Tim Burrowes – the founder of mUmbrella – was kind enough to offer his digital perspective this week.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the digital media industry over the past 12 months?
Funnily enough, it’s the apparent collapse of the traditional models, particularly for newspapers and TV. Faced with the combination of the economic roadcrash and the shifting that comes when a new medium arrives, they are finally beginning to face the realities that they are going to have to engage with digital media, not hope it goes away like it conveniently did last time round after the dotcom crash.
But I’m not, by the way in the camp that thinks all papers are going to die. But just like the radio players eventually got their heads round TV 50 years ago, we’ll see the big media players really join the digital battleground.
What was the catalyst for mUmbrella?
I’d been editor of B&T for a couple of years, and was planning as my next venture (with a couple of partners – our company is called Focal Attractions) something within the media and marketing world. While I was waiting out my non-compete, I started Mumbrella to keep myself amused. It kind of took off and we put the other thing on the back burner. Mumbrella’s got nearly 7000 subscribers to the email and if things go as they have been, we’ll do a couple of million page views this year. With a following wind, that should be enough pay the rent.
After more scathing anonymous comments, this time, regarding Gary Hayes — what’s your current position on anonymous comments?
For those that haven’t been following, I wrote an opinion piece a week or so back ruminating on what Mumbrella’s comment policy should be. I think most of us agree that in an ideal world everyone would feel confident enough in themselves and secure enough in their positions to speak their mind openly. But equally, people sometimes have reason to be anonymous, and can add to the quality of the debate. Up to now I’d never in my own mind had a formal policy, although I’d tended to proceed on the basis that if something was clearly libellous or abusive I’d remove it.
But that doesn’t mean not allowing negative comment – this is an industry where the rules are changing and there’s a lot that’s open for debate.
Where someone questions another person’s motives is going to have to be a case-by-case judgement call. For instance, now that I’m clearer in my own mind on what our comment policy should be, I would not have allowed the anonymous person’s comment who questioned your concerns about Social Media Club Sydney and suggested bias. Although I put my own comment saying that I didn’t agree with them, given the same circumstance again I’d just remove it.
But in the Gary Hayes case, where he posted a couple of detailed comments in praise of Laurel Papworth, it was legitimate for another commenter (anonymously, sadly) to draw attention to public domain information that demonstrated they were an item, which Gary hadn’t (as was his right) mentioned. When it was first posted as a simple statement of fact, I removed it, because I wasn’t aware of it myself, and if it was untrue it would have been unfair. But once links were provided, it was clearly relevant and he’d already put the info in the public domain himself elsewhere. It was clearly useful to any reader who was weighing up where Gary was coming from in his point of view and didn’t already know that.
What do you think is the most important lesson for the digital media industry to learn this year?
Always use the bathroom before leaving the pub.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an editor?
I’ve always felt I’d make an excellent prime minister. Or semi-benevolent dictator.