Sunday, July 23, 2006

Janet Street-Porter Trips Over Her Teeth into Peter Preston's Niche

Peter Preston, ex editor of the Guardian, earns a crust nowadays writing media columns. He writes in the Observer today under the headline WE'RE ALL MEMBERS OF A NOUVEAU NICHE. I had to read his article three times before I understood it, and even after the third attempt I wasn't quite sure. I think he's saying in a rather 'old gittish' way, that there are no stars any longer. His point is that there is no longer a single mass media, in which everyone watches, reads and listens to the same thing. A diverse, digital age has led to a large selections of small niches and he takes as proof a new book by Chris Anderson called The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. Here's part of his article...

Our national hearts don't beat as one any longer. 'We're leaving the water-cooler era, when most of us listened, watched and read from the same relatively small pool of hit content.' See? There's a lot of it around, but it comes in smaller, targeted packages. Most of Anderson's fans and critics have stumbled over the problem of movie blockbusters, where More is More bums on seats and box-office cash - but narrow the focus (as Fortune magazine did the other day) to everyday rolling media and ask three simple questions. Name the biggest star on primetime TV. Name a star created by the internet. Name a great advertising slogan written in this decade. Then pause to suck your thumb...

Richard and Judy, Jeremy Kyle, Noel Edmonds, Anne Robinson, Jeremy Paxman? They're all regulars with hefty salaries attached, but none is a true primetime operator. They're out of hours. So is Jonathan Ross, carrying £18m of your licence-fee money in his floppy jacket pockets? He's late on the scene deliberately, so he can send the Mail on Sunday gibbering to bed. Graham Norton? Ah! Whatever became of Graham Norton? Watch Little Britain fade away now. And Jim Davidson, playing the ultimate generation game, has declared himself bankrupt. No: that cupboard is pretty bare, once you've shut Jamie's kitchen door - but not as bare as the net when it comes to star quality. Is Iain Dale the new Matt Drudge? There may be bloggers who build a faithful following: but, apart from La Huffington, they don't have their name in lights. Nor does the net itself - raucous, competitive, oozing instant derision - chart the path to galactic glory. And as for fantastic advertising - once you're past AOL's plonking 'Discuss' - all I can think of is those damned Sheila's Wheels. Not much of a result. And see how, increasingly, we do inhabit dozens of niches and live in little intellectual ditches.

The thing is, he's right. The Internet has created very few stars, but isn't that the whole point? It has opened up the field of mass communication to everyone. It's not just restricted to the Peter Prestons of this world. Of course some bloggers are better known than others, but as Peter Wilby said in the New Statesman last week, that may be more down to marketing skills and self publicity than great writing ability. But most bloggers make no pretence of having great writing ability - me included. I've always been far happier talking than writing. But at least Peter Preston doesn't fall into the trap Janet Street-Porter has tripped into today teeth first.

She devotes her column in the Independent on Sunday to sneering down her ample nose at the whole concept of blogging. She reckons "blogs are for anoraks who couldn't get published any other way." She desribes the blogosphere as "the verbal diarrhoea of the under-educated and the banal." Hmmm. Well I suppose I must plead guilty to having had a comprehensive school education and got a 2-1 degree from the University of Easy AccessEast Anglia.

What is it with the Street-Porters of this world that they feel they are so intellectually superior to the rest of the population? In twenty years I have never heard her express a view whcih has changed my mind on anything. In fact I can't recall ever reading anything she's written which has stimulated me to think further on the subject or find out more. But I can think of several blogs which have done that.

The only think Street-Porter has achieved by her attack on blogs and new media in general is to ingratiate herself with her editor Simon Kelner, who is also doubtful about the relevance of the internet to the future of newspapers. He made a SPEECH this week to a Press Gazette dinner in which he criticised the Guardian for putting stories on its website first, rather than in the printed newspaper. Kelner admits that he may be viewed as a Luddite, but he reckons it would be madness for the Independent to go down that road. He may be right, but his rivals on The Times and Telegraph are pouring money into their online operations in a belated attempt to vcatch up with The Guardian. From what I have seen so far, not a lot has changed.

Returning to Peter Preston's original point, The Guardian has created a whole series of online niches for itself, which may be copied by its rivals, but I suspect they will never be emulated. The Guardian's online presence is now a key part of its marketability and appeal to advertisers. It doesn't need to create stars, it spotted a gap in the market and has filled it. Stars are so twentieth century. We're in the century of the niche.


UPDATE: Andrew Kennedy emails me with this delightful take about Janet Stree Paw er. A few hours ago I stumbled across yet another reality TV show. It was 3 "celebrities" learning to drive a London Black Cab. One of which was our friend Janet S-P.At one point, J S-P turned to the host and said,"Ere - I ope me Cab don't ave one of them Sat Nav devices in it - the voice on them fings really gets on me tits."

A charming vision, I'm sure you'll agree.

18 comments:

ed said...

Unfortunately, one of the online niches the Guardian has created for itself is as the leading site for the propogation of anti-semitism outside of servers found in militia bunkers in Montana. I just made the mistake of reading George 'Oswald' Galloway's piece on it today, and the consistent vileness of the comments is startling.

Rick said...

Janet Street-Porter has an "education" ?

She studied at Lady Margaret School in Parsons Green from 1958-64 and then spent two years at the Architectural Association.

Tom said...

Mr Preston has hit the nail on the head, now if only someone could be found to do the same for Ms Strea-Paw ah.

Sir Bentley Pauncefoot said...

Janet Street-walker's lament reminds one of a former Stasi guard bemoaning the demolition of the Berlin Wall.

"No good will come of this..."

dearieme said...

I've always assumed thatMs Strea-Paw ah (thanks, oldsarum) talks funny cos she can't talk interestingly.

Adrian Yalland said...

Janet Street-Porter, who has to be one of the most annoying medja celebs - has spent her entire career contributing nothing of any note to anything of any value! I wouldn;t wory about her criticising the blogosphere. In fact, it shows we have them rattled!!!! Governments don;t like blogging because they can't control it. Big media corporations don't like blogging because they can't profit from it, and medja celebs like JSP don;t like blogging because it breaks the monoloply of discussion and thought provocation which her type have thus far enjoyed. COme the revolution, first up against the wall will be.....

Andrew Woodman said...

Every time I see Janet Street-Porter on TV, I feel sick. Her comments here are no surprise.

Francis Walsingham said...

Somewhat surprising that they've not really woken up to blogging properly. There's a role for the dead tree press and the mainstream media, but blogs are part of that mix too now. It's pathetic to see JS-P try to batter blogs. Nothing she or anyone else says is going to make any difference on this front. Blogs are the supply side in the marketplace of ideas.

The other useful purpose they serve, IMHO, is to demonstrate on their comments pages the extreme opinions held by certain groups in society. Some of the posts on the Galloway/Hezbollah comments thread reveal a great deal that is probably going unsaid in the corridors of the BBC and the Guardian.

vikki said...

me thinks our janet needs to read some of the blogs.....

Croydonian said...

Anyone who fancies a good laugh at Janet's expense - and who would not? - is recommended the savagely funny 'Live TV!' by Chris Horrie.

nobby said...

"Well I suppose I must plead guilty to having had a comprehensive school education and got a 2-1 degree from the University of Easy AccessEast Anglia."

I still look up to you Iain; I'm Secondary Modern (Boys) and 2-1 from a Polytechnic.

I've never forgiven JS-P for finishing the OGWT

Andrew Kennedy said...

Sorry if I am about to lower the tone of this relatively intellectual discussion, but a few hours ago I stumbled across yet another reality TV show.

It was 3 "celebrities" learning to drive a London Black Cab. One of which was our friend Janet S-P.

At one point, J S-P turned to the host and said,

"Ere - I ope me Cab dont ave one of them Sat Nav devices in it - the voice on them fings really gets on me tits."

You couldn't make it up!

David said...

J S-P has tits? Who knew?!

syorkie said...

I agree wiv J S-Porta about the sat-nav voice. I stiw preferit to 'ers anydye.

She also noes alot abart gettin on peepels tits!

ol' timer said...

andrew kennedy 9.59

"Ere - I ope me Cab dont ave one of them Sat Nav devices in it - the voice on them fings really gets on me tits."

Could be worse, could be er voice.

Anonymous said...

'She also noes alot abart gettin on peepels tits!'

Neva a truer word said my saan!

Shee'll be crakkin open the awld sherbert on the bak of Ians (learn to spell my old china!) blog today!

ps i neva went to skool. but still got a 2.1 from sussex.

Unity said...

Iain:

Have you seen Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's column in today's Indy?

I think Guido's upset her...

http://www.ministryoftruth.org.uk/2006/07/24/the-fishwives-of-fleet-street/

Anonymous said...

'Guardian...leading site for the propagation of anti-semitism' - oh Grow - UP ! As for slagging off J S-P, I have to stick up for her. She was given a good kicking a few years ago for saying some less than pleasant things about the Welsh. Now unlike many Jewish people who get in a tiz about any criticism, I think if freedom of speech means anything one has to be able to take the rough with the smooth. As for criticising the blogosphere..well, she was pretty downbeat on the whole internet thing. And everyone laughed at her. Then the dot-com crash came.

Most blogs ARE crap - why do you think we are reading this and Guido to the detriment of others?