Web Search Pacific’s After5 Meeting, Wednesday 2 April 2014

On a beautiful autumn evening, we gathered around the boardroom table for a delightfully informal chat with Chris Pash of Allure Media, about the sort of changes that are reshaping the world of “The New News” in general and not just the ‘Corporation’.

Chris’ own newspaper experience may be typical. He used to read three newspapers physically delivered before breakfast. Then he took a holiday and stopped the deliveries. When he returned, the newspaper deliveries were never resumed.

But the Corporation was a good place to start our discussion because Chris has moved on from there in one of the successive waves of change that have swept through, impacting particularly the Dow Jones Factiva service.

Clearing out of Factiva, Chris continued with News for a while longer by consulting to The Australian CEO, Kim Williams. He then joined Peter Fray, the former Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the SMH, to help start up an Australian arm of Politifact – a political fact checking website. They were soon checking the declarations from all sides of politics for the September 2013 federal election.  Statements were rated from ‘True’ to ‘Pants on Fire’ (i.e. ridiculous claims that are not true); each statement being carefully evaluated and exposed.

Working alongside a chartered accountant and a lawye, many of Chris’ reports were featured on Channel 7 and by Fairfax.  But the funding ran out before a more robust business model could be developed and Politifact, despite its success elsewhere has been put back on the shelf in Australia.

However the idea of taking a successful overseas format and applying it to Australia, with a helpful dose of overseas content for the local audience, still has plenty of appeal. So now there is a lively Australian version of The Guardian’s website and there is Martin Clarke’s venture with Channel 9 to bring The Daily Mail here.

Ultimately Chris moved on to Business Insider which follows that workable pattern as a US web-based business news site launched in 2009 and subsequently bought to Australia under the umbrella of Allure Media founded by Daniel Petrie, well known as a former Australian senior executive at Microsoft. Allure initially offered a collection of women’s lifestyle sites and these were soon joined by a brace of technology and gaming sites. Allure Media was bought by Fairfax in December 2013. It operates independently.

The US Business Insider may have the legendary Henry Blodget as Editor and CEO enticing readers away from the WSJ but the local team is having just as much fun writing a wide range of local stories here from Macquarie Street.

Chris may have reported for the Albany Advertiser on the taking of the last whale in 1978, but these days he is just as likely to be reporting on why zebras have stripes (camouflage against flies!).  At the same time he is writing longer pieces, for example analyzing the progress of the WA mining boom and he hankers to re-start the Cliché of the Week chart he compiled at Factiva.

With this talk of news stories and the huge number of news sites that researchers must now track, it seemed quite natural that we concluded with a chat about news aggregators, like Linux, and their different advantages and disadvantages. When someone mentioned the low error rate of Wikipedia these days, it was time to splash another slurp of wine into our glasses before Chris, after an early morning start and a long lunch, headed out into the night ready for another round of stories tomorrow.

Robert Grundy

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