Bruce Arnold, Director, Caslon Analytics: 1st September
a month of negotiating, Media Man Australia interviews
a company that has been on our radar for quite some
time - Caslon Analytics.
are experts in the field of research, legal, technology,
media, strategies and more.
is your background, and that of Caslon Analytics?
Analytics is a multidisciplinary internet research
and analysis specialist. We are based in Canberra:
no traffic, lots of parks, 90 minutes to the sea.
Our people have a background in business and government.
Weve done work for a range of government agencies,
Australian and overseas businesses, and even some
individuals. Weve never advertised; most of
our work is through referrals and we get significant
repeat business from past clients.
the general public we're best known for the Caslon
site, which has several hundred pages on technical
issues, legislation and business questions.
background is in digital technologies
regulation, commercialisation and intellectual property.
I'm on a range of industry working parties and lecture
have a particular interest in the 'content industries'
and a healthy disrespect for some of the pronouncements
about the 'death of old media', the 'new economy'
or 'the end of history'. That interest is reflected
in the Ketupa.net
a key part of your business?
provides profiles of around 170 major media groups
in Australia and overseas, including maps of their
holdings, statistics, histories and bibliographies
... around 290,000 words in all. Access is free.
main 'competition' is the more limited Columbia
Journalism Review media ownership site. The CJR
site is unfortunately restricted to the US and doesn't
offer the same detail. That's a shame, because it
would be interesting to see the CJR perspective on
Fairfax or NHK.
We've made a point of covering European, Japanese,
Singaporean, Canadian and Latin American groups because
they offer perspectives on media in Australia and
because many groups now operate globally.
set up Ketupa.net several years ago as a way of managing
questions from business, government and academic contacts.
Essentially it's a public version of information that
we assembled in writing a book and had been using
for responses to individual queries. We figured that
it was easier to transfer that information to the
web and let people graze. As time permits we're adding
interpretive information on topics such as media concentration,
spectrum licensing, demographics and censorship.
noticed that don't you capitalise Internet and Web.
the party's over. For many people the internet is
as unremarkable - and essential - as the telephone,
television or radio. It's subject to law (the big
question now is whose law, eg whether the US First
Amendment extends to all online content, rather than
whether the net's necessarily free of law). The online
population in advanced economies has normalised, ie
now has much the same characteristics as the population
at large. And, particularly since the dot-com crash,
it's located in the same economic universe as traditional
for 'Internet Exceptionalism' - that the net's special,
it's different, it's unprecedented, it's free, it
doesn't (or can't) obey normal rules - have to be
regarded with some skepticism.
your perspective on the media?
mix of robust agnosticism and fascination: just can't
go past the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of
the crowd. It's the crowd, not the decomposing media
dinosaurs on the info superhighway.
you don't think Old Media is dead?
a historical perspective 'Old Media' - and most of
the old media organisations - are doing OK.
are certainly more positive than the late 1950s and
mid-1970s, which saw major unhappiness for newspaper/magazine
publishers and radio station operators, accompanied
by shakeups in book publishing and record companies.
Much of the commercial angst at the moment is attributable
to poor management rather than the inevitable rise
of 'new media', little of which has proved to be compelling
or commercially sustainable. Spending US$200 million
on record deals with Michael Jackson, box-office disasters,
big-ticket authors or takeovers remains a good way
to lose money ... there's no need to blame the net.
looking at debate about the content industries - particularly
'big media' - I'm often struck by demonisation and
lack of context. With apologies to Noam Chomsky or
Naomi Klein, it is unclear that the media (or particular
moguls) are as powerful as often claimed. It's also
unclear that there's much new under the sun: conglomerates
come, conglomerates go, assets get churned, audiences
are fickle, producing compelling content on a commercial
basis is difficult, the experience (and infrastructure)
of the dinosaurs continues to be of value ...
are the most important issues in the Australian media
business today, from where you sit? eg the
ABC-Alston bias allegations, media ownership, PR being
presented as news ...
golden age of journalism is always the one just before
your own. The latest ownership developments are always
more sinister than those of the past (if you are a
critic) or offer greater growth, new content, better
delivery (if you're an advocate). And the latest technology
is always going to be qualitatively different: more
seductive, better targeted, offering greater opportunities
for creativity and enlightenment ... or destruction
of the family.
of the buzz about current issues looks rather ephemeral.
There's little critical analysis of how the business
works: the interaction of investment, creativity,
consumers, distribution, Chandlerian scale and scope,
competition, regulatory constraints, the role of tabby
cats such as the Press
Council and captives such as the ABA. There's
little analysis of sameness in the mass media: five
free-to-air tv and a handful of radio networks (largely
indistinguishable), three or four newspaper groups
(ditto, esp in regional Australia) - five hundred
channels in shades of grey and beige.
are the merits and cons of online publishing and broadcasting?
question. I'll touch on a number of issues.
online publishing is still driven by technology rather
than by any real sense of what audiences want and
how they interact with the both the medium and the
specific content. Corporate sites in particular have
little engagement with users: there's lots of brochureware,
little that is compelling to people other than the
art director, little that builds a relationship.
deserves recognition for efforts to increase accessibility
to its processes by publishing a range of information
online: all the paper that was so difficult to identify
and obtain in the past. Global delivery of content
via the web, on a timely basis, is a major plus. In
Canberra I can sit on a park bench with my laptop
and read US government statements, much of the New
York Times, yesterday's Hansard or something from
Reporters sans frontieres
... and distribute my thoughts as quickly as I can
type. A downside of that immediacy is that for some
people what's offline doesn't exist - there's a lot
of lazy reporting and the web often has the memory
of a gnat.
We don't differentiate between publishing and broadcasting:
it's just content. We've seen little effective online
broadcasting sourced from Australia, both because
infrastructure problems (most people don't have broadband)
and because there's a lack of 'compelling content'.
merit is the freedom to experiment (as
with your site) and challenge preconceptions.
do you see "traditional" news outlets combating
online publishing and broadcasting, where the Internet
is based largely on free speech and freedom of information?
a myth rather a pernicious myth that
the internet is necessarily free (ie content
can be produced for free, access must be without charge,
publication cannot and must not be restricted in any
at the end of the free internet: many
online publishers are busy installing firewalls to
recoup publishing costs, 'free' outlets are experimenting
with pay-per-play or other mechanisms after acknowledging
that traditional online advertising isn't going to
pay their costs. And events such as the Gutnick defamation
action are reminding publishers, readers and lawyers
that while cyberspace might be off somewhere in the
aether, servers and corporate assets are located on
terra firma - claims of 'free' don't look convincing
when you've been defamed or a judge lets someone seize
we're seeing is a fusion of 'old' and 'new' media.
In terms of quality, old media's colonisation of the
web is producing better content than most of the self-consciously
net-only news outlets ... it understands 'news' (which
is far more important than understanding XML), it
has the news collecting and editorial infrastructure,
it has the financial resources (unlike many individuals
and dot-coms), it has the incentive to use new technologies
to better understand it's audiences. I expect the
New York Times
to be round long after Matt
Drudge has become a footnote.
makes that Australia freedom of speech law on the
Internet different to that of the US? The Gutnick
case attracted world wide coverage. Is that the shape
of the future?
Australia, as in the US, theres no separate
free speech or defamation law specific
to the net. The net is covered by traditional information
law (ie legislation and case law): what weve
seen over the past five years is the law catching
up with technology, the same lag evident in uptake
of earlier new technologies such as the telegraph
and radio. One of the landmark cases occurred in Australia
as long ago as 1994, when David Rindos won damages
for defamatory comments on a computer bulletin board.
doesn't have the First Amendment; our defamation law
(like that in the UK) has often been seen as more
restrictive than that in the US. Australian judges,
unsurprisingly, have been reluctant to relinquish
responsibility to a US court. That's the case with
other disputes: French courts have ruled that French
law applies in France and (for what it's worth) everywhere
else in the world. An unspoken assumption underlying
much rhetoric about cyberspace is that the 'spirit
of the net' embodies the US Constitution: a lex informatica
based on the 'first and the fifth' as one of my colleagues
we'll see is a plethora of cases, attempts to harmonise
the major regimes through mechanisms such as the proposed
Hague Convention on Jurisdiction & Foreign Judgements,
and a lot of entertainment as different lawyers or
countries assert that their rules are more valid than
those in a neighbouring state.
do you see as Australia's next Phillip
Adams, as far as accomplishments
in film and media?
(like predecessors such as Max Harris) would probably
want us to think that hes unique. Overall I'm
more impressed by Gerard Henderson's cogency and intellectual
we're looking ahead to people who offer insights into
production/consumption - or are simply entertaining
- Id like to see a new George Orwell, Brian
Fitzgerald, Karl Kraus, George Munster, Janet Flanner,
Paul Einzig or Claud Cockburn. We're still waiting
for someone whose media analysis is as exciting and
accessible as Elizabeth David on food. The
Fin Review and Australian
feature bleeding chunks from overseas journals: surely
its time to encourage local writers to escape from
the Australia Council publishing ghetto - all those
worthy Westerlys and Southerlys.
radio broadcasting personalities have too much power?
flagged that I'm a media agnostic. There's little
substantive support for claims that shockjocks decide
elections, drive juries, mesmerise the audience into
purchasing this or that. Media critics, media scholars
and media personalities take the power of the shockjock
but as with advertising and propaganda
is it a case of the emperors new clothes? A
range of research suggests that the effect of film
propaganda wasnt as powerful or long-lasting
as claimed by promoters. Audiences often misread
the message. Much advertising clearly doesnt
work even if you can recall the jingle, did
it make you buy the specific brand? I'm not convinced
that the jocks sway general elections or do much more
than legitimate decisions made by pollsters and ministers.
they are too powerful, is it time to encourage good
behaviour by suspending a broadcasting licence or
two? Or by looking seriously at the current self-regulation
regime and client capture of bodies such as the ABA?
can the consumer of news media in all forms, ensure
they are not just being bombarded by "spin"
ie PR, shaped as news, bias reporting etc?
that the consumer isnt a bucket filled with
slops. Media consumers have choices. Commercial media
are dependent on consumers: theyre responsive
to sales, circulation figures, demographics. If youre
unhappy with the range/depth of content or the spin,
switch channels or publications. Were all living
in an attention economy: encourage higher
standards by withholding your attention (and thereby
the dollars) from underperformers.
decry trash tv, tabloid journalism or
media intrusions and then watch the programs, read
the publications. Ask why your privacy is sacrosanct
(except where, like many people online, you are prepared
to cash it in for a chance to win) but the private
lives of celebrities
aren't private? Examine news critically. Don't depend
on a single source. Humphrey McQueen noted that "although
marketers cannot dictate our desires, they do affect
what is available to fulfil our needs". Media
consumers can influence what's made available.
mobile telephone be banned from school classrooms,
given that a student took a photo of his teacher ripping
up his media assignment, and therefore was evidence
of the student being harassed and intimidated etc?
me offer some questions in response.
do you need a mobile phone in the classroom, in a
change-room, in church or other venues? Are the needs
compelling? What are we going to do when the wireless
web starts penetrating into high schools and primary
schools. Several US academics lament that its
hard to get the attention of university students,
who spend time texting or emailing rather than paying
attention. There have been cases of students SMSing
answers answers for examination papers (sure beats
writing them on your cuffs). Time to "just say
no" and turn it off for a few hours.
technologies such as 3G phones are posing questions
about our concepts of public and private space ...
and more broadly about rights and responsibilities.
The mobile in the classroom is similar to the Box
Brownie, which allowed truly spontaneous public photos
- people caught unawares, unposed - for the first
time. As with most innovations, language in the first
years is centred on rights. I assume that we'll hear
more debate about responsibilities. Do celebrities
'own' their images? Do they relinquish protection
from paparazzi, for example, just because they're
famous? What about people who aren't celebrities?
What are the bounds of privacy in the digital environment?
do you see as the pros and cons of online
blogging, and do you contribute
to any, or do you stick to traditional Internet publishing?
discussed blogging (and new developments such as vlogging)
at some length on the Caslon site. The DIY publishing
model on the web predates colonisation of the net
by 'corporate media'. Blogging as a mass phenomenon
is likely to be as long-lasting as the hula hoop:
many people will blog (although, as with offline diaries,
often for only a short time) but the delirious forecasts
of some promoters and claims about the impact of blogging
pros are essentially that authors can place their
content (words, images, sounds)
before a global audience without significant difficulty.
More people seem to be writing blogs than reading
been acclaimed as liberation from 'big media' or as
the latest 'new journalism' (one of those things that
appears every twenty years). Unfortunately many people
aren't familiar with issues such as defamation and
don't have the unfrastructure for fact-checking or
editorial standards. Much news blogging is an echo
chamber, without original facts or interpretation.
fundamentally, having a keyboard isn't the same as
being able to write or having something compelling
to say. A lot of blogs don't rise above the level
of "I had a cheese sandwich for lunch".
Blogging may, as one advocate claims, release the
author's 'inner child' but there are times when children
shouldn't be seen or heard.
dog has a blog, which I gather is well regarded by
the four-pawed but not read by Max Suitch or Esther
will be the final outcome of the big 5 music labels
war with Internet file shares?
Europe in 1945? Business as usual amid the smoke,
rubble, dead bodies, relief and disappointed expectations?
Only the lawyers and advocates will really win?
(composers, lyricists, performers) deserve to get
paid and deserve recognition for their contribution
to society. As Hugh Hansen points out, the 'busker'
model gets airtime in academia and in digital lifestyle
mags such as WIRED
(hip ideas about the inevitable death of IP amid ads
for designer gizmos and breathless prose about hydrogen-powered
flying cars) but isn't viable on a large scale. We've
got a conundrum: how do we create and distribute content
in an environment where many consumers have expectations
about 'instant gratification', digerati legitimate
large-scale appropriation and major businesses (which
have traditionally screwed creators) seem to have
lost the plot. "Information just wants to be
free" (for people who expect to pay for designer
water but not creativity) versus "Creators just
want to be fed and/or respected"?
suspect that the real turning point will come to be
seen as the establishment of Apple's iTunes music
store - online delivery of legitimate copies of recordings
at an affordable price. Until now the only people
making money from online music have been lawyers,
hardware vendors and those offering ringtones! What
we'll probably see is a lot of litigation - remember,
the music industry is seen as the canary down the
digital content mine - and iTune-type services underpinned
by the full panoply of digital wrappers and other
wrong with radio and TV syndication as far as the
consumer is concerned? eg extinction on local news,
important to recognise that syndication has been round
for a very long time and that it addresses fundamental
issues, eg few minor newspapers or broadcasters can
afford the expense of a full staff of newsgatherers
in overseas locations or afford media stars. Your
local free-to-air station can't put a news team on
the ground in Brussels or Chicago. No-one seems to
be able to keep a team in places like the Congo, Eritrea
or Azerbaijan (probably just as well, because we'd
be jolted out of our comfortable compassion fatigue
when we want to be rivetted by Shane
Warne's SMS). It's easier - and often cheaper
- to buy a package of homogenised content from New
York (or Sydney). As consumers we seem to be reluctant
to bear the costs of a first rate ABC news service
- or perhaps we don't understand those costs - and
commercial media are about commercial first, media
challenge for some of the major news outlets is responding
to conflicting consumer expectations: providing the
immediacy of coverage of micro-markets without descending
into parochialism. Overseas that's a problem where
community newspapers are eroding the viability of
some broadsheets. Locally, well ... some markets are
seeing a flight to quality as readers eschew the local
rag for anything except 'hatches, matches & despatches'
and rely on a metropolitan paper (or, courtesy of
the net, the online Guardian
or Times). Syndication issues aren't restricted to
'old media'. Much of the news on the web is uncritical,
unabashed, often unconscious recycling of content
from a handful of sources. The downside of online
personalisation is that people don't get out of their
comfort zone ... the sort of thing that Cass Sunstein
worries about in Republic.com.
manufactures deliberately "dumbing down"
technology, to keep the power in their hands, rather
than hand it over to the people?
they are dumbing down the technology (as opposed to
the content), I wish that they'd hurry up! Compare
the reliability, ease of use, speed and low cost of
your toaster and most software programs. How often
does your toaster crash? How often do you have to
update it? How long have you spent listening to hold
music waiting for help about your toaster (or served
as a test-crash-dummy doing a free debug of the vendor's
pricey software, full of nifty features that even
Dr Spock wouldn't use)?
we're seeing is a 'dumbing up' of applications from
software vendors. The products from hardware manufacturers
get better and better (and cheaper and cheaper). Products
from software companies seem to get get cruddier (and
more expensive), often with a requirement that users
upgrade to the latest version if they're to be supported
or enjoy true compatability with other users.
freedom of the press in Australia?
an old joke that freedom of the press belonged to
anyone who had a press. I think that it was Mencken
who updated that to anyone who had a press AND the
money to buy a very good defamation lawyer. We'd add
the determination to take on the great and good.
been acknowledged for at least three decades that
Australian defamation law is more restrictive than
that of the US. There are benefits to that restriction
and disadvantages. Arguably investigative journalism's
been more difficult for Australn journalists and the
local proprietors have been more cautious. One response
has been that Parliament offers a forum for the exposure
of particular concerns; unfortunately the smears that
we've seen during the past five years (and the tacit
acceptance of that behaviour by fellow parliamentarians)
induces a certain caution. I'd be reluctant to hand
more power to proprietors without a strong sense that
they'd behave responsibly.
AOL Time Warner keep the AOL out of their name indefinitely?
(the dominant US internet service provider, noted
for its 'walled garden' approach and criticisms of
its service) merged with the Time
Warner print, film and music conglomerate during
the dot-com boom. It was promoted as the 'marriage
made in heaven', bringing together carriage and content,
providing economies of scale necessary for success
in global markets. The marriage went sour: Time managers
thought that the company had been raped by AOL execs,
massive savings and synergies haven't eventuated,
the share price slumped, heads rolled, stockholders
conglomerates have had similar problems, an indication
that while you can buy lots of animals for your media
circus it's difficult to make them perform under the
same big-top. One of the reasons that we feature chronologies
on the Ketupa.net site is as an illustration that
many of the largest media groups have a long history
and that churn of assets from one group to another
seems to be a standard business practice. At the moment
many groups are flogging a bit of this, a bit of that
- sports teams (eg News and Disney), publishers, multimedia
producers. It remains to be seen whether AOL Time
Warner takes the 'AOL' out of the corporate name ...
and whether it spins off the AOL arm in toto or as
a tracking stock.
problem with 3G is that it was interesting technology,
problematical economics. Most telcos paid inflated
prices for 3G licences, despite the best analysis
money could buy. Overall consumer response has been
tepid. For many users there are only so many photos
you can send to your friends (when I was in Tokyo
people were exchanging snaps of their dogs, but they
all looked the same) or your insurance assessor, video
isnt available or is too costly, what else is there?
revolution's around the corner but it's likely to
take the form of pervasive wireless connectivity.
You won't surf the web, page after page, on your phone.
You will surf on something that looks like a PDA.
You might even view video on that device, if the infrastructure
and economics come together. Freeing personal computers
from the copper wire will affect how we create and
access content. And it means that we won't have to
crawl under desks or behind the sofa so often.
from the mistakes that Optus made with iTV in Australia?
iTV as such is a mistake ... like three-d glasses
or super-wide projection in cinemas. Nice idea ...
but no-one's been able to get it to work outside a
few special formats (production costs for compelling
product are high, consumer interest is low).
news sources and journalists do you trust and respect
media junkies, so we cover all the usual sources and
some weird & wonderfuls. Whats the line
from the X-Files trust no one.
We wouldnt go that far but there's something
to be said for reading everything critically. As a
matter of taste and schedules we don't spend much
time watching free-to-air news. We skim the major
Australian tabloids and broadsheets, usually while
listening to the radio, and work through print/online
editions of overseas papers and journals.
Australia, how many of the following does each household
have on average: Computer with web? TV? Mobile?
statistics about devices in homes, schools and businesses
(and comments about the credibility of different estimates)
appear on our site.
real question is how the devices are being used.
are lots of VCRs, for example, but most appear to
be used for playing prerecorded tapes (rather than
to timeshift free-to-air broadcasts). Similarly, there
are lots of advanced phones ... that are only used
for voice and SMS. Most people don't want to or can't
afford to use advanced features: having a WAP phone
means that you have the device, not that you're surfing
(so many WAP claims are false).
is the solution for "information overload"?
solution? Its called the OFF button (or the
DELETE button, if youre stressing about email).
Lets get real about this
been grizzling about information overload (and longhaired
kids, the decline of literature
) as long as
we have records. Chinese scholars complained in 810
AD that there were too many books, far too many books
... authors should stop writing for a century so that
everyone could catch up. Europeans in the 1870s wrote
about an epidemic of stress attributable to a deluge
of newspapers, telegrams, letters (eg up to seven
deliveries per day in London) and very fast trains.
of digital information overload appear about every
three years. They get media coverage but aren't substantiated
by actual behaviour. Most people seem to be managing
quite well: they use the delete button, they skim
a lot of paperwork, they surf the net while listening
to the radio/tv, they even turn off the mobile phone!
note: An amazing interview. A could write a novel
of a reply, but haven't got this time, so WOW!. If
they don't win some business from this interview,
in one way or another, I will be amazed. Media Man
Australia sounds like a potential client - now we
have to make some decent money to pay them for the
information on how to make money from the media and
new media business : ) Greg Tingle says "we are
on the way to securing a government grant". More
interviews like this and the government can't say
no. Thanks again Bruce.
Wilding - Communications Law Centre
Tien - Electronic Frontiers Foundation
Webb - Digital Broadcasting Australia
Budde - Budde Communications
Adams - Broadcaster
Schechter - Media Channel