There was many a line in this that caught my eye; most of which can be saved for another day.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/apr/23/bbc.pressandpublishing

It was Myners’ line right at the end, however, that maybe deserves some thought – the bit where he suggests that, when it comes to the regional press “there will be continuing pressure for consolidation of ownership to bring scale…”

We have been down this road a little before; in wondering just how Trinity Mirror’s excellent local community web-sites in Teesside – soon coming to a Coventry suburb near you – can be made to work in downtown Loddon.

It clearly can be made to work in Loddon; the question is whether or not it will be the Trinity-Mirror model that winds it’s way over the bridge from Chedgrave and up the High Street – or the Archant one. They are, of course, only ten miles up the road in Norwich and have, therefore, rather less of a trek to get here.

But Myners is clearly merely repeating what every regional newspaper executive knows; that to make their numbers work – to get that old, newsprint quart to fit in a web pint pot, they are going to have to get hold of some more pint pots… to give themselves scale, as Myners observes.

Now, I am no economist. But right now, with their share prices already halved and the credit crunch just starting to bite, who on earth has got any appetite whatsoever to consolidate the UK regional newspaper industry to the kind of scale that – in every likelihood – is now required must be something of a moot point.

Newsprint quart into a web pint pot and all that… how many pint pots are you going to need to make your scale viable in an age where, as Clay Shirky pointed out, traditional geographical constraints on our behaviour are flying out of the nearest window?

Does ‘scale’ entail a quantum mass that is numbers-only? Is that where advertising-heaven lies? In numbers? ‘Look, we have 22 million uniques… six million here, four over there, 200,000 down here…

But what if advertisers are looking for a scale that is more than just a patch-work quilt of numbers; more than pockets of influence? What if they want to hit every nook and crannie in the land?

Perhaps scale can come with ‘ownership’ of one of the four corners of this green and pleasant land… that Trinity Mirror and Northcliffe will sit down together and swap your Birmingham for our Bristol, our Cardiff for your Leicester, and so on…

Perhaps. But it seems unlikely. After all – and this is where I repeat that I’m no economist – but I presume that the wheels of any such consolidation process would need to be greased by large dollops of funding.

You sense that the markets have already delivered their verdict on newspaper stocks; the fact that the Birmingham Evening Mail didn’t exactly have people flocking to Trinity Mirror’s door might be further proof that whilst picking off the odd weekly here, the little free paper there might still be a possibility, the whole-scale reorganisation of the UK provincial newspaper industry looks one mountain that people have neither the will – nor increasingly the simple wherewithal – to climb.

Where that leaves us all is the next moot point. Under pressure, was Myners’ opinion.

In desperate need of starting from scratch, starting all over again from a blank piece of paper would be mine.

 

 

It’s funny how you start to view your own daily, professional life through the eyes of this blog.

That, every now and again, a penny that’s dropped in theory, drops in practice. It did so again this afternoon in the unlikely surroundings of Archbishop Sancroft High School in Harleston. Why any of us were there in a mo; first to retrace our steps – or rather re-enter the ‘Who, exactly, is a journalist?’ fray and why, to my mind, Mayhill Fowler isn’t.

Who is Ms Fowler? Her moment of blog fame arrived last week and was siezed upon by Jay Rosen, among others, as a shining example of the new world order.

Neil McIntosh provides a good an entry point as any; albeit I would take issue with the headline. Who is and who isn’t a journalist these days is a question that is fundamental to our survival; for we, as journalists, have to prove our value…

Ms Fowler proved her value once; we need to do it regularly. So it does matter. Boy, does it matter…

http://www.completetosh.com/weblog/2008/04/17/whos-a-journalist-whos-not-and-why-it-doesnt-really-matter-anyway/

All of which clearly touched upon the issues raised here…

http://outwithabang.wordpress.com/2008/04/09/here-comes-everbody-and-before-they-do-we-better-define-for-once-just-what-makes-us-as-journalists-different/

In which, we threw a new definition of journalism into the ring – that it was simply someone who enjoyed regular access to a near-private conversation… that one-hit wonders (and, fair play to Ms Fowler, it was a formidable ‘hit’) are citizen writers, not citizen journalists…

Anyway, it being mid-week, there being no Tuesday night game and media being scarce, the call goes out from the Norwich City Press office – that Messrs D Huckerby (yep, him again…) and A Drury were bound for Archbishop Sancroft High School for a Q&A with the kids in the company of Stephanie Moore, the widow of England World Cup skipper, Bobby…

That the Bobby Moore Fund was the chosen charity of the retiring head-master; that the two Canary footballers had agreed to help promote cancer awareness and, ahead of said Q&A, would be doing interviews with the Press.

OK, so far, so parochial. But, to my mind, parochial is where we’re all going.

Because there are a number of aspects to this whole, homely tale of life on the Norfolk football front-line that ought to resonate further.

The original invite to the Press came not from Norwich City, but from the school. They issued a Press release. To the Press. You had to then phone up the headmaster’s secretary to say who you were, who you worked for and whether or not you’d be coming.

She was the ‘gate-keeper’ on this occasion; just as the desk sergeant, the court usher and the parish council clerk can be on others.

A school secretary. The quotes that we need to survive on lay beyond those school gates and she wasn’t letting anyone in… it was invite only. Indeed there, when you arrived, was a little name badge. Just to prove who you were; that you weren’t just anybody; or if you’re Mr Shirky, everybody.

The headmaster didn’t want just anyone – or everybody – talking to Ms Moore. Or our Darren.

Here’s the control point; the bottle-neck. Everybody might now have access to the means of production, but ‘a journalist’s control of regular access to a near-private conversation…’ – here it was. In deepest Harleston.

Access granted, the ‘near-private’ conversation was duly held – near-private because there was the local TV, our Chris from Radio Norfolk, the girl from the Diss Express and, of course, the lad from CanariesWorld TV.

Of course, there in the audience sat any number of giggling girls and star-struck boys – all of whom would be twittering away as they sat; mobile phone cams at the ready. A veritable army of citizen journalists? No, because they have to have ‘regular’ access to that near-private conversation.

Huckerby will next be doing conversation at the club’s training HQ at Colney on Friday morning ahead of the QPR game. Class 12J won’t be invited; besides they’ve got double domestic science at 9.30…

Now, providing I haven’t trod on too many toes, put too many noses out of joint by the ‘piece’ that we weaved later… http://norwichcity.myfootballwriter.com/full_article.asp?i=3290 … I’ll be deemed OK for another of my regular conversations with his lordship on Friday…

And, yes, you’re right. There’s a pay-back in the piece; an acknowledgement of the original invite and the favour that the school secretary did me… because there’s the headmaster’s name, there’s his school and there’s his chosen charity.

Compromised copy? Yes. It’s the price we pay; the deals we strike to get to where we need.

We journalists do that; it’s part of our trade; or rather part of our trade-off to get to our quotes, our near-private conversations.

And not ‘everybody’ can do that…

 

 

It was one of those pub stories that you never quite believed; half of me suspected that it was one of those tall tales that would be told to cub reporters, as a matter of course.

But anyway, when I first started my wood-staining career on the illustrious organ called the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald the story was that when it came to installing a sparkling new press beneath the Evening Adver’ building in Swindon Old Town, someone was despatched to Germany to bag themselves the business print press-wise.

The joke was that when it finally arrived it emerged that this new press ran – with typical German efficiency – only in a straight line; it didn’t do corners. Which was a bit of a problem – given that the old Adver’ building was of an L-shape design…

Some 20 years on and the interesting point is that print press was a couple of floors beneath us on the editorial floor; every Thursday lunchtime, we’d wander down – through the ad sales dept – and see the first edition, Devizes if memory serves, roll off said bent press. To be followed, in no particular order, by the editions for Calne, Malmesbury, Chippenham, North Wilts and Marlborough.

It was very much a ‘face-to-face’ process. You spoke to the printers; talked all things Swindon Town. Then came the delivery vans and their drivers before disappearing off into the four corners of Wiltshire where they would come ‘face-to-face’ with the newsagents.

Who would then either pass on the mighty sword of truth that was the Gazette to either their customers in the shop or the paper boys and girls charged with it’s safe delivery. Face to face to face to face to face…

It was a thought that popped into my head as I waded through Chapter 6 of Mr Shirky’s new tome, ‘Here Comes Everybody: Collective Action And Institutional Challenges’.

In it, he talks of the way that the new social tools at our disposal enpowered the Catholic laity to rise up, in effect, and challenge the existing order as the Voice Of The Faithful took to the web in their bitter spat with Cardinal Bernard F Law. To prove that it wasn’t just the Catholic voices that were being heard, the Episcopalian Church in Virginia then took it upon themselves to ‘de-locate’ to Nigeria where they found an Anglican bishop far more to their conservative liking.

In so doing, “they are challenging geography as an organizing principle for the church”.

Of course, the church isn’t the only organisation that, since time immemorial, has been organized on geographical lines. So, too, was the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald as we, as a group, went about our face-to-face business.

“In a world where group action means gathering face-to-face, people who need to act as a group should, ideally, be physically near one another.

“Now that we have ridiculously easy group forming, however, that stricture is relaxed and the result is that organizations that assume geography as a core organizing principle – even ones that have been operating that way for centuries – are now facing challenges to that previously bed-rock principle.”

I’m more than happy to give Shirky the benefit of the doubt given that his uncle lived and breathed the Richmond Daily News, but editor and priest, parish and circulation patch, laity and Gazette readers – they are all interchangeable. The message is still the same – just as the Virginians can worship in Nigeria, so the good people of Malmesbury can catch up with their friends on FaceBook, sell their kids’ toys on eBay, buy their next house on RightMove.

Neither the local church nor the local newsagents is the centre of their world any more.

MumsNet.com is an interesting one – a million-odd users every month and growing, it even made it to a speech by Tory leader David Cameron the other month: http://www.conservatives.com/tile.do?def=news.story.page&obj_id=142659&speeches=1

But there was a time when maternal guidance would be handed out on the Woman’s Page in the local evening paper; thousands of Swindon kids were probably weaned on the advice dished out by Shirley Mathias; you’d buy your second hat cot in the ‘For Sale’ classifieds; there’d be a quarter-page ad for Mothercare next to Shirley’s tales from the family front-line.

Now, it’s all there on www.mumsnet.com – mums united across the nation, smashing through one provincial newspaper parish after another as the web destroys geography as an ‘organising principle’.

Read Cameron’s speech again to the Conservative Councillors Conference in Warwickshire in February and it’s clever stuff; intuitive almost – and one or two lines might make for uncomfortable reading for local newspaper editors if local government information is, like MumsNet, about to drop its geographical constraints under any in-coming Tory Government.

“At the moment, local government bodies must provide the public with information about the services they provide, what goes on in council meetings and how councillors have voted on specific issues.

“Sure enough – you all do this. But the information isn’t published in a standardised way. Some councils use adverts in newspapers…”

Come the Revolution, brothers and sisters…

“We will turn that approach on its head. We will require local authorities to publish this information – about the services they provide, council meetings and how councillors vote – online and in a standardised format.

“That way, it can be collected and used by the public and third party groups. And this move will be accompanied by relaxing controls which force councils to pay to publish statutory notices. That way, we will actually reduce local government costs.”

And take money out of who’s hands… Oops. But that’s for another time.

The point is the ‘standardised format'; the ‘one size fits all’ approach that that entails; that there will be this nationwide network of local government information we will all be able to plug into and ‘scrape’ from – our newly-built aggregator tools at the ready. The invitation to help ourselves is clear enough.

“By standardising this data, it can be used by anyone’s website, anytime, anyplace to flag up the services you are putting on and get that information to the people who most need it…”

And will they do it through the existing patch-work quilt of papers and parishes? Or will they look to forge new alliances and new relationships, out there on the web where the eye-balls are?

“… A young parent looking for local crèche facilities. This information revolution will allow websites like mumsnet.com to flag up what is available, where and at what time and save people the bother of trawling individual websites…”

Like, you fear, that of the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald.

This afternoon, having rummaged around the back of the telephone for a very dog-eared book token, I went out and bought Clay Shirky’s new tome, ‘Here Comes Everybody – The Power Of Organizing Without Organizations’.

I haven’t finished it. I’ve dipped and dabbled; a dangerous pursuit if I was a serious reviewer. I’m not. I’m a journalist by day; a writer, by night. The only thing the two have in common is the fact that, with either hat on, I employ the same means of distribution. You read both on a screen. I don’t stain wood.

Otherwise, the two – journalist and writer – are pretty much chalk and cheese. One delivers conversation, the other comment. And while the distinction between the two may, on occasion, blur with my journalistic hat on; with my writer ‘Out With A Bang’ hat on, it is black and white.

I don’t do conversation. There’s no two-way interaction here. This is me just shouting my mouth off, little more. Half the time there’s no-one out there anyway.

And as I read Chapter Three: Everyone Is A Media Outlet and Shirky’s difficulty in defining just what is a journalist in this digital age, that’s the thought that crossed my mind – that a journalist is simply someone with regular access to a near-private conversation.

Near-private because that ‘conversation’ could come in the form of a Press conference; and if that Press conference is beamed – or, rather, web-cast – live to the world, then the ‘near-private’ conversation is the one that you have in hushed tones once the cameras stop rolling; the little look that crosses one party’s face as his aides usher him hurriedly out of the room. Aimed at the right journalist with the right interpretative skills, that is a ‘conversation’ of the highest order. But it needs skills.

And here’s the other key ingredient, that conversation is ‘regular’ – that it is part of a journalist’s trade-craft to be able to have and to hold a conversation with a contact and then, story written and published, to still be able to have a conversation with that same contact. To keep him or her sufficiently ‘onside’, that they are still there the next time you need a Page 6 lead in a hurry.

And that, likewise, is a skill.

Interestingly, you could argue that it is a skill that is more finely-honed and appreciated in a local journalist than it is in a national journalist; that the latter can drop in, do an interview, cane the person concerned and never have to worry about darkening their door-step again.

Work the local beat and there’s a far finer level of diplomacy required to push the story to it’s natural ‘limits’ and still be welcome back on that person’s door-step. Or on their mobile phone.

Of course, there will be occasions where – even on that local beat – the story is of sufficient import that bridges have to be burnt; ties cut; relations severed. But it is a judgement call; a skill; a craft.

And not everybody can do it.

And that’s my point – I can wield a bread knife with the best of them; doesn’t make me a brain surgeon. Just because I can tap a keyboard and publish to the waiting world-wide web, doesn’t make me a journalist. Can make me a very good writer; a hugely influential ‘blogger’, but doesn’t make me a journalist.

And, for me, there’s value in that distinction that Shirky over-looks. In 90% of what he says, fine. Spot on.

A newspaper’s control of the means of distribution has gone.

A journalist’s control of regular access to a near-private conversation? Nope, that’s still there – that’s the ‘scarcity’ that he misses.

“Most professions exist because there is a scarce resource that requires on-going management…’

The ‘scarce resource’ is the invite to the near-private conversation. But he’s spot on about that needing ‘on-going management’. It’s called Ex’s. Or lunch. Or a drink at the bar round the corner.

“It used to be hard to move words, images, and sounds from creator to consumer and most media businesses involve expensive management of the pipeline problem, whether running a printing press or a record label…

“…Now though the problems of production, reproduction and distribution are much less serious. As a consequence, control over the media is less completely in the hands of the professionals.”

Fine. But for everybody else out there, the problems of access to that near-private conversation are, arguably, just as serious as they ever have been.

I would argue that you need a professional to simply worm and squirrel your way through the banks of PR people that surround most of the people we need to have a conversation with, let alone to then know how to act and report as and when ‘contact’ was made. And all with a view to keeping that contact ‘alive’.

‘Here Comes Everybody’ – but have they got an invite? That’s the question.

Who, even now, do you give the invite to? Go back to bread knives and brain surgeons – I might have been burning the midnight oil on my scalp-slicing style, but is anyone actually going to give me an invite to perform surgery? Not when access to the requisite patient – the one with the blinding headache – is so limited.

Likewise, can ‘everybody’ physically fit into a locker room, a council chamber, a magistrates court? What about their own day jobs…

And if the answer is ‘No!’, who do you invite in for a near-private conversation with the coach, the mayor or the judge? The writer or the journalist? Bearing in mind you’re looking for someone who can hold that near-private conversation on a regular basis?

“The future presented by the Internet is the mass amateurization of publishing and a switch from ‘Why publish this?’ to ‘Why not?'”

Why not? Cos you call coach a tw*t and publish and you won’t get invited back.

Defining what we are, what we do when we’re not talking to ourselves and writing blogs – but talking to others (regularly) and writing journalism – is crucial to our survival because we have to prove where the value is in this publishing process.

“If anyone can be a publisher, then anyone can be a journalist.”

Wrong. If anyone can be a publisher, then anyone can be a writer.

“Journalistic privilege is based on the previous scarcity of publishing. When it was easy to recognise who the publisher was, it was easy to figure out who the journalists were. We could regard them as professional (and therefore minority) category. Now that scarcity is gone…

“For a generation that is growing up without the scarcity that made publishing such a serious-minded pursuit, the written word has no special value in and of itself.”

Shirky cites two fine and up-standing examples of the craft of journalism pre the Internet’s dawn – Bob Woodward and his Uncle Howard, of the Washington Post and the Richmond Daily News respectively. Both are clearly professionals.

And what made them professionals? The ability to get ‘Deep Throat’ to a multi-story car park late one night and, I suspect, the ability to get the Mayor of Richmond out of bed in the early hours of the morning when something big broke – and still be able to talk to both the next morning.

Both could hold a semi-private, if not exclusive, conversation with a major source at any time of day or night. And all on a regular basis – for as and when the next story demanded.

And not everybody can do that.

http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2008/04/what-newspapers-and-journalism-need-now-experimentation-not-nostalgia/

Some people talking a decent talk. Trying to find a new model when it comes to walking the digital walk…

Apologies if we go back to the same ‘source’ material again. And this time, I’ll give the author his due – Mr Anthony Lilley, take a bow.

But the more I read it, the more gems you find. With the same on-going proviso – that you read it through the eyes of a wood-stainer. For whether by accident or design, it bangs nail after nail on the head.

Or at least gives some great starting points for a discussion.

This baby, for example.

“Our use of media is shifting to find a new balance between the creation and distribution of content as we have known it in the age of mass media and the active participation of citizens.

“We are entering the age of “our media” – where the communication of ideas amongst groups and the sharing of content are at the heart of what’s going on…”

Spot on. The new balance between the distribution of content as we have known it and the active participation of citizens… Very good. Cos that’s new media gold – how to crack that interaction without moderation nut. As it stands, most of us have discovered only new media green on that score.

Am I going to run a messageboard community off www.myfootballwriter.com and spend my life enslaved to a moderating screen as anonymous 14-year-olds from their bedrooms Ipswich have a pop at Norwich…? Er, no.

Not as a responsible publisher with a family-friendly brand to protect. A post for another time, but that tide is on the turn was the feeling from both the floor and the platform of Paul’s JEECamp the other day.

I’d also take a different view in terms of the age of “our media”. No surprise given the fact we’re running www.myfootballwriter.com and www.mylocalwriter.com, but I’d say it was more the age of “my media” – something, you presume, Shane and his myTelegraph set-up would concur with.

This bit is good. Particularly if you insert the word ‘newspaper’ into the mix.

We already have a splendid system of media distribution using the mass media technologies of television, film, radio and, to some extent, the first generation of the web.

“Indeed, broadband networks have the added effect of improving this environment still further by facilitating access to media on-demand.

“But even this change from a scheduled world of media scarcity to a plentiful world of traditional media available on-demand represents a significant challenge to the assumptions and models of mass media players…

Newspaper hats on and two phrases leap out - “media on-demand” and “a scheduled world of media scarcity“, ie I want my news now and not when the paper-boy deigns to finally show and that “scheduled world”, one that for 400-odd years has been enslaved to the deadlines of a print press. And as such was able to keep media scarce.

And that’s a big, big word in this digital age of ours. Cos if media is scarce then it has a value. Simple supply and demand; keep supply scarce and the demand will push the price up.

To my mind – and that of Clay Shirky – the demand for media is not the problem. Everyone still wants a good read, just as they still want to listen to good music, etc, etc…

It’s the supply side that’s the problem. Media is everywhere. News is instant and universal. And free.

“Traditional media are at the zenith of their powers when they are distributing information and providing entertainment.

“These are powerful human needs; but they are not sufficient for life in the 21st century as the force of globalisation flatten our world. We are not in the information age; that has passed. We’re entering the networked, learning age…”

Sit down with a bank in these current, credit-crunched climate – and I suspect this will apply just as much to TrinityMirror, Archant, the LA Times, etc, etc, as much as it will to me and www.mylocalwriter.com – and that’s our biggest, biggest problem. Proving value.

If I can get this for free, on the web, what’s the value in your newspaper? Or, indeed, your website? Somewhere in all the recent talk of share prices halving, that fundamental thought is going through the minds of the markets. Where’s the value? When media was scarce, yeh, sure I get it… Now it’s everywhere. And costs me nothing. Where’s the value?

Because the ‘scarcity of media’ applies just as equally to the distribution of advertising as it does to the distribution of editorial content. For 400-odd years, there was only one local advertising platform in town – and that ad only ever got as far as the furthest paper-boy.

Now we’re in this ‘networked’ age and that ad doesn’t need a paper boy to carry it; advertising ain’t scarce anymore, that’s everywhere too. Where’s the value in that quarter page ad? Heh, and I’ll keep myself in the newspaper boat – where’s the value in that banner ad? What’s so special about you? Where’s your added value?

And for all of us the answer we have to urgently hope lies in that one word – that not only are we in this networked age, but we’re in this “learning” age…

Because if information is everywhere, what it actually means is still – thankfully – quite scarce. Or rather those that actually know what that information means are still quite scarce; those that can add the ‘learning’ to a football score, an on-line police rap sheet, a roadside death in Iraq, and all those other bland, bald pieces of information that don’t come with education attached.

That’s why I look at www.everyblock.com with huge admiration – in all but one, key regard. I want to learn from it, not be informed by it. Information is everywhere; learning isn’t… what do I learn from a hygiene report? A police crime stat? I want the analysis, the colour, the background – and I want it from a source that I respect and trust.

That’s the value.

One night last autumn I discovered I had 24-hours in which to submit my final proposal for this year’s Knight News Challenge; boy was the midnight oil burned.

But in my hour of desperate need, I found a quote from Bill Keller as he warned that for all this explosion of information on the Internet, the supply of reliable news reporting was dwindling.

“What is absent from the vast array of new media outlets is, first and foremost, the great engine of news-gathering – the people who witness events, ferret out information, supply context and explanation.”

There’s your scarcity; there’s your value; there’s our future.

Now explain it to a bank.

Actually it’s more a case of trying to work out how this thing works…

Anyway, welcome to Out With A Bang.

For which you need to blame-stroke-thank Paul Bradshaw, Pete Ashton and Banks’ Brewery who – quite correctly, with hindsight – pointed out a gaping hole in MFW’s armoury, a blog in the beery aftermath of last Friday’s JEECamp.

But one early word of warning, Out With A Bang is not going to touch on all things football. Or not much, anyway. That’s the day job; this is the late-at-night musings bit.

This is bit where we work out – in public – what on earth we’re ever going to do with MFW’s new big sister, www.mylocalwriter.com; how we can spread the gospel of www.addiply.com and, how, in short we can ever hope to make a difference when it comes to the survival of quality local journalism.

Hence the title. Cos if we are all engaged ‘in a race to the bottom’ as I was cheerily told by some BlogAds lad at Jeff Jarvis’ NewsInnovation.com bash in New York last autumn, let’s at least go down kicking and screaming; let’s not walk quietly into the night.

Let’s ask some awkward questions of our former lords and masters now that – perhaps – we’ve got one or two answers.

Or rather, got one or two answers as to what doesn’t work. As for what does, let’s just say that that, for now, remains very much a work in progress.

Doing the day job I do, you get to see an awful lot of the A14; hence you turn the music up loud. And on Thursday as I headed off to Paul’s JEECamp, it was The Smiths banging out of the dashboard. ‘Typical me, typical me… I’ve started something… and now I’m not so sure…’

Which probably is a good a theme tune for Out With A Bang as any.

That said, me and Martin Stabe agreed on one thing way back when – that if there is a message for our troubled times, then it comes from the lips of Clay Shirky.

And probably it is worth quoting in full as we go out with a bang. Because it changed my life. Whether it was the fact that I read it on my 40th birthday; whether it was because, at the time, there was a one-in-three redundancy process going through the sports and subs desks at Archant; whether I was just over-due a mid-life crisis… I don’t know.

But I know, one way or another – be it commercially or physically – Shirky’s words will follow me to my grave…

“In the same way that there’s a split between the music industry and the recording industry, there’s a split between writers and the newspaper industry.

“The recording industry is in trouble but the music industry is not, because musicians still make music and people still care about music enormously. The people who sell plastic circles with the music on it, on the other hand, are in real trouble.

“So if you base your business model on producing plastic circles, or, by analogy, staining wood with ink, you’re going to be in trouble.

“Do people care about good writing? Of course they do, and it’s the writers who can adapt to the new technologies. The only technological innovation that the newspaper industry is waiting for is a time machine so that it can turn back the clock.”

That’s it. That’s the straw we all need to cling to; that’s why I look at all the numbers we’re churned out at MFW over the last couple of years and cling to 436 seconds like you wouldn’t believe.

Why? Cos that’s the average visit time to www.myfootballwriter.com/norwichcity in the month of January ’08. We had 33,000 of them; on average visiting three and a bit times. And every time they visited they stayed for over 7 minutes.

Why are they staying for that long? It ain’t rocket science; we’re giving them a good read. About a subject that they love. A passionate niche that commands their attention for at least seven minutes of their frantic lives.

Because we deliver it to where they want it. On their office lap-top, their home PC and, above all, into the palm of their hand. Onto their mobile.

We don’t ask them to waste seven minutes of their lives going to find a newspaper…

Crass advertising slogan, but as you will come to know, I suspect, I’ve got an eight-year-old boy.

I look at him and you just know it’s not in his genes with a ‘g’ to read a local newspaper; what’s in his jeans with a ‘j’ is a mobile phone.

Or rather, will be. When his Mum says yes…

The trick that we’ve all got to pull as professional journalists is to get our words and our news to his mobile phone by a means that can earn us all a living.

But if there’s one first thought to cling to, it is to take Shirky’s words to heart. It’s not us that’s in danger of becoming an endangered species… it’s newspapers.

Sure our own reticence, our own conservatism is part of the problem, but some way down the line we will still be part of the solution. We just won’t need those who still insist on staining wood with ink.

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