(Above: now there's a timely cartoon to get the conversation off on a good note, more Pope here)
And apropos of nothing, and before the pond begins to brood, we'd just like to note how we've always loved the peculiar building featured by Pope. Here it is in the 1920s-30s and what a relief it survived the fire (and see this background piece here)
Now tally ho and off with the hounds.
As correspondents to the pond have noted, there's been much hand-wringing over newspaper circulation figures in the last few days.
Last night on Media Watch here Paul Barry had an anxiety attack in full view of the public, and thanks to the joys of being online you can still watch him there as he unfolds like a LOL cat on valium.
But why the fuss?
Meanwhile, at News Corp ... total revenue for their Australian papers was down by around $120 million in the last quarter, or 10% from the previous year.
Insiders tell Media Watch that The Australian is losing $40 million to $50 million a year.
The Daily Telegraph is also losing money.
And even Brisbane’s Courier-Mail—which was once a goldmine has hit hard times. Six or seven years ago News Corp's Queensland papers—which include the Gold Coast Bulletin, Cairns Post and Townsville Bulletin—were making $270 million profit before interest and tax.
This year—we’re told—they’re budgeted to make less than 1/10th of that and are in fact on track for a loss.
Uh huh. But why the fuss?
Who cares about the fate of angry old white men muttering on about the importance of the market always being allowed to decide? The market's decided. Karma's a bitch, keep the line moving ...
Barry was recycling news that had already landed in the pond's mailbox courtesy of mUmBRELLA - all the bad news figures were on hand in ABCs: Double digit declines for newspapers last Friday, along with the equally bad news Digital sales growth slowing for Australian newspapers.
And then on Sunday Tim Burrowes followed up with The data is finally in. Newspapers aren't going to get enough digital subscribers, which inter alia pointed out the quality of the digital clothes the old emperors were wearing these days:
The Australian digital-only sales
- December 2012 – 35,987
- March 2013 – 42,719 (+18.7%)
- June 2013 – 47,784 (+11.9%)
- September 2013 – 52,181 (+9.2%)
- December 2013 – 53,109 (+1.8%)
Clearly, it is dangerous (and foolish) reading too much into quarter-by-quarter results, when seasonal factors always have an impact on newspapers. But equally, paywalls are too new for year-on-year comparisons to be particularly meaningful.
Given the lack of available information about the average revenue per subscriber, it’s also hard to get a realistic picture on how much revenue these digital-only subscribers are bringing in. There’s a hugh difference whether these are people who do the month-for-a-dollar trial and then drop out, or whether they stick around for the $4 a week digital offer.
But even if every one of the 53,109 are indeed paying $4 a week, that only equates to just over $200,000 a week in revenue. Or $11m a year.
Which is fine if it was simply a new revenue stream. But if this is the main route to replacing the lost print dollars, it’s not. Regardless of whether you like its editorial direction, The Oz is a well resourced, high quality product that would cost perhaps ten or even 20 times that amount to run.
Which is where the pond departs company with Mr Burrowes. The reptiles at the lizard Oz produce a high quality product?
Sorry, the reptiles produce an ideological rag, and you don't get around that by saying "regardless of whether you like its editorial direction".
News is now cheap and abundant. Radio, TV twenty four hours a day, free and paywalled content online all over the world. All you're left with is either the absurd headlines and childish stories and Daily Mail strip of shame which caused Paul Barry's handwringing, or quality editorial and opinion pieces.
So what's on offer today in the lizard Oz, in the digital whirling splash of doom at the top of the faraway tree, that might tempt the pond to dust the spiders out of the purse and splash a little cash?
Hang on, he's a public servant, a fat cat bureaucrat. Why should the pond have to pay to find out what Wilson's thinking? With all its tedious hypocrisy and IPA humbug included? Suddenly they've privatised the public service and the servants are in the employ of chairman Rupert's business plan?
Hang on, he's a servant of the public, a politician. Why should the pond have to pay to read the humbug emanating from a minister of the crown? How come he's ended up a part of chairman Rupert's business plan? Suddenly his report to the public is a secret, locked behind a paywall? We have to pay to read what politicians have to say?
The pond would rather buy a load of old rope. Or perhaps read Arthur Sinodinos warned of chaos if he changes financial planning laws.
Who else we got?
Well there's dour Judith Sloan but truth to tell the pond would rather indulge in a fish dance and slap the cheeks in a hearty way with a wet mackerel.
And then there's the bouffant one. Oh what's this? A change of pace, a little enthusiasm about renewable energy amongst the reptiles?
Did he just read Heatwave frequency 'surpasses levels previously predicted for 2030'?
Was he shocked and appalled at the news Climate sceptic to lead review of Australia's renewable energy target?
The Abbott government has appointed a self-professed climate sceptic to head an “extensive” review of the renewable energy target.
Dick Warburton, a veteran industrialist and current chairman of the Westfield Retail Trust, described his views on climate science in a 2011 interview on ABC.
“Well I am a sceptic. I’ve never moved away from that. I’ve always believed sceptical,’’ he said. “But a sceptic is a different person than a denier. I say the science is not settled. I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’ve never said it’s wrong, but I don’t believe it’s settled.”
What about Tony "climate change is crap" Abbott being so emphatic, when he doesn't have a clue, in Tony Abbott dismisses link between drought and climate change? They're not saying that right in California at the moment.
Is the bouffant one joining Lenore Taylor in decrying the bleeding obvious, Tony Abbott leaves climate change out?
...just as the government refused to accept climate change might lead to an increased frequency of bushfire weather, it also appears to reject the idea that climate change might have a bearing on the frequency or location of drought, or on the long-term farming conditions of particular farming areas. Of course not.
Nope. None of that, none of any of that.
You knew it already didn't you.
That splash, which purports to suggest that the bouffant one might be taking an interest in renewables - we are perhaps best placed - is false and misleading.
It's just another uxorious piece urging Abbott on, and it certainly doesn't mention Warburton or his long established views - which he repeated on RN this morning, which is that he's sceptical about carbon dioxide having anything to do with the changes to climate identified by climate science.
Instead the bouffant one offers up yet another piece dissing renewables and urging along fossil fuels:
A large slice of those price rises comes from a contradictory and self-defeating policy of favouring renewable energy forms over fossil-fuel energy to the extent of subsidising their creation despite contrary economic and practical arguments.
The bouffant one even has the cheek to cite Germany as an example for Australia to follow, while failing to note the differences - like the way the Germans hit 25% renewables in the first half of 2012, and Australia, which should be ideally placed to exploit renewables, is still blathering on about reaching 20% by 2020 ... (Go on, do a Greg Hunt and wiki Germany here).
And now the government is proposing to haul it all back, get rid of bipartisanship and put Australia even further behind while maintaining coal mania.
As Yes Minister knows, you should never announce an inquiry when you don't already know the result, and what better way to ensure the right result than to have a carbon dioxide denialist lead the way.
And then, for the sauce to serve on the cooked goose of digital subscriptions?
A Nick Cater think piece? But the pond can watch re-runs of Get Smart any day of the week on the multichannels.
Oh that's unfair you say, a bit reductionist, a tendency to trivialise?
Uh huh. So how do you cope with this for the opening par for Blob-smacked by activist bureaucracy:
“It’s indescribable, indestructible and nothing can stop it,” read the cinema posters for the 1958 movie The Blob.
The science-fiction horror movie has enjoyed a minor revival in Britain since Education Secretary Michael Gove declared the Blob a metaphor for the permanent bureaucracy that smothers good policy in modern public life.
And then Cater uses the blob metaphor to defend the indefensible, most notably the inept wheeler dealing of Fiona Nash. The way Cater tells it, it's all the fault of bureaucrats blobbing a minister elected by the people.
Which is a shameless and outrageous misrepresentation of what went on, and to ignore the role of state ministers - also popularly elected - or Jack Snelling's account, which a more reputable newspaper published in full here.
And then came the usual smoting of enemies and the striking of blows at phantasms by the sort of fevered mind you can encounter every day of the week in the lizard Oz, as its business plan sinks beneath the waves. Like this:
... if you believe The Guardian ...
Because newspapers are all about belief.
Or at greater length:
... The progressive establishment clearly has it in for the Abbott government.
Across the board, from the Climate Change Commission to the ABC, the Human Rights Commission and even Infrastructure Australia, all are openly hostile to the popularly elected government.
As Maurice Newman observed late last year, the Abbott government faces powerful opposition from the public service, the media, the universities, trade unions and the climate establishment.
“With a huge vested interest in the status quo, they will be vocal opponents of change,” he predicted When the Blob fights dirty, as it did last week with an attack on the integrity of Furnival, it has many influential allies.
The trumped up charges against Nash’s chief of staff were absurdly hypocritical. If Furnival’s work for the food industry constituted a conflict of interest, what should we say about the food activists who depend for their living on maintaining the rage against sugar and fat?
Uh huh. So there's a dose of paranoia, good enough for the week, perhaps the month ...
It was clear that Furnival was acting on the minister’s orders, while the bureaucrats were not.
And what if the orders were fucked? And the conflicts of interest clear?
Nevertheless, The Sydney Morning Herald splashed on Furnival’s decision to step down on Saturday, and along with The Guardian has paid no heed to the more substantial issue of a bureaucracy in open revolt with the government, and by extension the people who elected it.
The case for government-sanctioned health labels on the front of food packaging is a weak one. Like plain-wrapper cigarettes, it is founded on sentiment rather than evidence.
Oh for fuck's sake, not another dimwitted apologist for the tobacco industry? Wasn't that the done thing in the 1950s?
Now how about a specious overdose of Roman parallels, and pompous pretentiousness?
Seldom has the gulf between “imperium” and “auctoritas” - the holding of power and the possession of authority - been so starkly visible on the Australian political landscape.
The difference between the two Latin words is explored in depth by Frank Furedi in his scholarly work Authority: A Sociological History, published last year.
Frank Furedi? Is that called jumping the shark or nuking the fridge?
And so Cater wants Tony Abbott to act like a Roman emperor? Forget consensus? Where's Nero, Caligula, or at a pinch Tiberius doing naughty things with boys?
The election last September granted Tony Abbott imperium, the right to command the parliament and the instruments of executive power.
Yet he does not enjoy auctoritas, the capacity to initiate and inspire respect, within the citadels of the insider class.
If Abbott is ever to tame the establishment, he must first gain the upper hand over the public service, taming the committees, taskforces and working groups that spend every hour of every day working to ensure that the will of the people as expressed through the ballot box never becomes law. It boils down to a simple question.
Does government chosen by the people have the right to change the country?
Or did the electorate merely select a group of bunnies whose unhappy fate is to be tormented by the Australian Public Service for the next three years?
Sorry Mr Burrowes, this is the sort of editorial clap trap we should overlook?
Sorry Mr Barry we should mourn the loss if the lizard Oz goes down with all hands on deck, including the Caterists, and is replaced by the right-wing lunacy and the strip of shame peddled by the Daily Mail?
Where's the difference? Oh okay a LOLcat shows more signs of life and brains than a Caterist rabbiting on about the insider class.
Nope, it's The Australian The here at the pond, and we all know what that means: