The publish button killed the media: @burgewords comments

publishThis week’s cancellation of the funding behind Australia’s flagship online news source The Global Mail sent shock waves through the local media, because many journalists were watching to see if the rise of the independent online media hub was a viable career lifeboat.

It’s not all bad news for the staff at The Global Mail. They’ve got about three weeks to find other sources of funding. If that fails, another flock of querulous journos will descend on the already job-starved media landscape.

What’s clear to me now is that the social media is the only media.

The demeanour of journalist Mike Seccombe said it all, when he fronted-up for an interview on Friday’s ABC Breakfast News.

Virginia Trioli asked him whether there were other ways of funding The Global Mail. He exhaled, shrugged and replied that he is a journalist, not a money man.

I felt for him, because if 20,000 subscribers, a stable of top notch journos, and private backing are not good enough to make The Global Mail work, what the hell is?

Before things got too depressing, technical problems meant the interview had to be wrapped-up fast, and the inexpressible did not get articulated.

The inexpressible being, of course, that the media as we know it is in its death throes. It’s on the mat. The death rattle has begun. Wake up peeps, it’s happening, it’s really happening.

imagesI could rail at the media moguls who have sold us out, but I’m calling The Publish Button the main culprit, that powerful little hyperlink which emerged on online blogging platforms a decade ago.

We flocked to it like gulls at a rubbish bin, and since digital technology was able to count the uptake, advertisers followed in an equally frenzied manner, until there were simply more pecks on The Publish Button than there were on all the print floors combined.

Twitter, Facebook and various forms of blogging now fulfill the very strong desire to be ‘published’ and ‘posted’, ‘liked’ and have our status ‘updated’ and ‘shared’.

Now, I’m not saying what we blog/post/tweet about is necessarily rubbish, but the bin is where it’s at peeps, the gulls are just not flocking to the media, which has been stripped, flogged and hung out to dry, journalistic job security with it.

The companies who made The Publish Button have become the new media moguls. They have no need to invest in ink, paper, print floors, newsagents, transport, and the tens of thousands of people who once staffed the media.

And without us even noticing, they have managed extremely well without journalists. A media which has no need to pay for content is every CEO’s dream.

Content flows freely to them, because The Publish Button is such effective bait.

Its lightning fast distribution is a stimulant like no other to wordsmiths. No barrier to participation, no editors to chase us, no pesky sub-editors to keep us nice, no delay in reaching our audience, and the ability to correct errors instantaneously … if we care about any of that, and there’s no requirement to.

seagulls-38161502-1785879If I StumbleUpon it I can Storify it, and I can say I’ve Reddit. I can Press my Words, I can show my Pinterest, I can Inst a Gram, I can meme like a Tumblr.

It’s all so liberating and wonderful … “Content is King!”, they say, to exhort us into creating great content, but it’s also free, and it’s left journalism with virtually no currency.

Social Media’s advertising and subscription revenue, which is placing the corporations behind The Publish Button in stockmarket positions that have Rupert Murdoch worried, is not shared with the content creators of this new world media.

To complain any further about the mainstream media is just like a new government blaming the old: after a while, it just doesn’t hold true anymore.

So, where does journalism stand now the media is flatlining?

For the last fortnight, No Fibs citizen journalist Margo Kingston has been showing by example what journalists can do with The Publish Button, by relocating to north-west NSW and reporting on the #Leardblockade, where a group of activists has been holding back the progress of the Maules Creek Mine.

Margo has self-funded her Storify reports, put together by Tony ‘The Geek’ Yegles, uploaded onto No Fibs with a regularity that a mainstream news site would be envious of.

Twitter has been utilised to distribute these short interviews, news items and reports to a growing audience.

What makes it relevant is the depth of engagement, participation, and the provision of opportunities for the subject to contribute to the report.

This is possibly the true meaning of ‘social’ in social media, and it’s possibly what makes very tasty bits for the gulls to peck at.

If The Global Mail had attracted a few gulls to the edge of the bin they might not have reached this point. Their low-level social media engagement may well have been their Achilles heel, or was it their propensity to pay their journalists a decent salary?

I’m not in a position to answer that. What’s clear to me now is that the social media is the only media.

There, I’ve said it. As a journalist, all I have to do is find a way to come to terms with it.

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  1. Ruth L Innisfail says

    If readers engaged their brain and carefully analysed the content of Murdoch’s garbage perhaps quality productions like the Global Mail would be viable.

    • Hi Ruth, thanks for commenting. We could blame Murdoch, but he’s suffering reader and advertising downturn as much as anyone. As for readers … yeah, I wish there was a magic wand that would make everyone aware of what’s “good” and what’s “crap”. If we can work that out we’d have an algorithm that could bring Facebook down.

      • Laurie Forde says

        As a lifetime avid reader of the MSM I can assure you that it is the low quality, biased reporting in Murdoch et al outlets that has resulted in my no longer reading newspapers,
        I blame the journalists who have been so prepared to sell out their ethics in their desperation to retain their jobs.

        Courage and pride in their profession was required and journalists were found wanting.

      • We could blame people who were desperate to retain their jobs … but that’s like the Abbott Govt blaming the Rudd/Gillard.

      • Laurie Forde says

        No it’s not. In first case, journalists decided to save their jobs rather than stick to journalistic ethics. Many people have lost their jobs over issues of principle in the ongoing fight for justice. Australian journalists decided not to do this.
        In second case, the Abbott govt is following a pre-designed course of finding “new information” after the election to excuse breaking election promises.
        Don’t like your analogy at all Michael.

      • Feel for Journos. Feel for the Press. But Murdoch’s use of a media monopoly (which he has carefully constructed over decades using political intimidation, lies and bribes) to control OUR democracy is a far more important issue – not to be dismissed by “he’s suffering too”.

      • Murdoch doesn’t own any Publish Buttons.

      • Laurie Forde says

        But he does own the journalists. Not just those who work directly for him. eg ABC Breakfast begins the day with “Let’s see what the papers say” and guess who owns the papers.

      • Laurie Forde says

        Could not agree more. Murdoch has been a cancer on the media and the Democratic process. It is a great pity that journalists did not have more courage and pride in themselves and stuck together to defeat his absolute corruption of the news process.
        Since the invention of the printing press, the Rich have owned the means of disseminating information, but Murdocn has driven this abuse of a “Free Press” to new lows.
        If journalists reported fairly and accurately, there would be no shortage of readers.

  2. There must be a way for quality journalism to still flourish. Think laterally, use the publish button yourself – add a donation button. Any dick and his dog can use the publish button as you say (I am one of them) but surely there is some way for quality to shine above the dross and be rewarded financially?

    • Lateral thinking is the only solution, and I hit that publish button all the time TPV, and I donate my time, hours of it, to No Fibs. Hopefully everyone’s pecking the donate button now and again. We’re fighting powerful mathematical algorithms that have an enormous head start on simple pieces of quality content.

    • Neil Forscutt says

      Have you read Miranda Devine or Andrew Bolt, et al.

      The journalist of quality is not an opinion piece writer.

      I, now and again buy a SMH but not for the journalism.

      Even the Insiders is having trouble producing stories, they compete against the guest opinion.

      Surely people of intelligence do not use facebook or twitter for intelligent news comment?????

      • I’d like to think you’re correct about “people of intelligence” not using facebook or twitter for intelligent news comment Neil, but in my gut I know The Publish Button does not have an intelligence element to its algorithms … it’ll take a peck from any hungry seagull. Oh, and No Fibs is built on Twitter journalism BTW!

      • Squark! I’m one of those hungry seagulls! My intelligence you may question but I’m definitely curious!

      • Excuse the bad English but what do we gotta do for news? I can admit to reading Miranda, think I even followed her on Twitter but that Bolt person urggghh, that would be polluting myself. There should be a disclaimer on ‘opinion pieces’ like advertisements. I actually do read some of that stuff but only to be informed and confirm my distaste every once and a while. I’ve been scouring the web for real news for some time now. No one really is filling the void for me. I have to search far and wide and I think I’m not the only one. There is a Murdoch blocker on my browser which prevents me from mistakenly venturing into that festering quagmire. Yes people of intelligence do use Facebook and Twitter but not soley for news. I rarely ever buy an actual paper newspaper because of the mess and clutter they create and possibly saving a tree or two. Quality journalism is still needed and is easily recognisable.

      • Honestly, TPV, what I think you “gotta do” for news is stay curious and start reporting yourself, generate an exchange of news with your Publish Button.

        Opinion pieces and advertorial are the last fillers in the word-based news media. When they go (and they will, because the ego-driven opinionated do not work for free), that form of news will replace the printed catalogue as a 100% sales tool.

        Word-of-mouth has always been free, and it’s the oldest form of news in the world. Twitter at its best is a great word-of-mouth news source, but it’s a two-way street, you’ve gotta give as well as take. Report as well as read.

      • Still got my blog L plates on mate!
        But that’s my intention.
        Up till now my blog has consisted mostly of social commentary, spreading the news, expressing my outrage and armchair activism.
        Fate or something has given me a shove and I’ve found myself as a real life activist. I’m responsible for the March in March Coffs Harbour 2014 FB page! Very excited and pleasantly surprised at the support I’ve received from our local community here in Coffs. Even found myself IN the news because of it :)
        Our local paper “The Advocate” is the only one in the country reporting on it so far.
        Life is strange.

      • Congrats, TPV, you’re a citizen journalist! I’m sure Margo would love to hear from you with a report and pics on the March in March Coffs, if you feel like submitting something.

      • Yes there will surely be words and pictures emanating soon! Perhaps even a theme song composed! Stay tuned :)

  3. minbaniJan Smith says

    The Global Mail was a great (and possibly the first?) use of a multi-media platform that I believe will soon be ‘the norm’ of what a good digital news source will look like. To allow this platform type to become mainstream will require patience, active use of social media and long pockets initially – but it will happen. And it will become profitable.

    Margo Kingston is a very good Journo and has achieved a name for reliability and integrity. This in combination of the coming acceptance of news deliverance using the new multi-media platform like the Global Mail is, as I see it, where Journalism is fast heading. But it will take time and money and an investor who is not in it for the fast buck and/or having to please shareholders.

    Australia does still have entrepreneurs who understand that a good business idea is worth persevering with and mistakes will happen along the way. Some thing(s) will work while others don’t or can be improved upon. It’s just a matter of trial and error and being prepared to take the ups with the downs. Hey, that’s business.

    What can’t be replaced is integrity; reliability, determination,knowledge and a willingness to put the common good of a community before financial gain.

  4. It’s good to see someone zero in on the distribution. It is this which is different in ‘social media’. Publishers no longer control the distribution – and hence the advertising.

    However, the publisher never controlled what people bought – they just ran the ads. Social media isn’t all that different in this regard.

    The big difference with advertising in social media I think is the tie up between the content and the ad. The ads for deodorant or whatever weren’t related to the political story on the same page. Now the ads for deodorant don’t get run next to political stories.

    There’s lots of high quality journalism available by those with great depth of analysis and good ability to communicate. They are called blogs. You will have to search. There are also blogs that are the rantings of loonies – but then these get published in the MSM too I gather. The difference with bloggers is that they aren’t necessarily getting paid for their writing. If they are independently wealthy (independent of their writing) this can be freeing and contribute to the quality.

    The falling of the cost of distribution has changed the media landscape. New models will emerge. But the old advertiser funded model is dead. Whether a new advertiser funded model will emerge (google does pretty well out of it I gather) or whether something different will arrive will be interesting to see.

  5. The biggest problem, as I see it, is there is still no business model for online journalism that actually works.
    The first hurdle is how to get readers to pay for online content that they can still read for free (and people hate paywalls). Everyone from Murdoch down to the most humble blogger is trying to find a viable subscription or donation model.
    Even then, it has always been advertisers – not readers – who have paid the bills for newsrooms and ever since the arrival of the internet, advertisers have so, so many more options as to where to spend their dollar.
    This is the second, even more challenging hurdle. You only need to look at Facebook, ebay, gumtree, youtube etc to see where the big advertising dollars are going.
    These two financial factors – combined with the ability of anyone and everyone to set up a ‘news/media’ website – make it a very tough environment for professional journalism and I, like you, don’t have a lot of hope for its survival.

  6. John Fraser says


    "Margo has self-funded her Storify reports, put together by Tony ‘The Geek’ Yegles, uploaded onto No Fibs with a regularity that a mainstream news site would be envious of."

    And yet the largest media organisation in Australia (as well as the others) has steadfastly refused to report what is happening .

    While at the same time the wishlist of the same outfit is being implemented by the Abbott government and being sold in print as good for Australians.

    Putin shows the Russian billionaires where their place is (jail) while Murdoch (Gina) shows the Australian government where their place is.

  7. I’m not so sure that the end is as nigh as suggested and I don’t think The Global Mail’s demise is a great example of the downfall of ‘traditional’ media as it was neither traditional media nor particularly well done.

    Although the standard of content was excellent, as you correctly note, their social media engagement was minimal and from a web professionals point of view, the overall design and user experience was pretty average and raised more than a few eyebrows at time of launch demonstrating something of a lack of engagement or experience in the online world. Meanwhile outlets like the NY Times and WSJ have led the field in terms of web design ad. User experience and have thus ears to show for it.

    There remains a great appetite for legitimate quality journalism hence the ABC, likewise the BBC remaining the most respected and trusted media outlets. It may surprise a few to know that amongst the circles I walk in Facebook is a dirty word and professionals are ditching it in droves.

    In a lot of respects the ‘traditional’ media have only themselves to blame given the propensity for simply trawling and churning what people have already seen online. They need to get to the punch faster and make it count, offer sensible commentary and open up debate worth watching no listening to.

    Don’t give up just yet! The rest of us rely on you.

    • Having more bells and whistles to keep readers and site participants entertained is great news for readers and participants, not for journos.

      Seems to me there remains “a great appetite” for free media (ABC and BBC). The ABC is not immune to my garbage bin analogy – it’s started regurgitating its own news stories for its own use, as they cycle the same clips through every few days.

      The Publish Button doesn’t care about quality, it just wants us to click it. I’m about to right now.

    • Agree with Damo regarding ABC and BBC as quality news sources. Facebook is only popular because it enables engagement. A lot of people I know (including myself) do not even watch Television much anymore, preferring the internet because it IS interactive and not passively sitting on our arses soaking whatever is being currently offered. Most of it commercial and uninteresting. If there is no way to entice people to pay for their ‘quality’ news, perhaps another profitable possibly even unrelated venture/business eg. Lottery – could be set up with the journalist’s receiving their income that way?

      • Laurie Forde says

        Good to see some really lateral thinking on the subject. A way must be found to finance the dissemination of full and accurate information without having it filtered through the pockets of the mega-rich like Murdoch.

  8. Thanks for your comments. The publish button is an important addition to citizen involvement in communicating grassroots activity and to challenge journos to work better.
    However, DIY media ( I prefer to call it this rather than ‘citizen journalism’ because, for eg, no one would think of calling a handyman a citizen plumber just because he or she can do some basic tinkering) can’t replace the authority of journalist sourced stories as we will always need skilled people to research, weigh up the evidence and communicate important info in accessible and authoritative ways.

    • I agree with you in principle Carmela, but if we’ll always need skilled journos, we’d better keep giving them the basics, like pay, opportunity and a platform. Non-DIY journalism is a job, not a hobby. The Publish Button is doing more than challenging us, it’s replacing us in droves. You might find your DIY journos are your only hope, if they can be bothered getting off their bums and actually reporting. It’s far to easy to like, share and post from home.

  9. I can’t believe all your journalistic ranting’s about your jobs and concentrating on the publish button when you should be developing a app that will help your readers pay quick and easy while the mood is positive . I am uneducated and haven’t been helped to get or retain a job in all my 70 years so don’t expect the sympathy light to glow. Good luck with your endeavours the country needs a good unbiased press even though the sheep don’t know it yet.

  10. Rohan Boehm says

    Don’t be fooled that the mogels are the only ones filtering media. An equalled frustration for country folk is appalling bias in the parish pump local rag where quality journalists have been absent since time began.
    I’d love to see quality journalism applied locally at Lairds forest (where I hail from) and to see first hand the impact of quality coverage on the community.
    Maybe that’s the future or a part of it.

    • You’re right, Rohan, it’s because the country rags were all bought-up by the big guys years ago. They’ve become local catalogues as a result. Hopefully the focus of Margo’s (and others’) reporting on #Leardblockade will inspire some original reporting from your local papers, but when the weekly is actually a weekly catalogue, too scared to report for fear of advertiser backlash, The Publish Button is the only alternative, and it’s rare to find a self-funded journo at a blockade in a rural area, very rare indeed.

  11. I wonder if people had to personally pay a sum each week to keep the ABC going, would they? It’s survival, as we know, is dependent on government funding and given Abbott’s rumblings about the ABC, we can’t always assume that this funding will continue.
    The next five years are going to determine who and what media outlets survive in this new climate and I suspect it will be a very different landscape in 2020, with newspapers a fading memory, Fairfax probably gone, News Ltd still reigning supreme in terms of overall dominance and the ABC running commercials, like SBS, to prop up its budget.
    Social media and DYI journalism (I like that phrase) can only fill some of the gaps – professional journalism takes skill, time, money and access (eg – how many self-funded bloggers are going to sit in the Press Gallery for hours on end?), so I fear what the consequences of all this will be in terms of the media’s role in our democracy.

  12. Wonderful article Michael, congratulations on finding clarity amidst the confusion. That Publish button also (mostly) eliminated the need for lawyers, which are a massive consideration for quality mainstream journalism.

  13. I agree with other posts here, its not just the ‘fifth estate’ reducing the viability of print media, but it is inexorable (my opinion piece starts now) slide of journalistic content of the ‘fourth estate’ to goosestepping diatribe. This is one of the few sites where facts are clear and checkable, and the journalism presents a fair analysis (most of the time). I no longer even buy a paper for the crossword or sudoku puzzle. So to some degree, MSM journalists who live of the CNN and Fox teat / feeds, I think have soiled their own nests, at least as much as having to compete with aspirational publishers. Bring back facts and alnalysis to Print media, and things may change. >> Click to Publish! <<

    • I love ‘goosestepping diatribe’

    • It’s a fair point, but it’s not being played-out as fact right now.

      Your ‘goose-steppers’ are still marching away, but their soil is not falling in their own nests just yet, it’s falling on an entire generation of journalism graduates whose time is spent on government and corporate paid content, which fills the editorial space once the ads are allocated, leaving room for a few press releases, if anyone’s on hand to string them in.

      These young journos have a choice: include all the advertorial, or resign.

      There are plenty of desperate young journos more than willing to replace them if they decide to have the kind of standards you require of them.

      Meanwhile, facts and analysis have fled to the Fifth Estate, where they generally go unchecked, and attract masses of hits from true believers who are unwittingly driving up the site stats for corporations anyone even remotely left-of-centre would balk at, if only they knew.

      Behind the scenes of the MSM it’s a desperately quiet, depressing scenario.

      The goose-steppers work from home, and have as much loyalty to their titles as their pay cheques allow. You might laugh when their day is over and they’re blogging independently, but they’re probably shareholders in the publish button, so while you’re clicking through to have your jollies at their expense, they’ll be laughing all the way to the e-bank.

      • Hmmm I appreciate your point, you are looking at the big picture of the next gen’ journalists. My point was that why would I pay for print media when frankly it is mostly ….. poor content, hence I won’t pay for it. That is where the MSM journalists have arrived. I do pay / donate to several independent online ‘news’ sites, and they are the ones that declare their bias, and provide facts, traceable evidence, and review from a fairly balanced position (bias given).
        I look at online sites that declare their political/ social/ ethical bias in either direction to try and find the middle ground, or whether I am swayed by their arguments. I can often read feedback that corrects or deepens the discussion online; Print media comes a distant last on that.
        So I think that shows there is money to be had from good journalism, online, but as an income stream, I can’t say how ‘good’ that stream can get. Crikey for example seem to make a fair hash of things, but I confess to not knowing their financials.
        So .. to your point, why would I pay for today’s poor journalism in print, when there is better elsewhere. I am not convinced the click to publish button is all that significant in people leaving the MSM media.
        Unless of course, you discount those that regularly publish online as non journalist, or dilettantes.
        Good luck to you and others on this site, I am feeling well disposed to donating here too. This is a class above much of the print media.

  14. Hi all, for people interested in the future of journalism and in particular citizen journalism, I am working toward an event in Sydney aimed at helping the general public engage with citizen journalism and data projects. If this sounds like something that might interest you please see the thread at the InfoAus Forum

  15. The mainstream media is dead. We all killed it. Here’s how #MediaFutureph #FairGoFairfax

  16. @kateausburn @Boeufblogginon @MargaretOConno5 @margokingston1 @NoFibs I more than sure why the MSM is in trouble: