Kim Dotcom’s mega media circus

In a clear sign of self-awareness about his position in the New Zealand media landscape, Kim Dotcom admits to something many in the country have been thinking for some time. Dotcom says he has over saturated the New Zealand media, this statement coming at the end of his flamboyant launch event for Mega.co.nz yesterday, attended by more than 250 journalists, guests, supporters, and millions of online viewers.

“I think I have too much exposure in the New Zealand media,” says Dotcom.

“If I’m getting sick of seeing me on TV, how must New Zealanders feel?”

Dotcom says he’s spent an unhealthy amount of time in front of the spotlight since his dramatic arrest a year ago, adding he doesn’t want the New Zealand public to think he was manipulating the media to advance his own causes.

The next time we hear from him will likely be during his extradition hearing in August, he says.

This admission came at the perfect time, right at the end of a successful technology launch event. Sure the new Mega was wheedled for several hours from the throng of people trying to sign up to the cloud locker service, but with more than 500,000 registered users in its first 14 hours, we can afford Dotcom and his team a modicum of success (no official word on how many of those users are actually paying for services yet).

No doubt, a large amount of Mega’s initial popularity will be because of the incredible media coverage Dotcom has enjoyed since January 20, 2012. Without the media there would be no Mega, and Dotcom has played us better than he plays Modern Warfare 3 on the Xbox.

In the media circus, Dotcom is a talented ringmaster. 

At around 8:30pm last night, the Mega launch event kicked off with a performance from Tiki Taane, a kapa haka group, and a cameo from some of Dotcom’s Mega Christmas co-stars. 

Dotcom took to the stage with a group of attractive women dressed in military garb, and gave a speech about his extradition trial, the state of the internet and privacy, and revealed more details Mega and future Mega products. 

This speech was interrupted by the whirring blades of a black helicopter with the word “FBI” humorously painted on its side, a tribute to the dramatic raid on Dotcom’s property last year. Actors playing FBI agents abseiled down the walls of the Dotcom mansion, before storming the stage, at which point Dotcom shouted for everyone to stop.

“Let’s be friends,” shouted Dotcom.

Then everyone, including the FBI agents and the catering team, broke into spontaneous dance to the sound of Party Amplifier, one of Dotcom’s own songs.

In this surreal moment, I cursed the internet gods for my poor 3G connection. I wanted to tweet the hell out of everything I was seeing. I saw similar looks of frustration and amusement on the faces of media sitting around me. Flashes, strobes, and a flurry of photographers told me this was going to be an important part of many news stories tomorrow.

Yes, Dotcom does manipulate the media by providing a good show. 

Is Dotcom using the media, or are we using him? 

Just because Dotcom is entertaining (at times cringeworthingly) it doesn’t mean what he brings to the table is any less important.

In between stories of poolside shenanigans, ice cream give aways, and massive aquariums, there are stories about government oversight, the effect of copyright on New Zealanders, and the preparedness of New Zealand’s internet infrastructure to support new technology businesses. 

Unfortunately, these latter stories are often much less popular with readers than the former. Doing investigative journalism just isn’t profitable. Most of news media is still ad-supported, and what doesn’t get viewers quickly gets trimmed in “restructuring exercises”.  

CNN, which at one time was the leader in broadcast investigations, has disbanded its investigative journalism unit because it’s not a profit centre – what hope is there for New Zealand outfits? Would we have had great stories from the likes of NZ Herald’s David Fisher about the GCSB, John Banks, and international hands in our justice system, if there there wasn’t also interest drummed up from the circus surrounding Dotcom, the raid, and his mansion? 

With Dotcom’s grandiose escapades, and perhaps even more so character, readers are drawn into conversations about these important issues. They might find him entertaining, embarassing, or infuriating, but these emotions act as an important catalyst to start conversations on some very important subjects.

Dotcom says he’s stepping down from the New Zealand media spotlight because he doesn’t want the public to think he’s using us, but I say are we ready to stop using him?

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