23 reasons it's great HuffPo is coming to Australia (number 17 will surprise you)

The Huffington Post is coming to Australia and that’s great news for people like me who have sat in cubicles at traditional media companies thinking ‘this whole thing just doesn’t work anymore and I want to go home now.'

Now Australia and New Zealand media companies will have a working model of a proper new media company so that we don’t have to skip to page 110 of the Digital First Content Strategy Newsroom of The Future strategy document to try and convince editors that their fears of native content are largely imaginary and that the smiley-faced external consultancy person walking around with a spreadsheet who keeps disappearing into that meeting room that’s locked all the time is more likely to cause you pain and suffering by process of redundancy than writing a blog post for Toyota about driving a four wheel drive car up a ski field. 

HuffPo (or as the ABC charmingly calls it "the liberal American online news aggregator and blog") is brazen about native advertising, blogger friendly, and happy to talk about machines curating content through behavioural targeting.  Sponsored and branded content discussions are not imaginary but actual real-life things that happen and result in advertisers paying money to media companies so that they can pay editorial teams and journalists and everyone can pay for their groceries and maybe a new pair of shoes now and again.Great. 

The media industry gets more competition, The Guardian and Buzzfeed (oh look- they’re here already) come to Australia so talented local people like First Dog on The Moon get to develop new characters like the Westboro Baptist Hate Octopus, and we don’t all have to read about climate change being imaginary, rugby union, rugby league, Aussie rules rugby, and racehorses all the time. 

Koda Wang is the HuffPo person getting all the Australian stuff ready to go and he said the second quarter of 2014 generated about as much revenue in terms of native advertising than the whole of 2013. That's called growth and growth is good because the opposite of growth is decay which results in death and killing and book titles like this one:

Professional aggregator of liberal cat video bloggists Koda Wang said,"we keep the same bar of quality for native as we do for editorial. A lot of editors that create our native content come from our newsroom - they know how to create good content. It's also important to make sure native advertising is clearly labelled. And it's got to be authentic to the brand of your advertiser and to your own brand."

My thoughts exactly. Treat your audience like they’re adults and didn't just come out the Christmas cracker yesterday and they’ll be OK with some ad-supported content. 

But what about the ‘slippery slope argument’. The slippery slope argument comes from editors and usually goes along the lines of ‘if I drive a Toyota up a ski field and write a blog post about it then next week I will have to run streaming propaganda for the war in Gaza because that’s how North Korea works. It’s a slippery slope’. 

I know that’s a big separate discussion but at the heart of it I would say perhaps it’s time for journalists and editors to also be adults and take responsibility for their decision making.  The days of kidding yourself that “I don’t work for News Corp, I work for The Daily Telegraph” are over and trying to pretend that you aren’t part of the machine like everyone else…well come on.  The challenges of the media industry impact everyone and trying to cling to some romantic notion of eighties journalism is what’s causing all the pain in suffering in today’s traditional media companies where employee satisfaction ratings sit around 22-35%.  It’s not the war in Gaza but good grief I’d be gratefully taking the keys to that Toyota and getting my branded content on. 

The Huffington Post Australia plans to launch in the first quarter of 2015 and let’s hope it’s a shining light of new media that will inspire Australia and New Zealand media companies to face the realities that yes print is lovely but no, it doesn't make money anymore so let's go drive a Toyota around a ski field so that your colleagues will have a job that they actually like going to next year and if you don't want to write crappy '23 reasons' blog posts then don't write them. 

How do you get to live to 92?

For the last about 20 years we’ve been told to call Nana on her birthday because, you know, it might be the last one. Well Agnes has gone around the clock again and has hit 92 -I think I said she was 93 in another post but I forget how old I am sometimes so creative rounding is allowed. 

My Mum went for a visit and sent through these pictures of her kitchen and fridge. This is the weekly fruit ration for a now 92 year old woman who lives on her own and didn’t know anyone was coming to visit. She eats stupid amounts of fruit. I guess when you come from a time where your Christmas present was an orange in a sock, a weekly frolic through the fruit and veg section must be pretty great. She’s super frugal but not when it comes to fruit “it’s an investment in your health, don’t look at the price just buy whatever you want”. 

Lots of plain food- that’s her secret. Put butter on everything not funny sauces where you don’t know what’s in it. Not too much meat (even though she has ham and cheese on toast every day for breakfast). She never drinks glasses of water, non-stop Earl Grey tea all the way. She has an ice-cream every night after dinner and likes a gin and tonic. Never smoked, goes to the doctor for everything and trusts them to make her better. It’s mainly blood pressure and arthritis things nowadays. Her Mum (my great grandmother) was Julia Ann Ryan, an Irish Catholic woman who lived to 91 after having 13 kids and a pretty hard, poor-assed life and not taking any medication so the genes are looking good all in all. Her older sister Barbara Cruickshank is 98. 

Agnes Halloran was born in 1922 and she has never seen the Internet. 

“you don’t want to look at that because there are people acting like animals on there” 

She doesn’t use a microwave because “it will give you cancer”

She doesn’t use a dishwasher because “it takes the patterns off your plates”

Her husband, William Halloran (my mum’s Dad) was a third generation New Zealander which was quite rare back then. He died at 37, leaving her on a farm in Southland with four girls. The only boy Christopher died at 13 months. She’s quite good at dealing with death my Nana “don’t dwell on it. It’s a bugger death and getting old”.  She prays every morning and takes a Lotto ticket every week assured that she’s going to win it and buy all the grandchildren a car. She often asks me what car I want when she wins Lotto with a very serious face. She does crosswords every day because “you don’t want to lose your marbles-that’s how old people have it put over them”. She’s made a funeral plan “so that’s all paid for— it’s one less thing to think about” and various cabinets full of china and trinkets have gradually been replaced with jewellery over the years, partially because she likes wearing it and partially because it’s easier to pass down to her now five daughters. I’ve noticed the jewellery collections all seem to manifest in sets of five.

My grandmother claims her middle name is Therese but my Mum said that’s her sister Irene’s middle name and she always wanted it and she doesn’t have a middle name. She hates her name because she used to get called Ag or Aggie so most people call her Nan which is a bit weird because I call her Nana so it sort of makes her everyone’s Nana. 

She started off as Agnes Manson which was changed from the German Munsen but nobody liked Germans after the war so her father's father changed it. Her father Henry Hunt Manson was in the merchant navy and he was born in New Zealand. 

Technically she was born in Smith Street West Derby, Liverpool. She arrived in Port Chalmers Dunedin at nine months old.  There are various versions of that story but that’s the one I’m going with. I’m still trying to figure out the rumours of the Lambert changed from Lambeth thing that may or may not have been linked to convicts in Newcastle Australia on the other, coal-miner side of the family. Names are hard. 

It’s a very different generation where the criteria for a husband is “so long as he doesn’t belt you and go to the pub every night” and I’m pretty sure the “women are seen and not heard” thing just wouldn’t have worked out for me very well at all. Any glorification of the 50’s housewife is lost on me and it certainly wasn’t the reality for both my mother or her mother as they both worked and raised children while still expected to keep an immaculate house and have baking in the tins and dinner on the table at 5pm. It makes me pleased that women get to live a bit longer so they can have a cup of tea and a sit down after all that running around after everyone else for most of their life. Nana asked me if I was going to put her photo on the Internet and I changed the subject to how great her pants are in the photo (Postie catalogue) so don’t tell her because she’ll have some weird theory she learned on talkback radio about it all.  There aren’t many documented stories in my family and only people like the royal family are worthy of a read in Nana's generation. Commoners like me never told their own stories which is the part of the Internet talkback radio probably won't tell her about while they are busy freaking out about The Facebook ruining children and The Google watching everyone. So don't tell her I wrote this, it's probably easier and maybe someone in another 180 years time might find it useful. And eat more fruit. 

My top 5 blogging things list to be cool like Darren

I just read Darren Rowse at Problogger's 5 tips blog and he challenged us to write a '5 things' blog so here goes.
What can I do a five things on? um um um….well, Darren did Top 5 mistakes he made but I’m not feeling very fail today so I’ll go with a general five things I’ve learned about blogging but not ‘learnings’ because- it hurts us. 

T Rex trying is a cool blog

1. Blog for yourself
I know that’s not very community and audience and all that but I think it’s really important. I started blogging on Typepad around 1999, then I started writing about marketing again on Blogger around (checks old account) 2009. The reason I started blogging again was because I found myself venting at articles about marketing and thinking ‘what a douchebag, why are we listening to that person’ and I realised that I was a Hater. Haters are bad. So in order to not be a hater, and to contribute constructively, I became a blogger. Blog for yourself and use your powers for good not evil. If other people want to read it then bonus points for you.  

2. There’s no ‘I’ in team but there is a ‘me’
Don’t be afraid to use ‘I’. I’m not a journalist and I don’t report on things. My ‘I’ stories and feelpinions are completely my own and I’m quite happy to be accountable and say what I think. If first-person style writing is not your thing then that’s up to you but don’t think you have to write formal articles and essays about everything. Your stories and your voice are very important things and don’t let anyone tell you your “I went to work and we talked about cats and we had a sandwich and then my car broke down and the mechanic was called Steve’ stories are not great because I love those kind of stories the most. I find that I'm a lot more positive and open to appreciate other people's cool stuff when I'm contributing too and have a place to put my ideas.

3. Embrace your clangers
I have a few real clanger blog posts floating around and I used to be really cringed out by them and think what the hell was I on about and why does the internet not have a delete button yet arghhhh but now I’m OK with them. It comes under the ‘blog for yourself’ thing and the startling realisation I came to recently that based on all evidence presented, I am human. So all the trying too hard and being stabby at things and over-sharing are part of the journey and when I’m old (I plan to live to 120 at this point-I’ll keep you updated) I think I will probably like those weird emo posts the best because they were real man. No I'm not linking to them. 

4. Get a blogging environment you like and write write write write write
It’s the oldest writing advice in the world but it’s true. If you want to get better at writing, write. Read more, write more. Read really good stuff until you cry and feel completely inadequate and can’t even start a sentence (CS Lewis I’m looking at you). I write in TextEdit (offline autosave baby) and have that saving to a Google Drive folder and then paste it up into Posthaven or wherever I’m publishing to. WriteRoom and OmmWriter are nice things too. I do quick image edits in PicMonkey, bigger ones in Adobe PhotoShop. Focus on the writing part and not the colouring in stuff too much because you can fluff around with that too much and never really get to the write write write write part.

I would also add Charlie Brooker’s genius advice, get a deadline. Set them for yourself or commit to writing for something. I do an early week and a late week blog as a personal deadline and that’s why I’m writing this now. Don’t worry about creating masterpieces just keep serving stuff up and you’ll find a flow that works for you over time and that you can maintain. In recent times, I'm writing a lot more nerdy management theory things I don't publish just because I know it may come in useful later, in a different stage of work or whatever so you can do that too. Brainpickings is a fantastic blog for inspiration and sends out a weekly 'interestingness digest' that is very interesting and digestible. 

5. Don’t take blogging advice from non-bloggers
There is a weird code of respect that bloggers have for each other’s work. It’s one thing that has really surprised me and made me such a stickler for what has now become one of my life pillars (is that a thing? it is now)  ‘contribute or go away’. I’ve had people come up to me at conferences and offer me all sorts of weird advice on my blog, or ‘feedback’. I think the best was 'I went to go to your website and it was just some postplace thing with some words and pictures. Why is it all words? When are you going to get a website? I then have to stand there and do this face:

Guaranteed non-blogger. I have never had a blogger do that. I have had a blogger suggest I not use sweary words because my blog got blocked on her company firewall. See, that’s good advice and I don’t do it now. If you worry too much about what other people think, you’ll never hit the Publish button so write your silly stories and enjoy them. See Point 1. 

6. Figure out how to end your blog posts. Still haven’t figured that out yet. 

Gateways and how audiences discover news online

I get a bit stabby seeing 'blogging' and 'social media' treated as two separate things in research (I've always considered blogging the cornerstone of any social strategy)  but I've just seen something in the latest Reuters data that has made me concede that the distinction can be kind of useful in a publishing context. 

The Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2013 'Tracking the Future of News' has some interesting analysis on gateways and how audiences discover news online.  

"Although in many countries audiences place the highest trust on online news from familiar providers, they are using an increasingly varied set of ways to find that content. Google, Facebook, and Apple have become – to a greater or lesser extent – intermediaries for a large proportion of news journeys online. As a result, they have been able to take a significant share of the available advertising revenue around news, making the funding of trusted content arguably more uncertain. Our data show brand, search, and social media the most important discovery mechanisms, with search particularly important in European countries like France and Germany." 

The table shows social sites playing a much greater role in news discovery than blogs and performing at levels competitive with branded news sites.  Social as a gateway to audiences and thus, how news is paid for, should give publishers insight into how editorial resource is allocated for marketing news brands such as personal branding of journalists on social sites.  

I know the concept of personal branding leaves many editorial types a bit cold but if you look through the 'how digital news if paid for' sections of the report and the analysis on page 89 -the commercial reality is laid out clearly. Most large news brands are only generating 15-25% of their revenues from digital so getting teams aligned around the success of the branded sites benefits all parts of the business. 

A full version of the Reuters report is below:

Why would anyone want to pay a blogger?

I was a mildly horrified at a recent conference to hear someone on a media panel say ‘why would anyone want to pay a blogger?”

The panel discussion was angling at the ethics of paid contributors to review sites that don’t disclose their relationship with a company or organisation.

For example, a tech blogger gets flown to Sydney to the Samsung Galaxy SIII launch.

That person should disclose that they are an invited guest of Samsung. Any payment or gratuity that person receives should be made clear to their audience.

In my experience, most quality bloggers are very open with disclosure and most audiences can smell a kickback a mile away so the whole thing self-regulates.

What the ‘why would anyone want to pay a blogger” statement doesn’t factor in is the difference between a ‘vanity’ blogger and a paid journalist or contributor.

One example is the Huffington Post. The Huffington Post has salaried editors and journalists that form the backbone of their content. Those people are expected to work certain hours, attend meetings and meet deadlines with quality contributions. Those contributions can come in the form of articles or blogs. Advertising revenues pay for the wages of these people. Are Huffington Post employees paid bloggers?


So why would anyone want to pay a blogger?

Because there is a global market for quality content and people should be financially remunerated for producing good work.

The Huffington Post also has people that contribute content that aren’t paid by Huffington Post but are paid by their respective organisations to share ideas and get a viewpoint across. HuffPost provides a microphone for interest groups and politicians to speak to an audience. So John Kerry obviously isn’t paid to write a blog post but his motivations for contributing should be very clear.  Consultants and figureheads often ‘vanity blog’ to get their brands in front of people and demonstrate thought leadership. Nothing new there.

Sometimes I will write a post on this blog and have an editor contact me to produce a paid article for their website or magazine on the same topic. Does that make me a paid blogger? Or does that then make me a freelancer? What’s the difference and does it really matter? If I write an article for a magazine do I have to declare that I was paid x cents per word?

The overarching business model of media is quite straightforward and a blanket assumption that blogger’s contributions should never be paid for or that paying for blog content is in some way unethical is a bit simplistic.

A more useful question is why would anybody not want to pay a blogger?