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.