[ASC-list] Science reporting and social media - show me the numbers

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Mon Mar 4 02:34:13 UTC 2013

Dear Will,

Ok, I was being a bit melodramatic with 'Google stole the advertising'.

How about Fairfax fiddled while all around them new business models appeared.

I agree that social media are immensely powerful at building and sustaining communities of interest:

·         Young scientists - via a host of bloggers and tweeters and news sites – it’s been great for Fresh Science

·         Educated mums - via Mama Mia and mummy bloggers – some powerful conversations about vaccination

·         Science communicators - via you and Rob and Kristen and others

·         Politariat (I think that's a word) via Crikey, Colvinius and others -

·         Health policy – Croaky and others

·         Science Alert claims a large student audience in India and China

Stories are broken in these communities but more often than not they feed off news media.

In time more communities will evolve but it’s still early days.

Social media isn’t reaching geographical audiences in significant numbers yet. ABC 774 reaches hundreds of thousands of Melburnians daily. But their twitter conversation is pretty light – except when the trains aren’t working.

If I want to reach Melbourne – from Werribee to the city to Frankston then I need the news media. If I want to reach a wide demographic across Australia I need news media.

Today, which new media players are reaching the audience in the numbers of old media - in areas we can use...

Will, answer this question and I’ll buy you a beer at the Press Club next time I'm in Canberra.

Two weeks ago we launched a stem cell foundation with a story about turning skin cells to eye cells to understand an incurable form of blindness. Stories ran in the Age, SMH, Herald Sun and a bit of radio.

We particularly wanted to reach adult, general community, tax payers, potential donors etc in Melbourne. Which social media could have got me the let’s say 1 million readers we got in Melbourne.

If you can answer this one we’ll make it lunch…

If I want to reach Australia’s 12,000 or so dairy farmers I’d focus on the Weekly Times, The Country Hour, and Australian Dairy Farmer. Which social media would give me the same reach?

Finally, crack this one and we’ll make it dinner at the Press Club.

Last September we helped launch a study that showed that half the Great Barrier Reef’s coral cover had been lost in the last 27 years. Front page coverage in Australia, wall to wall on ABC including 20 minutes on Lateline. Global pick up via the Times, NYT, Guardian etc. Lots of social media as well.

We wanted to reach a wide Australian public, and inform policy. I reckon we touched a quarter to half the Australian population. Which social media could have achieved this?

Now much of the news coverage would have been read online. My argument is that news reporting still drives most of the reach of science stories into the wider community. Working journalists (not just science journalists) are as important as ever in reaching the people who pay for most Australian science (the taxpayers and voters). The AusSMC has a critical role in this but we can’t just rely on them.

If we think that we can replace news media with our own blogs, podcasts, tweets etc then we run the risk of further alienating ourselves from the people who pay for and most need the outcomes of Australian science.

And that’s why I think we, the ASC, need to do more to reach out to journalists.

But Will, if you can show me the numbers, I’m willing to throw away the Margaret Gee, and the Medianet membership.

Kind regards,



Niall Byrne

Creative Director

Science in Public

82 Hudsons Road, Spotswood VIC 3015

PO Box 2076 Spotswood VIC 3015

03 9398 1416, 0417 131 977

niall at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au>

Twitter scienceinpublic

Full contact details at www.scienceinpublic.com.au<http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au>

-----Original Message-----
From: Will Grant [mailto:will.grant at anu.edu.au]
Sent: Friday, 1 March 2013 12:32 PM
To: Niall Byrne
Cc: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au<mailto:asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au>
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] Interesting article by Melissa Sweet Croakey blogger

It's probably pedantic of me to take exception, but Google (and others) didn't 'steal' anything. Advertisers (and everyday people selling things) simply moved to a better value offering.

But more importantly, that numbers argument just isn't the case anymore. There are plenty of new media voices who reach those numbers every day, and these aren't just traditional media players who've added Facebook. They are also reaching these magical 'unconverted' people too.


On 01/03/2013, at 11:32 AM, Niall Byrne <niall at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au>> wrote:

> The article is by founding ASC member Leigh Dayton, former science writer at the SMH then the Australian.


> And yes we all know that the business model for newspapers is broken - Google and others stole the advertising.


> But there's a danger if we think that our own blogging, tweeting and facebooking is going to fill the gap.


> Firstly there's an urgent need for good, skilled investigative journalism of the kind that Leigh has done many times over the years.


> Secondly platforms that are often touted as an alternative, such as The Conversation, are not for the most part independent reporting. The Conversation has done a brilliant job of getting scientists to comment and editorialise. But that's not journalism. It's important but different.


> And finally, while we blog, tweet and facebook to the converted, old school media are still reaching millions. Channel Seven News on Sundays after the footie reaches over 700,000 in Melbourne alone. The Herald Sun and the Telegraph jointly reach well over a million people every day. Fairfax probably has about half that reach - but still a decent half a million or so. These are the kinds of numbers that we are nowhere near achieving in new media yet. And radio audiences continue to grow through broadcast and online.


> ASC was founded by journalists and communicators and I think we need to explore ways of reengaging with 'old-school science and medical reporters'.


> Niall



> Niall Byrne


> Creative Director

> Science in Public

> 82 Hudsons Road, Spotswood  Vic  3015

> PO Box 2076 Spotswood VIC 3015

> 03 9398 1416, 0417 131 977


> niall at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au>

> Twitter @scienceinpublic

> Full contact details at www.scienceinpublic.com.au<http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au>



> -----Original Message-----

> From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au<mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au>

> [mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Susan Kirk

> Sent: Friday, 1 March 2013 9:55 AM

> To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au<mailto:asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au>

> Subject: [ASC-list] Interesting article by Melissa Sweet Croakey

> blogger


> http://blogs.crikey.com.au/croakey/2013/02/24/from-the-perfect-job-to-

> an-endangered-species-the-demise-of-science-journalism-and-why-it-matt

> ers/


> Surely, while we may be losing some of the reporting in mainstream

> media, we are all madly blogging, tweeting, facebooking (for want of a

> better word) and staging events, etc etc. Is it really news that the

> mainstream media is becoming 'not so' mainstream?  Social media and

> the internet (apps, websites

> etc) is advancing.


> ASC should be seen as addressing these sorts of comments and articles and at the same time highlighting what our members are doing?  Can I suggest a reply on the ASC website?


> As a member, I can start.  I blog.  I tweet. I have a facebook page and a facebook group  I also write for Fairfax Media for titles that used to be owned by Rural Press.  However, Fairfax, in its wisdom, have deleted a few of these mastheads and the couple it has kept are focussing heavily on the internet/tablet model to deliver news.


> I would also argue that the internet is a better medium than print for complex science stories via the addition of audio, hyperlinks, images and video.  Also freelancers are playing a big role in delivering some of the complex science that takes many man/woman hours to get right.  Some of these stories are, by necessity, long and they are not going to see the light of day in newspapers for that reason.  Newspapers are fast becoming extinct, not the journalists.


> S



> Susan Kirk   B.comm  freelance Journalist

> Member and Queensland Web Editor -  Australian Science Communicators

> (ASC) Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA)


> tel: +61 7 5478 6761 | mobile: 0423342867 | email:

> susan at susankirk.com.au<mailto:susan at susankirk.com.au> www.susankirk.com.au<http://www.susankirk.com.au> |  Skype: susanakirk |

> Tweet: susanakirk


> ³If you don¹t ask the right questions you won¹t get the right

> answers.²




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