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, Kiwiblog, 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 media has carried out timidly, or not at all. In other words, a genuine symbiotic relationship currently exists between the blogosphere and the traditional media. 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.
I don’t disagree with what Gordon has said, and I’m not keen on the merger. But change can create opportunities.
The main media websites do very well at reporting news, and other sites do very well at analysis. Not just blogs, but NBR is very good at that, and I regard the best political analysis in NZ (by a wide margin) to be Richard Harman’s Politik newsletter.
But 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. The gallery may not like it, but if they are going to hire most of their content behind paywalls, they’ll look bloody awful if they try to block a site willing to publish it freely from being able to access Parliament.
I’m not going to rush into anything, but if the merger goes ahead and the two main media websites combined and go behind a paywall, I will seriously look at whether I can grab a reasonable portion of their two million readers.