The media industry and the Lord of The Rings

I was reading the New York Times online this morning and came across a banner advert:
Seen on New York Times Online JPG
It reminded me of what the protagonists behind the advert would have seen as the Herculean effort effort between good-and-evil, something that resonates in classic myths and legends. However News Corporation has already sewn the seeds of its own destruction and removing outside shareholders from the equation is, on balance, I think a good thing.

If we follow the idea of the mono-myth further, I think that things are roughly analogous to Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings where Sauron forged the instrument of his own destruction in the ‘one ring’. In this case, the News Corporation ring is made up of two parts:

  • The size and reach of the News Corporation infrastructure
  • The move away from news reporting and analysis to news entertainment

The infrastructure means that News Corporation needs to keep working harder to maintain, let alone grow. Media is continually being disrupted:

“This is truly amazing. A portable television studio..” – Doc Brown observing the JVC CR-C1 camcorder in 1955, after Marty McFly has taken the nuclear powered DeLorean Back To The Future.

Over the past week, NHK World managed to maintain a 24-hour broadcast on Ustream, as did blog YokosoNews and much of the footage of the tsunami came from smartphones. All of this is threatening and disruptive to media organisations. In fact, if you look at a lot of the content that they ran it came from these bootstrap broadcasters and added little in the way of real value.

Many journalists did no more than citizens did for themselves online.

The news reporting aspect is slower but more corrosive. Whilst news media has had a tradition of editorialising and being involved in politics News Corporation has taken things to new levels which has been corrosive for the quality of the product that they offer.
Foreign Media Reporting
A case in point, was The Sun’s reporting of events in Japan over the past ten days. Social media sprang up and proved the publication wrong lie-by-lie. Like the gulf war before it; it has provided a gap for other media to spring up and thrive with NHK World reaching an audience it could have previously only have dreamed of and allowed Al Jazeera to bolster its position.

It is this slow drip, drip, drip of corrosion from phone-tapping to fridge-magnet journalism that will do the damage on the inside. At the helicopter view News Corporation sells trust; yet it is managing to destroy the very thing it sells through it’s own efforts.

So what of the protagonists that fight News Corporation? Like many of the characters in The Lord of The Rings, they provide a distraction to keep News Corporation focused on winning rather than focusing on rebuilding and reinvention. And some of the organisations involved like characters in the book are ultimately doomed themselves; rival media organisations who are struggling with their own reinvention.

Additional links:
Content is only king, if you know what to do with it | renaissance chambara
Foreign Media Reporting | Danny Choo
Tokyo food shortages are not what they first seem | Japan Times
Ignore the tabloids, Tokyo is doing just fine, but Tohoku isn’t | Tokyo Times
Japan focus: get the real story | Monocolumn (Monocle magazine)
Water suggestion: Use the internet | Japan Trends
Food Crisis in Tokyo!!! | Japan Trends