new media vs old media

Israel’s PR War

Stewart Purvis

November 23, 2006

From The Guardian

Amir Gissin runs what he calls ’”Israel’s Explanation Department”. Which is why it is surprising to hear him admit that many Israelis think “the whole problem is that we don’t explain ourselves correctly”.

Last week, as al-Jazeera launched an Arab view of the world into English-speaking homes worldwide, Gissin was a man under pressure. At the David Bar Ilan conference on the media and Middle East, he faced an audience of Israelis who were unhappy about the way the propaganda battle with Hizbullah was fought and lost during the war in the Lebanon. They wanted to know how it could be done better next time, because most people in Israel seem to think there will be a next time with Hizbullah soon.

Gissin said the words of his English-speaking spokespeople could not compete with the power of the pictures of civilians killed in the Israeli attack on Lebanese towns like Qana. And the Israeli parliament will not spend the money on an Israeli counterpart to al-Jazeera.

But Gissin was not down-hearted. He declared there to be a “war on the web” in which Israel had a new weapon, a piece of computer software called the “internet megaphone”.

“During the war we had the opportunity to do some very nice things with the megaphone community,” he revealed at the conference. Among them, he claimed, was a role in getting an admission from Reuters that a photograph of damage to Beirut had been doctored by a Lebanese photographer to increase the amount of smoke in the picture. This was first spotted by American blogger Charles Johnson, who has won an award for “promoting Israel and Zionism”.

To check out the power of the megaphone, I logged onto a website called GIYUS (Give Israel Your United Support) last Wednesday afternoon. More than 25,000 registered users of have downloaded the megaphone software, which enables them to receive alerts asking them to get active online.

It did not take long for an alert to come through. A Foreign Office minister, Kim Howells, had issued a press statement condemning that day’s Palestinian rocket attack which killed an elderly Israeli and wounded other civilians. GIYUS wanted site users to “show your appreciation of the UK’s response”.

One click took me to a pre-prepared email addressed to Dr Howells, and a slot for me to personalise my comment. A test confirmed that the email would arrive at his office, as if I had spotted his comments on a news website, in this case Yahoo, and sent it to him with a supporting message. In the emails, there would be no indication of the involvement of GIYUS, although Howells may have been suspicious that so many people around the world had read the same Yahoo story about him and decided to email him. The Foreign Office confirms that emails were received last Wednesday but will not go into any more detail.

The most popular target of the online activists is the foreign media, especially the BBC, the news organisation which they love to hate. Earlier this year I was a member of the independent panel set up by the BBC governors to review the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We reported on the high number of emails we had received from abroad, mostly from North America, and the evidence of pressure group involvement. A majority of email correspondents thought that the BBC was anti-Israel, however if the emails that could be identified as coming from abroad were excluded, the opposite was true – more people thought the BBC anti-Palestinian or pro-Israel.

The BBC has already had one encounter with GIYUS – an attempt to influence the outcome of an online poll. BBC History magazine noticed an upsurge in voting on whether holocaust denial should be a criminal offence in Britain. But the closing date had already passed and the result had already been published, so the votes were invalid anyway. GIYUS supporters claim success elsewhere in “balancing” an opinion poll on an Arabic website by turning a vote condemning Israel’s attack in the Lebanon into an endorsement.

For some of Israel’s supporters, a primary aim of their war on the web is an attempt to discredit what they see as hostile foreign media reports, especially those containing iconic visual images.

One particular target has been the respected French TV correspondent, Charles Enderlin, whose Palestinian cameraman filmed 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura being shot and killed, as his father tried to shield him at the start of the second intifada. Enderlin accused Israeli troops of shooting and killing the boy. French supporters of Israel went online to claim the report was a distortion based on faked footage. His network, France 2, responded with legal action and, last month, in the first of four individual cases, a French court found the organiser of a self-styled media watchdog website guilty of libel.

Another online target has been the TV footage of bloodshed on a Gaza beach earlier this year. A Palestinian girl was seen screaming as she saw the bodies of dead family members killed by what Palestinians allege was Israeli shellfire. When I mentioned the impact of these pictures at last week’s conference, members of the audience shouted “staged”.

One person came up to me afterwards to suggest that the family had somehow died somewhere else and that their bodies had been moved to the beach to be filmed. Where, for instance, was all the blood? I pointed out that I had seen everything that the cameraman had shot and that some pictures were too gruesome to be shown.

It is clear that the government of Israel wants to fight back against the impact of foreign media pictures like these. Amir Gissin talked last week of plans to get Israeli video onto sites like YouTube which he said were viewed by opinion “shapers”. And his cousin Dr Ra’anan Gissin, formerly Ariel Sharon’s media adviser, has endorsed the idea of having picture power at the country’s disposal ready for future conflicts. Referring to Israel’s opponents, he put it in his usual direct way: “You need to shoot a picture before you shoot them.”

Stewart Purvis is professor of Television Journalism at City University in London. He is a former chief executive and editor-in-chief of ITN.



We just got this note from Tina in Finland, who agreed to let us blog it here. Regardless of how you may feel about the issue, it’s a pretty powerful story.

Thanks to the fantastic flexibility of WordPress, I was able to make a campaign site supporting the legalization of fertility treatments for single women and lesbians in Finland that quite possibly was a major factor in the law passing. (Treatments had been available before, but had not been explicitly legal, and the conservative parties had introduced a motion to make them illegal) The site shot up in popularity and we were sent statements by all kinds of politicians, including EU reps, ministers, and members of parliament. In the end, treatments were legalized by a 22 vote margin (83-105) which was far more than anyone dared to predict.

The site got over 11,000 people to sign a petition, got them to write letters to specific MPs (which Finns never do), and got hundreds of them out for a peaceful and well-behaved protest that made the front page of the biggest newspaper in Finland. (I put a link to the English newspaper article at the bottom of this)

We ran this site, that got thousands of hits a day, with no more than five individual citizens (with day jobs). Had I had to set up a site from scratch, I couldn’t have given the other non-html-fluent people passwords to add and change content, etc, and the whole thing would not have been possible. Part of what also made this work was that the site looked slick enough (thanks to the template and customizable header) that I didn’t need to fiddle with that, and could focus on adding the tidal wave of content that rushed in in the final days before the vote. AND you had made WordPress translatable, so the details didn’t look funny in Finnish.

We love to hear stories about people using blogs as a lever to move the world, even if it’s just a little bit.


19 July 2005

By Jeremy Scott-Joynt
BBC News business reporter

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch has outlined online far-reaching strategies before

Just three months ago, news magnate Rupert Murdoch made an unusual admission.

He had realised, he told a high-powered audience at the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington DC, that he had got something rather important rather wrong.

News Corporation, the global media group he controls, had failed properly to engage with the online world – and risked losing its hard-won position in news as a result.

As a “digital immigrant” – as he described himself – he acknowledged he found it difficult to visualise how News Corp should change its ways. But he had no doubt that radical change was coming, and that it was inevitable.

Commentators took the unusual “mea culpa” as a sign that News Corp was gearing up for a wholesale revamp of its approach to the internet.

On 19 July, what appears to be the first really substantive part of the new strategy swung into action: the purchase, for $580m, of the firm behind the wildly popular online community.

Deja vu?

Cynics may charge that Mr Murdoch has been here before.

In 1999, another keynote speech laid out lofty ambitions for News Corp online – only for several well-financed operations to close down within months of their launch.

Young people don’t want to rely on a God-like figure from above to tell them what’s important

Rupert Murdoch

Before that came failed initiatives such as Delphi Internet in the mid-1990s, an online service which mingled News Corp’s UK content with US material and failed to capture anyone’s imagination, and an abortive internet service provider experiment called LineOne.

Everyone’s an editor

Even so, buying Intermix – and thus Myspace – seems to match the requirements Mr Murdoch laid down in his 13 April speech.

The central message was that the days of newspapers editing content into a one-size-fits-all package to be consumed without question by the reader were numbered.

Young people “don’t want to rely on a God-like figure from above to tell them what’s important,” Mr Murdoch said.

“And to carry the religion analogy a bit further, they certainly don’t want news presented as gospel.

“Instead, they want their news on demand, when it works for them. They want control over their media, instead of being controlled by it. They want to question, to probe, to offer a different angle.”

Myspace fits neatly into that definition. It is a network of pages – most set up by individuals, some by musicians and other creative types – each mixing self-generated text and pictures, links to other content elsewhere, and streamed music and video to create networks of friends and contacts.

The result is a densely interwoven community, which its adherents – 14 million a month, by some measures – say is highly addictive.

Myspace logo

Is Myspace the key to News Corp’s new strategy?

Not that different, in fact, from Mr Murdoch’s description of a world where users act as their own editors, choosing their own news and content from the huge range of possibilities available online.

Of course, every page of Myspace content contains adverts – and Mr Murdoch left his listeners in no doubt that their books would bleed red ink unless they found ways of exploiting the boom in online advertising.

Backing brands

What remains unclear is where the other part of Mr Murdoch’s vision fits in.

Later in his speech, he talked of the importance of brands – the heart, after all, of the News Corp empire.

Despite the doomsaying, newspaper journalists and editors were perfectly positioned to keep supplying the core content on which the communications communities would be built, he said.

“We have the experience, the brands, the resources, and the know-how to get it done. We have unique content to differentiate ourselves in a world where news is becoming increasingly commoditized.”

That may prove challenging – after all, suspicion of existing media outlets is rife in weblogs and other chatty outposts of the web.

Then again, earlier in July News Corp announced the launch of Fox Interactive Media, a hub for Fox news, sport and entertainment in the US.

Myspace, News Corp says, could drive traffic to Fox Interactive Media.

And most importantly, Myspace has detailed logs of its users’ preferences, online behaviour and personal information.

That could help the company tailor what it does to the ever-more-discerning market which Mr Murdoch believes he has identified.


The future of newspapers

Who killed the newspaper?

Aug 24th 2006
From The Economist print edition

The most useful bit of the media is disappearing. A cause for concern, but not for panic

“A GOOD newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself,” mused Arthur Miller in 1961. A decade later, two reporters from the Washington Post wrote a series of articles that brought down President Nixon and the status of print journalism soared. At their best, newspapers hold governments and companies to account. They usually set the news agenda for the rest of the media. But in the rich world newspapers are now an endangered species. The business of selling words to readers and selling readers to advertisers, which has sustained their role in society, is falling apart (see article).

Of all the “old” media, newspapers have the most to lose from the internet. Circulation has been falling in America, western Europe, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand for decades (elsewhere, sales are rising). But in the past few years the web has hastened the decline. In his book “The Vanishing Newspaper”, Philip Meyer calculates that the first quarter of 2043 will be the moment when newsprint dies in America as the last exhausted reader tosses aside the last crumpled edition. That sort of extrapolation would have produced a harrumph from a Beaverbrook or a Hearst, but even the most cynical news baron could not dismiss the way that ever more young people are getting their news online. Britons aged between 15 and 24 say they spend almost 30% less time reading national newspapers once they start using the web.

Up to a podcast, Lord Copper?

Advertising is following readers out of the door. The rush is almost unseemly, largely because the internet is a seductive medium that supposedly matches buyers with sellers and proves to advertisers that their money is well spent. Classified ads, in particular, are quickly shifting online. Rupert Murdoch, the Beaverbrook of our age, once described them as the industry’s rivers of gold—but, as he said last year, “Sometimes rivers dry up.” In Switzerland and the Netherlands newspapers have lost half their classified advertising to the internet.

Newspapers have not yet started to shut down in large numbers, but it is only a matter of time. Over the next few decades half the rich world’s general papers may fold. Jobs are already disappearing. According to the Newspaper Association of America, the number of people employed in the industry fell by 18% between 1990 and 2004. Tumbling shares of listed newspaper firms have prompted fury from investors. In 2005 a group of shareholders in Knight Ridder, the owner of several big American dailies, got the firm to sell its papers and thus end a 114-year history. This year Morgan Stanley, an investment bank, attacked the New York Times Company, the most august journalistic institution of all, because its share price had fallen by nearly half in four years.

Having ignored reality for years, newspapers are at last doing something. In order to cut costs, they are already spending less on journalism. Many are also trying to attract younger readers by shifting the mix of their stories towards entertainment, lifestyle and subjects that may seem more relevant to people’s daily lives than international affairs and politics are. They are trying to create new businesses on- and offline. And they are investing in free daily papers, which do not use up any of their meagre editorial resources on uncovering political corruption or corporate fraud. So far, this fit of activity looks unlikely to save many of them. Even if it does, it bodes ill for the public role of the Fourth Estate.

Getting away with murder

In future, as newspapers fade and change, will politicians therefore burgle their opponents’ offices with impunity, and corporate villains whoop as they trample over their victims? Journalism schools and think-tanks, especially in America, are worried about the effect of a crumbling Fourth Estate. Are today’s news organisations “up to the task of sustaining the informed citizenry on which democracy depends?” asked a recent report about newspapers from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a charitable research foundation.

Nobody should relish the demise of once-great titles. But the decline of newspapers will not be as harmful to society as some fear. Democracy, remember, has already survived the huge television-led decline in circulation since the 1950s. It has survived as readers have shunned papers and papers have shunned what was in stuffier times thought of as serious news. And it will surely survive the decline to come.

That is partly because a few titles that invest in the kind of investigative stories which often benefit society the most are in a good position to survive, as long as their owners do a competent job of adjusting to changing circumstances. Publications like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal should be able to put up the price of their journalism to compensate for advertising revenues lost to the internet—especially as they cater to a more global readership. As with many industries, it is those in the middle—neither highbrow, nor entertainingly populist—that are likeliest to fall by the wayside.

The usefulness of the press goes much wider than investigating abuses or even spreading general news; it lies in holding governments to account—trying them in the court of public opinion. The internet has expanded this court. Anyone looking for information has never been better equipped. People no longer have to trust a handful of national papers or, worse, their local city paper. News-aggregation sites such as Google News draw together sources from around the world. The website of Britain’s Guardian now has nearly half as many readers in America as it does at home.

In addition, a new force of “citizen” journalists and bloggers is itching to hold politicians to account. The web has opened the closed world of professional editors and reporters to anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection. Several companies have been chastened by amateur postings—of flames erupting from Dell’s laptops or of cable-TV repairmen asleep on the sofa. Each blogger is capable of bias and slander, but, taken as a group, bloggers offer the searcher after truth boundless material to chew over. Of course, the internet panders to closed minds; but so has much of the press.

For hard-news reporting—as opposed to comment—the results of net journalism have admittedly been limited. Most bloggers operate from their armchairs, not the frontline, and citizen journalists tend to stick to local matters. But it is still early days. New online models will spring up as papers retreat. One non-profit group, NewAssignment.Net, plans to combine the work of amateurs and professionals to produce investigative stories on the internet. Aptly, $10,000 of cash for the project has come from Craig Newmark, of Craigslist, a group of free classified-advertisement websites that has probably done more than anything to destroy newspapers’ income.

In future, argues Carnegie, some high-quality journalism will also be backed by non-profit organisations. Already, a few respected news organisations sustain themselves that way—including the Guardian, the Christian Science Monitor and National Public Radio. An elite group of serious newspapers available everywhere online, independent journalism backed by charities, thousands of fired-up bloggers and well-informed citizen journalists: there is every sign that Arthur Miller’s national conversation will be louder than ever.


‘It is difficult, indeed dangerous, to underestimate the huge changes this [media]revolution will bring or the power of developing technologies to build and destroy – not just companies but whole countries.’ Rupert Murdoch

Source – what is social media?

“The proposed Treaty would undermine those uses by layering a new and overbroad set of rights on top of copyright. This will require a second layer of rights clearance for transmitted materials. This will increase transaction costs for podcasters, who already face significant hurdles in obtaining
necessary copyright clearances due to undeveloped licensing markets. But it will also give broadcasters the ability to silence podcasters who depend on use of copyrighted materials”The WIPO Broadcast Treaty is being debated in Geneva tomorrow, and Gwen Hinze from EFF is presenting a joint statement from podcasters from around the world. This piece of internet history is an attempt to make sure that the development of the Broadcast Treaty into internet broadcast/netcast/webcast does not wipe out grassroots podcasting.

UKPA (UK Podcasters Association) has been working for months with the Irish PodRepBod, the German Podcastverband, the Open Rights Group in the UK and the EFF in the US to resist aspects of the Broadcast Treaty, which many podcasters, podcast users and a growing number of politicians feel are inimical to the healthy development of grassroots new media culture. The issues are about copyright, and the ongoing ownership of content.Many podcasters fear that the Treaty is giving broadcasters the upper hand when it comes to rights, and creative people everywhere are becoming wary of blanket licenses which remove their rights in the small print – YouTube and MySpace have recently attracted widespread criticism and some legal action.Activists are also pushing for recognition of Creative Commons licenses in the Treaty – millons of people who self-publish, webcast, and podcast use these licenses for their content; CC is a widely understood and established system which must be respected.

UKPA’s campaign has unified podcasters globally, particularly in the UK, Eire, Germany, and the US, in a common cause, to influence the outcome of this looming – and binding – international legislation.Background: In April 2006, a group of independent UK podcasters, including businesses, publishers, and enthusiasts formed a non-profit podcast association, UKPA – UK Podcasters Association.UKPA is producing a UK-specific version of the Creative Commons podcast license with the author of the US licence, Colette Vogele, and working to develop podcast metrics standards with ABCe.UKPA currently represents around one third of independent UK podcasters.

Dean Whitbread
UKPA Press Release 11th September 2006
UK Podcasters Association

Source – issue 9 podcast user magazine

Editor’s week

We may not have the experience of the BBC, but we have the talent

Emily Bell
Saturday June 3, 2006
The Guardian

There was an interesting piece in the BBC’s in-house magazine, Ariel, this week, by Andrew Brown (blogger, broadcaster and contributor to Guardian Unlimited) about podcasting.In a nutshell, Andrew expressed the opinion that newspaper podcasts were in general inferior to those put together by professional broadcasters: “Practically anyone who can rattle two keys after each other is being dragged in front of a microphone and made to talk to readers.” His point is not necessarily wrong: that podcasts – bits of audio that are put into downloadable sound files – are more popular as extensions of existing audio brands, such as the BBC, than they are as extensions for other media. But it is not the whole picture by any means.

We had a robust discussion about his views on our own daily newsdesk podcast last week – which was produced by a former senior BBC producer and correspondent, Tim Maby, who is working with us on some of our shows. We have a foam-lined cupboard at the end of the corridor (“the pod”) where we now produce nine weekly podcasts and we are about to go into production with a daily World Cup podcast, anchored by our own columnist and broadcaster James Richardson (have a listen and try some of our other output at intention is that every day of the tournament we will have a show uploaded and ready to listen to from the wee small hours – if you like robust humour coupled with high-end international football analysis then this will be required listening. In fact it already is. Checking Andrew Brown’s thesis against the podcast charts on iTunes is an interesting exercise. In the sports category, for instance, you have Baddiel and Skinner at the top – who are reviving the decommissioned television fantasy football format for audio. Next you have Nike’s videocast, then you have the Guardian’s World Cup preview podcast, next the Beautiful Game’s independent football podcast and then finally Five Live’s podcast. So – four of the top five sports podcasts in the week before the World Cup are not in fact from traditional broadcasting outlets although some of them do feature professional broadcasters.

The truth is that established brands, media or otherwise, do have an advantage when it comes to persuading people to try their output – and the bigger your brand reach the more likely it is you will succeed in drawing an audience. The relentless podcasting and advertising by the BBC is in fact doing a service to the whole market by attracting a larger audience to the new medium.

In general the BBC dominates the podcast charts with its recut radio shows. But there is so much more scope to make the portable medium substantially different from existing radio – and at a far lower cost – that it would be foolish for other media brands to ignore it.

If non-broadcast media take the attitude that they have no business tentatively pushing their tanks on to radio’s lawn then they will miss an opportunity to connect with an audience that might not be using their publications – either online or offline – but could very well be interested in their content.

At the moment the collective terror of the music industry is putting the brakes on any podcasts that feature music with rights restrictions – which pretty much covers anything other than unsigned bands or commissioned live performances – which has allowed the speech format and particularly current affairs and comedy to flourish.

My guess is that as it becomes increasingly cheap and easy to upload both audio and video on to sites there will be increasing numbers of people podcasting and a growing audience – and if now is not the right time to experiment with these new formats, you might find that you have missed the boat completely.

· Emily Bell is editor-in-chief of Guardian Unlimited


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