Friendly Jordies: friend or foe to media journalism? | radioinfo

Friendly Jordies: friend or foe to media journalism?

Saturday 14 November, 2020

Jordan Shanks, better known as FriendlyJordies, is a satirist, a self taught cross media reporter and a heavy hitting political influencer.

On his Youtube account (470k subscribers), he has a bigger audience than former 2GB breakfast presenter Alan Jones (430k cume) or 3AW morning host Neil Mitchell (380k cume). His influence, particularly on young voters, is thought to be significant. He also presents regular podcasts and has a website to promote his views and merchandise.

He came to mainstream prominence for his #KoalaKiller campaign against John Barilaro, but he has been around for much longer than that and has been slowly gathering audience and influence.

Is Jordie the next generation of political media commentator, or just a wanna-be media star with an axe to grind? Paraphrasing Monty Python, is he the messiah or just a naughty boy?

We would have loved to ask Jordan that question, but he did not get back to us on radioinfo’s request for interview via his website contact form. We left it for two weeks to give him enough time to respond, but he didn’t, and there are no direct contacts on his website.

As regular readers of radioinfo will know, we value a range of opinions and try to publish all sides of the issues we cover. We also regularly discuss emerging trends in media, especially journalism. We think Jordan’s style is worth discussion.

When we started to canvass opinion about Jordan we were warned that others who had written about him had been viciously trolled online and personally harassed as a result of their articles. One poor News Limited journo was skewered by the ‘gatekeeper’ when he rang for an interview. We decided to take the chance.
 

Jordan’s influence is twofold. He has a large audience and he is influential with young voters, a segment that many political parties find difficult to engage with and mobilise. He can’t be ignored.

So let’s look at his audience and his style.

The anchor point of FriendlyJordies is his website, but that is only the gateway to where his influence really lies.

His Youtube channel is where the audience is, last month he got about 4 million views on the 15 videos he published. The least viewed video had about 119,000 viewers and the most viewed video about NSW National Party leader John Barilaro, had over 530,000 views.

He operates social media accounts as well, but Instagram and Twitter don’t really rate for him. His Facebook account has about 300,000 followers and the most popular videos posted there regularly get up to 200,000 views.

He also has a podcast, we will come back to that later.

We asked some social media monetisation analysts about the money he could be making from these numbers and they estimated it could be between $10,000 to $20,000 per month from Youtube, but all were at pains to point out that payment varies wildly from month to month depending on the price per thousand clicks (CPM) that day and how many ads are in the videos. Youtube likes you to make monetizable videos that are longer than 10 minutes, so that it can insert more than one ad in each video.

Most of Shanks’ Youtube videos are over 10 minutes and the ones we watched have at least two or three ads in them. He began his Youtube channel with short 4 min comedy sketches about 7 years ago, but moved to longer more political content about a year later.

We don’t know if he also makes money from other sources, such as political party donations or other support. We do know, from listening to his podcasts, that he lives in a share house and considers he does not have much money. He also has a small production team who help him make the videos and podcasts, so we presume he pays them something out of whatever he earns.

Jordan’s political position is clear, he is a Labor party supporter and Kevin Rudd is his favourite Labor PM. In his podcasts, he regularly talks as though he is a supporter or member of the Labor party: “If we could get Kevin Rudd back as Prime Minister we would …” Nothing wrong with that, we live in a free society where people can hold political views and espouse them enthusiastically.

The comparison between Shanks and Alan Jones is interesting to consider. Alan Jones’ wielded influence over NSW and Federal politics for decades in his radio show by mobilising his mostly older listeners. Jordan Shanks exerts influence via the new media platform of Youtube to younger voters.

His biggest political achievement is his #KoalaKiller campaign against John Barilaro, who he has mercilessly criticised, including with racist jibes, stereotyped Italian accents and graphics. Figures obtained by radioinfo show that Jordie’s social media accounts boomed when he hit on this topic, increasing his social media reach by over 70% and scoring several top trending hashtags.


 

Jordan blurs the lines between reporting, satire and pranks. Press Gallery reporters at NSW Parliament told us last week about one of Shanks’ team, known as the 'Gatekeeper,' crashing one of Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s regular press conferences, asking questions by addressing her as Mrs Maguire, a reference to her disgraced secret lover Daryl Maguire. It’s funny, but does it belong in a serious press conference?

Our informant told radioinfo:

I was at a press conference with the Premier. A 'journalist' connected with Friendly Jordies asked the Premier a series of questions in a very aggressive way, even referring to her as Mrs Magurie. He somehow got into the press conference through a back door half way through the conference, which usually isn't allowed by security… The guy was completely out of line. Fair to ask hard questions, but his rudeness crossed the line.”

So, is Jordie a serious journalist?

He has influence, he covers important topics and he spends time researching his stories.

One NSW politician, who was criticised for doing an interview with Shanks, said “nobody else was interested in this story, why shouldn’t I talk to him,” after he took the trouble to go and interview the politician. It raises the question whether state parliament reporters are too jaded or too busy to chase stories that are out of the mainstream, while someone like Shanks makes the effort.

A political observer we spoke to for this story commented on the shrinking cohort of journalists now covering state parliament compared with the past, due to redundancies, cut backs and mergers. If mainstream broadcasters and publishers are abandoning parliamentary coverage, is it leaving a vacuum for new style reporters to step in?

We collected the views of a range of 20 something year olds who had been watching FriendlyJordies videos for more than a year. While they could see some faults in Shanks’ approach, there was general consensus on why they watch. “He explains politics in a way that no one else does… I can see behind the smokescreen of daily bullsh*t news clips,” said one, which sums up the view of most of the 20 somethings we spoke to.

 

So what do mainstream news people think of Shanks and his methods?

Frank Bonaccorsso, News Editor of the community radio sector’s National Radio News service, told radioinfo:

"Is he the next generation of political commentator? Maybe.

"He's certainly tapping into a demographic 'void' hitherto filled by organisations like GetUp. 

"Much commentary has been devoted to the proliferation of 'right-wing' commentary in Australia. The conclusion being, Friendly Jordies is fulfilling a 'noble service' in filling the perceived void through sheer political conviction, OR, he's simply a savvy observer who sees a market in a YouTube left-wing outlet.

"Is he inventing a new type of current affairs analysis for the social media generation? That's the key. A cursory glance at some of his YouTube posts suggests Friendly Jordies is attracting masses of eyeballs with his polarising message. No prizes for guessing what side his bread is buttered, but he seems to have found a way to filter his message to the world and turn a profit at the same time. My impression is that he's taken a marketable commodity (left-wing views for Generation Millennial) and taken it to a stage hitherto largely occupied by right-wing commentators.

"Is it a good thing for political viewpoint balance if taken as an 'all of media' viewpoint? Definitely. And it all comes down to choice.

"If consumers know there's a viable, left-wing reactionary outlet to the staple of well-established conservative views out there, then they're likely to tune-in, if not for balance, then for the shock value. You'd be living under a rock to think that the views expressed on 'Late Night Sky' and other conservative outlets weren't promulgated for their ability to shock or create instant reaction. Jordies seems to have borrowed the shock equation used heavily on platforms like Sky and 2GB and turned that into an outlet for left-wing consumers. The news-on-demand phenomenon of the 21st Century has created an industry where the message can be brief and polarising and still appeal to wide segments of the community.

"Substance seems to have taken a backseat to instinct in the age of the 24 hour news cycle. And with the breakdown of that cycle into digestible, bite-sized chunks of information, the climate is there for someone with hitherto little-espoused views, to fill a perceived vacuum. That vacuum seems to have been filled to choking point on the right of politics but, apart from groups like GetUp, little has been done to fill the perceived void on the left. The concept is not new, but it's rarely been used for a left-wing platform. As I say I think Jordies has deliberately tapped into a void craved by left-thinking millennials and his efforts are there to see on his page ratings."

Clinton Maynard, Nine Radio’s senior news reporter and a former talk presenter and news editor takes this view:

"There is no doubt the next generation of commentators will utilise 'new' media and be multi platform. I don't think traditional news talk radio is going to disappear as a platform for political commentary because still nothing can match it for live interaction. Certainly publishing via You Tube, podcast and social media allows anyone to profess to be a political commentator whether they have credentials or not. He is using a 2020 platform but I don't think it is a new style of analysis. Satire has existed since the day dot. Plenty of people in 'traditional' media over the years have provided 'non traditional' style commentary."

We asked some questions to Clinton Maynard, who readily admits that he does not watch Shanks’ content, about the issues raised around Shanks’ methods:

His Youtube channel has about the same number of subscribers as Alan Jones' 2GB breakfast audience. Jordie 457K subscribers, Jones (Survey 1/20 cumes) 431K listeners. Is it comparable?

"I doubt it. Attention spans for You Tube viewers are shorter than those who listen to talk radio. Just because anyone can post a 10 minutes video doesn't mean subscribers are watching the whole thing. Talk radio thrives because of extraordinary T.S.L and listener engagement."

Have long standing responsible media companies (newspapers, tv, radio) abandoned state political reporting and left the field wide open to others? How many reporters are there in the NSW Press Gallery now compared with ten years ago?

"No they haven't abandoned State political reporting. All major news outlets have a presence in the New South Wales Press Gallery, however clearly the mainstream media itself has consolidated. I report on all major news stories for Nine Radio/2GB while being based in our Macquarie Street studio. I am the only radio reporter covering State Politics whereas previously when I reported on State Politics more than a decade ago 2GB, 2UE, the ABC, Nova, and ARN had dedicated parliament based reporters. However all TV networks and newspapers have a daily presence. Radio is the main area of consolidation."

Did reporters not realise his influence in the Koala issue. It seemed that they were all surprised that this issue 'came out of nowhere.'


"The New South Wales Opposition leader had made reference to her interview with him earlier in the year in regards to Koalas, so it was known even before his John Barilaro stunt. I don't think he had an influence in making the Koalas an issue. The National Party made it an issue."

He is left wing, while Alan Jones is right wing. Is it a good thing for political viewpoint balance if taken as an 'all of media' viewpoint?

"I think the media needs to move on from type-casting commentators and outlets as 'left' or 'right' wing. For instance if people listen closely to 2GB and other Nine stations they will hear a range of views, not only from callers but also presenters. Despite perceptions, that has been the case for years. Alan himself has expressed many views over the years that can be classed as from either perspective. As a fill in presenter on the station no one has even instructed me to express a 'right wing' or 'left wing' view. The station employs presenters to express their own view and increasingly they are varied."

We also asked smooth fm News Editor Glenn Daniel about his views on Shanks:

"Yes, he is the next generation, but the social media world doesn’t guarantee old media style longevity without continuous variety, refreshment and change. This will be the test for him.

"It’s not necessarily a ‘new type of current affairs’ but total control of the content and delivery gives him a freedom not afforded to those in mainstream media. His style is very similar to recent decades of AM Radio talk show hosts presenting an argument, but the narrative is more colourful through language, use of video and none of the time constraints of free-to-air media. The direct communication/relationship with his target audience is very similar to the intimacy of radio but taken to a new level. He can rant but also balance with humour.

"Audience numbers are comparable, but the reach and potential for growth in this format is extraordinary. Youtube is the chosen platform for many Under30’s who would never listen to AM radio and may not know how to or what it is. Jordan, like many businesses, organisations, schools, universities etc has realised the power of being the ‘publisher’ of content, no longer reliant on the decisions, schedules, interest and constraints of mainstream media. There are no boundaries, with his views and opinions available anywhere in the world to a target audience who are watching, listening and more importantly interacting."

On the subject of media abandoning coverage of State Politics, Glenn Daniel has this to say:

"Newspapers and TV still have a bureau at State Parliament, but many journalists are sharing the duties with other city rounds. Nine Entertainment stations and the ABC also have a presence at State Parliament but it’s likely to be a base for multiple reporting roles... Courts, Police, general rounds etc.  For most radio networks a dedicated reporter at Parliament is a luxury they can no longer afford. The accessibility of Premiers, Ministers, Opposition MP’s etc by phone and the availability of live TV media conferences and interviews means it’s no longer the crisis it used to be."

"Jordan denies he’s left wing but there’s an obvious Labor preference as seen by his opinions and interviews. His dissection of LNP Governments and Ministers is brutal, emotional and coloured with language only social media affords. It’s Twitter on video! From an ‘all of media’ viewpoint it’s part of a broad spectrum of views and a counter to the after dark menu offered by Sky News or many commercial AM radio talk hosts.  A sector of the radio industry would entertain a personality like this. It’s the ‘Kyle Sandilands market.’ A live, free-to-air radio show would need strong oversight by an Executive Producer and Content Director who understand the Broadcast Industry laws and obligations and could have the final say. Those restrictions and surrendering control would be the very reason Jordan wouldn’t go there. Why play by someone else’s rules when he can play by his own?"

Senior Executive Office at the Judith Nielsen Institute for Journalism, Prue Clarke, thinks Jordan is part of a trend pioneered by other mavericks elsewhere in the world:

“This is a good topic. I think Australia is a long way behind in these conversations.

“What’s the difference between this and Matt Taibbi or Andrew Sullivan with their new newsletters or the Pod Save America podcasts? Or even social media influencers? Or John Oliver/John Stewart? The Chaser?

“Lots of smart entrepreneurial commentators are finding new audiences through new technology. Traditional news media – especially in Australia – has never tried hard to reach young audiences. Maybe they should. They’re clearly interested.”

Media educator, former AFTRS Director of Radio and founding editor of this publication, Steve Ahern is in two minds about Shanks:

“I have a range of opinions on his work, which vary from sloppy rambling podcasts, funny video satirical pieces, amusing stand up comedy, serious investigative reports and tightly produced political opinion pieces. He is interesting because he has gathered a large online audience for his work and is increasingly influential in NSW politics.

“I vacillate between thinking he is the new future of journalism and just an ill-informed, partisan political activist.

“In his pre-produced video pieces, he has obviously taken time to research, plan and edit the material, but I despair about his rambling unstructured podcasts. The unresearched nonsense he talks with his friends is the worst of bad podcasting. Ideas come off the top of their heads and sprout into life as firm opinions, when they are really based on nothing more than half remembered snippets of inaccurate information from unsourced websites. It is sloppy journalism and/or unfunny attempted spontaneous comedy at its worst.

“If he is taking his lead from Joe Rogan, he should remember that Rogan has two kinds of podcasts, one which is equally sloppy, unstructured, rambling spur-of-the-moment dialog like this, but the other is when he interviews truly interesting and thoughtful people who have something worthwhile to say. Those are the podcasts that get the most hits, not his rambling ones.

“This is not a spur of the moment opinion from me. I have now listened to many hours of his podcasts to form this opinion, that’s time in my life I will never get back again!”

 

One of Shank’s most interesting investigative reports is a raw, self-taught piece of ‘investigative journalism’ where he alleges corruption in John Barilaro’s rural electorate. He interviews apparent eye witnesses who tell tales of pork barrelling and alleged corruption. We won’t embed it here because we think it has at least one defamation in it, but you can watch it on the unregulated Youtube platform if you want to make a judgement for yourself. 

There are many problems with the report, including unstable camera work, unnecessary use of fish eye lens, excessive panning, poor location audio (needs lapel mics), badly framed shots, sloppy editing and a range of other technical issues. However, he does what a good investigative journalist should do, he goes to the sources, lets them tell their story and appears to have followed up to get substantiation of what he has been told. There is, however, very little balance in the report, which appears not to have sought the same amount of opposing views.

At one point in his report the talent says he went to the ABC to tell his story about allegations of local council "corruption" and was turned away, despite, on the face of it, having a good story to tell.

One highly experienced journalist we asked for an opinion told us she stopped watching the video after 1 minute 40 seconds because she thought he was unethical. The interview subject alleged that there was harmful waste on his property that made his baby sick, but that was many years ago. Jordan Shanks showed that kid, now presumably aged more than five years old, sitting on the toilet crying. “This is just not ethical, it is manipulating the pictures for emotional effect, I couldn’t watch any more,” she said.

As we puzzle whether to treat Shanks as a journalist, commentator, ratbag, lobbyist, or all of the above, we should examine journalistic craft skills for more guidance. Does he validate information with more than one credible acknowledged source? Does he seek more than one viewpoint to include in the story? Does he separate facts from spin, untruths and fiction? Are his motives in the public interest? Does he respect defamation laws?

But it can't be all one-sided. Shanks is entitled to have his position put too. His views on mainstream media are similar to Donald Trump and American commentator Alex Jones. He thinks mainstream media is hiding the real issues to protect the rich and powerful and to maintain the status quo for personal gain or profit. He outlines his views clearly in a video posted on his donations webpage.

Prue Clarke is right, Shanks is worth talking about because he is doing something different, and it is getting traction.

Feel free to share your views on FriendlyJordies in the Post Comments box below or on our social platforms. We think Jordan is an interesting phenomenon and worth further discussion as the media industry reinvents the future of journalism.


 

 
 
 

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6 Comments

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Dave
15 November 2020 - 10:17pm
Several mistakes and you
didn't talk to Jordan or Marcus Paul
from 2SM .
Jordan regularly appears on Marcus Paul
In The Morning Show.

Many Friendlyjordies fans have become
ardent Marcus Paul supporters.
Many 2SM social media postings have Friendlyjordies
fans using the #KingPrawn to show support
Marcus Paul .
Reader
16 November 2020 - 9:53am
Friendly Jordies 'Gatekeeper' posted this on twitter today:

I am quitting Friendlyjordies

It is with sadness, but also frustration and relief, that I am resigning from my position at Friendlyjordies. I have been a part of the Friendlyjordies team since the beginning of 2019 and since then I feel I have contributed much to the growth and success that we have had on our podcast as well as helped build a community of people who all stand behind the common goal of bringing Australia away from the direction we are heading.

However the continual and ongoing handling of controversies; both past and present, internally and externally, has driven me to part ways with the team and the show. I feel I cannot continue to work on and support Friendlyjordies in good conscious. Somewhere along the way the channel and the show that I once loved lost it's way and I cannot continue to help spread a message that I no longer wholeheartedly believe in. I joined this team as a way of feeling like I was helping to contribute positively to society in someway; unfortunately I question whether or not that is the case anymore.

I wish the boys the best of luck with their future endeavors and hope that the work of Friendlyjordies ends up being a net positive in the long run.
Anthony The Koala
16 November 2020 - 12:39pm
Three points.

First, social media may well be a way to build a network of loyal listeners to a main terrestrial broadcast such as Marcus Paul's breakfast program on 2SM. From the comments, the podcaster builds a network on social media, but is also heard on broadcast radio. There may well be other intelligent speakers who develop a social media profile and end up being heard on broadcast radio.

Social media may well be a less expensive way to promote the main broadcasting station.

Unfortunately for 2SM there is no reliable measure in the ratings system since 2SM's statistics may be convoluted with the "other radio" which is currently 16%.

Two, why do all the commentators have to be male? I'm not talking about the "serious" female broadcasters such as PK or Fran or Amanda on RN, or Cassie (1000) or Susan (1900) on 2BL (702ABC) or Deborah on 2GB. Why isn't there a space for a female presenter with her own program in the style of a Stan Zemanek or Alan Jones who takes on a particular political narrative with her forthright views?

Third, on the other hand, commentators in general are neither investigative reporters and have had little influence in major national infrastructure even if the commentator has the 'ear' of the major decision makers. For example despite Alan Jones' crusade for more coal-fired power stations and an implementation of Dr Bradfield's re-direction of water from Northern Queensland, none have been implemented, despite the PM Scott Morrison appearing on Alan's program.

In sum, social media may well be a less expensive way of building a broadcaster's profile compared to advertising. Unfortunately, 2SM does not participate in the ratings, and counts amongst the 16% of the audience listening to 'other stations'. While we have 'serious' broadcasters such as Fran, PK, Amanda, Susan and Deborah, we need to hear more opinionated female broadcasters in the style of Stan Zemanek or Alan Jones.

On the other hand, commentators are not investigative reporters, and unfortunately, despite the good intentions of the broadcaster even crusading for major infrastructure programs, have not been able to realise their vision.

Thank you,
Anthony of exciting Belfield
DeanO
17 November 2020 - 12:48am
I commend your efforts and articles. In this case however, I believe there to be a major omission and that in relation to the efforts of Marcus Paul in relation to this story. Whilst 2GB is mentioned several times, the one fellow who has Friendly Jordies on his innovative breakfast programme seems to have not received a mention. Not sure if you were unaware of this or simply chose to leave it out and, if so, for what reason? In any case I commend Marcus for inviting a wide range of guests, with multiple views and from a wide range of platforms onto this programs. I find it invigorating that a younger audience is finding talk back radio and is being exposed to multiple points of view (which is increasingly rare in the media) and that some are making this happen. Well done, Marcus.
Dean Mackin
Anthony The Koala
17 November 2020 - 2:27pm
Dear Deano,
You had a great program when your were on 2SM. You too accepted speakers whose views may or may not necessarily agree with you. You complied with the law in not defaming or hurting anyone, but management were unwise take you off the air because of a particular narrative.

By saying this It does not mean I agree with everything you said. Whatever your views, you stimulated discussion. It's a pity that the weekend afternoons on 2SM was inconsistent (I've said this elsewhere) with sports one week or two weeks then one or two weeks of talk.

It is unfortunate that commentators whether they are Alan Jones, Eric Baume, Ormsby Wilkins, John Tingle and you and the 'wisdom' of the talkback callers have not been able to influence the major policy decisions such as major infrastructure projects as coal-fired power stations and directing the waters from Northern Queensland. On top of that, even when NSW had the 3x3 petrol levy in the late 1980s until the introduction of the GST in 2000 no freeways were built with the 3x3 levy except tollways: answer 3491, page 20, https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/la/papers/Documents/2008/5-august-2008-questions-and-answers/082-QA-S.pdf No freeways were built with the 3x3.

I hope Deano that you make a return to the air,

Thank you,
Anthony of exciting Belfield
EDITOR
18 November 2020 - 5:47pm
Deano and Dave,

Thanks for your comments. We will get some views from Marcus at 2SM for a follow up report.
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