Pop/Media Talk: An unpopular culture niche (+ The HuffPo of Oz)
In her memoir, Tina Fey is hilariously honest when describing the niche appeal of 30 Rock, which she lovingly calls her "weird little show": "Though we are grateful for the affection 30 Rock has received from critics and hipsters, we were actually trying to make a hit show. We weren't trying to make a low-rated critical darling that snarled in the face of conventionality. We were trying to make Home Improvement and we did it wrong."
Irish actress, writer and comedian Sharon Horgan, who penned The Guardian's Guide most recent cover story and starred in a little-known show called Pulling, is similarly bemused but totally in favour of low-rating but well executed sitcoms:
"There is a surprising amount of merit in going to all the time and trouble of making a sitcom only to have a risible number of people actually watch it. In fact I would go so far as to say it's an inadvertently important act of importance," she writes, adding that, "these programmes have that special combination of being original and perfectly formed with detail and nuances that make you feel like you're watching something that's been made especially for you... With a smaller audience you're more likely to push back boundaries – you can do a lot of things a mainstream sitcom would like to but can't for fear of not appealing to a wide and wieldy demographic."
The same theory applies online.
Today comes news that Arianna Huffington, whose news site aggregates content under a broad range of subjects, is planning to launch her AOL-owned mass-appeal site in Australia following a UK launch on July 6.
"Dubbed "the world's most influential blog", HuffPo is an online double threat: As well as publishing its own "breaking opinion" content it is also a "hyper-aggregator" of original news material generated by other media companies," reports Sally Jackson for The Australian. "For that reason it could steal readers from all existing players, including newspaper websites and News Limited's news.com.au, opinion and analysis sites such as News's The Punch, ABC's The Drum and Private Media's Crikey as well as smaller, niche sites and blogs dedicated to politics and entertainment."
That would include female-skewed sites like mamamia.com.au (240,000+ monthly unique visitors), but also multimedia news brands such as Nine News and The 7pm Project (40,000+ Twitter followers in addition to its nightly audience), as well as revered journalists with their own social media followings and topical content aggregation expertise.
But together with the dominance of global mastheads, such as the left-leaning The Guardian – which plans to expand into the US – the tabloidy Daily Mail, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post (is anyone subscribing to The Daily?), and the popularity here of both American and British products of news and pop-culture, what does The HuffPo news mean for surviving and thriving in Australian online media?
Will advertisers flock to HuffPo in this online popularity contest of global proportions, or stay true to mastheads with Aussie roots who align with their own values, sensibility and speak their language? Are we about to see a massive consolidation online that will weed out the sites with big player aspirations while small fry die, like Hogan's lesser-watched "young and pretty" sitcoms, with the likes of HuffPo chewing on their remains? Or is the cult of niche about to experience a new day?
At GWAS HQs, news is being consumed the old-fashioned way, via ABC news radio, perusing the papers, the nightly tube and courier pigeon delivery of parchments (with requisite blogger's nod in the direction of Twitter and Facebook). Please do have your say on how you are consuming news and the cultish blog sites that should be added for preservation/posterity to GWAS' sidebar.
Girl With a Satchel