Mar 262013

The Prime Minister’s courting of bloggers in the run up to the Australian Federal election later this year shows how credibility and relevance are most important assets for any media outlet.

Late last year the Prime Minister invited bloggers to Kirribilli House for lunch then to dinner during her Rooty Hill adventure a few weeks ago.

The press gallery grumbled and wrote patronising articles about North Shore mummy bloggers but failed to recognise the real threat to the established media outlets – these writers are more relevant to people’s lives than the machinations of ‘anonymous political sources’, sports stars or Hollywood celebrities.

Now the Prime Minister is giving one on one exclusive interviews to some of those bloggers, something that will irritate the nation’s political journalists even further.

Old media’s loss of relevance

The press galleries’ problem though is relevance, which lies at the heart of any successful media outlet.

In 1831 when The Sydney Herald’s first edition was published, the front page was made up of advertisements and shipping notices as it was with all newspapers of the time.

That was relevant to the readers, they paid 7d – not an insubstantial amount in 1831 – to find out the latest in shipping movements, real estate sales and livestock prices which were essential to life and business in the colony.

It wasn’t until 1944 that the now Sydney Morning Herald moved news to the front page, the London Times held out until 1966. What was now relevant to readers were photos and wire stories from around the world.

Papers continued to do well despite the introduction of radio in the 1930s and TV in the 1950s because they were continued to be relevant to their readers. If you were looking a job, a house or where to take your mum for her 60th birthday then the local newspaper was the place to look.

The shift to sensationalism

In the 1980s all the media – newspapers, TV and radio stations – started a shift to sensationalism and infotainment and steadily all became less relevant to the populations they served.

At the time media outlets got away with it as there was no-where else for people to get news. If you didn’t like stories about Princess Di’s wedding dress then you had to curl up in the corner with a good book.

Then the web came along.

All of a sudden engaged readers could get relevant information from all over the world.

With social media and blogs, reporting Kim Kardishian’s latest wardrobe malfunction raised a ‘so what’ from an audience that learned about it two days ago on TMZ, the Huffington Post or Facebook.

Making matters much, much worse were the advertising rivers of gold moved to specialist websites and Google.

Newspaper executives found their revenues were evaporating and they worked their way deeper into the quicksand by cutting costs in the areas where their editorial strengths lay, making them even less relevant to the readerships they want to serve.

Relevant lifestyles

Today the mummy bloggers – along with the food bloggers, travel bloggers and political bloggers – are attracting  audiences with relevant, useful content that the audience can engage with.

Last week’s embarrassing circus in Canberra was an example of how irrelevant the media, and much of politics, has become to the average Australian.

Indeed it’s interesting to contrast the self important Canberra press gallery pushing non-stories while fawning over their discredited ‘anonymous party sources’ with the genuinely questioning tone of the some of the bloggers.

So the mainstream, established media can kiss the mummy bloggers’ backsides; if they can’t find relevance in today’s society then they may as well shut up shop.

For politicians relevance is important too – political parties that pitch themselves to 19th Century class struggles or 1980s corporatist ideologies are as irrelevant to today’s society as the Soviet Communist Party.

It would serve the Prime Minister and her staff well to listen closely to what the mummy bloggers and their readers are saying.

  21 Responses to “A question of relevance – why the PM welcomes bloggers”

  1. Paul, I really love how you linked to each blogger and news article thoughtfully, so so good!

  2. I watched Eden’s interview with Julia Gillard and learned far more about our Prime Minister in 15 minutes than I had in all the years she’s been in office. This wasn’t a series of rote questions and formulaic answers, but genuine insightful questions and considered responses. More of that please.

    • This is one of the failings of both the political spin doctors and the media; both parties are so locked into the “he said, she said”, fast response news cycle that issues of substance and genuine insight don’t happen.

      I think this is probably where new media can really disrupt the established media’s way of doing business.

    • I totally agree with this!

  3. I don’t get it. I’ve been following all these blogs of the mums who met with the PM since way before they met with the PM. None of them write about the things the PM is or isn’t doing. And even after meeting her they never write about true issues that affect mums like me that could influence which way I vote. Either she’s not taking advantage of these women’s power as influencers or the women themselves are not applying their power to try and make us side with the PM or go against her. I can understand if they are not her fans. But for God’s sake, they need to be more real and tell us their real thoughts about what they are not fans. Why go for tea if you’re not going to comment about your opinion of her or her party?

    So, what’s the point? To come back and rub it in our faces?

    All I’m reading is how nice or bad her high tea was. It’s not working. Whose fault is it? Her PR or the bloggers’ PR? What a waste of opportunity. Might as well celebrate if you’re a journalist, because at least journalists are feeding us good or misled info that we can use to question the integrity of our government and their opponents.

    • I agree we need to hold our pollies to account. Certainly if the bloggers who get this sort of access only focus on the cupcakes and bubbly they’ll become as irrelevant as the old media outlets.

      There’s also the matter that all of us who don’t deal with politicians on a daily basis are easily seduced by their charm; most politicians are very good at that.

      It’s early days yet for the bloggers and I think we’ll see their styles – and cynicism – evolve.

  4. Great article Paul and one that echoes this years Digital parents conference where we saw Eden’s interview with the PM.

    Their were 2 main and very salient point’s that came up:

    1: Why can’t the PM be as candid and honest in her responses normally?


    2: The PM and her team have completely tapped into a movement that has the trust of their reader unlike the mainstream press that lost it’s way where trust is concerned a long time ago.

    Keep up the good work.

    FLD – DaddyBlogger

    • Thanks Simon, it’s early days yet but the established media needs to work hard to re-establish the trust and credibility they’ve been hell bent on squandering for the last thirty years.

      How it goes for the PM and her team remains to be seen – I suspect the bloggers aren’t the easy touch that the political staffers think. Ms Woog’s post is a good example.

  5. Really? The pollies should be listening to mummy bloggers?
    The same mummy bloggers that are currently fighting over the correct way to fold fitted sheets? Or bemoaning on twitter the memories a used tissue triggers.

    As a woman I rarely find any issue that the mummy bloggers attach themselves too as relevant, they would be the last group of people that I would place any importance on, yet alone influencing my vote. Let the PM woe them and let them keep on blogging about the family photos in the PM`s residence or what food is served on the PM`s plate, as that is about as good as it is going to get.

    • Kelly, good point about the fitted sheets however I’d argue getting your bedding right is probably a lot more relevant to many households than the political posturings of Graeme Richardson, Mark Latham and the ruminations of ‘unnamed Labor Party sources’ that dominate the press gallery’s time that could be focused on real policy discussions.

      That’s really the point, much of the news media’s output isn’t relevant to much of the audience while at the least the mommy bloggers – and those covering food, travel and politics – are at least talking about things that are of interest to the population.

    • The PM didn’t woe us. She wooed us.

      • Apologies for my typo, woe/woo; subconsciously I was thinking how woeful the whole situation is

  6. What is that saying? Worrying about getting your bedding right is a sign of a wasted life?

    Anyhow have a good easter long weekend.

  7. Quiet desperation.


  8. The Prime Minister enjoying an expensive meal with mummies from the southern highlands, the northern beaches, blue mountains and the north shore out west at Rooty Hill? What’s wrong with this picture? Who’s idea was this?

    Warren Brown’s cartoon “The Real Julias” said it all. It showed Gillard dining at the Rooty Hill RSL with five identikit Mummy bloggers: “It’s great to be out mingling with everyday Australians”. Priceless.

    The PM needs to sack her Director of Communications John McTernan, as his tactics from the Australia Day riot, to the failed jaunt out west show a government out of touch with the electorate.

    • Actually Catherine you hit a really important point that some of the bloggers picked up on – having the function in a private room was a PR failure.

      There’s also the choice of bloggers, it seemed the folk who were invited to Rooty Hill had all been to the Kirribilli House morning tea a few months earlier.

      I agree with you about McTernan, what worries me though is that both the Labor and Liberal Parties are largely void of talent, what strikes me whenever I meet a party apparatchik of either side is their breathtaking arrogance and utter incompetence. I’m not sure who Gillard could replace him with and Abbott’s team is no better.

      Something I found interesting with the Rooty Hill extravaganza was how the political media treated it like the Prime Minister was making a visit to New Guinea or Ulan Baator. I think that speaks volumes how how insular and out-of-touch the entire Australian political classes, including the press gallery, are.

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