Journalism


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

 

 

 

http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/greenslade/2008/04/regional_groups_suffer_shares.html

See below.

Who knows, perhaps the nominal share value of all concerned hits such a low that some character wades in and hoovers up the lot… where is Guy Hands when you need him?

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…

https://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…

 

 

See below, but here’s their problem… first with the audio, last with the words…

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/n/norwich/7358178.stm

For if the time-line is correct, Auntie had the interview for 36-hours before someone, somewhere spotted the story and wrote from what looks like a London, national perspective…

Advantage lost.

This I found interesting – if only for the fact that it touched on a conversation I had with one of the good gentlemen listed to your right. Well, on the home page right. Anyway….

Time.

http://newsosaur.blogspot.com/2008/04/drive-by-surfers-peril-news-sites.html

I mentioned time at JEECamp the other month as one of those straws that I cling to; the fact that our average visit time for the month of January on www.myfootballwriter.com/norwichcity was 436 seconds. And as they, on average, visited the site three-and-a-half times that same month, by hook or by crook we managed to grab their attention for, what, 25 minutes a month.

About the same length of time as one episode of EastEnders.

Or rather Coronation Street. EastEnders doesn’t build advertising around it. 

Anyway, to quote Mr Mutter… “In the first three months of this year, the average amount of time visitors spent on newspaper sites fell by 2.9% to 44 minutes and 18 seconds per month, or less than 1½ minutes per day…

This, he contends, is a problem.

“If drive-by surfers continue to generate a growing proportion of newspaper traffic, will advertisers put a high enough value on these relatively fickle visitors to pay the premium rates necessary to continue funding these elaborate, content-rich websites?

“I wouldn’t count on it…”

Nor would I. Because over the last couple of years I’ve long since discovered that you can pull all manner of tricks when it comes to hits, page visitors, unique visitors, etc, etc…

The one where it is hard to pull the wool over any advertiser’s eyes is time. How long are the eye-balls glued to that page…

And this should, in theory, give us all hope. Because with the tables now fully turned on us, the multiplication of choice facing our one-time reader means that we have to work that much harder to command their attention…

The average ‘drive-by surfer’ recognise a re-hashed quote from 50 paces; one glance and he’s gone. ‘Nah, read it… Seen it before….’

And that’s why stuffing newspaper websites with aggregated and re-aggregated copy won’t work; the eye-balls will linger over what’s new, what’s fresh and what they haven’t see before.

And, hopefully, what’s well written.

Because what are people looking for? They’re looking for a good read, in Clay Shirky’s famous words.

What they are not looking for is a re-read, a re-hash and a re-nose. They haven’t got time for that. Give it to me fresh and first; that’s where the value is; that’s where the eye-balls will linger longest.

Give it to me fresh, first and in a form that proves a good read, time and time again, then people will return time and time again. Keep me informed; keep me entertained; keep me happy. Or else I’m outta here…

That’s the challenge that the multiplication of media presents us all with – getting them not only to drive-by, but to park up. To surf, to see and to stay.

And in the midst of that challenge, quality will count.

Apologies first. For those of you with an interest in neither Norwich City Football Club nor Championship football, what follows may appear all-too parochial to be of any relevance to a new media blog.

All I can do is beg that you stay with it for there are far wider points to be made – lessons with a direct relevance to us all as we try to re-organise and re-align ourselves on this new, digital landscape; how we try to go out and build our piece halls; how we weave our 1,000-word ‘pieces’ off our kitchen lap-tops and try to sell our wares around a central, ‘mother’ courtyard…

What’s a piece hall…?

https://outwithabang.wordpress.com/2008/03/30/time-to-make-our-piece-with-the-world-and-make-halifax-the-centre-piece-of-our-survival/

OK, back to football. Norwich (the Canaries) lose at home to West Bromwich Albion; with two games left to play, they are only three points away from relegation; the crowd’s favourite player, Darren Huckerby, is out of contract this summer and unless a new offer is forthcoming, will make his final appearance next weekend in the Canaries final home game of the season.

Collared by the three local radio reporters as he came off the pitch on Saturday, Huckerby all but confirmed that next weekend’s game would be his last in a City shirt; and then went into something of a farewell speech after four, kind of glorious years here in Norfolk.

It was, in short, as far as the locals were concerned ‘the story’ of the day. And it was missed by all the waiting written Press for the fact that, having changed and disappeared by another exit, Huckerby only gave that interview to the radios.

Scarcity of media and all that, the radio interview was captured by another media organisation at the game – Norwich’s own TV station, CanariesWorld. They are, of course, a news organisation in their own right these days – a penny that has still to drop with one or two in the old media world.

OK, to their credit, having broadcast the interview, as per usual Radio Norfolk then post the audio clip onto their website to allow the world to listen again to that Huckerby interview – you go here first…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/norfolk/content/articles/2007/06/30/norwichcity_audio_archive_0708_feature.shtml

and then download the interview…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/norfolk/realmedia/nb/ncfc_darrenhuckerby_wba_20080419_au_nb.ram

…and hence you get to ‘the story’. Or rather we – the written Press – get to that story. I haven’t looked, but I suspect you can access similar audio files off Radio Broadland and Radio Norwich…

OK, we missed it. But ask any football reporter of provincial or national ilk and they will all say the same, getting hold of players after games is fraught with peril; all too often ‘the story’ will spot the waiting written media scrum, turn on his heel and walk the other way… that’s the nature of the modern footballer beast. Hucks, to be fair, is far better than most.

On this occasion, however, he exited stage right as we waited stage left and took his farewell speech for the written Press with him.

But, no fear. It’s there on the Radio Norfolk website and as both the national and local papers put their feet up on a Sunday and wait for Monday’s press slot to roll round 36 hours later, minus any such inconvenience Huckerby’s radio interview becomes this on www.myfootballwriter.com/norwichcityhttp://norwichcity.myfootballwriter.com/full_article.asp?i=3275

Due credit given – …’ Huckerby, told Radio Norfolk, etc – if we go back to our ‘piece hall’ then Radio Norfolk delivered the ‘wool’, we weaved it into a piece of cloth that we then displayed around our central courtyard, www.myfootballwriter.com.

Displayed to both reader and potential buyer alike.

Because if you are the BBC and – subject to their nine-month ‘approval’ process ahead of BBCLocal’s full-scale roll-out – you ought to be looking at the written version of the Huckerby interview and be thinking: ‘Mmm… that’s a nice piece of sticky content that would sit very well on our Norwich City pages…’

As you would if you were www.itvlocal.com/anglia – and someone was adding the colour, the analysis, the background and the comment to a bland TV interview…

Because here both come – parking their local, digital platform on Norfolk’s lawn – minus the one ingredient that can make eye-balls ‘stick’ to a web page. Words.

Cos the trouble with both TV clips and audio clips is that they make a noise – not big or clever when you are sat at your office PC on a Monday morning and the boss is wandering around. Does your next-door-neighbour want to listen in to a five-minute Hucks interview, too? Nah, she’s got work to do… as do you.

Words, however, you can get away with.

In their respective current climates, are either the BBC or ITV going to do words locally? Tell said radio reporters and TV cameramen to turn round a 1,000-word written piece on the back of that Huckerby interview? Or are both going to stick to doing what they do best, TV and radio and out-source the written content?

To wander round a central courtyard, feel the quality of someone’s written cloth and – fee agreed – buy that ‘piece’ in? And then agree to buy, say, 60 pieces a month from the same supplier?

And if – having had meetings with both – the answer is potentially yes… and, in theory, it is no different from both organisations buying in TV content from independent production houses… then here we get to this fundamental need to reorganise ourselves in truly nationwide platfoms; to be be local in focus, but national in scope…

Because, it’s a one-stop shop… buy pieces at a fixed rate off www.myfootballwriter.com/norwichcity and you can buy the same product at the same price off www.myfootballwriter.com/ipswichtown and wherever else www.myfootballwriter.com’s fancy takes him.

Try and arrange a similar deal within the existing patch-work quilt of provincial Press providers and those medieval circulation fiefdoms continue to dog their every move; one deal for Trinity Mirror and their Coventry City copy… but we don’t do Leicester… you need to speak to Northcliffe… and who does MK Dons? Oh, it’s you… a weekly free paper… 

Can’t do it – because there’s no elegant organisation for them to sell their wares on a collective basis.

Re-organise, re-align and realise the value that we still bring as written journalists and we still have a chance.

 

Question: When is a cliff, not a cliff?

Answer: When it involves a ‘secular change’ and an early Easter.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/apr/17/pressandpublishing.mediabusiness

Wouldn’t be fantastic one day, when faced with explaining away such year-on-year revenue declines, one newspaper executive actually just smiled a wry smile, shrugged their shoulders and nodded their head in weary resignation.

‘You, know what? You’re right… we’re all screwed…

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