The media & digital disruption – podcast interview with Rebecca Archer

More so than most other industries, the media industry has been subject to digital disruption since the emergence of the internet in the mid-nineties. Indeed, we learned yesterday that Channel 7 in Brisbane is axing three local programs, including Queensland Weekender. Digital disruption has had profound consequences for the financial viability of traditional media and for the job prospects of journalists. Google, Facebook, and other sites are attracting advertising revenues which once flowed to TV networks and newspapers, which now always seem to be laying off staff. No longer is the nightly TV news compulsory viewing, nor is everyone on the morning train reading the local newspaper anymore. They’re scrolling through their Facebook or Twitter feeds on their smart phones instead.

In my latest Economics Explained episode, I discuss the media in our age of digital disruption with Rebecca Archer, Director of Connect Media Training, who has worked as a journalist at the ABC in Australia and the BBC in the UK. Australian listeners may know Rebecca as Rebecca Hyam, a former ABC finance reporter. Rebecca still works on a casual basis at ABC Brisbane in addition to running her media training company. Of course, views expressed in this podcast are Rebecca’s personal views, and should not necessarily be attributed to the ABC.

Use these timestamps to jump right into Gene and Rebecca’s conversation:

  • 2:15 – how the media industry has changed over the last 20 years
  • 4:45 – entry of the New York Times and the Guardian into the Australian market, as well as the rise of citizen journalists and bloggers
  • 6:20 – while only twenty years ago Rebecca was lugging around a Marantz tape recorder, she can now use an iPhone to record interviews
  • 9:50 – how the internet and social media have undermined the traditional business models of media organisations, and how Twitter is where breaking news now occurs (e.g. important updates from emergency services)
  • 12:25 – Nine-Fairfax merger as response to how difficult it is to make money in traditional media these days, followed by observation people are able to bypass traditional media and get news directly from sources via Twitter or Facebook
  • 15:05 – I refer to a Centre for Media Transition report for the ACCC which discusses news as a public good
  • 20:00 – how newspapers have lost the “rivers of gold” which were classifieds advertising revenues, and how some media organisations have taken strong ideological positions to attract an audience
  • 23:00 – how media organisations can thrive: create content people can relate to, don’t be highbrow, and use social media to add value (e.g. Facebook Live discussion regarding a 60 Minutes story)
  • 29:00 – whether quality journalism has been compromised by digital disruption
  • 32:10 – polarisation and filter bubbles
  • 38:20 – whether journalism remains a good career
  • 41.30 – journalists as story tellers (I mention Cal Fussman’s outstanding podcast Big Questions)
  • 45:10 – the role of public broadcasters such as the ABC and BBC in this age of digital disruption

Our conversation was recorded on 26 November 2019 in the Adept Economics office at the Johnson, Spring Hill, Brisbane, using a Zoom H4n Pro digital recorder and Shure SM58 microphones.

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