Mi9 boss Mark Britt: Political agendas don’t work in online news

Mark Britt, the CEO of Mi9, which runs one of Australia’s largest online news portals Ninemsn, has taken aim at rival News Corp Australia for their political “agenda” and telling an audience that “propaganda” doesn’t work in online news.

Mark Britt on stage at Mi9 imagine

CEO of Mi9 Mark Britt on stage at Mi9 Imagine yesterday

Just days after the federal election, in which News Corp Australia’s allegedly anti-Labor election coverage became a central issue, Britt told an audience of media buyers at Mi9’s Imagine event in Sydney: “We don’t have an agenda, we don’t speak to a niche audience and tell them what the news is and then tell them what to think about that news. We represent Australia.”

“Fundamentally we think about our role as not to tell Australians what to think – but to watch, to listen and to learn.”

Mi9 is jointly owned by Nine and Microsoft. While not specifically naming News Corp, Britt then went further, saying: “For the last two years we have been making investments in datasets not just in our advertising but in our core consumer product. These are the toolsets that editors sit with every single day, so instead of going to war with cartoons, politicians and all sorts of propaganda, we have a group of editors to sit there and look at these dashboards in real time,” said Britt.

He also emphasises the company’s anti paywall mindset. He said: “Ninemsn is deeply committed to being free,” he said. “Free from a cost point of view the advertising model is phenomenal, we think it works for both advertisers and customers, and more importantly free from agendas and we will continue to be free of an agenda no matter what the future is like.”

Britt also chairs the Interactive Advertising Burerau, which is the voice of online publishers and counts News Corp as a member.

Speaking to Mumbrella after the event Britt was asked whether his comments were inspired by News Corp coverage of the election.

He said: “The timing of this what entirely driven by the timing of (our event) Imagine and not the election but we thought it was really important,  given how much change the media is going through, that we make a really big statement to our customers and share our vision of free Ninemsn which is both free of cost and free of agendas.”

“We have a strong view that the mass market media companies of the future are going to be free, that advertising with great data that will continue to support mass market media and that in online particularly there is no need for a media company to have an agenda. If you put users at the heart of the story you can provide a platform where you report the news and then they discuss it, engage, contribute, evolve the story and share it with friends.”

News Corp Australia declined to respond to Britt’s remark. However, News Corp Australia CEO Julian Clarke has previously told Mumbrella any accusations of political bias in the company’s election coverage were “baseless”.

Website, which is owned by News Corp, also overtook Ninemsn for the of the top 10 Nielsen rankings in May this year and has since held that number one spot.

Britt said his vision of the future of online news required media outlets to focus on  integration of data. He cited a recent Twitter election platform #Youdecide9 which saw Nine, Mi9 and Twitter integrate the social medium into its coverage.

“We were analysing with Twitter social sentiment on the issues as they emerged and that’s our vision for the media company of the future,” he said.

Britt also unveiled a new mobile website for Ninemsn, which is currently in beta, called ‘Ninemsn Now’ which the company said would help it grow its mobile audience.

“Ninemsn Now will be free. What is interesting about Ninemsn now is that it pivots news and programming based entirely on currency, it connects into people’s fear of missing out in a world which is changing so quickly and so much is going on it allows them to stay plugged in to what is important to them,” he said.

Ninemsn’s critics have previously pointed out that the company uses a significant amount of sydnicated copy to support its online readership, which in the last Nielsen survey was 2.7m.

Britt conceded that the Ninemsn model was based on some unique content together with aggregated content from partner Nine and also wire services, such as AAP.

“Ninemsn aggregates content from a whole range of iconic media brands which are owned by the Nine Entertainment Company, some of which are our own brand and original content and some of which are very deep relationships with third parties – a few of which are wire services.  We will continue to be a service which brings the best of a wide range of content to Australian customers.”

Nic Christensen 


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