The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Celebrate The News

Big hoo-ha over on the Media Guardian website last week about James Murdoch’s claims that the BBC is anti-competitive, discouraging other companies, such as the one owned by his dad, from making a profit by providing news on TV and the internet.

He was wrong a million different ways, morally and logically, speaking from transparent self-interest, but never mind that. He’s also wrong about the idea of news being a resource that is provided ‘competitively’.

If News International has a threat, it’s from Google News – a website which corrals together stories from all the different news sites. News, in itself, is not much of a resource, which is why there is so little of it in newspapers and TV news programmes. Usually whatever it was that’s happened can be summed up in a couple of sentences and almost certainly will be.

If you’ll excuse the alliteration, the commodity that is competitive is comment – the discussion and insight which goes around the news story. There’s very little of it on the BBC news site; they, like Dragnet, are ‘just the facts’. But that is the USP ‘quality’ newspapers like The Times; not the news itself but the intellectual rigour with which it is discussed. A USP which ain’t so U any more because of blogs; but one which can and will remain a commodity that creates revenue.

The other threat to News International is that the market catered for by downmarket tabloids – the papers which barely deal in ‘news’ at all – the combination of celebrity, female nudity and prurient crime-and-disaster rubbernecking is overwhelmingly better catered for by the internet. Not by the BBC, but by sites like DigitalSpy. Why pay a subscription to the Sun website to see Lily Allen topless, when you can just type those words into google?

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