Ood behavio(u)r

By Phil Plait | May 11, 2008 7:46 pm

Old media slays me. They still haven’t figured this intertubes thing out.

Years ago, people posting fan sites for Star Trek were threatened with legal action by Viacom. Same with Simpsons fans and Fox. For some reason, these megacorps were really really wringing their hands that some fan someplace might actually be promoting their shows! Mind you, in most cases the biggest infraction these fan sites were guilty of was posting pictures from the show. But otherwise, what they were doing was basically free advertising. In fact, it was even better; ads are annoying, but fan sites actually can build communities of thousands of people, all of whom will watch the show and spread the word.

The latest dumdum in this case is the BBC, and of all things they threatened a website that was posting knitting patterns of Doctor Who aliens! How counterproductive is that? (Answer: supercounterproductive).

Why on Earth (or off) would someone do this? How brain-dead do they have to be to actually stop enthusiastic fans from saying good things about their show?

I get a lot of traffic from Doctor Who, as well I should: I love the show, and talk it up quite a bit here. I wonder if the BBC will try to take me down, or at least the pages where I promote it?

In case some stuffed suit at the Beeb is reading this right now: I’m doing your job for you. For free. And I’m doing it better.

… oh. Maybe that’s why they worried.

Tip o’ the sonic screwdriver to Paul Hutchinson.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: About this blog, SciFi

Comments (59)

  1. Nemo

    Particularly wrong-headed since the BBC’s mission is to serve the public (albeit, primarily the British public), not to make money. Which they do anyway.

  2. gopher65

    I could be wrong, but I seem to remember that if ANYONE violates a Trademark, and the company or individual who ones that Trademark doesn’t immediately sue the pants off the violator, the Trademark owner loses all rights to the Trademark in question.

    If I were a company like Disney I really really wouldn’t want to lose Mickey Mouse’s famous ears, so I’d sue every little old granny who knitted her kid a Mickey Mouse sweater without having received written permission in triplicate.

    Anyway, if my memory is close to being right, then don’t blame the companies for their poor behaviour. Blame the Trademark infringement laws.

  3. Darth Robo

    That’s the problem with most large corporations, they’re often run by complete and utter despicable money-grabbing idiots.

    “Bureaucratic mentality is the only constant in the universe.”

  4. Richie Rich

    Well, I’m not one to defend megacorps, and I agree 100% with the fact that fan sites are free advertising for the product, but there IS a logical reason that they are doing this: copyright protection.

    If their copyright to this material is ever called into question, one argument that can be used against them is that they did not take reasonable steps to protect their copyright. This is what happened in several well-known cases in the past: “linoleum” was a trademarked work, which the owner didn’t defend against general public use for so long that they lost their rights to it, and it’s now used to describe all such products, not just theirs. “Kleenex” is another example.

    (To be clear, this applies in the US–I don’t know if it also applies in the UK).

    So, weirdly, they make be forced to make these threats–but, if I were them, I’d then carefully “fail” to follow through on the threat, thus establishing a copyright/trademark defense, but still letting the fan site do my work for me.

    Just sayin’….

  5. Umm… BA, your slips are showing. It’s odd, not ood; “I’m doing you’re job for you” should be “your”; and part of the address tag for the acknowledgment to Paul Hutchinson is visible.

  6. Love your blog, first time commenting (you’re in my list of Recommended Blogs on my own blog :) ), but I have to say:

    “I’m doing you’re job for you.”




  7. LC

    Not quite Nemo.

    You have the ‘Public BBC’ (paid for by UK citizens) and ‘BBC Worldwide’ which is the international commercial wing. BBC World wide makes a lot of money which feed back into BBC public covering the costs of production of expensive shows like Dr Who.

    Also poking into it a bit, it seems the stink first emerged when said designs appeared for sale on eBay, though it seems the seller was an unrelated party. The eBay designs were yanked but by the BBC legal was involved and there are probably legal reasons they have to crack down. When enforcing a trademark or copyright you can’t be that selective.

    Also this is the BBC – US laws and precedents dont apply.

  8. Dark Jaguar

    The idea of threatening random people to “set a paper trail of protection” is despicable. So what, they just care about potential future legal ramifications that I doubt would ever really occur? That’s actually MORE important than, say, the distress they cause to other individuals by taking these actions?

  9. Please fix the typos the others have already mentioned, please…

    Anyway, this is a really good post. It’s makes me wonder why those companies are so bossy.

  10. Sili


    Follow the link. It’s a pun.

  11. Oh, thanks for the “u” in the title… we’ll get you Americans spelling properly yet!

  12. Right. OK, first, the “you’re” is a really weird mistake for me to make. I have no clue what came over me.

    Second, “Ood” is correct. Read the linked article. :-)

    Third, I was considering copyright protection, but I don’t buy it. The companies should simply notify the fans that they are technically in copyright violation, but they’ll let it go since this is obviously a labor of love.

  13. Kaf

    Note to typo fix requesters: I’m certain BA’s use of Ood is purposeful

  14. That’s the cutest ood ever. OMG. WANT.

    Unless possessing said cutest ood ever will get me sued. In which case: OMG. DO NOT WANT (wink wink wink.)

  15. OtherRob

    I don’t know if this would work or not, but if establishing protection for the trademark/copyright is the issue, why don’t these companies simply grant the fansites permission to use the protected materials. Something like, “Hey, fansite x, we see you’re using copyrighted/trademarked images in your site about our show. You may continue to do so as long as you don’t attempt to profit from our work.”

    PS — Please don’t tell BBC America that my wife and I made our son a Top Gear t-shirt for his 7th birthday.

  16. Michael Lonergan

    Thanks foe respecting your Canadian fans! BehavioUr! :)

  17. gopher65


    Note that *copyright* protection is an entirely different thing from *trademark* protection; different (and far stricter) rules apply for the latter. Trademarks have to be stringently defended, or you lose them forever.

  18. gopher65

    bah, as others have said, an edit function would be nice. I forgot to add that I’d find it odd if making ood dolls was covered by either copyright or trademark laws. But who knows:P. Copyright wasn’t originally intended to allow individuals to be sued (it was to protect the large distributors from other large distributors (ie, to prevent Sony from stealing from Warner), not to protect/defendagainst the authors of a work or the consumer of a work), but that’s what it’s been twisted into.

  19. Adela

    Given that right now there are a couple of er “fans” out there presenting ,loudly, the arguments that because copyright holders of certain franchises have allowed fan activities they the fans now have the right to make money off their fan activities in violation of the original work’s copyright.
    Entitlement culture is reaching the courts so no wonder some rights holders are using the excessively big hammer preemptively.

  20. DLC

    Unfortunately, fansites aren’t covered under “Fair Use”.
    And, having seen some of the worst of the so-called fansites, I can see why. I went looking at fansites once, and saw some really awful stuff.
    some of the fanfic is not just poorly done but right out in bizarro-land.

  21. Sam Wieck

    Thought this may be of interest.

    Episodes of the hit TV show Doctor Who have been examined by Church of England vicars in Britain as part of an attempt to make Christianity more appealing to teenagers.

    A conference watched episodes from the sci-fi series to study religious parallels, similarities between the Doctor and Christ and whether the evil daleks are capable of changing. “There are countless examples of Christian symbolism in Doctor Who which we can use to get across ideas that can otherwise be difficult to explain,” the Sunday Telegraph quoted Andrew Wooding, a spokesman for conference organising group Church Army.

    “Clergy shouldn’t be afraid to engage with popular culture as for many young people television plays a large role in their thinking.” (source – AAP)

  22. Decados

    I’m not going to be one to completely side with the corps but I have had a little bit of experience with this, being on the receiving end of a “pre” cease and desist order when my small business put some picture of some of the products that one of the manufacturers makes.

    Why can’t companies simply do a “you’re free to do this”? Well there are _some_ ( note I say some not all) valid reasons. That reasoning is licensing. Many holders of Intellectual Property license out that IP to other companies. If the original holders let someone else infringe on that IP, then the company they licensed their IP out to legitimately might have the basis for a lawsuit.

    Do I think people should be able to up a fan site? Sure. I think the “Star Trek New Voyages” shows what happens when there’s a positive relationship between the holder of an IP and someone who wants to, for fan purposes, use it. It’d be nice if other companies took this approach. Sadly the feeling now is a system wide philosophy of “cover their asses” and doing so in the harshest way they can.

  23. Quiet Desperation

    Oh, I *so* want to start a Skeptologists fan site just to test you, Phil. 😉

    If *I* had a show, I’d have a “fan site kit” on the show’s own web site to get fans up and running with their own sites, and they could post as many still images as they like.

  24. MaDeR

    Someone here mistakes trademark (that you MUST protect with every possible way, or you lost it) with copyright (where requiements are not that strict, you own (C) even if you are pirated worldwide and don’t give rat’s ass… uh, assets 😉 ).

    Anyway I have little respect of copyright. Time of expire is insanely long, and it is long because of bribery and making law for companies (Disney, anyone?). Well, next revision of law to save Mickey Mouse is about 2020. I hope that by this time people of USA and EU will be more aware of their rights and of tries to constraint and nullyfing them.


    How I would do it? Max 50 years. Thats it. No “x years after death”, no fine print. Maximum fifty years since first publication of given work, PERIOD.

  25. What slays me is that this knitting site, and other fan-driven sites aren’t JUST free advertising. It operates the marketing on a much higher level: Brand building.

    Nike and Apple do well not because of the quality of their products, but because of the entrenchment of their brands. They have built a life-style, and more importantly, a persona associated with their products.

    If the BBC had any marketing sense, it would jump on the opportunity to build the nerd-chique that this sort of thing can foster. Need a similar example? Just look at how Gene Simmons has exploited the persona of the ‘kiss army’! Dr. Who has such a rich history within the sci-fi community, and its fans are fiercely loyal (not unlike Star Trek fans….a franchise that has used its brand-identity persona expertly). They should be stoked that people are not just advertising the show, but building its brand for them.

  26. Peter

    Dear Bad,
    In little ole NZ we had a small theatre with a 3 stool bar. The owners had a ginger tom mamed Oscar. Hence the bar was called “Oscars”. Well! Didn’t Hollywood have a blue suit lawyer fit and threaten death and destruction to our little town of 20,000 souls on the other side of the earth. Unbelievable.

  27. Angry Mob

    That does it, I’ll watch BBC no more!

  28. Thomas Siefert

    I think that BBC should sue the pants of everyone in sight and get rid of the UK TV-licence. :-)

  29. Rob Connolly

    Never underestimate the stupidity of the BBC!

    Most especially when it comes to Dr Who. This is the corporation, after all, that did it’s best to destroy every episode filmed before 1970. Thankfully, it was as efficient at that as it is in most other things.

    Either a new generation of bureaucrats have taken over the Beeb, ones who don’t froth with reflexive hatred at the mention of the words “science” and “fiction” in conjunction, or the same ones have realised that Dr Who makes lots of money.

  30. madge

    madge whips out her trusty knitting needles and in the BLINK of an eye produces Oods, Sontarans, Adiposes (Adipi?) Daleks and Cybermen galore. For my own PERSONAL use you understand ; ) Reminds me of that graffitti joke:

    ” My Mother made me a homosexual”

    “If I gave her the wool would she make me one too?”

    : )

  31. Sue Mitchell

    Fan sites are the glue that holds fandom together. Ticking off The Fen is likely to be a bad move.

    Bridge Studios (Stargate) did that when it killed off Dr. Daniel Jackson at the end of season 5. The worldwide Save Daniel Jackson campaign resulted in the head honcho going cap in hand to beg Michael Shanks to return to the show – which he did – with an ‘and.’ 😉

    If anybody tells me to remove my site, it’ll be replaced with a diatribe about greedy corporate execs and their lawyers (opinion – fair comment etc.) and who to contact to complain about the heavy handedness.

  32. BaldApe

    So when will we be reading about some nerdy college student sued for copyright infringement when he blurts out (apropos of nothing) “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

  33. justcorbly

    Folks who mentioned that a trademark or copyright typically becomes less enforceable if previous violations were not challenged are correct. This is less a function of the language of the law and more a function of how the courts deal with these cases.

    I’d guess that something similar is at play in libel and slander suits. If you ignore the first twenty people who call you a Toad-Footed Slime Creature, your chances of successfully suing number 21 has got to be pretty small.

    As for the BBC, they may be funded by the license fee, but I’m pretty sure they also derive revenue from merchandising. They must get a few pennies on each bit of Doctor Who stuff that’s sold. A fan site posting a photo of the Doctor won’t threaten future revenues, but a site publishing knitting patterns for the show’s characters just might, especially if some doll-making company in China used the patterns to make and export cuddly little Who aliens.

  34. alfaniner

    I’ve caught myself doing the “your/you’re” mistake, and realized it is mostly as a result of reading so many web postings where it is used incorrectly (and ignorantly) that it now takes me a second to think which one I really intend to use. I’m sure this is happening to Phil as well…

  35. Captain Swoop

    I would think if I had just spent a lot of money buying a licence franchise off the BBC to produce Dr Who toys and merchandise I would be pretty upset if they let just anyone then sell Dr Who stuff without paying for a license.

  36. Michelle

    attacking fansites = big nono.

    I know it’s their material, their intellectual property, but come on. They’re doing you free advertisement.

    On a similar line, take some ugly video game phenomenon: sprite comics. They’re “comics” made out of images ripped out of video games. 99,99% of them are a plague and hurt my eyes. And I bet it hurt the eyes of many folks. and it’s illegal, since they have to take illegal copies of the video game to rip the graphics out. But do the video game companies shut down websites that offer sprite comics? No, because it’s… well, fanwork. (Sorta. It’s more like lazy work to me.) It makes advertisement.

    I’m pretty sure the Megaman sprite comic Bob and George did more advertisement for Capcom’s Megaman series than Capcom ever did by themselves. And it was almost more popular than the video games themselves. Did Capcom ever try to shut ’em down? I think not.

  37. Ginger Yellow

    Some points:

    a) As stated above, copyright does not need to be protected to be valid. Trademarks do.

    b) The Beeb does indeed have trademarks that cover knitting patterns (trademark class 16, if you’re interested).

    c) Those trademarks, however, cover Dr Who logos, not aliens. There are no trademarks registered for Ood or Adipose.

    d) If there is any violation of the law, it’s copyright law. So the Beeb do have a choice, and they’re clearly being unreasonable. Obviously (though arguably not justifiably) they want to protect any potential merchandise, but how many sales are they going to lose to home-made, non-profit knitted Ood compared to the bad PR?

  38. justcorbly

    The trouble with words like “unreasonable” and “not justifiably” is that they’re just expressions of opinion until a court says them.

    I’m a copyright believer, at least in the sense that I own what I make and all rights to it until I say otherwise. But the law has been used by corporations to acquire rights traditionally meant to be held by individuals.

    I’m surprised BBC hasn’t trademarked every character in Who and other shows.

  39. Redx

    Richie Richon 11 May 2008 at 8:36 pm

    “Well, I’m not one to defend megacorps, and I agree 100% with the fact that fan sites are free advertising for the product, but there IS a logical reason that they are doing this: copyright protection.

    If their copyright to this material is ever called into question, one argument that can be used against them is that they did not take reasonable steps to protect their copyright. This is what happened in several well-known cases in the past: “linoleum” was a trademarked work, which the owner didn’t defend against general public use for so long that they lost their rights to it, and it’s now used to describe all such products, not just theirs. “Kleenex” is another example.”

    These sound like Trademarks to me. They are difference, but because the terms “Doctor Who” and “Ood” would need to be defended. The best way for this to be accomplished would have been to license them at zero cost. This way any old generic beasty with stuff on it’s face carrying around a glowing ball can’t be call an “Ood”–loosing the trademark. That’s very important to protect, and must be constantly defend.

    Copyright… due to lack of fidelity(loss>25%) of the k1curl2 compression used to create the offending material, it may dodge the minimum threshold for it to still be considered a derivative work. Failing that, a fair argument could be dodge the matter calling it satire, particularly as it could not be confused accidentally with the original material. Fair use does exist to some extent, and these does not compete with the original material and are not for profit. Additionally, copywriter holders are under no obligation to defend each case. The copyright is valid until it’s expiry, and just because Metalica didn’t sue mean, does not mean they can’t sue you.

    DMCA: Bad News, but only applies if the website was American. It could easily be argued that the lack of the existence of a potentially protected IP is a form of security. By giving out instructions to create this IP violates this security, the site was violating the DMCA, and can be subject to billions(uk billions, real billions, not wimpy US milliards) in fines and jail terms.

    Design Patent: Only one that really has relevance here. While it is too divergent from the original material to be covered by a copyright, a design patent could easily be submitted to cover “beasty with stuff on it’s face carrying around a glowing ball”, however it would likely run into prior art issues, as any solicitor worth his merit could cite sample works by of HR Geiger or HP Lovecraft.

    IP law is frequently described as baroque, though this is normally by people who don’t realize it isn’t a fancy way of spelling broke.

  40. rex m

    cool, I just spent 20 minutes browsing knitting patterns!! My Nann would be proud. thanks

  41. Funny you should bring this up. Just this morning, I got my first-ever copyright violation notice from FOX for having that UK live-action Simpsons commercial on my YouTube channel (which I uploaded a few months before it was actually featured as the title sequence). I removed the video immediately, but couldn’t quite understand how something like that could possible violate copyright. I mean, it was a commercial with no copyrighted video from The Simpsons. It only had the title text and the theme music, which, in this case, would probably qualify as fair use and certainly shouldn’t be enough to put the FOX Copyright Brigade on high alert. What do they have against free publicity, anyway?

  42. WJM

    Trademarks depend on distinctiveness, and can “erode”. Hence the need under law – though this really ought to be both clarified and relaxed – of trademark owners to be jerks.

    Copyrights do not erode. You can turn a blind eye to uses, infringing or otherwise, and retain the copyright in a work. You may be estopped from action within a certain time period of the use that you turn a blind eye to, but it won’t stop you from taking action in respect of other uses that are infringing down the road.

    One of the many problems with the practice of IP law is that for a long time copyright was a poor second cousin to trademark and patent law. When it did gain greater prominence in the 1970s and 1980s, it was practiced by lawyers who had cut their teeth on patent law, which is, or should be, practiced very differently from TM law.

  43. Charles

    Phil, in case you didn’t know there’s an comment editing enabling plug-in for WordPress. Just sayin’…

    What’s interesting is what companies choose to overlook and what they choose to pursue. For example, it was pretty well known that Battlestar Galactica’s producers chose to allow torrents and other P2P exchanges of the show initially in order to get more people watching the program. And they’ve never said a thing that I know of about sites like Battlestar Wiki (http://www.battlestarwiki.org/) which is a very thorough compendium regarding not only the newer but also the original show as well.

  44. Ginger Yellow

    Justcorbly, I was using those terms in a moral, not a legal sense. As a tax funded, non-profit institution, the BBC has less moral justification to protect merchandising rights than a commercial organisation, and even less justification to harass non-commercial fansites who are promoting their shows.

    That said, I think Phil is being a bit harsh in saying the Beeb is acting like a typical old media company that doesn’t understand the interwebs. When you consider how huge and monolithic the Beeb is, it’s arguably the most online savvy old media company around. Most of their programmes are available for free online for a week after airing, and they’re producing custom versions for mobile phones (you can already get it on the iPhone). They have a ton of podcasts. They’ve poured loads of resources into the website, and while the quality of the news writing is pretty poor compared to the broadcast stuff, its eminently customisable and available in six languages.

  45. Oh jeez, I feel like an idiot now. I just made it blindingly obvious to everyone that I’ve never seen Doctor Who. *headdesk*

  46. LarrySDonald

    The legal people do seem to imply that not defending trademarks can erode them, but I doubt people will start calling other generic Dr Who like things Dr Who, etc. I’m not sure, but I can’t say it sounds likely.

    Disneys whole MO is usually complete and utter control. Everything needs to be just so. If they can help it, every single contact with the public goes through them directly to ensure every dextrose sweet snipplet of ink is just right and presented as they planned it to be presented. It should never cross your mind that things could be different then in the ascribed universe they’ve made.

    For Disney, this makes sense because it’s also their selling point. A company I worked for did some type of outside construction on a tall tower at Disney world. Three day job perhaps, but you can’t put up scaffolding during the day. It takes a third of the night to get it up and about the same to get it down. Work during the rest. Don’t dare have a guest see it – they didn’t come here to see a construction yard, it’s to be perfect. That’s what you are paying, quite dearly, for it to be and hence that’s also what you must then provide, without relying on fans to do it differently (better or worse doesn’t matter – it’s not the same).

    That said, Trek, Simpsons and Who seem insane to do so because their fan base, where “fan” really still does mean “fanatical”, is a large asset. But, I guess, do what they might with their creations, they do own them and all.

  47. justcorbly

    Ginger Yellow:

    I agree with your assessment of the BBC as one of the smartest, perhaps smartest, media organizations in terms of using the web.

    I’m cynical enough to think that much of the ballyhoo surrounding “new media vs. old media” is just so much noise. People go to court to protect their assets. Nothing inherent in using a website as a publication medium rather than a printing press makes anyone less inclined to do that. Yes, given the nature of the web, people may come to different decisions about when to go to court and when to look the other way. The fact remains, though, that the single largest difference between an amateur web site and, say, an amateur publication copied 500 times on a copying machine is that the web site has, potentially, a global audience.

    I think the biggest difference between new and old media is the difference in value between the two. When new media outlets accumulate financial assets comparable to old media, they will sue with equal readiness.

  48. quasidog

    All I have to say is …. Dr Who’s daughter is hot!

  49. Ginger Yellow

    “I’m cynical enough to think that much of the ballyhoo surrounding “new media vs. old media” is just so much noise. People go to court to protect their assets.”

    I can’t agree, at least not in general terms. You might be right when it comes to IP, but as a journalist I see the divide the whole time. It’s not quite so bad in the UK, where papers like the Guardian, the Telegraph and the FT have embraced online wholeheartedly, but in the US they’ve had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the internet era.

  50. Ian

    While it is dumb to hassle your fans, it is bad business to not protect your trademarks.

    Some dumb lawyers got a little full of himself.

  51. Ginger Yellow

    Ian: there are no registered trademarks on these characters.

  52. justcorbly

    Ginger Yellow:

    This is OT, but the problem facing U.S. newspapers is declining revenue and rising costs. Is that the case for the major London dailies? My local daily has done a fine job of using the web — one of the first in the nation, actually — but, like many other papers, has not yet been able to draw enough revenue from its web side to compensate for the lost revenue on its traditional side. Hence, downsizing and offshoring of some noneditorial functions.

    In any case, when I lived in the UK, I could never figure out how the London broadsheets made their money. They carried precious few ads. Do they make it on sales and subscriptions only? I can’t believe their production costs are significantly lower than here.

  53. Ginger Yellow

    Pretty much all the UK nationals (please don’t call them London papers – it drives me nuts) have declining sales in the long term and are facing declining advertising. They’re starting from a much higher base, though, at least on the sales side as a proportion of the national population. The New York Times has a circulation of 1.1m, whereas the Sun has 3m. Some UK newspapers are loss making and are effectively subsidised by other operations – the Guardian and the Independent are the most obvious examples. I think the main difference really is that UK papers have a far lower cost base. Journalism is very badly paid on this side of the Atlantic and newsrooms tend to be much smaller. UK papers were quicker to move to more efficient printing technology (Murdoch’s Wapping coup being the obvious example) and colour print means higher ad revenue.

    As for whether online revenues are making up for lost print revenues, it’s very hard to say (you’d probably have to look through the financials of those papers that are publicly listed), but I doubt they are yet. Still, in some cases it’s got to be close. The Graun, for instance, sells only 400k copies but has 19m online readers. The big battle, if you ask me, is convincing the advertising industry that online readers are worth as much as print readers. There are lots of good reasons why that should be so, but it may well take a generational change before that happens and a shift away from brand advertising to more niche or product driven ads.

    Another issue is that during the last 20 years or so Wall Street has come to see 20%-25% profit margins as their divine and eternal right when it comes to newspaper companies, which seems insane to me. If owners just scaled back their expectations to, say, 10%, then the “crisis” would seem much more like a smooth transition. Even if we weren’t in a period of massive change and increased competition in the media landscape, 25% profit margins for what are effectively public service companies just don’t make sense.

  54. justcorbly

    Ginger Yellow: Thanks for all that on the “UK nationals” (fair enough).

    In addition to the issues you outlined, two others concern about the future of newspapers here in the U.S.:

    1. How many people who have never habitually purchased a printed newspaper will have an interest in reading a newspaper’s web site?

    2. Much (most?) of the fodder that fuels much (most?) of the new media is original reporting from newspapers and the news agencies that sell to them. Few bloggers, for example, have the inclination, skills or resources to do sustained original reporting. If and when they do acquire those attributes, they’re no longer blogging. We already have a generation of TV watchers who think “news” is screenful of pundits with agendas yapping at each other. Each newspaper lost means that much less original news production.

  55. Ginger Yellow

    1) Good question. If you look at the successful newspaper sites, they offer things that print papers can’t – multimedia, comments, intra-day updates, lots of links and so on. Whether that’s enough to entice non-readers is another matter. Websites are great at fostering communities, and that’s something that newspapers would do well to take advantage of.

    2) That’s the big question. I’m a bit more optimistic than most about the potential for news gathering by “bloggers” – just look at Talking Points Memo – and bear in mind that blogging is in its infancy. I doubt there was much quality original reporting five years after the first newspaper-like thing emerged. That said, I do think we need something like newspapers in the new era. I don’t see why online newspapers shouldn’t be as successful as print ones in the long run – indeed, given the advantages of online distribution and technology, they should be more profitable. In the medium term, I think the way forward is for newspaper sites to provide plenty of ancillary services. In the UK, many (most?) local newspapers have websites with classifieds, entertainment listings, weather, dating and so on. There’s a bigger picture debate about whether we need to do something to preserve public service journalism in the face of market pressures, but I think it’s too early to panic.

  56. Ginger Yellow

    Perhaps I’m more optimistic because I see a lot of good journalism in specialist blogs. The best analytical reporting I’ve seen on the subprime crisis, an area I cover professionally, has been on Calculated Risk. Kotaku is as good a gaming news site as any “old media” site and does plenty of original reporting. Ezra Klein’s blog is the place to go for healthcare policy. Specialists thrive on the internet and find a receptive audience, whereas the pressures of modern print and broadcast journalism have tended to marginalise or diminish them – campaign reporters covering policy speeches, news writers covering science stories etc.

  57. Nigel Depledge

    Ginger Yellow said:
    ” As a tax funded, non-profit institution, the BBC has …”

    Just a little nit-pick here: the BBC is not tax-funded. You only have to pay the TV licence fee if you own (or hire) equipment that can receive and decode broadcast TV signals.

  58. Ginger Yellow

    And you only pay car tax if you own a car. It’s still tax. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. The licence fee is among the best value for money anything in the world.


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