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… 

… 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… 

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 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…

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,,,,




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…?

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…

and then download the interview…

…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

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,

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 – 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 and you can buy the same product at the same price off and wherever else’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.


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 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,

And if MFW can, eventually, be a 72-room hall as we cascade down the Football League ladder, 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 –

“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…

Many, many moons ago – when was even less than a twinkle in anyone’s eye – we stumbled out into this digital world as

I say, stumbled. And with good reason. Because in two years I’m not sure we’ve ever put one foot firmly in front of the other; it’s always been a case of putting a tentative toe forward and gently seeing if the ground is about to give away beneath our feet.

And I defy anyone to say that, hand on heart, they know what they’re doing. We’re all slaving over our Bunsen burners throwing in bits of subscription here, local advertising there…. hubble and bubble, tons of toil and plenty of trouble trying to discover this new media gold…

Anyway, back to our Mark I incarnation, For those of you who never set eyes on it, it had this set of legs whirring around on the top; the big idea was that these were the subscription characters – The Wife, The Pro, Eyes, etc, etc.

Given that Neil arrived on the scene only two weeks before its launch, his hands are clean; it had my finger-prints all over it. Which is why it is nowhere to be seen these days…

The other ‘big’ idea was that as a local journalist whose ugly mug had adorned various Carrow Road advertising hoardings and Norwich bus-stops for a number of years – there is a decent grafitti gag to be had on the speech bubble that adorned the one on Castle Meadow and my elderly mother’s reaction to someone’s spelling of the word… – but this being a family-orientated blog, we’ll move swiftly on.

The point is that – rightly or wrongly – I figured I had a strong enough local ‘brand’ that if I needed to throw myself off the top of Archant Towers and put my faith, my mortgage and my eight-year-old’s future in the hands of the Internet, there would be enough of a welcoming committee on the web to break my fall.

Cos I had a name. And that name wasn’t John Smith. It was easy on Google’s eye; if no-one else’s. And as such people would come and find me; we’d work the brand; the brand, the awareness and the bus-stop presence that 12-odd years sat on the back page of the Evening News had given me.

And if I could get my name, my brand to work out of one city evening newspaper, why not look to bring out all the other boys and girls who did my beat? Tatts in Birmingham; Mark in Portsmouth; Meeksy in Barnsley; Adam in Southampton… we were all on the same circuit; pounding the same beat; delivering the same, informed opinion and comment on a passionate niche subject – just to different niche audiences… then we pull all those niche audiences into one…

But it doesn’t work.

Cos you can’t work off a name; can’t work off an individual journalist.

And, in part, that’s back to that bus-stop. Or rather the no47 bus that arrives there. Because as far as a bank are concerned – and, indeed, your punters are concerned – you could fall under that bus. And, bang, the whole thing folds in an instant.

On this occasion, I see a bank’s point; you build a community around any one person’s individual name and it is only ever as strong and as durable as the individual concerned. Take Rick Waghorn out of and it collapses; on a wholly different level altogether, it’s why I don’t think would motor as far as the banks were concerned.

Massive traffic, interest, etc, etc… but only for as long as the brand itself were alive and kicking; that ‘brand’ falls underneath the wheels of the new Alfa 159 or whatever and the whole proposition goes down the pan. Again, where’s the value? There’s no value in flesh and blood; it’s all too human; all too frail.

Which is why one lunchtime in the Walnut, me and Neil had to come up with something more robust; something that could firmly do without me; that was a brand in its own right.

Hence MFW. But it still took six months to prove the point. Because as we wandered our way down the A140 and crossed the Waveney into Ipswich territory, the original idea was to add another familiar ‘brand’ to the pack, albeit now under the ‘MFW’ umbrella.

That went out of the window as a number of obvious candidates decided that they were better off sticking with the devil they knew; they didn’t fancy the leap. Which is fine.

But it left me with no option but to put a ‘clean skin’ into – just as we would three months later when Nick went into

Neither had ‘previous’; no bus-stops; no advertising hoardings at either Portman Road or Layer Road. All they had was a spot of match-day programme advertising and MFW as a platform.

Two months in and Mark had pulled 5,500 uniques into the Ipswich site. The next month was January; transfer window month.

And for those national commentators poring over the spike in bigger and better ABCe’s than ours; that’s your answer to January’s bumper numbers. Football transfer stories.

Anyway, we emerged from January with 20,500 uniques; a four-fold increase. Mark’s a good writer and a very solid operator; but that’s not his ‘brand’ working its magic. Nor, I suspect, is it too much to do with MFW.

It’s all about the functionality that working that web ‘beat’ brings; delivering people’s news where and when they want it – that and the way that the web virals out your ‘brand’ in an instant; pop up on a message-board and be the review good, bad or indifferent, people will have a look. You’re in their niche; talking their passion; they’ll look; they’ll decide. And you’re away…

The other big point now we’re starting to try and fit some bigger pieces of the jigsaw together; trying to be a long tail to someone else’s water lily, is that you can’t fit a jumble of individual names together; someone has to be ‘mother’.

Someone has to give it order, structure – and, above all, elegance. may have been many things; elegant it weren’t. As journalists we need to re-organise, re-group, re-think and re-align. Into nice straight lines, ideally.

That’s the challenge that my little brand was never going to meet. Never in a month of Sundays. Individual journalists still have huge strengths as individual brands; they equally have fatal weaknesses when it comes to organising, elegantly, the kind collective networks that we need to survive.

I’ve been meaning to wax lyrical about podcasts for a while now; cos if there is any ‘great’ discovery that we’ve made over the last two years podcasts might be it.

Because they work. And what they deliver on a local, niche level is fascinating. Because they make me, Mark and Nick local, niche radio stations.

Again, starter packs and DIY kits. But I give each of my boys the same digital voice recorder that I’ve got – only it’s one of those that snaps open to reveal a USB connection. Means you can download a 30-minute sound clip straight onto your lap-top; from there – albeit with the help, for now, of Neil – it transforms itself into an MP3 formatted thing and, bingo, we’ve got a half-hour radio show.

And that digital voice recorder costs £100. And makes me, once a fortnight, into a radio station.

And because we work this local, football beat we can sit in a quiet country pub somewhere and interview, I don’t know, Mick Mills and Johnny Wark about their memories of the 1978 FA Cup final; I can ask Dion Dublin if he’d mind getting his saxophone out and ‘jam’ with City youngster Matty Halliday… and before he hangs up his boots, let’s do a 30-minute radio show with Dion…

I use one of those lap-top effect mike things that cost me £9.99; and the effect is very simple… it puts the punters on the next door table in that country pub; all they are doing is ‘ear-wigging’ a conversation between a football writer and two revered ex-pros – a conversation that minus a local journalist’s contacts book they would never be able to have.

But now they can listen too…

But if that’s what you have in mind; that you’re setting your stall out to simply allow your ‘listener’ to pull up a chair at the next table, there is an added benefit… cos people don’t come to that table expecting to hear a pin drop; you can get away with the whole, ‘rough and ready’ feel to the recording; it’s the content that’s the king, not the quality of the recording…

Because we’re not setting ourselves up to be a professional radio station; we’re not pretending to be something we’re not. But for £100 I can be a radio station. For half an hour every fortnight.

I say all this cos last night I was out at a leaving do for one of the NCFC Press team; he’s been the man behind the mike for Canaries TV; tripod and digital camera in tow. And without covering old ground, the fact remains that ever since every football club opened the doors of their own website they became a TV station.

And if you’re MUTV or Arsenal TV, right now you’re giving everyone a run for their money. After all, everyone else can’t access ‘your’ news.

But what was interesting was the night’s thoughts on people bolting a digital TV camera onto their website and suddenly giving it the full: ‘Look at me, I’m a TV station….’ routine.

Podcasts, to my mind, you can get away with; you’re not raising the bar expectation-wise too high. TV, is another matter.

Because if you come out of a media ‘umbrella’ – that in the mix there is a professional journalist involved – then people arrive at your door with certain ‘professional’ expectations in tow. They expect a professional performance; with professional standards of presentation, of script, of lighting, of sound, of facial expression…

Otherwise, you sink back into little more than UGC; perhaps we’re back on the value trail again; that if you want to be viewed in a ‘valued’ light you have to demonstrate a quality of delivery over and above the norm.

For the TV broadcasters, it’s in their DNA. They have spent 60 years mastering their craft; their problem on this multi-media battlefield is doing the written stuff; words can sometimes fail them, just as the TV camera can all-too often fail the word-smiths.

And, to borrow badly from Mr Jarvis, if you can’t do something well yourself, link to someone who can… fill in the gaps in your armoury with the specialists who can. Don’t diminish the value of your brand by pretending to be something you’re not.

The future lies in collaborative networks; in people dove-tailing their skills and their services together in a professional package that lifts us above the norm; that gives value back; that delivers quality.

I can get away with rough and ready podcasts because of the niche content therein; I’m not about to broadcast the Last Night Of The Proms.

Likewise, I don’t see TV. I see that as an out-source deal; a content-swap; my words for someone else’s video.

Podcasts, no, they’re good. Think of the kit; think of the starter-pack. Think of the radio show with the chairman of the parish council on the ASBO teenagers; the Post Office manageress whose shop is closing; the Library van that’s not coming; passionate, niche subjects of interest only to a niche, local audience.

Last Night Of The Proms might be a no, no. A concert by the Junior School band?

£100 to be a local radio station; if only for half an hour a week. That works.

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 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 and, 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 – 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 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.