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
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.