When in the US
recently I caught up with one of the Newsvine co-founders, Mike Davidson. He
and his co-founders were working at Disney(!) and noticed all these new
features making their way around the web: blogs, streaming video, citizen
journalism, conversation etc that they thought big media needed to embrace in
order to remain relevant. They wanted to create a large-scale media site with
small-scale features, so they signed a deal with AP on the same terms as
everybody else… But then they took it a step further: If you read a breaking
story, why shouldn’t you be able to comment on that right away? After all, most people
already did, but around the water cooler. Why shouldn’t they be able to do it right
from within that very report? Every piece of content on the site contains a
comment thread…Contributors who generate high traffic volume attract
advertising and receive 90% of the revenue.

This is the sort of thing that big media (including the ABC) wants to do, but
there’s a sensitivity about what makes its way onto their sites. They are
completely obsessed with protecting their brands and keeping them out of the
news. This is generating a fear of UGC (user-generated content).

It’s significant that Newsvine has been started by people who don’t have a
news background, but rather, a content background, and that the site looks much
more like a blog than a news site. They don’t pretend to know and understand
the future of media, but they do believe their approach is on the right track
and that they’re going to get there faster than a lot of MSM companies will.

Interestingly, and perhaps significantly, Mike was one of a couple of new
media operators I met over there who commented on the number of Australians coming
to their sites. He said we must be highly advanced in our development and use
of new media. When I told him that the opposite was the case, he was amazed and
thought it must then be frustration that’s driving them in such significant
numbers to try out new media ventures. Maybe this suggests that when we do have
widespread genuine broadband and new local media models, then Australians will
be enthusiastic users.

Peter Fray

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