Sep 29, 2021 • 34M

The Conversation is the new face of public media

Hal Crawford
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Hello everyone!

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.

The Conversation CEO Lisa Watts (supplied)

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.

Facebook is getting pummelled in the story wars

I have had a close look at The Wall Street Journal’s case against Facebook (paywall), prompted by an extensive leak of research and debate within the company: the opinion piece is here on The Spinoff. I think Facebook’s Nick Clegg is probably right when he says the facts and opinions quoted in the WSJ have been cherrypicked and misrepresent the situation inside Facebook. 

On the other hand, the articles do surface big problems that extend beyond just one company. How do we regulate social media to moderate the drive for engagement, reduce social division, and harden our pathetic cognitive and societal defences against manipulation?

There’s no point whining about Facebook if we don’t have the first idea what we would change to make it better.

Have a great week,


The Crawford Media podcast music is”Ethernight Club” by Kevin MacLeod (, licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License