be a valuable addition to any news story (although the quality is likely to be poorer than an amateur using film – but that’s another story). Still, digital photography is easy to manipulate, so the proliferation of citizen photo-journalists will result in new problems establishing authenticity.
Having said that, I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “embrace companies” like Now Public. Turn these people into journalists? Use their material free of charge? Use them as eyewitnesses? Personally, my immediate thought as a journalist in looking at NowPublic’s home page is that it doesn’t have much to help me with my job. It’s chaotic - and links to stories in the tabloid media on testing vibrators immediately signals, to me, a lack of seriousness. Remember, I’m overwhelmed as it is with news and news gathering. I went to a meeting last night of experts and politicians that gave me enough new information to occupy my time for the next two months - should I choose to pursue stories on these topics.
Why do you have a profile page on MySpace? What have you learned from it?
Patrick Phillips, New York City
Tom Glocer: I have a group of friends who were already playing on MySpace and they encouraged me to start. I was also eager to see for myself what Rupert Murdoch saw in the community. What I’ve learnt is that my HTML skills are very rusty and that if you are CEO of a fairly well known company, you attract a certain strata of new “friends”.
Is it recommendable that academics, and in particular, business schools’ deans blog? Santiago Iñiguez, Decano-Dean, IE-Instituto de Empresa, Madrid
Why should deans blog?
Trevor Butterworth: Hi Santiago – interesting question, given that blogs have been adopted for intra-profession and company communications. But it’s a question that revolves around definitions: if by blogging, you mean multiple postings during the day, then I would argue that there are better things to do with your time, especially if you are a business school dean. If on the other hand, the blog is a blog only by definition of the software being used, then the idea of a forum, newsgroup or plain old website that brings professionals together to share and debate new ideas may well offer rewards. Know your market, have concrete objectives – and understand that, like the worst kind of business meeting, talk can go on and on and achieve nothing.
For those academics seeking to become “public intellectuals” or “media dons” – blogging is clearly a way of bringing one’s corpus of thought to the nitty gritty of the agora. At the same time, unless you have a very clear idea of how you want to brand yourself – a communications strategy, a clear sense of your target audience, and quite possibly a lot of patience, the payback may not be worth the effort. You may also make the mistake, “in the now of blogging,” to write things that your colleagues may not find judicious. The spontaneity of blogging should be thought of in the same vein as making your e-mails public, and it would be very easy to see hastily-blogged comments upsetting all manner of campus sensibilities.
What advice can you give to a young journalist starting out? Should I pitch for print or online? Also, any chance of a job?
Simon Copp, BA (Hons) Multimedia Journalism (3rd year student), Bournemouth Media School
Tom Glocer: Funnily enough I am the first non-journalist to be CEO of Reuters so I might not be the best person to ask. But what I know is that starting out in journalism is more exciting today than it ever was. Just ten years ago you had two choices – print or broadcast. There are many more opportunities now to make a living as a journalist. I would follow what excites and interests you. Make good contacts and build a network. And in the meantime send us your CV as we have graduate programs at Reuters. Good luck.
Trevor Butterworth: Develop an area of specialised knowledge, acquire a basic grasp of statistics, learn a foreign language like Mandarin or Arabic if you have the energy.
Roger Parry: I think you can be media neutral and go for print or online or preferably both. Quality of work will shine through no matter what the channel. In the very near future local newspaper journalists will be as adapt with a camera as their predecessors were with a notebook. The nearest Johnston Press site to Bournemouth is in Portsmouth where we publish the very excellent local daily paper www.thenews.co.uk ( you will see I have learnt promotion skills from consensusview.com). There are always looking for talent. Best of luck
Would Mr. Butterworth agree that the blogging and the like has shown that news and, especially, opinions are pretty cheap commodities and that the media story is about fragmentation at the expense of old media monoliths like Reuters?
Raymond Robinson, London
Trevor Butterworth: Hi Raymond, thanks for your question, to which I disagree! If there’s one thing that can be said about Mr. Glocer’s tenure at Reuters is that he has made the company more valuable and more profitable than ever precisely because Reuters provides the kind of serious information people need in order to do business, shape policy and so forth. Bloomberg is thriving for the very same reason. In a similar vein, so is the Economist. By contrast, I note the latest Project for Excellence in Journalism study discovered that just five percent of blogs posted original content on a daily basis. It’s difficult to say how useful or interesting this content was, but I’ll take another stab at the blogosphere and say, in the main, not much. Without “branding” an opinion is like a... (okay, I won’t go there!)
Yes, the story is about fragmentation – but not of the kind that I think you are alluding to. The fact is that the Internet has allowed local media monoliths to compete with other local media monoliths for a much broader range of readers by giving away all their content for free. In 1990, the U.S. had two truly national papers, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal – and both catered to clearly defined markets. Meanwhile most newspapers existed in local markets that were close to monopolistic in profit terms. This generated huge revenues for the Washington Post and New York Times, supporting massive editorial operations that enabled much in-depth investigation and reporting. The Internet – not blogging – destroyed these protectionist barriers, and allowed other, more dynamic companies to seize advertising revenue. Now I could choose to read the foreign coverage of the LA Times for nothing while sitting in Boston – and I could go to Craig’s list to post a classified ad.
So the news became cheapened without any compensation for the cost of news gathering. (It takes anywhere from 20 to 100 internet readers to match one print reader in terms of ad revenue.)
The Internet and has shown that serious news is actually an expensive commodity that shouldn’t be given away for nothing – and for which demand is not infinitely elastic. This was obvious eight years ago. The question is what will happen next.
There are numerous possibilities, which range from Telecom’s desire to charge for premium bandwidth access to a Congressional bill that will subject political blogging to Federal Electoral Commission disclosure regulations. There is the prospect of the content aggregators being sued for poaching all those links for free – and there is, in 2007, the arrival of mass market digital ink products, which may, in time, provide a new platform for the rebirth of the newspaper. In the next ten years, alliances between media monoliths will be made, and some news organisations will fail. Right now, how much competition for news the market will bear is the billion dollar question - but I don’t think blogging will have a material effect on the answer.
What really matters is how Mr Glocer thinks a company like Reuters can make money from this new media zeitgeist. As he said himself in an interview earlier last year, Reuters has consistently missed the boat in the last two decades, allowing the likes of CNN and Yahoo to build strong brands by judiciously deploying Reuters wholesale news output. Does he now expect to turn his reports into chatty bloggers on the FX market or Phillipines Equities and make money from it?
Raymond Robinson, London
Tom Glocer: Raymond, no one holds the magic formula for turning media success into financial success in the coming years. What I can do at Reuters is set ambitious goals and stake out a future where we emerge from being only a wholesaler of news to a role where we also have something directly to say to consumers. We have begun this journey and the revenues from our digital media properties have grown substantially over the last year.
Do you see the demise of newspapers who don’t use your potent remedy for falling circulation?
Larry Lynch, USA
Tom Glocer: I think there’s always going to be a role for newspapers. It’s still a great technology – it’s easy to read, you don’t have to subscribe for a year, it works even when you’re not in a cell-phone network, it doesn’t crash and the news is really only a few hours old.
But the newspaper is a much less good advertising medium than the digital media. You can only serve up flat banner ads rather than target and personalise ads and follow through to purchase. We already see this with Google ads and the move of classified advertising online. So my belief is that newspapers will survive, but not grow. And I do expect further consolidation
Trevor Butterworth: I think newspapers have more to fear from their shareholders demanding 20 percent profit margins than from bloggers.
If you take the numbers of readers of daily papers in the US, online and in print, the situation is not nearly as bad as people make out - at least in terms of people deserting news. The problem is that advertisers will pay well for print, but not for online. And this gap isn’t going to close anytime soon - even though many advertisers like the dynamic aspects of online ads.
The future is difficult to see: any number of economic or legal developments could end the freedom of the Internet as we know it now and revitalise news profits.
I think one major battle facing the mainstream media, is at a national level. Eventually, we will have some sort of digital ink platform that will make the way we currently get news from the Internet look antiquated. That means that news organisations will have to be adept at doing both broadcast and print. Now, will a company like Reuters try and provide everything or will it partner with other news organisations? One thing is sure, competition will be intense - and it may even return us (in the US) to the days when three networks and a couple of newspapers commanded the nation’s attention.
I would venture that the 80 pound gorilla in the news business right now is FOX News. They have a dynamism that could make them the single biggest provider of broadcast news in the US They are poaching some of the opposition’s best talent. And crucially, they spend more on managers than other news organisation that I’m aware of. (Think that’s an odd point to bring up? Talk to a bunch of journalists and you quickly realize that there is way too much amateurism in the news management business.) If I were Mr. Glocer I would be watching what FOX does next very closely. Similarly, if I was Roger Ailes - I’d be keeping an eye on Reuters. But let me make this clear - blogging or not blogging is going to have no impact on the outcome of this fight.
In the meantime, I think that the suits running much of the media in the US. have become stale and desperate: too much news is bland and dull; too much time is spent wondering whether the reader will “get” a story or be offended by it. Talking up citizen journalism, blogging and podcasting is creativity on the cheap. If the current phase of new media shows us anything, its that people want more vitality and dynamism, better writing, more intelligence and honesty in covering a topic, more transparency and accountability.
If cutting news room budgets is a necessity - start by axing the fuddy-duddys.
Roger Parry: The main challenge to newspapers comes from the loss of classified advertising to web sites but of course this will be exacerbated by a loss of readers. “Citizen journalists” will become an increasing feature of newspapers web offering but they are already today an important part of most papers through phoning in tip offs, writing letters and submitting articles and photographs. The development of newspaper web sites makes it easier and quicker for readers to contribute but those contributions will still be subjected to some test of editorial quality before being posted the same way they are today before being included in the “old” format printed paper. The advertising challenge will be met by newspaper have their own web plus print offerings which are at least as good as anything from stand alone web site operators
With the overwhelming increase in the amount of information available electronically and so much of it being shared in near real time, how does the industry ensure that only credible and well researched information is disseminated and used? How will information companies educate their customer base and potential new customers to the pitfalls of uncredentialed blog-style information? How does the industry keep from becoming a giant gossip, rumour or conjecture mill?
Christopher J. Hughes, Director of Business Development, Edge Innovation Learning USA
Tom Glocer: Just like Stephan’s question I think the dissemination of credible data and information is all about trust. Financial markets use Reuters data because they trust it. We have an established track record for the timely delivery of independent, accurate and unbiased reports. For Reuters, it’s down to our reporters and editors to make judgements about what’s accurate and what’s not when they are filing stories. Really the mechanics of making those editorial judgements are no different whether a journalist is sifting through citizen journalist contributions following a big event or speaking to an established source. It’s about professional judgement on the reliability of the source.
Arguably the Internet is already a giant gossip, rumour or conjecture mill. However, the web carries with it a policing model as with Wikipedia – the users themselves can police the content. This works over time, but not with fast moving financial news where you must have a trusted source to trade upon.
Trevor Butterworth: This is such a huge problem that I can only sketch a quick cartoon in response.
I think the formulas for covering news need to be overhauled. They work fine for covering car crashes and court cases, but do not serve the public well when it comes to covering complex information. For example, take the global health scare that followed the publication of a study in the journal Science in 2004 that claimed PCBs were at such high levels in farmed salmon, people should limit their intake of fish. Reason being, the US Environmental Protection Agency considers PCBs as “probable human carcinogens.”
Now, you might imagine that news stories warning the public about this new, potential risk for cancer would have reported what the risk is – wouldn’t you? I mean, that’s the fundamental point of reading the story. But no, only 18 per cent of newspaper stories in the US bothered to explain that you would have to eat eight ounces of raw salmon with the skin on each month for 70 years to have a one-in-one-hundred thousand chance of developing cancer. And that is based on a method of risk calculation that maximised the risk (linear through zero extrapolation). Was this something to worry about when 400,000 women die each year in the U.S. from heart disease? I’d venture no, it wasn’t.
Time and again, the traditional news media’s boneheaded lurch to be first with the news means that the public are receiving inaccurate or incomplete information – that rarely if ever gets updated. And this has real consequences for public health, public policy and business. But enough whining – here are some practical solutions for branding information as credible and authoritative for a new age of drivel:
1. All journalists need to be trained how to evaluate a scientific study.
2. News organisations should resist the urge to cover each new health scare or activist health claim as breaking news of critical importance to the public unless they are willing to devote resources to determining if the claims have merit.
3. Reporters covering health scare stories that have a potentially devastating impact on companies and industries must be given the space to give a balanced account of the scientific evidence – and controversies in these accounts should, as a matter of course, be explained by recourse to independent scientific experts - not just the activists making the claims and the industry sources rebutting them.
4. Whenever possible, reporters and editors should provide numbers and data, so that readers can follow the evidence for claims. Just reflect on the popularity for Suduko, before dismissing this idea.
5. News organisations should also use the internet to create repositories of detailed information on topics that are of major public interest – to take on an encyclopedic role, in other words.
6. Partnerships with medical schools could be created to co-brand such knowledge.
All of these step are far more useful than creating a blog or a podcast - or worse still, a podcast of a blog.
I am the co-founder of www.concensusview.com, a site that allows financial market participants to share their forecast of the markets and see what the consensus view on the markets is. We are getting more and more requests to add a news element to the site to allow user-reported news and analysis, very much in line with your comments that the consumers of news and content want to get in on the action themselves. How much of this “user-news” will find its way into the offering of mainstream news and media organisations and what implications will this have for the value of content? Will the function of organisations such as Reuters increasingly become one of news filter as opposed to news gatherer?
Tom Glocer: In my mind this enters quite difficult territory but it’s a subject that clearly is an important business issue for you. You currently deal in hard facts and then aggregate them – financial forecasts. Opening up your site to include un-sourced news or rumour could mean you create a forum for people who want to manipulate the market. Analysis may be different but I would stick to people who are expert in the markets and have a strong track record. As we move to more general news and in particular pictures and video, I think the role of the true amateur user becomes more important.
On your last question, I think Reuters – just like all news organisations – will always assume the role of filter and editor. We sift through what’s happened in the world, make judgements, interrogate sources and publish. We always will.
Trevor Butterworth: Thanks for your question Stephen – it’s a really interesting one. I can’t speak to what Reuters will do in the future, that’s Mr. Glocer’s terrain; but looking at your site, I am afraid to say I find compelling reasons for traditional – or “tradition-enhanced” journalism – playing an even more vital role in purveying the kind of knowledge that people need to make important business and decisions.
Consider consensusview.com’s home page claim, “Do you get the S&P right 58% of the time? Our members do!”
Now, I’m not an expert in investing, but I am perplexed that your members’ rate of accuracy is close enough to flipping a coin that the claims for superior forecasting might be random. Even assuming that your membership has weeded out investors who do badly, the investments that are made may reflect biases and trends that diminish the statistical basis for your claim to superior predictive ability.
Therefore, I actually want to read what Reuter’s or the FT’s reporters make of your site, and the methodologies you use, before I trust your “collective” judgment. And I would hope that these reporters would have the nous to ask a mathematician to take a look at your data rather than simply repeat your claims verbatim. That’s the kind of “enhanced” analytical reporting that news organisations need to do more of. And if they do more of it, their longevity will be assured.
Still, I think you make a very good point: the “wisdom of crowds” theory of news is fine if the crowd is composed of experts analysing what they know about best. One of the weaknesses of the “mainstream” media is that they keep running stories that disagree with the consensus of toxicologists or oncologists because the story conforms to the formula of news, rather than what presently counts as the consensus of science. One statistically valid survey of American cancer experts in 1994 and cancer coverage in the media found that the experts’ view of risk was completely different to the media’s presentation of risk.
But science provides some measure of methodology that each member of the scientific crowd can be hold accountable to. I’m not sure it’s the same for the more “dismal sciences.” There is a lot of self-interest in investors influencing the news (remember all those Internet IPOs!) – and my suspicion is that too much of this happens already for me to want to embrace more of it. Isn’t this insider trading writ large?
I think, broadly, the changes in digital media require the mainstream media to re-calibrate their formulas for establishing authority and credibility. As one wag noted on the Pew survey of the future of the Internet, “the dissemination of information will increasingly become the dissemination of drivel.”
Roger Parry: A subtle advert for consensusview.com built into a question. Excellent use of the web. Score more VC funding and hits. By the way I like the Lichtenstein style graphics.
“News” as Viscount Northcliffe said, is what somebody , somewhere does not want published. all the rest is advertising” A problem with user reported news is that it may be self promoting, libellous or just inaccurate. A news filter as you suggest can overcome much of this but real, hard news is often dug out by determined journalists paid to delve into matters others would prefer did not see the light of day. Readers opinions will become more and more prominent but there will still be a role for the old-fashioned “news hound”
The blogging revolution is in its infancy as the web was in the late 1990s. Bloggers will become more sophisticated and organised over time. The blogging community will itself split – between professional and amateur bloggers. Many professional bloggers will be experts in their own fields that do not have the desire/time to write for mainstream media. Add all these professional bloggers together (through technology or partnerships) and you potentially have the real challenge to old media in a few years. How can old media coerce or partner with a much more advanced and professional blogging community? Fighting hundreds of thousands of real niche experts will be a much different challenge. How can Reuters face this challenge?
Philip L Letts
Tom Glocer: You raise a very interesting point. I agree that the development of blogging still has some way to go and we are really just at the beginning of what I believe is a significant change in media publishing. I think media companies like ours need to experiment with both amateur and professional blogs. Reuters has been encouraging our own professional journalists to blog events, like the Consumer Electronics show – so you should not expect all the “experts” to come from the outside. To attract outside professionals you need to offer a platform, an audience and a brand that is appealing. The war will not be won by coercion but by mutual consent.
Trevor Butterworth: Thanks for your question. I’m not sure I agree, though, with your premise – namely that blogging is in its infancy. Reader numbers are flat (according to Gallup) and, no matter what measure you use, they aren’t much to blog about. According to BlogPulse (by way of the Wall Street Journal’s “numbers guy”) there are no more than 450,000 blog posts per day – and that figure has remained static for about a year.
And then there is a much more fundamental question: how many readers do you alienate as a news organisation by indulging in blogging? I think you (and mainstream media blog evangelists) overestimate, at the very least, American appetites for bloviation. Branded opinions yes; what DaveSpart68 in Ohio thinks about George W. Bush, no.
Presently, the reality of the blogathons at some newspapers in the U.S. seems to be less expert disquisition and more inquisitorial musing on American Idol or Lindsey Lohan. Fine, clearly there is a market for this kind of pop cultural chatter – but how much is it enhancing the newspaper as a business? Not as much as devoting more resources to producing original, insightful and well-written content, I’d warrant.
Second, the idea that there are hundreds of thousands of “niche experts” blogging away (or ready and willing to blog) lacks empirical evidence. I’m very impressed with scienceblogs.com – read the surgeon/scientist “respectful insolence” and you get a real sense of how the mainstream need to upgrade their medical reporting.
And yet at the same time, I see scienceblogs.com as a sort of rearguard action against a blitzkrieg of rubbish on the net rather than the vanguard of an expert army. The “collective intelligence” of the blogosphere is nothing more than a virtual Maginot Line against bad information, which often begins in the mainstream press and, thanks to the immediate parasitical nature of blogging, invades and permanently occupies the Internet.
Consider the furor over vaccination and autism. Last year, the mainstream press (Rolling Stone and Salon) published an extraordinarily flawed story by Robert F. Kennedy on how the American government was supposedly covering up data linking a mercury-based preservative in vaccines to an “epidemic” of autism. This was picked up the Huffington Post, which, inter alia, damned ABC news for radically changing a story based on Kennedy’s claims. It was a big bad corporate pharma pile on.
Yes, the original story was negligent journalism of the highest order, but the frontlines of blogging simply amplified it. Bloggers such as Skeptico and Respectful Insolence did a terrific job of analysing and pointing out why Kennedy’s claims had no merit, but they lacked the impact of the Huffington Post or Salon or Rolling Stone. And given that the elite blogging circles are dominated by journalists, established pundits and their dauphins, I don’t see how this kind of expert network can leverage its intelligence to inoculate the public against bad information.
The moral of this story is that mainstream news organisations need to look at this kind of event, and figure out what is best for the public interest. Co-opt science and medical expert bloggers into their news model? Maybe. Do a better job of covering this kind of story? Definitely. Re-evaluate what constitutes news and how it should be presented? Absolutely. It’s no good patting yourself on the back because your organisation knew better than to swallow Kennedy’s anti-vaccine Kool Aid if a rival publication ends up propagating misleading and potentially deadly information.
Roger Parry: Blogging covers a very wide range of types of comment and information. Some may be regarded as a personal diary other more an informed and expert commentary. The degree to which a blog is interesting to people other than its author will depend on the subject matter, the authority, the level of “new” information and the style of the writing. In short the most popular blogs will share the same characteristics as the most popular newspapers, magazines and broadcast programmes.
In some ways the blog is the digital version of the letter to the editor or the self produced leaflet but with the added dimensions or interactivity, real-time distribution and global access. The blogger who produces something of very narrow subject interest can still draw a sizable audience as they have the whole world as potential readers.
Existing media will have to embrace blogs as an enhancement to their content offer in the same way they commission articles from experts, run reader polls and invite letters.
Bloggers who do their job well will, like star columnists, attract a loyal following and will be paid (if they want to be ) to let their blog be aggregated into an existing media offering.
The extraordinary success of Felix Dennis’s “old fashioned” print magazine “The Week” shows the hunger is there for information to be condensed and edited. It is easy to imagine commercial web sites offering a “best of blogs” service in a defined subject area.
Old media should encourage high quality and relevant blogs on their own sites which help the blogger find a wider audience and the media owner offer a better service. In principle its not that far different form the early newspapers in the late 1700’s as they aggregated the best of the pamphleteers and letter writers.
Is Reuters an information, software or service company, or all of these? If the latter is the case what will dominate in the future?
Tom Glocer: Reuters is a content company. Over our history, however, we have always used technology in an innovative way in the service of creating, distributing, displaying and allowing users to transact and interact with our content. This has been true whether the underlying technology was pigeons, the telegraph or an RSS feed. Over the last few years we have focused on improving our service and this has begun to pay rewards.
Do you think the increasing emergence of open source software will impact Reuters in the future?
Tom Glocer: We take advantage of open source software like Linux and open source content like Wikis where appropriate, but we do not entrust highly specialised software like our risk management systems to full open source. We do give our clients very broad usage rights to our content, symbology and metadata, which we make available in standards based formats like RSS, News ML and published APIs.
What are your three key challenges for Reuters and how will you address them?
Tom Glocer: As you are probably aware, Reuters went through a rough patch from which we are only now emerging. We’ve had to change, evolve and adapt our business to address structural changes in the financial and media markets we serve. Broadly the current year is all about two things: revenue growth and simplification.
When it comes to new types of media content – I think there are three key concerns in my mind:
1.That we employ real experts who understand the dynamic of this market – what’s really going on
2.That we build on and take forward our services - mixing together professional content with insightful amateur material
3.And finally, that we continue to place high value in old media skills like writing and editing, because these are always going to be important
While music, Hollywood and broadcasters have recognised the threat [from pirate downloading], football in Europe seems totally oblivious. With improvements in video streaming technology coming that will give real-time video pirates the same power as the video down-loaders had two years ago. What will happen with football?
Keith Baker, Waalre, The Netherlands
Roger Parry: Not sure I fully understand the question but I will make the assumption you mean that “pirates” will offer non authorised broadcasts of matches. This seems very unlikely to become an issue. What makes football or any other sporting spectacle come alive on TV is a large and very expensive outside broadcast team of multiple cameras with rapid inter-cutting backed up by detailed graphics to present data and analysis all in real, live time. The audience see it whilst it is happening but with many, many perspectives. Whilst “pirates” will be able to get access to streaming they will find it very hard to offer broadcast quality coverage in real time as they will not be able to access privileged camera positions and get on pitch and in dressing room access. It is one thing to make a boot leg audio recording of a concert and put it onto the web. Covering a live football match in a way that comes anywhere close to the professional broadcasters seems difficult to imagine.
Tom Glocer, chief executive of Reuters, says the media industry has witnessed a new digital revolution in the last year, as consumers have begun creating, sharing and publishing their own content online in huge numbers.
The industry faces a profound challenge from these new content creators. “So how should we respond to and control content fragmentation in this era of two-way flow,” he asks. Click here to read his views.
Trevor Butterworth, a regular contributor to the FT Magazine, has worked in the virtual trenches of online media and currently edits www.stats.org - a site devoted to analysing how the media uses and abuses science and statistics.
He believes that “citizen journalism” and “blogging” are not the products of a new information revolution but simply this generation’s version of the underground press - minus a cohesive social agenda. Blogging’s better features will be absorbed by the mainstream media - which is in desperate need of creative renewal and a transparent means of making itself accountable for its actions. But at its worst, as he noted in Time for the Last Post, blogging “is the closest literary culture has come to instant obsolescence.” Click here for Mr Butterworth on why most blogs are boring.
Roger Parry heads up the international operations of Clear Channel, the media group, and also chairs Johnston Press, the UK regional newspaper publisher, and Future, the publisher of magazines such as Guitar World and PC Zone.
Regional newspapers and magazine publishers have also been hit by migration of advertising to online competitors. Mr Parry is in the midst of an online investment drive and will also be joining the discussion.