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.