Crawford Media First person

The Conversation is the new face of public media

Recently I had a great discussion with the CEO of The Conversation in Australia and New Zealand, Lisa Watts. I wanted to dig a bit more into the success of the university/news hybrid that began in Melbourne 10 years ago, and how it has expanded globally.

The idea of using subject matter experts within academia to explain the issues behind current news stories seems like an obvious content play now that The Conversation has been successful, but as Watts points out in the podcast, it would not have worked if the platform had begun at a single university. As in so many matters digital, the details of how The Conversation works are vital to understand why it works.

A couple of explainers that aren’t covered in the podcast: The Conversation was co-founded by Andrew Jaspan and Jack Rejtman. Both have now left the organisation, Jaspan after local staff and international partners revolted against his leadership style and direction.

There’s also an omission from the interview that I want to mention. It emerged last week that The Conversation and SBS are not going to get content deals with Facebook in the Australian market. These are lucrative arrangements big media players like Nine and News Corp have made with Facebook and Google in the shadow of the News Media Bargaining Code. 

As I have opined elsewhere, the deals are flawed because the code is flawed, and the whole thing amounts to a government-facilitated shakedown without any guarantee of public benefit. I didn’t ask Watts about it because our conversation occurred before the news broke.