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IS DIGITAL MEDIA KILLING THE PRINT CRITIC

OPENING ARGUMENTS
As the affirmative team, Heather will reflect on the growth of the home grown critic, Rebecca will show how the two way participation in social media and blogging provides a bridge between creators and consumers while Andrew will present research results that demonstrate how print criticism is falling in consumption in favour of digital media.


Heather Ogilvie, film producer
I’m not a critic but a film producer whose work over the years has attracted the attention of many critics. Some of their comments were full of praise and - despite my best efforts - some were dreadful. 

Is the digital age changing the way my films are developed and financed? You bet. Is it changing the way they are produced and distributed? Absolutely. 

But most crucial to this debate is whether the digital age is changing the way consumers decide what they want to see in an over-crowded market? Pretty much every time. 

Increasingly, the marketing spend is in the digital realm. And the reason is simple. When word of mouth is a film's the strongest tool, the power of social marketing is invaluable. 

Facebook, blogs, YouTube and twitter are compelling ways to spread the word about a film by its grassroots consumers. They are the click and go generation.

In his blog, Doc Searles said:
“Consumer is an industrial age word. It implies we are all tied to our chairs, head back, eating content and crapping cash.” 

If Searles is correct - and I believe he is - the word of the digital age is community. 

The power of communication between connected individuals cannot be underestimated. We tend to be interested in what other people are interested in. Recommendations allow people to discover - and assess - new content for themselves.

Engaging directly with the online community will turn them into advocates and potentially create the desired viral element by becoming home grown critics. 
So where does this leave the professional critic? As a producer i want to see them incorporate sounds and images into their reviews. Digital technology demands they present a more detailed examination of our visual culture. 

Because if innovative data capture is vital to the digital critic, connection - with the subject of the criticism and with the community - is gold.

Rebecca Varidel, online food critic
Print was merely a tool to transfer information, and it has been superseded by digital, just like morse code was superseded. 20 years ago the barriers to publish were high, now with digital it’s easy for any person to have a voice and we can see this in the exchange of ideas in social media, such as twitter or in the proliferation of self publishing such as on blogs. Conversation is what’s important in the creation of these new authorities. 

There has been a huge shift in power from that where one voice in dinosaur media spoke out and many listened. Now rather than one to many, the model has become that of many to many where the community speaks, and the community regulates. 
Do any of us support the concept of a dictatorship? Or any political model where one person has a right to supreme authority?

There has already been an uptake of this new democratic approach even by traditional media – for example ABC TV show Q+A seeks participation from the audience and then adds video and twitter questions. Even mainstream TV shows now broadcast twitter comments on the shows and in their advertising. 

So what is the role for the critic in this new world? The role of authority is shifting - old style critics got their authority from their masthead but in digital the critics earn authority based on the quality of their views and the information provided. People will still seek a trusted guide through the expanding mass of information – search engines such as google and the search function on twitter play a part – but will we still seek guidance from an individual (perhaps not the old ones from the newspaper? perhaps with someone who will engage in two way conversation?) Digital, social media and blogging, creates the new approach to criticism because it provides an active participatory bridge between creators and consumers … community.

Andrew L. Urban – online film critic
Hell yes. You could regard this debate as the official wake. I’m not happy about it; I love print media and devour several papers a day. 

But while print remains a viable medium in many respects, film criticism in print especially, has left the building. When I say film criticism I actually mean film reviewing. But the debate title doesn’t make that distinction.

It’s not just a theory: 62% of those surveyed last year in the US now get their reviews online; only audiences over 50 rely on newspaper reviews. No similar survey has been done in Australia, so we have to extrapolate.

The first report on moviegoing habits produced by Stradella Road, the entertainment marketing firm founded by former New Line Web guru Gordon Paddison, found that 94% of all moviegoers are now online.

The younger demo is especially key in spreading word of mouth, with 73% of moviegoers surveyed having profiles on social networking sites. 

The Stradella Road study is one of the few to break down specific age groups and how they consume movies and the marketing messages leading up to their releases.

•Teens (age 13-17) are "all about sharing information and group thinking," the report said, with social networking a critical communication tool. They go to movies in large groups and are heavily influenced by their friends' opinions. 

•Twentysomethings (age 18-29) "are digital natives that have grown up with technology" and are more likely to go online for movie info and to share what they think about movies via social networks. They use the Internet to find any kind of information and place a high value on online consumer reviews and sites that aggregate reviews. A large nail in the coffin of the print critic.

•Audiences in their 30s are time-constrained, with parenthood dominating their decisions. They spend the highest number of hours online and represent the highest use of technology.

•Those in their 40s embrace traditional media like magazines and newspapers, with moviegoing dominated by special family occasions and influenced by teens.

So the print critic is read largely by audiences over 50; it’s just a matter of time …but digital media is clearly killing the print critic.

Published May 22, 2011

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Sydney Writers Week, Pascall Debate, May 21, 2011

THE NO TEAM:

Matthew Westwood
has been the arts editor at ‘The Australian’ since 2008. A journalist for 20 years, in 2009 he was awarded a USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Fellowship. 

Catharine Lumby
is a well-known public commentator who has worked as a news reporter, feature writer & columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald. She was the foundation chair of the media and communications department at the University of Sydney. She is the author of seven books and numerous book chapters and journal articles, and director of the Journalism and Media Research Centre at the University of NSW.

John Shand
has been a music and occasional theatre critic for ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ for 18 years. He contributed to the ‘New Grove Encyclopedia of Jazz’, edited and co-wrote ‘24 Hours Essential Guide to Jazz’, edited ‘Jazz’n’Blues’ magazine and has been a regular contributor to ‘24 Hours’, ‘Limelight’ and ‘Australian Hi-Fi’ magazines. In 2008 he published ‘Jazz: The Australian Accent’.

THE YES TEAM:

Heather Ogilvie
helms The Galvanized Film Group, a boutique theatrical distribution company with a fresh approach to marketing Australian feature films. She has developed and financed over $75 million worth of production. With GFG she is currently developing ‘Remarkable Creatures’ based on Tracy Chevalier’s novel, and ‘Salvation Creek’, based on the book by Susan Duncan.

Rebecca Varidel
is a digital communication strategist and an experienced presenter on social media and online communities. She publishes www.insidecuisine.com. Her associated food Twitter address, @frombecca, is a top-rater in Australia and internationally.

Andrew L. Urban
Publisher & Editor of http://www.urbancinefile.com.au, a past theatre critic for the old fashioned print media at The Australian and now syndicating his reviews in print to the Sun Herald, among other outlets. Clearly a multi-media critic serving traditional and new media masters.

MODERATOR:

Simon Marnie
is currently the presenter of ‘Weekends’ for 702 ABC Sydney and Local Radio NSW, and for LifeStyle TV’s FOOD channel. He also judges for the Sydney Royal Agricultural Society’s Fine Food Awards and for the past three years has judged The President’s Medal – the RAS’s most prestigious prize.







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