Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Bill Thompson - New media commentator

First posted 22nd February, 2010

Handling arguably the most difficult topic on the week's agenda - and possibly on the entire Align Leftmedia industry's agenda - was Bill Thompson, new media commentator. I really enjoyed Bill's presentation, and his attitude of dry but informed cynicism was both refreshing and engaging.

His dissection of Murdoch's new initiative, the controversial 'pay-wall' concept sequestering specific content was succinct and enlightening on a painfully relevant issue in media. In the following Q&A, an informed audience member asked him if the practice was feasible on a small scale, referencing the Whitby Gazette and we discovered that in a small, group-specific environment such as very regional news, paid-for content would be a practical and rewarding business model, but Bill urged constant observation of what is a new and controversial practice. My understanding is that the risk of 'pay-walls' is twofold, both to ensure it is a financially-sound business model but also that it does not place draconian restrictions on news distribution.

Bill took us on a gentle but wide-ranging stroll through the future of journalism, and confirmed the one overriding fact I had in my mind - we can no more predict the future of media than we can next week's lottery numbers! This is such an exciting and unique situation, that is faced by few and far-between industries - where the future of our professional world is in such flux, and that we as journalists will be discussing and indeed influencing how that future turns out.

I tried myself to expand on this concept, but feel I worded my question incorrectly, when I asked if we ran the risk of making 'news out of the news', describing a spiral situation where journalists discuss journalism and its indiscernible nature in some kind of bizarre 'chicken and egg' scenario. Instead of a challenging and professional 'back and forth' debate, Bill assured me no self-respecting journalist would fall into the trap of discussing themselves and their industry, and if I were to try this theory at a party, I'd probably never get laid again.

Thanks, Bill!

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