The Global Mail example shows that it is entirely possible for ex-mainstream journos to be completely unsuited to the rigours and pressures of startup life [...]
That's the problem with the Global Mail experience: it's folly to pretend that the commercial imperative doesn't matter to journalism. The commercial imperative draws you closer to your audience. Of course there has to be a wall between advertising and editorial, but the two sides are both trying to connect with consumers of their content. Journos at the Global Mail were guilty of the sin of creating a job which fulfilled all their needs, not necessarily the needs of the audience. I'm sure that's not what Graeme intended, but the lack of urgency which his obligation-free funding encouraged has led to the evident problems. Journalism startups are just like any other startup, they will fail if they are not instantly responsive to user feedback. So there won't be any journalism - investigative, pure, or otherwise - if there is a disconnect between journalist and audience.
No, that analysis wasn't from today, but me about a year ago on my Tinfinger blog. TGM was not a startup native. Its overheads were massive, its design was not responsive, its business model was non-existent, its ownership structure was not sustainable. It was a valiant attempt, but wrong-headed. Hopefully it will be a signature lesson for all those ex-MSM journos staring at pink slips not to expect to parachute into a sinecure lifestyle at a startup.
Meanwhile, Schwartz Media has picked a fight with News Corp and Fairfax causing an intra-industry stoush, all in the cheerful attempt to drum up buzz for the launch of the Saturday Paper to compete with the broadsheet cash cows. One wonders whether oxygen in specialist media would be as sweet as in the regular press, but those cows are bleeding so the jackals were always going to circle.
Fairfax editorial boss Garry Linnell rejected comments by Schwartz Media’s CEO Rebecca Costello who yesterday told Mumbrella that circulation falls were the result of a decline in the "quality of the content" of Australia’s other weekend newspapers.
"Costello must be living in another reality to the rest of us. What is this so called decline in quality?" said Linnell, the director of news media at Fairfax.
"The last time I looked we’d won a record number of Walkley awards for breaking news and stylish writing. Our journalism has never been more courageous and willing to expose wrongs and stand up for our audience."
Walkleys are not a valid metric. There are a fixed number of these that are awarded each year. They have to be awarded to somebody. It is entirely possible that the slashing of journalist numbers at broadsheets (or soon to be ex-broadsheets) has lowered quality across the board, which is what the Schwartz mob are saying. And if what Linnell was saying is true: why did they employ so many more journos in the past, if they didn't improve quality?
Mind you, the Saturday Paper is also most likely doomed before it starts. Sure, Fairfax and News rags have dropped in quality as they shed staff, but their skeleton newsrooms will still produce better copy than a startup at this stage. There's just not much meat left on those bones.