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Even a monkey can become a journalist

"To be a journalist is something everyone can accomplish. Even a monkey can become a journalist," Swedish TV-host Robert Aschberg to Dagbladet (no direct link available yet). 'I was politically active for many years... then a friend suggested that I should become a journalist. I thought it was a good idea...'

Personally I've met many people who were totally unsuited to become journalists, but then I'm of the perhaps quaint opinion that journalists should possess some ability in the department of critical thinking etc. But, perhaps it's just me...

Sophisticated Bullshit: why advertising is dead

... this is rather sophisticated BS, which the author could have got away with before the internet. Now people just share how crap a product is and no amount of advertising projection is going to have psychological impact. And that is why advertising is dead - it doesn't have the same function it used to but it's still sucking out money out of companies. What the author is missing is that the 'informational' role of advertising is now fulfilled by other customers, i.e. markets. The demand side supplying itself...

Quintessentially Adriana (commenting on a Financial Times opinion piece about the benefits of advertising), from her Furl feed.

Bonnier goes Dutch

Swedish media giant Bonnier continues its foreign expansion and has partnered with the likes of Audax Publishing and Betapress to crack the Dutch magazine market. To start with, Bonnier is bringing its popular science magazine Illustrated Science, already performing to the publishers satisfaction in the Nordic countries, Latvia and Greece, to the land of the dijks. 'The Dutch market has many similarities with the Scandinavian, so we think our magazines will work well there,' Erik Maansson, Bonnier's senior vice president of information, told Dagens Media.

The price of a free(sheet) future

The price tag for the Danish freesheet war is approaching 1bn DKK, according to Danish trade journal Journalisten. They have calculated that so far the Icelandic attempt to prove that the future is free has cost the newspaper companies involved 815m DKK, with the now closed Dato taking 196m DKK in losses, Icelandic Nyhedavisen 309m DKK and JP/Politiken's 24timer 310m DKK.

But a row over Journalisten's methods has erupted in the comment field of the said article. The article only mentions in the last sentence that these calculations are based on statistical material from polling companies rather than actual figures from the media companies, and it also asserts that the money could have been better spent to educate 20.000+ university students.

Both aspects are rubbished by Nyhedsavisen journalists in the comment field: 'These numbers are mere speculations,' writes Lars Fogt, who adds that journalists are known to be crap with numbers and refers to a Danish editor who banned his hacks from writing about economy because, in his opinion, they were clueless.

Christina Agger ridicules the assertion that the newspaper companies involved would have spent their money on universities if they hadn't decided to try their luck on the freesheet market, and is at loss over why her own trade journal seems to be of the opinion that it's better for society if she and her colleagues were on the dole rather than supporting themselves by working for these 'bad' freesheets.

Marvellous. The comments, both from Journalisten and Nyhedsavisen's staff, adds a whole new dimension to the article, and I must admit I find them almost more interesting than the article itself.

How to fund public broadcasting

In Denmark, the opposition parties think they've found the ultimate solution to funding public broadcasting: shift the burden of proof – guilty until you've proved your innocent of owning a device that can be used to receive public TV and radio (via Berlingske).

Some wise soul, or a magazine rather, calculated that if every ninth household didn't dodge the license fee, the country's public radio broadcaster would not have had to impose its latest round of redundancies. This led a few opposition parties to suggest that every household should have to actively unsubscribe from public broadcasting and further prove that they do not have access to Radio, TV, Internet or Mobile phones. In this way the opposition parties hope to raise 600m DKK in extra funding.

What a marvellous scheme to rein in those of us who prefer Internet to TV.

To be or not to be: the future of my blog - and that of Danish media

I was going to blog about some interesting tidbits from the kingdom of Denmark when the future existence of my blog was called into question yesterday. So, while I was quite put off blogging, my thoughts did wander to Hamlet, of course.

Both because of his existential soul-searching - Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or take arms against a sea of troubles, blog about them and move to another blog provider as swift as possible – and because of Marcellus' 'Something is rotten in the state of Denmark'.

The latter quote came to mind because of my musings on one or two Danish media stories, but, while reading David Weinberger on lumpers and splitters yesterday somehow tempted me to lump all of these issues together in one post, reason told me to resist that temptation and rather put those media tidbits in one or two separate stories.

Oh, and I did manage to press the right button yesterday, updating my non-updated billing info, so the future of this blog seems to have been secured, though I'm not quite sure it will remain with Typepad...


Hamlet and Horatio in the cemetery by Eugène Delacroix

Account Suspended

This blogging account had been suspended due to Typepad's sudden inability to process my credit card in its US billing system.

At first they kindly suggested all the possible ways in which I could be at fault here, insufficient funds etc. When I denied all these accus... eh... suggestions, they graciously explained that they had a systematic problem with their US billing system and offered to move my account to their UK portal to prevent further errors. I was informed that this move had been successful and that I would now be able to update my billing information successfully.

Since my billing information had remained unchanged through all this, and my mind was full of more weighty concerns, I didn't see any point in doing that, ignoring the possibility that this benevolent suggestion of what I would be able to do could be code for 'you need to re-active or confirm' your billing information for this to work properly. And thus it came to be that I logged in to my email box today and found that my Typepad account had been suspended. And since I am very gifted when it comes imagining the worst possible outcomes: if this site goes all black in the next hours or days – this is the explanation. Not Happy. Think I need a looong workout.

Prosecutor investigates Bildt's blog for racist remarks

Auch! Sweden's blogging foreign minister Carl Bildt, previously heavily criticised for bypassing the media by writing a blog, has now been put under investigation for not removing certain reader comments made on his blog (but Bildt assures us that these comments have now been removed).

The Local has this to say about the investigation, which revolves around a guy called Lindberg (a quick look at Aftonbladet online reveals that we're talking about chief prosecutor Jörgen Lindberg):

Lindberg told Swedish Radio that he was investigating a breach of the Act on Responsibility for Electronic Bulletin Boards. The law stipulates that the person in charge of a blog is responsible for removing comments that could constitute a breach of the law.

Bildt is not currently being treated as a suspect, but speaking to Aftonbladet, Lindberg said "we will see whether or not to declare him a suspect."

Lindberg is expected to make a decision in the autumn on whether to continue the investigation.

One of the comments being investigated called Palestinians 'spawn of Satan,' while another called them 'a bloody pack of murderers.' In one comment, a reader said: 'give us 24 hours and all Palestinians will be gone, and we'll have 100 percent of Israel.'

Get those bloggers on board: public broadcaster hires expert bloggers

Denmarks' public broadcaster is enrolling some 40 'expert bloggers' to give instant indepth analysis on the broadcaster's main news, if I understand this article correctly. The new feature will become a part of DR blogs this summer and goes under the name 'Project A-blogger: blogs from from people who know something to people who want to know something'. The expert bloggers enlisted will be experts in their fields who write something more akin to what's been dubbed 'crogs' (via Martin Stabe), rather than any old blog. It sounds like and interesting way of extending the debate in the wake of breaking news and current affairs programmes, and I do hope it will be a considerable improvement from DR blogs' current content, which is very light and featury and includes this post on whether ice bears are cuter than mosquitoes.

Get those bloggers on board: Metro pays bloggers

Swedish Metro has launched a new blog portal where bloggers get paid about half a US cent per page view. That is, if you get at least 5,000 page views per month, reports Media Culpa.

Bloggers have often been accused of being parasites on mainstream media, but over time many newspapers have found that bloggers are marvellous traffic generators: incorporating readers' blogs on a news site is an easy way of increasing traffic, and we all know how traffic is the magic key to higher advertisement revenues - something Metro is not shy of admitting (my translation): 'We were late going online and we want to create visitor numbers that reflect the fact that we actually are Sweden's biggest newspaper. Through the blogs we get more traffic, which we can then sell to the advertisers,' Andreas Ohlson, managing director in Metro Sweden, told Dagens Medier.

But, using Metro Sweden's new blogging portal as your platform does have a catch or two, says Media Culpa:... 'by signing up you also give Metro permission to use anything you write and publish it without giving you compensation. Aftonbladet has the same terms of service, by the way. Personally I prefer to own the stuff I write.'

So who's a parasite on who again?

Which ISPs Are Spying on You?

It was recently put to me that there are perhaps greater 'privacy invasions' to worry about than companies compiling all the electronic footprints we leave behind in this Web 2.0 world ours; only to store them in databases for clever commercial purposes, such as targeted marketing. Or as this person sarcastically put it (my translation):

The Facebook Fever that has ravaged this country for the entire month of May took a dramatic turn when someone realised that the information we provide about ourselves can be used to send us relevant advertisement. Experts encourage Facebook users to give careful consideration to whether or not they reveal themselves to be in the target group for sanitary towels or mineralwater ads.

You may laugh at me for still feeling a bit uneasy about this, but in countries like China, where the government is no stranger to confiscating such user data to police the opinions of its citizens, it is no laughing matter. Storing used data for a certain period of time also begets questions like: how much of this are the internet companies willing to share with government institutions when, and under what circumstances?

Which leads me to this interesting Wired article on data privacy (via Rebecca MacKinnon, Wired's RSS-feed is just too much for me so I keep getting backlogged):

The few souls that attempt to read and understand website privacy policies know they are almost universally unintelligible and shot through with clever loopholes. But one of the most important policies to know is your internet service provider's -- the company that ferries all your traffic to and from the internet, from search queries to BitTorrent uploads, flirty IMs to porn.

Wired News, with help from some readers, attempted to get real answers from the largest United States-based ISPs about what information they gather on their customers' use of the internet, and how long they retain records like IP addresses, e-mail and real-time browsing activity. Most importantly, we asked what they require from law-enforcement agencies before coughing up the data, and whether they sell your data to marketers.... here's what they found.

A challenge for Netzeitung's new owner

I've been holding off writing about Mecom's newest acquisition, Netzeitung (still subject to regulatory approval), until Olav Anders Övrebö, media blogger and former Netzeitung journalist, added his perspectives to the fray. Though he's not too optimistic about the takeover, he throws up a few very interesting ideas:

As expected, Netzeitung has a new owner yet again, now BV Deutsche Zeitungsholding a.k.a Montgomery. This private equity media empire builder has so far not shown any particular interest in developing online news, only traditional restructuring of established print businesses. So there's no reason to be very optimistic on behalf of ex-colleagues. But it's possible to speculate about what could be done. Because now actually for the first time Netzeitung is part of a company which has the marketing clout to produce the kind of audience growth it has always been looking for in its almost seven years' existence (for more on just how, read the full post here).

Now it must be said that Edda Media's recent talent competition for innovative online ideas hints at a willingness to develop Mecom's online operations further. And, though it's often said that Montgomery so far has made no major new investments, apart from the doomed Dato, Edda Media, as many other media companies, has actually bought an entire island in Second Life (though they might want to put up additional sign-posting in German, seeing how it's much more likely that a German, than a Norwegian, will chance upon the island).

On a more serious note, during a recent debate at the Norwegian Journalist Union's annual conference, Montgomery himself signalled that we might see Mecom putting more emphasis on online innovations in the times to come:

'I'm here because I think journalism will have to change. The old fashioned model of print can not sustain itself. We face more competition than ever before. If we don't change radically, and I do mean radically, it will be bad for print, bad for democracy, bad across the board'

Will the Netzeitung acquisition be the vehicle that shows us just how Montgomery envisions that the profession will have to change?

A few reactions from the German blogosphere here and here.

Update 14:35: Just discovered this piece from (in Danish, behind pay wall) where Montgomery says he wants to focus on online development in order to sustain print.

The Nine Rules of Journalism

You've just got to love this set of journalism rules from Michael Rosenberg (via Roy Greenslade, who says: 'they strike me as being uncomfortably true to life'). I can't say they don't strike a chord with me, here's a few of my favourite ones (all nine here):

2. Be balanced. No matter what anybody says, find somebody to say the opposite. If a scientist claims to have a cure for cancer, find somebody who says cancer does not exist. If a man says "My name is Fred," make sure you find somebody who says "No, your name is Diane." Etc.

5. Internet, Schminternet. It will be gone in five years. People will always love reading a newspaper - and so will you, our intrepid reporter, once you accept our redundancy offer.

7. When appearing on television, insinuate that all newspaper reporters are biased. When writing for a newspaper, imply that all television people are boobs with no credibility. When at the bar afterward, complain that nobody trusts journalists anymore.

Update 16.08.2009: the link to Rosenberg's piece is broken, seems article has since been removed from Detroit Free Press, but Greenslade lists eight of the rules and the ninth is mentioned in the comments of his post.

Chequebook journalism and the invasion of the amateurs

'Press photographers are bound by a professional code of conduct, you can't say that for your average Joe,' Knut Haavik, editor of Norwegian gossip rag Se og Hör, commenting on the inflation in mobile phone pictures – well-awarded by the press if it involves the right celebs – during yesterday's open hearing in the wake of Se og Hör's 'chequebook-journalism scandal'.

Haavik said this particular brand of citizen journalism (my phrase) means we're fast approaching an informer society, which I guess sites such as GawkerStalker could be taken as evidence for. However, I'm not so convinced the celebs of this world feel a professional code of conduct makes the world a safer place.

Yesterday's hearing was based on a report about Se og Hör's work methods which indicated that roughly 15 per cent of the gossip mag's stories rely on chequebook journalism. The Norwegian Press Association is considering to alter the country's code of conduct for journalists to get to grips with the problems surrounding this type of journalism.

Competition authority approves Schibsted merger

Well wouldn't you know, just a few days ago the Norwegian Media Authority voiced its disapproval of Schibsted's plans to create giant newspaper group Media Norway, by 'merging' its daily Aftenposten with regionals Faedrelandsvennen, Stavanger Aftenblad and Bergens Tidende, and threatened to intervene against it. Today the Norwegian Competition Authority has approved the merger, though demanded that Schibsted observe certain conditions, mainly to do with not creating a printing monopoly. Any radical alterations to the original merger plans? Not really, at least not according to Schibsted. It must be a good thing that there are several authorities involved: gives you a new news story almost every day. Better prepare for more consultations with the Norwegian Media Ownership Authority – Dagens Medier reports that a final decision is expected by 15 September.

Schibsted's merger dreams may be doomed

Yesterday's announcement that the Norwegian Media Authority will intervene against Schibsted's grand plans to create a newspaper group that would dwarf all other players in the Norwegian market, has apparently not made Schibsted's execs give up on their grand vision, but it's looking increasingly unlikely that the merger will go through – unless the terms are radically altered.

The Media Authority has refused to take into account Schibsted's professed intention to sell its shares in regional newspaper Adresseavisa to reduce its share of the country's newspaper market. Media professor Helge Östby has suggested Schibsted reduce its stake in the proposed media group, Media Norway, from 50,1 to 49,9 per cent, but Tinius Nagell-Erichsen, whose trust holds the controlling stake in Schibsted, has vehmently denied this is an option.

As regular readers of this blog might remember, Birger Magnus, Schibsted's executive vice president in Norway, has previously stated that he fully understands Norwegian media's concern about foreign owners, but that it is beyond him why they should obsess about how many per cent Schibsted ends up controlling in Media Norway. Last time I checked, the majority of Schibsted's shareholders were ... eh... foreigners, but surely, as long as the Norwegians get run the show, that is besides the point – or maybe there's foreigners and then there's foreigners?

Wi-Fi (free) warning signal


I picked up this 'would have been very handy sign for hotels', or at least for their customers, from Virtual Economics (via David Black) just as I was sitting in a very posh hotel lounge fuming over the hotel's crap internet set-up.

Why is it that the internet set-up at fancy hotels tend to be as expensive as it is impractical, whereas less expensive hotels often have free wi-fi throughout? During my recent 10 days on the road, I would typically stay in a perfectly charming hotel where maybe the floors weren't quiet straight, and consequently the bath tub tilting slightly, but at least it would be clean, friendly and provide free wi-fi, in contrast to the posh hotels where I ended up using an amount similar to what I pay for my monthly broadband for two days of internet connection.

Not to mention how the internet-set up in the rooms was incompatible with the one for public areas (like in, impossible to read your newsfeeds over breakfast or lunch). It's the opposite of no-frills airlines: with these hotels the more you paid, the less you got – apart from straight floors, that is.

At least the posh hotels had gyms, my reason for choosing them in the first place, but I'd rather have free wi-fi and pay for a drop-in at a decent gym the hotel has an agreement with, than pay small fortunes for being online and get free access to gyms that resemble dumping grounds for equipment that was cool in the seventies. But I guess, with documentaries like this one from Panorama (via mediastandardstrusts' blog) hotels have a new excuse not to provide wi-fi in the rooms, and could even use the lack of it as a sales pitch: used to be 'smoke-free throughout' that heralded a truly modern hotel, now it's 'wi-fi free'... ?

A new Polish Acquisition for Mecom?

Hot on the heels of the Wegener acquisition in Holland, it seems Montgomery is about to add yet another title to his rapidly expanding European media group, this time in Eastern Europe. I think this article says that Mecom is in negotiations to buy "Życia Warszawy", but that Truls Velgaard, Mecom's Norwegian boss in Poland, 'declines to comment on speculations'. I must admit that my Polish isn't up to much though, so go check it out for yourself. More from the Polish blogosphere here.

The Facebook test

You've just got to love this insight into Facebook that dropped into my mail box from a reader. I've kept pondering why it is that Norwegian journalists have shied away from blogging, despite how a lot of them are on Facebook. And I must admit I've yet to be convinced about the value of social networks, when, if you're spare time is limited, you could rather be blogging and attract an audience that is as hooked on exactly the same things as yourself. Anyway, here's Ashok on the issue:

Facebook is definitely not one of my favourite ways to meet people online, and everyone I know there acts like a high schooler that's like OMG I'M ON THE INTERNETZ AND I CAN TALK WITH MY FRIENDZ. In fact, I find Facebook a really good screening mechanism, like MySpace, for potential dates - if a girl has pics of herself getting drunk on there, and that's all she has, she's probably not the sort of girl suited for a relationship. Similarly, if she types things like "L8r," that could be problematic too. I can't tell you how many women around my age
[I think he's around 26: not that many years younger than me, but at the moment I'm going thru a phase where I feel very ancient, happens now and then] are like that on Facebook or MySpace, and I thank God for their ability to display their true selves before I get involved.