Don’t shoot the messenger…

If you thought bloggers were the only ones who engaged in flame wars, have another think. One of the more interesting fall outs from the Irish Bloggers conference, came from the pseudonymous columnist Sue Denham (say it quickly and you get the ‘joke’) in the Sunday Times, who in listening to Richard Delevan’s presentation added two and two together and got four, and a half. You can hear what what Delevan actually said. Here’s the bit in question:

“Second, and most important, thing that came out of that conference…

The advertising, the TV industry, the media industry, the whole conglomeration, has been protected for a very long time by the lack of broadband here. Broadband is an acid. It corrodes and eventually destroys some of the things it touches. That could be old TV audiences, it could be an old style of politics, it could be any number of things. It allows people sitting in this room to affect change.

If one were to have a conspiracy theory, maybe the former owner of Eircom – the Simpsons would have this as an episode – they’d sit in some dark room with Karl Rove and Dracula and say, right, we’re gonna keep broadband out as long as possible, because we’ll keep out all this change, we’ll keep our margins as high as possible, and we won’t have to deal with this any of this stuff. And by the time it affects anybody else, we’ll be retired. It’ll be great. So we’re living in a society that has been – with intent or not – kept out of the changes that have taken place in New York, London, elsewhere in the world.

But we come back to the first question – what is it you want to keep out of this. The purpose of today…

Denham claims that this is tantamount to Delevan putting his own boss in the dock, and muses, “With an attitude like that, Delevan could soon find himself with more time to tend to his blog”. Well, it’s not quite how I heard it. He was sending up both the conspiracy theorists, and the long term lethargy amongst the Irish media and technology establishments: a Simpsons-sized comic hammer to crack a few residual old chestnuts.

Delevan is possibly the only journalist in a mainstream editorial position in Ireland (north or south) who seriously ‘gets’ what this blogging/social networking thing means in real world terms. The business supplement of the Tribune has been carrying out the only serious survey of what all this stuff actually adds up to, in a way that is just not happening elsewhere.

Look around: none of the Irish media has even remotely begun to move on to this ground: even the Sunday Times, whose daily companion paper in the UK is beginning to grasp the conversational reality of its new networked readership.

All seem to be caught in that trap of thinking that the blogosphere is somehow ‘out there’, that it has nothing to do with them. But the truth, and Delevan fingers it exactly, is that networked media is coming in whether the Irish establishment is ready for it or not. He also rightly heads up the real future economic cost to the Republic of its poor quality and late rolling broadband.

Precedents in the US, and latterly the UK point to the rising importance of the individual writer/blogger brand, especially as advertisers begin to unbundle their offerings from the paper versions of big media. But if it is going to seriously engage with this new disaggregated medium, the Irish mainstream needs take its own visionaries, like Delevan, a good deal more seriously.

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