Tuesday 8 December 2009

The Internet in 2009

There was a great piece in today's Independent about how much the internet has changed all our lives. Both in a positive way and a negative way. But there's one issue that I keep seeing cropping up time and time again and that's the 'should it all be free?' issue.

Rupert Murdoch has been particularly vocal about the issues that he has with the BBC but the reason he's so cross is simple. He can't figure out how to make his papers websites profitable and the BBC doesn't need to worry about that. They have an iconic and trusted brand that we all pay for via our licence fee (if you live in the UK) and they produce one of the most popular websites in the world. It's simple to navigate, fact driven and when compared to the Independent's site (as an example) shines like a beacon. Murdoch can't compete and print media, sadly, is slowly dying. As soon as we're able to get a system working where WiFi is available everywhere (surely on the cards) people will just access the news on their phones and laptops where ever they are without bothering to pick up a paper. A great example is the article that I've provided above. You can click the link and read the article that I read this morning for free, I paid a pound for the privilege. A whole generation is getting used to accessing information on line, they simply don't buy papers.

However this does produce a problem, this online socialist revolution of ours. If there's no one paying to read who pays the writers?

We're all so information hungry. When someone on twitter, that you follow and like, highlights a link as interesting, you click on it and have a read. For free. Surely that's not sustainable. Is it?

I've been thinking about it all day. It is social revolution and I like that side of it. People have got used to this web based encyclopaedia of everything and they've got used to having access to it for free. If Murdoch starts trying to charge for his websites people are going to go else ware for their news. That's quite powerful in its own way. The people saying 'no'. But at the same time we still want quality journalism. Quandary huh?

I don't have an answer but I can see how things can evolve and I understand writing for pleasure not payment. I won't even have Adsense adverts on here, tempting though it might be, for fear of damaging the blogs integrity. Writing on here, without the pressure of meeting a deadline or sharing something cool, that someone else has made and posted with twitter or facebook for free, never fails to give me a buzz. That's why I do it, so maybe that's where the quality journalists and commentators will end up. With day jobs, working in shops, sharing their thoughts with you via some kind of collective on the internet. Either that or the cream rises to the top and they go work for the BBC. One of the joys of the last year for me has been finding other people's blogs and the wealth of talented writing that is out there. I'd love to get close to some of the output that's available.

As much as I understand Murdoch's problem, I don't sympathise. Twitter and Diary of a Ledger have taught me a lot in ten months. It's good to give stuff away for nothing even if sometimes that's hard work after, 'a days work'. Have a great evening.


  1. Lovely piece, and I can definitely see the printed media diminishing within the next decade. Your Sinclair, one of the greatest, most influential magazines ever published, folded with an Audit Bureau of Circulations figure of approximately 40,000 (if I remember correctly), which a lot of the best-known publications would kill for nowadays. I try to make a point of replying to blog posts when I can, as I want the author to at least know their writing is enjoyed. One thing about blogging as opposed to magazine/newspaper journalism is you can never be sure if anybody's read your work, whereas if it's printed, you know hundreds, if not thousands, will read it. My stance on adverts is the same as yours. I don't want people visiting my site thinking I'm a sell-out. However, how can you be sure you're reaching as many people as possible? There are plenty of mediocre and poorly written blogs and sites out there to make much of what people like you and I do be seen as disposable by some, and that's frustrating. I would love to do the stuff I do in a magazine or newspaper, but with so many people after so few opportunities, it becomes a case of hoping that the right person reads the right blog entry at the right time. Ah well. I enjoy doing it, anyway.

  2. Very interesting stuff. It is impossible to feel sorry for the likes of Murdoch, but it is also true that writing is a skill and a talent, and people should be compensated for their work.
    I never have time to read the actual paper, and of course if you have a choice between free and not, it's a no brainer in that instant, but if you ask me if it's OK that real newspapers disappear, I'd shout NO. Much like the Kindle (e-reader) versus real books argument: I'm a "love the feel and smell of the paper" kind of girl, quite separate from the intellectual property and compensation for the writers issue. But then I think that both of these issues are just signs that, sad though I am to admit it, with respect to this both me and Murodch are now the old gits in the corner who say "It was better in my day...". It's a sad fact of cultural evolution that great things get sacrificed in the process of moving forward to more relevant ones. I'll be left with my nostalgia for real books and newspapers, and the knowledge that I contributed to their demise, and Mr Murdoch will have to deal with the fact that he is one of the modern day versions of the people who used to do the jobs in factories that are now done by robots. If he can't find a way to make his business profitable it will disappear. Sad, but true. The business of writing will adapt and move on. Natural selection.But the creativity will remain, albeit in a different form.
    Lonbg live Twitter and the blogosphere!