TPN mentioned (briefly) in The Age

There are a couple of stories about podcasting in Australia in The Age today. I chatted with both journalists at length over the last month for the stories but ended up with two lines out of a 2+ page story. Go figure. All of my journo and ex-journo friends (including Mrs R) this morning counseled me to just wear it on the chin. And perhaps they are right. But I’m pissed off about it anyway. And here’s why.

In the main story, by Andrew Bock, the ABC, Austereo (owner of Triple M and Fox FM) and even Salty Dog (congrats Dennis!) get their download figures trumpeted. Where are TPN’s figures? Omitted. Deliberate? I don’t know.

What I do know is that Fairfax, the owners of The Age, have a commercial relationship with Austereo. Fairfax hosts Austereo’s websites. Was that disclosed in the article? No, it was not. Accidental? Perhaps. According to the article, Austereo is doing more than 850,000 podcast downloads a month across all its stations. TPN is doing about the same (we spiked a few months back and hit about 800k, last month it was about 650K, which is where Austereo’s last annual report in July 2007 said they were at). TPN is a one-man, self-funded, three-year-old operation. Austereo is decades-old, publicly-listed company with revenues in excess of $255 million pa which has some of the biggest names in radio working on their shows.

Now if *you* were writing the story about podcasting, don’t you think this would have been an interesting comparison? Apparently someone at Fairfax didn’t think so.

Fairfax also now owns Southern Cross Broadcasting, owners of top radio stations 3AW and 2UE. Was that disclosed in the article? No, it wasn’t. If you take TPN’s listener numbers (450 – 500k per month) and compare those to, say, 3AW, I think we’re about the same size, perhaps even bigger.

Does Fairfax have a conflict of interest when it covers stories about radio and podcasting? What do you think?

By the way, I don’t blame the journo’s involved. They are both swell guys. I’m sure if their stories are being edited after they submit them, and important conflict of interest disclosures aren’t being made, then they would both be concerned. Is the paper interested in reporting news or in promoting a company they have a commercial interest in?

Luckily we now have alternative places we can get our news from, such as NORG. If you aren’t contributing to that already, I encourage you to. We have the tools now to report our own news. Of course, I’ll need to get my backside out of this chair so I know what’s going on the world before I’ll have much to contribute…

12 thoughts on “TPN mentioned (briefly) in The Age

  1. Hi Cameron.

    Like your chums say, take it on the chin my friend because in my opinion, if you weren’t considered to be serious competition then you would have gotten more of a mention.

    Sometimes it’s the things people don’t say and why they don’t say it that gives more away.

    Would you write a long glowing article about a serious competitor? Hmm…

    A 3 year old company versus a “… decades-old, publicly-listed company with revenues in excess of $255 million pa…” with the same amount of podcast downloads? Man, I’d say you’re doing something right… wouldn’t you? You might not know what it is but the figures speak for themselves.

    Kind regards

    Alex

  2. Fairfax Media is run on a commercial basis. The objective is to maximise return to shareholders. This is unsurprising. This objective also creates some conflicts.

    You have a legitimate gripe.

  3. As a long-time journo and editor on newspapers, I’ve got a feeling it just comes under the category of “crap story”. As much as people would love to think there is a conspiracy in the big media companies, I’ve never, ever seen that sort of thing — where the reporter would knowingly plug a subsidiary. Probably they just didn’t know, sad to say. And Cam, sounds like they used and abused your expertise to flesh out a story outline first before talking to the guys they figured were the main players later. Problem is that newsrooms just rely on press releases and other stuff they’re fed, with no time or talent to really do a story justice these days. Just file it under crap story — and hey, you did get a decent plug in the Bangkok Post 😉

  4. Why are u so worried u don’t need any certification
    from The Age or others. You are doing great and by not covering it fully, they have made sure that they are worried…. Its good sign for yr venture. Now be careful hostile powers will follow you 🙂
    Do you need more consoling, if yes come down to my place
    and we will talk over it with a Good Indian Masala Tea:-)

  5. Vishal – Masala Tea? Sounds good to me. I’m always in need of positive reinforcement.

    Geoff – I don’t know mate. That GG story has been in the works for about a year. I’ve spoken to the journo maybe three or four times about it. Again, for clarification, I don’t for a moment think it’s the journos that are pushing a certain angle. I think it’s the higher ups. Or maybe I’ve just watched FRONTLINE too often?

    Bob – I tend to agree with you. We forget that “news” is a business, not a service. And the lines between real news and informercials are getting more blurry every year. You only need to watch Media Watch to understand that.

  6. G’day Cameron

    To use an over-used commercial radio cliche “short time listener, first time caller”. I’ve been listening to G’day World and other TPN podcasts for a couple of months now and it is great to see an Australian podcast network out there.

    I found The Age article via Geek News Central and it paints a disturbing picture of podcasting here in Australia. As I wrote in my blog, the top of the iTunes podcast chart doesn’t seem to change and most of them are not what you would call a “fair dinkum” podcast.

    The Aussie podcasts are out there if you are prepared to search high and low for them but I can understand people not finding them if they spend all their time listening to Hamish & Andy.

    Indeed all you have to do is to go to iTunes and look at the featured providers list. Even though it is in alphabetical order, it is clear to see there as well that the list is dominated by non-podcast based media. Indeed, TPN seems to be the only entry from a “fair dinkum” podcast network.

    Keep fighting the fight and keep up the good work with TPN. Always question the media because they aren’t always right and always aren’t the best.

  7. Erk, I think one of the problems that we have is that people think that the podcasts from the main stream aren’t “‘Fair Dinkum’ Podcasts”. They are. The average listener isn’t interested where the entertainment come from they are interested in the quality. My favourite podcast last year was “Get This” from Triple M.

    When Cam first started TPN (if I remember rightly) he would say that one of the main advantages podcasting has over old school radio is that the fact that you can listen to podcasts whenever you want, at what ever pace you want and skip or relisten to what you want. Old School media (TV/radio) using podcasts gets rid of that advantage of podcasts and so then its a battle of content/entertainment and when it gets to that, then its fair to think that the MSM are going to do alright as thats why they are where they are now.

    Now this isn’t to say there isn’t a place for the “fair dinkum” podcasts, it just means that they have lost there advantage.

    So I think the sooner podcasters stop think these things as Fair Dinkum or not, the better they will be equipped to battle with them. It sort of reminds of the tag of “alternative music” that when ever someone tried to explain that to me it sounded like they were saying the music had to be unpopular or crap to be alternative.

    Anyway. Have a great year all.
    Molly

  8. Geoff Long’s comments aside, the Green Guide is not subject to the same journalistic standards as the Political or Business news. Infact, all the journalists I know are actively discoraged from writing about competing online media outlets. The attack the Australian on occasion, but are requested to ignore online competitors.

    Your instincts aren’t wrong.

    If you were in regular contact with the journalists, it’s hard to imagine they were unaware of your outlet, and it was mere ‘oversight’. To suggest such a thing might politely be called cliche.

    I think it’s an extremely obvious point to make that there was a conflict of interest involved, and moreover, that the conflict occasioned a misrepresentation of the facts of the matter (being Australian Podcasting)

    I wouldn’t simply ‘take it on the chin’ …

    Maybe you should try to take out some advertising on their site? Document their response carefully and …

  9. When you say 450k-500k per month, is that unique listeners or unique (or other wise) downloads? I notice in your August figures that you mention that there was about 480K vistors but only 680K downloads. That means on average each vistor downloads 1.8 shows each. Now, seesings as during that month there would have been about 10 rock shows, 5 Digi photo shows, about 8 GW’s, etc and you would assume that some people (me included) would have downloaded all the shows for any one of those podcasts and possibly more, it means lots of the vistors aren’t listeners.

    Now I think its fair to assume that most listeners to say 3AW listen for at least an hour but are more likely to listen to 2-3 hours a day (2-3 a day, 5 days a week, say 20 days a month). If you say 1 hour of radio is equal to 1 podcast, I am pretty sure they would have at least 10 times the downloads/listens if not more. So I think it is a bit of a stretch to suggest that TPN is as big as 3aw.

    As for the possible conflict of interest as FairFax own Southern Cross, I am not sure you can suggest this as from what I saw there is no mention of 3aw or other Southern Cross stations in the article (I may have missed it). As mentioned in the other comment, the story is that the Radio Stations are taking away the advantage the podcasts had and are driving the medium to the masses. I guess this is what Cam has said for a long time.
    Molly

  10. Molly, this reminds me of the discussion that I was having with a friend of mine last night on the issue. I drive around for many hours each day and I used to listen to FM radio pre podcasting. So let’s say that for example, I listen while working for 6 hours a day. I’d usually listen to the one station.

    Now with podcasting, I listen for the same amount of time but I am hearing a wide variety of shows from within my own radio market as well as outside and various types of podcasts. (I’ve got a massive list on my site of what I listen to. I agree with Get This. Why, Triple M, why?)

    So now I can choose my own entertainment when I want depending on what mood I’m in and what I’m doing. I’m not normally awake for breakfast radio for instance but I am listening to the highlights of 7 breakfast radio programs whereas before I’d usually listen to none if I was asleep.

    I’d like to see in iTunes (as an example) a greater split between audio and video podcasts but that’s just my opinion.

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