The future of Scoop.co.nz

Screenshot from 2017-05-07 19-04-37

I’ve been meaning for a while to put down in writing my thoughts on Scoop.co.nz. What follows is hopefully constructive criticism.

What is Scoop?

Scoop calls itself an “independent news website” but it’s fundamentally a big collection of press releases. It’s been collecting them since 1999 — mostly from New Zealand — and now has a huge number of historical press releases. The fact that it has all these press releases in one place is really useful. As organisations and companies change their websites these press releases often go missing — so it’s great from a research perspective to have them collated in one place.

Recently Scoop has run into financial problems (seemingly mostly because of the collapsing market for advertising) and has been repeatedly crowdfunding to stay afloat. It has also been transitioning from a “for-profit” company (although losing money) to a non-profit member organisation. Part of this shift involves the Scoop Foundation offering grants for investigate journalism.

Scoop has also introduced what it calls an “ethical paywall”. Basically if you’re a commercial user Scoop expects you to pay for using the website, although there’s no actual paywall stopping you from looking at the content. This strategy seems to have been pretty successful based on the number of organisations paying for a licence.

The website is terrible!

If you go to Scoop.co.nz you’ll see straight away that it has a terrible website. (It’s straight out of the mid 2000s. In fact if you look at a 2006 version of the site, it doesn’t look that different.) There’s far too much going on — too many columns of different content and an overly comprehensive navigation system at the top.

I know Scoop is well aware of this website problem. They have taken the good step of introducing a beta mobile website, but the main website remains seemingly frozen in time.

[Update 13 May — see bottom of the post for details of the new website]

Continue reading “The future of Scoop.co.nz”

Buying into dangerous narratives about “Dirty Politics”

nicky_hager-dirtypolslaunch1
Hager at the launch of Dirty Politics

I’ve been to a couple of political conferences recently. One was the NZ Political Studies Association conference in Auckland, where there was a panel of professional political operatives from National, Labour and the Greens (including Metiria Turei). The representatives of National were tellingly silent about the implications of Dirty Politics. But what most interested me was how Labour and the Greens were both talking about Dirty Politics as a difficult issue of political management. Mostly they were focussed on how the publication of the book and it’s fallout had been an unpredictable event in the campaign which hadn’t done them any favours.

The other conference I went to was Victoria’s post-election conference at Parliament. The first section involved various politicians (John Key, Steven Joyce, Andrew Little, Russel Norman, Peter Dunne, Winston Peters etc) dissecting how the election campaign had gone. Key called it an “ugly campaign”, and Joyce said people responded well to Key’s handling of the Dirty Politics controversy. Of course, they both were of the opinion that the book was a load of crap and that most New Zealanders agreed with them. Andrew Little was saying not dissimilar things, and talked about the book as a threat — not a benefit — to Labour. Norman was most stringent in his views that there were issues in Dirty Politics that matter, but also acknowledged the book’s release had done the party some harm (Peters said pretty similar stuff).

What I’m trying to get at with this talk about the conferences is that this narrative of “Dirty Politics was a distraction which most people didn’t care about and which detracted from distraction of policy issues” has been repeated by many politicians and political pundits. It was one of the National Party’s lines it pushed to try and shut down the controversy – i.e. “please stop asking us these tricky questions — New Zealanders don’t give a toss about this stuff anyway!”. But it’s not just a National Party line — the left has also jumped on board. And by also using this narrative or frame, the left has allowed the political battle to be fought on dangerous territory. Continue reading “Buying into dangerous narratives about “Dirty Politics””

politicians and openly-licensed photography

A slightly different version of this post can also be found over at the fantastic NZ Commons site. Check it out if you haven’t already!

One thing which I’ve noticed recently is that New Zealand politicians are terrible at using creative commons licences to allow use of their photos. That’s a real shame, and in this post I’ll explore why it’s in politicians’ best interest to upload good quality photos of themselves and their activities using a permissive creative commons (CC) licence.

What is creative commons?

Creative commons is a way of making it easy for people to share, build upon and remix your creative works, while retaining copyright. There are all sorts of different licences, so you can use one which matches your needs. Creative commons licences can be a confusing business, but they’re not too complicated once you get the hang of them (and understand what all the different abbreviations mean!). Continue reading “politicians and openly-licensed photography”

Thoughts on the election

Last night’s election result was a huge disappointment. We’re set for another three years of National slowly eroding the public service, doing nothing on climate change and child poverty, and letting the New Zealand economy continue producing low value primary products.

There’s been a lot of recriminations already about how exactly this happened. I think it’s important to keep in mind that noone really knows why National has done so well. It’s impossible to have proper answers, and professional pundits are clutching at straws like the rest of us. Solid analysis will come with time and hindsight. With these provisos about the difficulty of saying anything about the election, I just want to suggest a few points about how we can come to terms with what has happened.

What I think is important to remember is that overall the fundamentals were always in National’s favour in terms of both inertia and the economy. People tend to stick with the status quo: “National has done okay in two terms, why not give them another?” The so-called ‘rock star’ economy is also a major selling point for the Nats. Things are looking okay at the moment — and the left’s message that it’s not going to be that great in the future is a pretty subtle message to sell. With those general points in mind, I’m also going to delve into a few other specific questions. Continue reading “Thoughts on the election”

the weak case for inaction on climate change

Although there was quite a positive reception for the Green Party’s ‘climate tax cut’ policy a while back (see a roundup on their blog), the National Party continues to tread out the same old arguments against doing anything substantial to reduce New Zealand’s carbon emissions.

A lot has been said recently in the media by those sceptical of mitigating climate change, along the lines of ‘New Zealand is a such a small proportion of the world’s emissions, therefore we shouldn’t do anything’. What I want to argue here is that while the first part of this argument is (somewhat) true, the second part that we shouldn’t do anything doesn’t follow at all.
Continue reading “the weak case for inaction on climate change”

The Greens as a “pro-market” party

This article on Stuff by Hamish Rutherford caught my eye: “Greens pro-market: Russel Norman“:

Russel Norman says he is more of a disciple of market forces than is the National Party.

The major issues of sustainability can be solved by setting the right incentives and prices, he says.

However, Norman said he was a strong believer in market solutions.

“If you look at the Greens, or at least our policies, they are pro-market,” Norman said.

“Lower company tax rates, price signals for carbon – let the market resolve the issue.”

The Green proposal for a Green investment bank, which would use state capital to invest in renewable companies “is identical to what [British Prime Minister] David Cameron set up for the UK”.

Norman said National chose which motorways to favour for political reasons, without properly conducting cost-benefit analyses, while the approach to tax credits was a test “of whether [Economic Development Minister] Steven Joyce likes your company”.

“Everyone says National doesn’t pick winners … but if you look at what they’re actually doing, they’re not pro-market, they’re Muldoonist.”

Continue reading “The Greens as a “pro-market” party”