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Nov 5, 2009

Mark Scott on merging media professionals and their audience

The ABC will be experimenting with new methods of producing journalism through "pro-am" collaborations between media professionals and the audience, the ABC managing director Mark Scott said at the Media140 conference in Sydney this morning, writes Margaret Simons.

The ABC will be experimenting with new methods of producing journalism through “pro-am” collaborations between media professionals and the audience, the ABC managing director Mark Scott said at the Media140 conference in Sydney this morning.

As reported on my blog earlier today Scott used his keynote address at the social media-savvy conference to announce several innovations at the ABC, including the use of funds granted in the last budget to deploy digital media professionals to regional Australia to help the audience tell its own stories:

[Scott’s] announcements envision an ABC that is a porous institution; not only making content, but also helping the audience to make content; not only broadcasting content, but allowing anyone else including, probably, commercial organisations to use some of the content paid for by the taxpayer.

The announcements anticipate an ABC that will be a generator, commissioner, distributor and enabler, rather than a rigid institution based around a static collection of platforms.

But how comfortable will the ABC’s traditional audiences be with the idea of ABC content popping in dozens of different environments, many of them bizarre and some of them probably commercial?

Scott’s first announcement concerns the ABC Open Project, which will see more than 50 digital media producers stationed in ABC centres with a brief to work with local communities to help them create their own media. This announcement delivers on the rhetoric of Scott’s recent AN Smith lecture, in which he asserted that the ABC was to explore pro-am collaborations with the audience. Scott describes the Open Project as giving the ABC a role in educating Australians about the use of new media, just as it educated people about radio and television in the early days of those platforms

The second announcement — and the one that seems to me to be potentially controversial — will be the launch of “ABC Widgets” which will allow anyone to run ABC news feeds on websites and social networking pages. Scott says, “By giving individuals the ability to add ABC news stories to their life on the web, we improve the ease with which they can access our content — it’s another example of providing content to audiences in a format they want.”

Scott said that over the next few years the ABC will be pushing further, recognising that the audience is always in many more places than a journalist can be. Harnessing audience power will be a key site of ABC innovation.

Scott also announced ABC widgets — a means by which feeds of ABC content can be picked up and used on any website, and a set of simple guidelines for ABC staff using social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. They are only four of them, and they are very simple:

  • do not mix professional and personal in ways likely to bring the ABC into disrepute,
  • do not undermine your effectiveness at work,
  • do not imply ABC endorsement of personal views and
  • do not disclose confidential information obtained at work.

This at a time when, as I have reported previously, other media organisations are restricting their staff members’ rights to use social media.

All this adds to the other significant announcement by Scott, in a speech due to be delivered tonight, about plans to make the ABC a dominant world player in broadcasting and online media.

The Media140 conference includes a wide array of media players, including myself. Takeaways from this morning’s sessions include an ironic comment from Fairfax Digital editor in chief Mike van Niekerk that his employer is “right behind” Rupert Murdoch’s plans to put newspaper content behind pay walls. “About three steps behind,” said van Niekerk, to laughter.

He went on to say that while the issue was under review, there were no immediate plans to erect pay walls at Fairfax.

He said he thought it would fail as a business model if all that was done was forcing people to pay for current content. “If what you are talking about is something different, creating new and fresh things, then that may be a different story.”

Read rolling updates on The Content Makers blog.

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