Starting with IPEX 2002, this blog covers events relevant for UK print, including Seybold and DRUPA. See also website at

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Guardian and Observer are still confusing when it comes to blogs and the web. They seem to be moving that way but still raise questions about anything on the scene other than themselves.

Today Peter Preston suggests we should 'beware false prophets of the internet age', a reference to Sir Martin Sorrell. Preston shows how the structures of advertising agencies are challenged by the web just as much as print media. "We're all in this together." What is supposed to follow from this? The facts of the trends remain the same. Group M forecast that internet advertisement spend will overtake national press spend by the end of 2006.

The Group M figures are just about the UK. Preston also mentions Omynews with 21,000 'citizen reporters', quote marks as appearing in the Observer. First, a few correction on detail. There is an 'h' in OhmyNews. The founder is Oh Yeon-ho. There are currently about 41,000 citizen reporters for the Korean site and approaching 1000 for the English language site.

More disturbing is the continued use of quote marks around the term "citizen journalism". Why is it that professional print journalists have difficulty in using these words directly with the same meaning as on the OhmyNews site and other places? At least Emily Bell had been direct enough to state that she thinks the term is "horrible" but she has yet to explain why. Is it something about the UK, where we are all supposed to be subjects?

Is it because citizen journalism is seen as too close to blogging? The 'Comment is Free' approach seems to me to combine an attempt to take on the format of a blog while continuing to criticise most of the blogs that previously existed. Preston recently wrote that "Most Guardian journalists....are still in the throes of blogging adjustment. Don't pronounce from on high, or polish too hard. Get down there on the ground in the democracy pit, rubbing shoulders with the southern California wing of Blogosphere Inc. Be one of the boys, like one of your readers. Cultivate a folksy, conversational voice." This was in a comment claiming that search engines now determined a style of writing that can be easily understood and has destroyed the fine traditions of puns in headlines.

As one of many reasons for print journalists not to be too alarmed, Preston points out that "what works in Korea may not work anywhere else". There is no reporting on the English language version of OhmyNews though the number of citizen reporters is up from 300 at the time of the first conference last year. Next month the conference will include information on the new Japanese site. Maybe Preston will come back to this later.

To my mind the most significant recent news is not even mentioned, unless it was included last week and I missed it. The Guardian will offer a free PDF version of online news for readers to print out and carry about. It is assumed that such free offers will help the future audience for web sites. Maybe the Times has a similar idea in publishing print in the USA, where the growth is seen for London online titles.

Round about now, the net is closing in. The web is the main news medium. Print is peripheral. It is all over for the Sunday newspapers.

And finally, Preston takes a very cheap shot at John Simpson just because Simpson links UK tabloids with "false stories" and "interferance in people's private lives". Researching Simpson's autobiography Preston finds dialogue between Simpson's parents from the time that Simpson was little more than a year old. Preston raises the question of how there can have been a shorthand note.

In the comment about search engines, Preston has a few positive things to say about blogging as the scene is not threatening to some traditions of journalism. "I started in journalism because of Thomas Nash and the pamphleteers of London's coffee houses more than 400 years back - because, with no press, let alone a Commentisfree one, society functioned by superlative samizdat and the semi-private phrasemaker was king."

Was he there at the time? Can he show us the notebook?

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