There are many a theme that we seem to stumble across and these two pieces return to one of the more familiar – a digital landscape that, to my mind, will be defined by two compelling forces, local-stroke-hyper-local and national-stroke-global.

Here’s G-Cap Media shifting their radio tents every more into the latter camp… http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/apr/24/gcapmedia.radio 

… and from the same Guardian Media page, here’s ITN getting in something of a lather about ITV’s decision to pull their tanks back off the local news lawns… http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/apr/23/itv.television 

GCap’s decision will hit downtown Loddon; we’re part of Radio Broadland, a little local GCap off-shoot; I actually did an interview with Jo Chandler for them this afternoon… my thoughts on Norwich City’s pre-season tour to Sweden now you ask…

But someone in her building is about to get squeezed out of their usual slot to make way for some one-size-fits-all, homogenised show packaged up in a studio in London somewhere.

Clearly it’s a numbers game; that people are looking at their spread-sheets, consulting their triangles and making a call… as media fragments and traditional viewing, reading and listening habits shatter into so many pieces can we still afford do both? To be both local and national? To serve two audiences…

No, appears their answer; ITV, in fairness, are at least trying to cover a few of those regional bases with www.itvlocal.com but the foot-soldiers on the ground are going.

What’s interesting when you look at today’s latest set of ABCe figures is the way that both The Telegraph, The Daily Mail and The Guardian are beginning to move from a national UK platform into a global one as they find all these huge new audiences in the States… 

Equally, as they start to dip their toe into that water, to their delight they discover the likes of the New York Times and the Washington Post under-going a real identity crisis. There’s no sense of them returning the compliment and parking a tank or two in the UK; quite the reverse.

I read somewhere that the Post was pondering whether it shouldn’t retreat ‘inside the Beltway’ – which I presume is their M25 – ie just as the Guardian, Telegraph and Co ‘go global’, so the Post may be going back local.

But what The Guardian and The Telegraph are also keenly aware of is the opportunity that still exists on local lawns; what’s taxing them is how to do both; how to organise themselves with sufficient elegance and financial economy that they can be both big inside the Beltway and bigger in Belper.

Because you look through those same Guardian Media pages and there’s something else going on – amongst those that are neither one thing, nor the other; neither hyper-local nor national-stroke-global.

That’s where you don’t want to be; stuck in the middle; that’s the real no-man’s land; that’s where the first, big casualties will come. Just ask the good people of Belper, Stamford, Whittlesey and Deepings…

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/apr/24/trinitymirror.pressandpublishing

We’re clearly not there yet. We’ve still got a CMS to finish, Addiply to launch and the kids to run the beta trial version, but if there is a future then it lies with ripping up the old established order and starting all over again; giving something else a go…

In no particular order, www.mylocalwriter.com/stamford, www.mylocalwriter.com/deepings, www.mylocalwriter.com/belper, www.mylocalwriter.com/whittlesey

 

 

 

Apologies, I’m sure both of you have seen this before. And know, for yourselves, how many nails it hits firmly on the head.

http://www.scunnered.com/?p=9

My attention was – I will admit – first drawn to the post by the sum the lad was paid for simply the domain name, www.ireport.com . $750,000. For a name. No content, no business model, no launch plan. Just the name. I report.

It was fascinating – particularly for someone who ten days earlier had paid £16 plus VAT for www.mylocalwriter.com and had a vague notion of where we might find content, what a theoretical business model might look like – water lilies, long tails, etc – and via Paul’s kids might, possibly, have a potential launch model.

But as you read on through Kyle’s brilliant posting, so it heads ever nearer to the very heart of what we are all trying to figure – where’s the value? For if there is no value in anything we, as journalists do, where on earth is anyone going to find a business model that rests on something of no value?

Read through Kyle’s post and see how the wild haggis reached through to the front page of a CNN site. Unedited. Unfiltered.

I can’t for the life of me say I’m an ardent devotee of www.iReport.com – and, after all, it is still in its ‘beta’ phase. The bit where we all do trial and error.

And I just wonder whether they’ve tried unfiltered and unedited and realised that, maybe, they’ve made an error. For if my eyes don’t deceive me, they’ve tweaked the site – perhaps not; perhaps the ‘Newsiest Now’ function was there when Kyle posted. It is difficult to be sure from the freeze frame of his wild haggis shot.

But, either way, there now on the top of www.iReport.com is the ‘Newsiest Now’ pictures of the day. What’s this?, is the question they themselves offer.

So what’s Newsiest Now?

“The “newsiest” iReports are sorted in lists at the top of each section on the homepage and in other places around the site. Newsiest is a calculation that combines freshness, popularity, activity and ratings. The idea behind newsiest is that all the contributions the iReport.com community of users make to the site – stories, comments, ratings, pageviews – and what CNN producers pick for their own stories could add up to tell us something new about what people think is newsworthy…

Which is fascinating – bearing in mind that iReport is ‘Unedited. Unfiltered. News.’

Because, for me, there are certain words that leap out of what ‘Newsiest’ is, that tend to suggest otherwise. Certainly when it comes to the first two strings of iReport’s bow. That, lo and behold, it is edited; it is filtered.

The ‘newsiest’ iReports are “sorted in lists”.

Newsiest is a “calculation”.

Based on “freshness, popularity, activity and ratings” - it would be nice to think that truth, veracity and honesty might figure somewhere in the calculation, but one step at a time, I guess…

And then this: “The idea behind newsiest is that all the contributions the iReport.com community of users make to the site – stories, comments, ratings, pageviews – and what CNN producers pick for their own stories could add up to tell us something new about what people think is newsworthy…

OK, so which “people” are now thinking an iReport contribution as “newsworthy” - the contributors of all that unedited or unfiltered ‘I-reported’ material or “what CNN producers pick for their own stories”?

Because in CNN’s own words to qualify for the ‘Newsiest Now’ - and that’s the big, fat strip at the top of their home page; the one that once boasted a picture of aftermath of the wild haggis hunt – there is sorting going on, there’s calculations being made and there’s producers picking…

Sort. Calculation. Pick.

Almost, it seems, a case of iReport, but – actually – weDecide.

For those are the words that an editor uses. Sort, calculation and pick.

As he or she is handed the unenviable task of filtering all the daily wheat from the UGC chaff; from spotting the wild haggis hunt in amidst the genuine and shocking footage from an Olympic torch protest.

In a way, all credit to CNN. Because they are actually doing us all a favour by putting the ‘value’ back in. 

Because someone has to ‘sort, calculate and pick’ from all the explosion of information out there; someone has to make sense of it all; to find a tune within that wall of noise – to sort the wind section from the brass, to calculate the best piece for them all to play and then pick the best soloists to go up front.

Someone, in short, has to conduct the orchestra. And that role has value. And that role belongs to a journalist. And, ideally, always will.

 

 

In many ways, all that we’ve been wittering on about over the first three weeks of OutWithABang’s digital life is this need to start again; to wipe the slate clean; to find ourselves the nearest piece of blank paper and get scribbling.

How would we start afresh? Would we really confine ourselves to little pockets of influence and circulation here and here? Would we really thrust our product into the hands of a dozing teenager at 6am every morning and once again at 4pm every afternoon? Would we, above all, still expect everyone to actually pay for what we deliver to their very door?

There is a revolution afoot. One that, in every probability, has only just begun. Or rather, in every probability, one that has only just begun to impact on the way that us smug, 40-somethings conduct our daily lives.

The more and more you watch the kids interact – be it within their own social groups or, from our perspective, with the world of news that we inhabit – the more you suspect that the revolution has already happened ‘down below…'; that genetically they are already ‘wired’ differently; that to revisit our cheesy ad slogan, it’s already not in their genes to read a newsapaper, what’s in their jeans is a mobile phone…

I live next door to a newsagents. And I work from home. You don’t see kids leaving that shop with a newspaper tucked under their arm; if you do, it’s a bundle of them and they’re off to deliver them to the 70-somethings that know no different.

And if we start to buy into this idea that – as far as whole generation is concerned; and every generation, thereafter – the revolution in news has already been and gone, we have to go back to the very start again when it comes to teaching these kids journalism.

It’s a blank sheet of paper.

But, for me, it’s more than that. It’s not about us teaching them; we were fast asleep ‘on our watch’ as the Web came and, in many ways, went. It’s far, far more a case of them teaching us what we’ve missed.

If you start from scratch, would you teach them short-hand? Why if we can foresee a world where, in the interests of an open and democratic society, events in both the local magistrates court and the local council chamber will be webcast to the world?

Who needs 100 wpm, if you can aggregate and scrape?

Our interviews will be digitally recorded and, if we offer ‘source’ material as part of this ‘open’ relationship with our customer base, those same interviews can then be digitally broadcast; that you can now listen to the interview yourself and see which way the words were ‘spun’.

Subbing? Legals, for sure. We don’t cut on the web. A widow is someone whose husband has died. No more.

Literals? I pop back into the CMS and change. Page make-up? That’s built into the CMS…

Ad make-up? Now you’re talking… Ad selling? Definitely. What ‘worked’ for 400 years in terms of newspapers, giving the eyeballs something else to spot whilst you were glued to that ‘good read’ – local branding, building awareness. Local advertising saved us once and, in part, they will save us again.

You teach advertising – as in the selling of, making of, retention of, invoicing of and chasing of. You don’t do character-counts in headlines. Nor, I suspect, do you do short-hand.

By all means teach good, old-fashioned investigative journalism – but look at it in a new light. Look at it as part of your ad-selling skills; forging relationships, developing contacts from whom you can either prise a banner ad or a story. Not only that, but you can then go back a month later and prise another banner ad or another story out of that same well-worked contact.

That’s the biggest lesson of all out there… one none of us have grasped. How do you make money?

That’s what, I think, we’re going to have to get them, the kids, to show us. We don’t know.

Get this web thing to work. We can’t.

And, in many ways, that’s why me, Neil, Ian and the boys want to arm the next generation of J-School kids with a MyLocalWriter url – and all with one simple instruction: ‘Show us how it works…’ You ‘get’ it, we don’t.

Give them a ‘kit’ to play with; get them to get the pieces to fit. Cos we can’t. We can’t.

They can.

Paul used the term in one of the headlines to his JEECamp look-back the other week. I can’t remember if the term ‘cottage’ ever crossed my lips or not – it’s usually a phrase that I’m rather wary of – so, I’ll give Paul his due.

Because, to my mind, Paul’s spot-on. Journalism has every chance of returning to a cottage industry as the next generation of local journalists finally find their feet in this ever-shifting digital landscape.

After all, there are three of us here in East Anglia who sit at our kitchen tables and churn out professional copy for a living; whether the coffee shop in Tesco’s counts as a ‘cottage’ might be a moot point as Mark looks for the best place to file his Portman Road Press conference pieces, but the fact of the matter is we all travel light these days.

A lap-top, a 3G data card and a digital voice recorder and we’re away.

And, for me, it is a case of ‘returning’ to a cottage industry. For way back when, ‘journalism’ could be achieved by writing your proclamations on a scrap piece of parchment and nailing them to the nearest church door. Ask Mr Luther.

OK, so in every likelihood it was only the print press that then allowed the word to spread, but – in essence – you could still publish from home. There was, then, no other means of production.

Until the print press, of course. Which changed the world for ever. And as said presses got bigger and better, so they became more expensive and that control of the means of production slipped out of an individual journalist’s hands for the better part of 500 years.

Just as the weavers that weaved cloth for a living found themselves enslaved to the mills, so those that weaved words for a living found themselves with a print press strapped to their back. Dark, satanic press halls and all that. The cloth barons and the Press barons; peas from the same pod. Both made fortunes from the industrialisation of wool and news.

The Internet, of course, changes everything.

For I now control my own means of production.

What I don’t, yet, control is my own means of making a living. And, for me, if we all don’t pull together soon, there is a very real danger that having shrugged that press monkey off our backs, we will find another one in its place. Its name is Google.

Hence the need to crack this advertising nut.

But the analogy with the weavers and the mills still holds true. Because for as long as a journalist continues to produce something of value – be it fetching out football quotes from a dressing room or making either a head or a tail out of a West 14th St planning application – then we have a chance.

All we have to do is organise ourselves; to build ourselves a ‘market place’ where we can, collectively and elegantly, display our wares. Most will just feel the quality of the cloth and move on; others might be tempted to buy. In bulk; en masse. From our journalistic co-operative.

And, for me, that’s what ‘mother’ does; that’s what www.myfootballwriter.com is – a market place for our home-produced wares.

Here you go; from Wikipedia. It’s a Sunday night; I’m self-subbing, so I’ll trust it’s right…

The Halifax Piece Hall is a building in the town centre of Halifax, England, originally built as a sales centre for woollen handloom weavers. It opened on January 1, 1779, with over 300 separate rooms arranged around a central courtyard. The term piece refers to pieces of wool that were sold. As factories started up in the early nineteenth century the trade in handwoven wool declined…

No different to MFW; it’s just that our ‘piece hall’ has – thus far – just three seperate rooms; just three hand-weavers. But we’re still producing pieces – two a day; sticky, 1,000-word pieces, to be precise. The ‘central courtyard’ – the place where people come to read and, potentially, buy – is the mother hub, www.myfootballwriter.com.

And if MFW can, eventually, be a 72-room hall as we cascade down the Football League ladder, www.MyLocalWriter.com can, of course, be a piece hall of many, many rooms.

At the end of next month, Rupert Murdoch opens a new, state-of-the-art print press facility at Broxbourne. It is likely to be the mill to end all mills – literally, if you’re a provincial newspaper group trying to compete in that contract print market.

Speaking in the City of London back in 2006, Murdoch all but admitted that the control of the means of production was slipping from his hands – http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2006/mar/13/news.rupertmurdoch1

“Societies or companies that expect a glorious past to shield them from the forces of change driven by advancing technology will fail and fall,” he said.

“Power is moving away from the old elite in our industry – the editors, the chief executives and, let’s face it, the proprietors.

“A new generation of media consumers has risen demanding content delivered when they want it, how they want it, and very much as they want it…

The mill owners are in full retreat. Time to build our piece halls, people…

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.

With Kev hanging out of his back bedroom window, Ian slaving over a hot addiply cms in his mum’s spare room and Neil off proofing the history of art, it was time for the boss to treat the rest of the MFW troops to lunch.

Both of them. It should have been three, but Tom was down with flu.

Mark does Ipswich, Nick does Colchester; both do MFW like a dream.

There was a time when we thought we might go the franchise route with MFW; build a football reporter starter-pack and let people take the ‘kit’ off the shelf and off they go; it’s where we think MLW might be able to go.

But go down the franchise route and, as far as I could ever work out, I’d have spent the last six months slaving night and day writing a training manual.

So instead when first Mark and then Nick joined the party, their ‘kit’ was a 3G data card, one of those digital voice recorders with the UBS thing that makes them a radio station and a decent, second-hand motor off Col’s Cars in Acle. £120 a month over three years; works out OK.

Like most 20-somethings, they come with a lap-top attached.

A quick chat about remembering they’re a local; that it’s great to get a headline one day; not so great if that same headline doesn’t talk to you the next… and that was about it, I think.

I showed them once how to upload the Action Images stuff off the CMS; Neil bunged them the link to their site stats to keep track of their hourly circulation figures and neither of them have missed a trick. Or a deadline.

They’ve had to change; to adapt. We all work Sundays. For until the provincial newspaper industry start producing Sunday newspapers – or flooding out the post-match quotes and copy ahead of their Monday print editions – we’ve got that day to ourselves; but they don’t seem to be bothered.

Write the piece on a Saturday night before you go out; time the piece on the CMS to go up at 10am on Sunday morning and these boys can still be sleeping off the night before as they publish to the waiting world.

During the week, minus deadlines we have this deal that they aim for the whole ‘My first coffee break…’ market sometime around the mid-morning; then hit the ‘One last look before I log off…’ brigade some time around 5; 5.30pm. And all the time, you’re about to roll out stuff as and when anything breaks.

Because these days punters call the shots; they access their news when they want to – and where they want to. Not when we tell them. It’s on your door mat at 4.40pm. Take it or leave it…

And we’re not going to get everything first; ask most football reporters these days and they get sweet FA first – not ‘news’ wise. News belongs to the clubs; that’s why they run their own TV stations; hire ‘club journalists’… the rest of us just mop up afterwards.

That’s why we run the RSS feeds from elsewhere; look here’s the news from the local newspaper, Sky, BBC, Telegraph football… just get it off our site while you’re here… And look, before anyone starts to complain, here’s your branding on our site…

News is everywhere; me, Mark and Nick can’t be. So we link.

And this is the thing; they get all of this; the fact that all we can ever do now is aim at this ‘When I get a mo…’ market; the fact that they need to work slightly different days; be slightly more flexible in their thinking.

But they’ve been flexible in their thinking since the first time they set a finger on a keyboard. When they were five, probably. In school.

This generation of young journalists embraced the web years ago; they know what it can deliver; they don’t need a training manual; it’s in their DNA.

Podcasts? Yeh, fine… Upload pictures? Whatever…

We got 72 CVs through for the Colchester gig; good CVs; nigh-on all were the same age, same background; journalism courses, year or so on a local weekly; a good few on an evening sports desk. All can clearly see the writing on the wall.

So you go back and say: ‘Right, given a choice…. given your contacts, location… what club would you like to do?’ And they’re all there; the six for Watford, four for Preston, eight for Palace. Cos they all get it; like I still don’t most of the time.

Twitter? Me? Behave.

But my boys will. Stand in front of that JEECamp and listen to Paul talk about what his kids are up to and, boy, are they going to have fun.

Someone, somewhere, just needs to set them free. That’s why we want to beta MyLocalWriter through the J-Schools, the colleges, the universities. Cos the kids know what they’re doing; they know where their world is going.

Most of the time, we haven’t got a clue.

A scribble, yesterday

It was a simple question from Pete Ashton – and one that, at the time, I had no answer to.

I’m not sure I do now.

Which is why, in part, Out With A Bang is here to help. Kind of.

Anyway, the question. ‘Is that model you drew online?’

Drew is probably over-stating it. Scribbled is a more accurate phrase as the old flip chart, marker pen and A-frame were assembled for the new kid on the (un)conference block as I tried to offer some ‘elegant organisation’ to the whole MFW thing. And, indeed, potentially to the whole www.mylocalwriter.com baby.

I’d scribbled the thing out a couple of times before – once to some Barclays Bank types who drew a really lovely triangle by way of return; all-too-often to Col and Gary at the accountants who tend to nod politely as their eyes glaze over; once to Shane Richmond in the midst of a ‘Norwich aren’t going down, are they?’ conversation that he invariably demands.

OK, the idea is that if journalism is to thrive and survive in any post wood-stainer world, we have to build new alliances, forge fresh commercial links; re-organise; re-invent; start again from a blank piece of paper – and scribble all over it. Elegantly.

And what we create are these tubes – and I’m sure someone will think of a better term – but tubes that are, as I discovered at Charlie Beckett’s POLIS gig way back when, “two inches wide, but a mile deep…” Long tails. That’s the theory.

So beneath our mothership, www.myfootballwriter.com, we bolt a succession of sub-sites on www.myfootballwriter.com/norwichcity, www.myfootballwriter.com/ipswichtown and down and down we go.

For down there in the depths is this hyper-local world that features not only some prime, ‘sticky’ content, but also all that untapped local advertising; all these traditional, evening newspaper types who have built their own little business websites of late but don’t now know what to do with them…

Up top, where the sun shines and the lily pads are, that’s this new and emerging world of previously ‘national’ media brands who are suddenly discovering an escape route via global audiences – that’s where the circulation wars of the future will be fought between your Mails, Times, Telegraphs and Guardians. In their ABCe’s – how many monthly uniques are they pulling from the Mid-West US….

The trick is to devise an editorial and advertising platform that mirrors a Craig’s List or an eBay; that has this similar capacity to be both local in focus, but national in scope.

That’s why the BBC is laughing – or would be if it ever got the green light to do what it’s doing on its Worldwide platform and source UK-facing advertising.

For it can be this huge, global media beast – and yet at the same time via its county radio stations and its forthcoming BBC Local roll-out – it can drill down to being local in focus.

Just as MFW can. As ITVLocal.com can – albeit via its regional platforms. As, in fairness, RightMove, PrimeLocation, Monster and all those boys are.

With their minds all set on broadening their global appeal, do the Mails, the Telegraphs and the Times’ want to dive down to the bottom of the pond and see what’s there? Or will they concentrate their energies on spreading their wings and being a lily pad – and let someone else hoover up what’s down below?

Cos then, the theory goes, you just bolt your tube onto the bottom of a lily-pad; up comes local content and local advertising – down goes national content and, potentially, national advertising… BMW ads and Russell Brand’s Saturday football column makes it to the bottom of the MFW pond, as podcasts with Mick Mills and Johnny Wark reach the surface.

And this is where me and the provincial newspaper industry go our seperate ways.

Cos they’re neither lily-pad nor bottom-dwelling pond-life.

As this new kid on the (un)conference block I did my homework before JEECamp and looked at Trinity Mirror’s excellent online communities site that they have trialled – very successfully – out of the Gazette. I know that TS10 is the postcode for Redcar.

And fair play, it’s good.

And then you read that they’re planning a ‘national’ roll-out. Fantastic.

So when are you going to do NR14? Have one of those TrinityMirror babies rolling down our street? Complete with a local advertising revenue driver…

Cos clearly this being Archant-land, they won’t mind. As they won’t in every other traditional provincial newspaper fiefdom across the country. Don’t mind us, you carry on…

Me, Neil, Kev and Ian are four boys on their laptops. This being Norfolk, if I want a mobile phone signal to speak to Kev my ad man, I need to stand in a three-foot circle in our dining room; he answers by leaning out of his back bedroom window.

But we can still see a lily pad.

mylocalwriter.com/ts10, mylocalwriter.com/nr14 – or mylocalwriter.com/redcar, mylocalwriter.com/loddon if you prefer.

From there it’s up and into MySun, MyTelegraph or whoever…

Well, that’s our theory. F*ck it.

Like the blog says, let’s go out with a bang.

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.