03/07/2007 - 22:00

A different spin on web words

03/07/2007 - 22:00


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Spin just ain’t what it used to be. Perhaps it’s the boom. Perhaps it’s incompetence. Perhaps it’s the internet. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that quality in the black art of public relations, or ‘spin doctoring’, is in decline.

Governments were once the best practitioners of spin, spending taxpayers’ money to convince taxpayers they were doing such a good job that even more taxes needed to be raised to pay for more spin.

While business was slow to catch on, it has become much busier lately as the stock market peaks and it becomes harder to be heard against the background noise of an extra 200 (and more) companies listed on the exchange.

What triggered these thoughts about the decline of spin is the appalling standard of media statements from government and companies, and the rise of the gibberish called blogging.

Let’s start with a sample of the latest media statements from ASX-listed companies, and while reading the headlines, ask “who cares”?

Avalon Minerals Ltd told us last week that it was planning an airborne survey of a mining claim. In other words, it’s going to fly a plane over one of its tenements. Who cares?

Queensland Ores Ltd rushed to inform the world that it had signed a native title agreement at its Wolfram Camp project. Wow, hold the press.

Hillgrove Resources Ltd and Rox Resources Ltd reported that they had started drilling programs, when all anybody cares about is the result, not the fact that a rig has moved on site.

Central Petroleum Ltd believes we need to know that it has awarded a project management contract for drilling services. Perhaps it’ll tell us next that it ordered a new packet of pencils.

And the best of all, drug development company pSivida Ltd told the world it had signed an evaluation agreement with an “undisclosed” medical device company to extend a previous agreement “with the same medical device company”. Good grief. A deal, about which we know nothing, with a company that’s not named.

Now for government, as seen through a single day (Wednesday June 27) when 16 media statements were issued, or an average of two per working hour.

First came news that a block of land near the iron ore town of Tom Price would be released for sale to a tourism operator. Yes, one block in one country town required a joint statement from two ministers.

Later came a statement about a $34,000 grant for a man developing roof top windmills to generate electricity.

This was followed by news of a $33,000 grant for an “art space” at an Aboriginal community – surely code for tarting up an old shed.

This was followed by a statement about celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the Canning Stock Route.

Small beer is one way of describing these statements, each designed to create the impression of a busy government.

A waste of time and money is another, because all they really represent is a government going about its business, which most of us can do without feeling the need to issue a media statement.


This leads us to blogging, the inane business of writing a daily log about random thoughts and actions, and posting it on the internet for the world to share.

In some ways, blogging is an extension of talkback radio, sort of backyard gossip on steroids.

As far as Briefcase can see, most blogs are written by people we don’t know, about subjects we care even less about, with little attempt to actually tell the truth.

It’s this final point about truth that is likely to lead to the death of blogging, if not through community disinterest in the idle rambles of inconsequential people, then through a few high-priced legal actions as bloggers overstep the laws of libel.

In time, blogging might boil down to an acceptable form of new media, with talented writers emerging and original ideas finding a new way of being aired.

The challenge, as it is with so much of the internet, is sorting the good from the bad, and separating dinkum contributions from the spin of vested interests.


Now for something completely different. The return of gold bugs, and the possibility that gold might be the next new thing (again).

Over the past few months, a number of companies have emerged as gold asset consolidators.

Monarch Gold Mining Company Ltd has snapped up three gold assets (Minjar, Mt Ida and Davyhurst).

Apex Minerals NL has gone for four (Wiluna, Gidgee, Aphrodite and Youanmi).

St Barbara Ltd has acquired the Sons of Gwalia gold assets and bought a strategic interest in Bendigo Mining Ltd.

Lihir Gold Ltd has bought a controlling interest in Ballarat Goldfields.

On their own, and each suite of deals is relatively insignificant in a world inundated with billion dollar iron ore, petroleum, and nickel developments.

Taken collectively, a pattern can be seen emerging, as true believers in gold gather for their next big push, aided substantially by the steady decline in value of the US dollar.

Briefcase is not suggesting everyone rushes out and buy gold shares. But it might be a forgotten sector of the mining industry ready for a revival.


As a final thought in this week’s blog (sorry, well-structured column), there was a fascinating graph published recently in The Economist newspaper which tracked the pattern of past boom markets.

Four booms, under a heading of “bubble guide” were tracked. The tech-market of 1995 to 2003, the Japanese market of 1984 to 1992, the Dow Jones of 1924 to 1932, and the China boom of 2002 to now.

Size was the focus of the examination, and on that score, the tech-boom won handsomely as the mother of all bubbles.

Time, however, is what caught the eye of Briefcase because the run-up period of each of the booms was almost exactly six years, before decline-or-crash followed. Given that our current boom has been running for five years, it certainly makes next year look rather interesting.


 “One of the funny things about the stock market is that every time one man buys, another sells, and both think they are astute.” William Feather


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