I have to say one of the best newspaper adverts for some time is that Gladiator-esque ‘battle’ between the sexes that ends up with one side reading their ‘You Magazine’; the other their ‘Live’.

For while what’s left of my best liberal intentions might struggle with the general thrust of ‘The Mail On Sunday’, in our household we ‘get’ You and Live. It’s why The Daily Mail has more chance than most of us…

Anyway, the point is that I quite like all the gadgety features that ‘Live’ delivers. Not from a geeky-type, trainspotter kind of angle; rather these days for what it might do for me – or, hopefully, us – as digital journalists.

I’m not sure whether there’s a link, but P41 of this Sunday’s edition proved very much a case in point as Rob Waugh cast his eye over two little gadgets as part of his ‘Live For Tech’ section.

The first is about Intel’s new little baby, the Atom processor. I’m not going to do the numbers that come attached – just the words. The fact that it is ‘set to turn the computer in your man bag into the PC in your pocket…’  

And here’s the killer line. “The low-cost/low-power-usage Atom series is intended to see service not only in the next generation of small lap-tops, but also in an entirely new class of gadget: mobile internet devices…’

The MID.

Cue a nice glossy pic of the Lenovo IdeaPad U8.  Again, read the words. ‘The web, full-fat and fast, in your pocket…’

I’m not pretending for a moment to be any kind of marketing expert. Will the MID prove to be neither one thing nor the other; will it fall between two stools, being neither a UMPC or a PDA..?

Oh, come on… An ultra-mobile PC or a Personal Digital Assistant. Apparently. 

I’ve no idea. But someone at Lenovo – and perhaps they’ve looked at the Apple iPhone and decided that it’s web-browser capability is the stand-out feature there – has clearly decided that getting the Net into the palm of your hand is where we’re all head…

That to go back to our cheesy ad slogan… while it’s not in our kids genes with a ‘g’ to read a newspaper what will be in their jeans with a ‘j’ will be a MID…

OK, slung beneath ‘The Mighy Atom’ is a stick to beat your Wi-Fi with – in this case Vodafone’s new super-powered 3G modem.

“The HSDPA modem is a thumb-sized stick that plugs into the USB port of your laptop. If you’re in an HSPDA area (ie, a major city) is offers a 7Mb internet connection. That’s faster than many wired connections…

‘… And with a price of £39 up front plus £15 a month, I could envisage using one of these all the time…’

Here at MFW, we already do. Or rather when we’re sat in the Press box of football grounds up and down the country, we do. The chances of Loddon ever becoming in an HSDPA area are nil. But then I’m wired in at home.

Our Vodafone sticks are last year’s model; they come as part of the boys’ ‘starter packs’; I don’t think any of us run at 7Mb yet. And looking at the costings, I need to get back to Vodafone and do a deal…

Put the two together – a MID and a super-fast 3G modem that’s no more than a thumb-sized addition to your nearest laptop – and what are we seeing? That the delivery of news on a digital-only platform is becoming faster, cheaper and simpler with every passing month.

For that 3G modem is print press, delivery van and paper boy all rolled into one. That’s what we have got to keep reminding ourselves – it’s not a geeky gadget, it’s a survival strategy. It’s a way out of the mess we’re in.

And it’s getting faster, cheaper and simpler.

So ask yourself the next question – if I’m a newspaper exec looking at the latest figures from my production and distribution departments, could I say that it is getting faster, cheaper and simpler? What is the price of diesel doing to my bottom line? Can’t we get these kids to pedal their bikes any faster?

There’s our future; there’s our hope. Sat there on P41 of ‘Live’. Cut it out, stick it on the fridge door and cling onto it…   

 

If only because I laid my Google revenue cards on the table early on…

https://outwithabang.wordpress.com/2008/03/17/lesson-no37a-for-all-that-follow-dont-pin-your-hopes-on-good-ol-uncle-google/ 

…this was interesting, Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine and Guardian column fame doing the same… and, in paricular, what Google did for him last year.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/apr/14/5

For those of you who are hard of linking, the two paragraphs to put side-by-side are, first the MFW ‘experience’… 

“Take, for example, our Google AdSense numbers since March ‘07.

“406,002 impressions, 846 clicks…. $223. So I did Google a disservice at JEECamp. Apologies. When I said $180 for 400,000 page impressions I was $40 out and 6,000 page impressions under. We made £110 in a year…”

To be then followed by the Buzzmachine one…

“Last year, Buzzmachine.com, which has been in business, loosely speaking, since 2001, made $9,315 (£4,655) from two blog ad networks, $1,866 from ads on my RSS feeds, and $2,674 from Google ads, for a total of $13,855. Though I’ve written many a blog post and column lamenting that there aren’t better, richer ad networks to support grassroots media, when I add that up, I’d say it’s not too shabby…

I, however, would describe our own Google ads income as shabby. If not particularly shabby. Or, indeed, utterly shabby. I might also describe it as someone having a laugh…

And let’s make several things clear; we’re not running like-for-like – it’s a horribly inexact science; the comparisons don’t stand up; we didn’t, for example, run AdSense for a full calendar year; if we had, who knows? We could have cracked the $300 mark…

But what I would be intrigued to know is just how hard our Jeff had to work to earn that $2,674…

Given that Buzzmachine has ‘loosely speaking’  been in business since 2001, he’s clearly had to work his ‘brand’ for at least five years (2001-2006) before earning a thousand quid off Google in Year Six…

I earned my princely sum off 400,000 page impressions – and all on the back of busting my b*lls twice a day to deliver two, great 1,000-word ‘sticky’ reads to the waiting Norwich City masses who, come January’s transfer window month, were 33,000 monthly uniques strong.

Plus we had coulmnists, characters and all sorts. We worked – indeed, still work – our collective n*ts off draging football punters to that site with a quality journalistic product that, we hoped, would offer enough context, comment and quotes that it would not only drag eyeballs there, it would keep eyeballs there.

And, touch wood, it appears to work. That’s back to my 436-second average visit time for the month of January. Seven minutes every time they visit.

Because it’s a passionate niche. Just as the future of news is.

What would be very interesting to discover is just what numbers Buzzmachine.com generates in terms of uniques, page impressions and average visit times to pop a cheque for £1,300 from Google into Jeff’s hands at the end of the year….

I’ve no idea. I read it most days. As, I suspect, many a media-luvvie does.

And because it is, more often than not, a well-informed and engaging read, my eye-balls stay fixed. And if, for argument’s sake, me and Jeff run at roughly similar numbers per month – my www.myfootballwriter.com/norwichcity versus his www.buzzmachine.com – then fair enough, he cracked the Google nut more than I did.

Maybe – he says, looking for his excuses – Jeff is actually mining a richer niche seam; that the ads that appear on his site are far more click-appealing than those that ever appeared on ours; that maybe ‘football’ and ‘Norwich’ never quite made sense as ads.

And maybe it’s just a case of being patient – that come Year Six, 2012, I too could be pulling £1,000 a year back off them. In the unlikely event I was still pinning many of my hopes on Google by then…

Don’t know.

Fotunately, we didn’t put all our eggs in Google’s basket – and, nor, of course did Jeff. He’s got two blog ad network tickets working his brand; covering his ass to the tune of £4,500 a year.

Me? I’ve got Kev acting as MFW’s tail-end Charlie – trying to pick off every local advertiser we can find; as well as those national ones that like the cut of our demographics. Three cheers for the British Army… newly-signed up for a year-long banner ad deal on all three sites.

It’s still a tough nut to crack. Very tough in these credit crunch times. But they’re out there; all starting to think what they would do next if they didn’t have a local evening paper to advertise in… And if I can pull, say, £2,000 per month off the Norwich site in Pay-Per-Month advertising, that’s not too shabby either.

Particularly, if we can then find further revenue streams to add to our income bow.

Because that’s the real point. For all we do, for all the hours we write and for all the pavements we pound, the jury is still out as to whether advertising of any sort will – on its own – be enough to save our bacon.

And that applies to all of us. From The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The New York Times down… is there enough value in what we ‘sell’ in terms of advertising space to guarantee our survival?

No.

Just ask our Jeff. Without a column or two up his sleeve, a consultancy here and there and a teaching gig at CUNY, could he survive on $13,855 a year. Just over six grand…?

No.

Exactly. No.

 

 

I had a meeting with the banks last week. Or rather, a bank.

And for now, no names. That’s part of the deal. Because that’s another trick that we all need to remember out here in the digital wastelands; that as journalists with a global publishing platform sat on top of our kitchen table, we have a rare opportunity to promote, not just ourselves, but those who help us on our way.

Those who ‘get’ it. So if a bank agrees to do X and Y for a little, local plumbing firm, then the likelihood is that only his very nearest and dearest will ever be any the wiser.

Someone looks us after me right bank-wise, and I’ll sing like a bird.

Cos we can. And it’s important to remember to keep asking yourself those questions – if left to fend for ourselves, what can we do? What value can we bring back? What else have we got in our locker? And that’s one – the power to promote, to recognise, to reward.

Might only need to be a passing mention; but anything that helps, you do. Right now, there’s not too much time for journalistic niceties; until we find our feet in this new world, just do what it takes.

Anyway, from my point of view, last week’s meeting was the best yet. There wasn’t a triangle in sight; we didn’t draw eachother diagrams; we just talked about life. As he leads it in this new, digital world of ours.

And it was fascinating.

Because, here I was trying to be the digital missionary; to sell – in no particular order – my soul, my wares and my vision to a late forty-something commercial manager of a High St bank, and he got ‘it’. Almost without too much prompting from me.

This man was ‘middle England’ – as much as that term ever exists. He sat on his village’s parish council; he had two grown-up daughters neither of whom read the Bury Free Press where they lived; one had a four-year grandchild who complained that grand-dad’s lap-top was too slow to play her favourite CBBs games…

Penny after penny dropped as he ran through how we, ‘the media’, actually physically interacted with the way that he and his family led their every-day lives.

Or rather, we didn’t increasingly.

There’s no longer a newsagents in the village; to get his Sunday papers he now has to drive three miles. Last weekend, for the first time in his late-fortysomething life, he got up on a Sunday morning and didn’t feel like getting into a car to go and pick up The Sunday Times. So he read the bits he wanted on-line.

Not the same, he admitted. But he still found the same news he always did.

A West Ham fan, he aggregates. He has a ‘NewsNow’ feed set-up on his PC at work and ‘when he gets a mo…’ he has a look to see what’s the latest news from the Hammers; doesn’t have to trawl around a host of sites looking; he lets News Now do the hard work for him; scrapes it all into one feed and presents it to him for ‘when he gets a mo…’

Doesn’t always bother with the latest from the Newham Recorder… finds it tends to be a week old…

They had friends who were selling a house; ‘My wife and I said to them: ‘Don’t just put it in the paper, make sure it’s online…

‘We’re not looking to move, but I know the wife when she gets a mo, likes to look at the property websites to see the price of homes in the village…’

This is how middle England are re-organising their lives; and all too often without us.

If you are not there when we want it – and where we want it – well, we can’t be bothered with you any more…

Don’t tell me when to watch Doctor Who, I’ll watch it on iPlayer ‘when I get a mo…

Don’t expect me to waste 20 minutes every day going out to buy a local evening paper, I’ll look at it online ‘when I get a mo…

Or rather, I won’t. I’ll get the NewsNow search spiders to crawl across the newsagents’ counter 24/7 and see what they can find for me; they can scrape around all day long, I’ve got better things to do… put the news that I want, in the place I want it, for ‘when I get a mo… 

For if any of us are ever going to survive in this new world, we have to understand – and quickly – how far the tables have turned; how wholly irrelevant we can so easily be to these peoples’ lives.

And this man was 48-years-old. Middle aged and middle England to a ‘T’.

Now think how much any of us mean to a 28-year-old who’s not…

 

It was one of those pub stories that you never quite believed; half of me suspected that it was one of those tall tales that would be told to cub reporters, as a matter of course.

But anyway, when I first started my wood-staining career on the illustrious organ called the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald the story was that when it came to installing a sparkling new press beneath the Evening Adver’ building in Swindon Old Town, someone was despatched to Germany to bag themselves the business print press-wise.

The joke was that when it finally arrived it emerged that this new press ran – with typical German efficiency – only in a straight line; it didn’t do corners. Which was a bit of a problem – given that the old Adver’ building was of an L-shape design…

Some 20 years on and the interesting point is that print press was a couple of floors beneath us on the editorial floor; every Thursday lunchtime, we’d wander down – through the ad sales dept – and see the first edition, Devizes if memory serves, roll off said bent press. To be followed, in no particular order, by the editions for Calne, Malmesbury, Chippenham, North Wilts and Marlborough.

It was very much a ‘face-to-face’ process. You spoke to the printers; talked all things Swindon Town. Then came the delivery vans and their drivers before disappearing off into the four corners of Wiltshire where they would come ‘face-to-face’ with the newsagents.

Who would then either pass on the mighty sword of truth that was the Gazette to either their customers in the shop or the paper boys and girls charged with it’s safe delivery. Face to face to face to face to face…

It was a thought that popped into my head as I waded through Chapter 6 of Mr Shirky’s new tome, ‘Here Comes Everybody: Collective Action And Institutional Challenges’.

In it, he talks of the way that the new social tools at our disposal enpowered the Catholic laity to rise up, in effect, and challenge the existing order as the Voice Of The Faithful took to the web in their bitter spat with Cardinal Bernard F Law. To prove that it wasn’t just the Catholic voices that were being heard, the Episcopalian Church in Virginia then took it upon themselves to ‘de-locate’ to Nigeria where they found an Anglican bishop far more to their conservative liking.

In so doing, “they are challenging geography as an organizing principle for the church”.

Of course, the church isn’t the only organisation that, since time immemorial, has been organized on geographical lines. So, too, was the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald as we, as a group, went about our face-to-face business.

“In a world where group action means gathering face-to-face, people who need to act as a group should, ideally, be physically near one another.

“Now that we have ridiculously easy group forming, however, that stricture is relaxed and the result is that organizations that assume geography as a core organizing principle – even ones that have been operating that way for centuries – are now facing challenges to that previously bed-rock principle.”

I’m more than happy to give Shirky the benefit of the doubt given that his uncle lived and breathed the Richmond Daily News, but editor and priest, parish and circulation patch, laity and Gazette readers – they are all interchangeable. The message is still the same – just as the Virginians can worship in Nigeria, so the good people of Malmesbury can catch up with their friends on FaceBook, sell their kids’ toys on eBay, buy their next house on RightMove.

Neither the local church nor the local newsagents is the centre of their world any more.

MumsNet.com is an interesting one – a million-odd users every month and growing, it even made it to a speech by Tory leader David Cameron the other month: http://www.conservatives.com/tile.do?def=news.story.page&obj_id=142659&speeches=1

But there was a time when maternal guidance would be handed out on the Woman’s Page in the local evening paper; thousands of Swindon kids were probably weaned on the advice dished out by Shirley Mathias; you’d buy your second hat cot in the ‘For Sale’ classifieds; there’d be a quarter-page ad for Mothercare next to Shirley’s tales from the family front-line.

Now, it’s all there on www.mumsnet.com – mums united across the nation, smashing through one provincial newspaper parish after another as the web destroys geography as an ‘organising principle’.

Read Cameron’s speech again to the Conservative Councillors Conference in Warwickshire in February and it’s clever stuff; intuitive almost – and one or two lines might make for uncomfortable reading for local newspaper editors if local government information is, like MumsNet, about to drop its geographical constraints under any in-coming Tory Government.

“At the moment, local government bodies must provide the public with information about the services they provide, what goes on in council meetings and how councillors have voted on specific issues.

“Sure enough – you all do this. But the information isn’t published in a standardised way. Some councils use adverts in newspapers…”

Come the Revolution, brothers and sisters…

“We will turn that approach on its head. We will require local authorities to publish this information – about the services they provide, council meetings and how councillors vote – online and in a standardised format.

“That way, it can be collected and used by the public and third party groups. And this move will be accompanied by relaxing controls which force councils to pay to publish statutory notices. That way, we will actually reduce local government costs.”

And take money out of who’s hands… Oops. But that’s for another time.

The point is the ‘standardised format’; the ‘one size fits all’ approach that that entails; that there will be this nationwide network of local government information we will all be able to plug into and ‘scrape’ from – our newly-built aggregator tools at the ready. The invitation to help ourselves is clear enough.

“By standardising this data, it can be used by anyone’s website, anytime, anyplace to flag up the services you are putting on and get that information to the people who most need it…”

And will they do it through the existing patch-work quilt of papers and parishes? Or will they look to forge new alliances and new relationships, out there on the web where the eye-balls are?

“… A young parent looking for local crèche facilities. This information revolution will allow websites like mumsnet.com to flag up what is available, where and at what time and save people the bother of trawling individual websites…”

Like, you fear, that of the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald.

You know when a digital revolution is afoot when your 76-year-old mother beats you to a new innovation – namely watching a show on iPlayer.

My Mrs has; I haven’t. Too much time slaved to a hot lap-top – ahh, I could watch on there…

Anyway, my mother, 76 if she’s a day, has watched Songs Of Praise or whatever on the PC in the corner of her Cringleford kitchen. My cousin talked her through it, apparently.

So, there’s something afoot here. As the audience figures would suggest. And as my mother has now found out, she can watch her favourite TV programmes when she wants, not when Auntie tells her to.

And now comes this…

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/apr/09/digitalmedia.bbc

Fascinating. Cos that took me straight back to this; the conversation me and Sao  Paulo were having the other day…

https://outwithabang.wordpress.com/2008/04/02/if-i-watch-bbc-news24-on-an-apple-iphone-do-i-need-a-tv-licence-discuss/

Cos clearly we now have another subject to discuss. If I watch BBC News24 off a Wii console do I need a TV licence?

Go to Sao Paulo’s response to the original response…

By law battery operated television receiving equipment is supposed to be exempt although the BBC TV Licence salespeople will say different!

And, indeed, the original debate on the Tomski blog…

http://www.tomski.com/2008/01/dont_own_a_tv_you_might_still.shtml#comments

Because, to my mind, accessing BBCNews24 via the nearest available Wii merely complicates matters still further; when is a screen just a screen? And when does that screen become a TV, when it has a Wii plugged in?

Does my eight-year-old boy, fresh from whooping my ass again at tennis, now need a TV licence becuase he’s got a piece of pluggable, electronic equipment that is capable of broadcasting a live, BBC service?

And if I were the BBC, the thought might just start occuring to me that iPlayer, for all its magic audience numbers, may be a very dark genie that they have just unleashed from the digital bottle.

Because the next generation of TV licence payers – currently sat playing on their Wii consoles and answering their iPhones in student bed-sits up and down the land – will probably never own a TV in the sense that us 40-somethings see one.

And with the bloody-mindedness that comes with youth, they will probably tell the man with the detector van exactly that – that I own a Wii, a lap-top and a mobile phone. And, no, I’m not paying a TV licence fee.

To borrow badly from The Smiths, that little thought would – if not, ought to – prompt panic on the streets of Wood Lane…

OK, here’s a simple test. What do you get if you put this….

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/apr/10/bbc.internet

Next to this…

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article3689881.ece

Exactly.

So much for the answer. The question, of course, is who pays the ferryman…

 

This afternoon, having rummaged around the back of the telephone for a very dog-eared book token, I went out and bought Clay Shirky’s new tome, ‘Here Comes Everybody – The Power Of Organizing Without Organizations’.

I haven’t finished it. I’ve dipped and dabbled; a dangerous pursuit if I was a serious reviewer. I’m not. I’m a journalist by day; a writer, by night. The only thing the two have in common is the fact that, with either hat on, I employ the same means of distribution. You read both on a screen. I don’t stain wood.

Otherwise, the two – journalist and writer – are pretty much chalk and cheese. One delivers conversation, the other comment. And while the distinction between the two may, on occasion, blur with my journalistic hat on; with my writer ‘Out With A Bang’ hat on, it is black and white.

I don’t do conversation. There’s no two-way interaction here. This is me just shouting my mouth off, little more. Half the time there’s no-one out there anyway.

And as I read Chapter Three: Everyone Is A Media Outlet and Shirky’s difficulty in defining just what is a journalist in this digital age, that’s the thought that crossed my mind – that a journalist is simply someone with regular access to a near-private conversation.

Near-private because that ‘conversation’ could come in the form of a Press conference; and if that Press conference is beamed – or, rather, web-cast – live to the world, then the ‘near-private’ conversation is the one that you have in hushed tones once the cameras stop rolling; the little look that crosses one party’s face as his aides usher him hurriedly out of the room. Aimed at the right journalist with the right interpretative skills, that is a ‘conversation’ of the highest order. But it needs skills.

And here’s the other key ingredient, that conversation is ‘regular’ – that it is part of a journalist’s trade-craft to be able to have and to hold a conversation with a contact and then, story written and published, to still be able to have a conversation with that same contact. To keep him or her sufficiently ‘onside’, that they are still there the next time you need a Page 6 lead in a hurry.

And that, likewise, is a skill.

Interestingly, you could argue that it is a skill that is more finely-honed and appreciated in a local journalist than it is in a national journalist; that the latter can drop in, do an interview, cane the person concerned and never have to worry about darkening their door-step again.

Work the local beat and there’s a far finer level of diplomacy required to push the story to it’s natural ‘limits’ and still be welcome back on that person’s door-step. Or on their mobile phone.

Of course, there will be occasions where – even on that local beat – the story is of sufficient import that bridges have to be burnt; ties cut; relations severed. But it is a judgement call; a skill; a craft.

And not everybody can do it.

And that’s my point – I can wield a bread knife with the best of them; doesn’t make me a brain surgeon. Just because I can tap a keyboard and publish to the waiting world-wide web, doesn’t make me a journalist. Can make me a very good writer; a hugely influential ‘blogger’, but doesn’t make me a journalist.

And, for me, there’s value in that distinction that Shirky over-looks. In 90% of what he says, fine. Spot on.

A newspaper’s control of the means of distribution has gone.

A journalist’s control of regular access to a near-private conversation? Nope, that’s still there – that’s the ‘scarcity’ that he misses.

“Most professions exist because there is a scarce resource that requires on-going management…’

The ‘scarce resource’ is the invite to the near-private conversation. But he’s spot on about that needing ‘on-going management’. It’s called Ex’s. Or lunch. Or a drink at the bar round the corner.

“It used to be hard to move words, images, and sounds from creator to consumer and most media businesses involve expensive management of the pipeline problem, whether running a printing press or a record label…

“…Now though the problems of production, reproduction and distribution are much less serious. As a consequence, control over the media is less completely in the hands of the professionals.”

Fine. But for everybody else out there, the problems of access to that near-private conversation are, arguably, just as serious as they ever have been.

I would argue that you need a professional to simply worm and squirrel your way through the banks of PR people that surround most of the people we need to have a conversation with, let alone to then know how to act and report as and when ‘contact’ was made. And all with a view to keeping that contact ‘alive’.

‘Here Comes Everybody’ – but have they got an invite? That’s the question.

Who, even now, do you give the invite to? Go back to bread knives and brain surgeons – I might have been burning the midnight oil on my scalp-slicing style, but is anyone actually going to give me an invite to perform surgery? Not when access to the requisite patient – the one with the blinding headache – is so limited.

Likewise, can ‘everybody’ physically fit into a locker room, a council chamber, a magistrates court? What about their own day jobs…

And if the answer is ‘No!’, who do you invite in for a near-private conversation with the coach, the mayor or the judge? The writer or the journalist? Bearing in mind you’re looking for someone who can hold that near-private conversation on a regular basis?

“The future presented by the Internet is the mass amateurization of publishing and a switch from ‘Why publish this?’ to ‘Why not?'”

Why not? Cos you call coach a tw*t and publish and you won’t get invited back.

Defining what we are, what we do when we’re not talking to ourselves and writing blogs – but talking to others (regularly) and writing journalism – is crucial to our survival because we have to prove where the value is in this publishing process.

“If anyone can be a publisher, then anyone can be a journalist.”

Wrong. If anyone can be a publisher, then anyone can be a writer.

“Journalistic privilege is based on the previous scarcity of publishing. When it was easy to recognise who the publisher was, it was easy to figure out who the journalists were. We could regard them as professional (and therefore minority) category. Now that scarcity is gone…

“For a generation that is growing up without the scarcity that made publishing such a serious-minded pursuit, the written word has no special value in and of itself.”

Shirky cites two fine and up-standing examples of the craft of journalism pre the Internet’s dawn – Bob Woodward and his Uncle Howard, of the Washington Post and the Richmond Daily News respectively. Both are clearly professionals.

And what made them professionals? The ability to get ‘Deep Throat’ to a multi-story car park late one night and, I suspect, the ability to get the Mayor of Richmond out of bed in the early hours of the morning when something big broke – and still be able to talk to both the next morning.

Both could hold a semi-private, if not exclusive, conversation with a major source at any time of day or night. And all on a regular basis – for as and when the next story demanded.

And not everybody can do that.

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.

 

 

I guess the accompanying headline should run along the lines of: ‘If you think we’re screwed now…’

Or some kind of suggestion that the fun might only have just begun; that our friend – and some clearly still see it as our ‘enemy’ – The Internet is but a little baby to one, awesome kick-ass mother that lies just around the corner.

Bit like ‘Aliens’ I guess. That if the hapless Ripley had her hands full with one of them, just wait till you get to meet Mum… and, boy, is she mad. Only this time she’s buried not beneath some atmposphere recycling planet on Zeltron 2-Alpha or whatever it was, but underneath some charming Swiss valley.

What are we talking about? This that popped up in The Times today… Meet Mum, meet ‘The Grid’.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article3689881.ece

OK, so The Grid’s purpose is to dig out some elusive little proton; the one that gives matter mass… but does that even matter given the likely impact it is to have on the rest of us in the midst of its game of molecular hide-and-seek?

Download a whole movie in five seconds instead of three hours? Holographic formats? What, you mean that a web-casted council chamber could now appear in a holographic format on the palm of my hand?

Heh, that’s Star Wars; OK, so it’s South Norfolk District Council in five years time, but the image is of Star Wars… five-inch figures sat in the palm of my hand debating matters of planetry import. As it effects the Waveney Valley.

Five years? Who knows. CERN is, of course, the birthplace of the Internet. And like ‘The Grid’, both will filter their way out into the wider world via the academic institutions.

But the fact is that mother can now piggy-back off her little baby; here we are, after all, reading about ‘The Grid’ on the web; we’re not learning about the potential impact of the Internet in some dusty, academic tome as might have been the case some 20-odd years ago.

‘The Grid’ is just one push of a ‘red button’ away; it’s live, happening and coming to a lab near you.

Whether it comes to a mobile near your is the next question; at what cost and at what speed, the question after.

But look at the impact The Internet has already had on the way we do our newspaper business – or, rather, don’t do our newspaper business – and now envisage a delivery system that is ‘10,000 times faster than the average broadband connection…’

News of which is about to be delivered on a delivery system that, in itself, is what 10,000 times faster than the wood-staining system that delivered The Internet? Depends on how fast the little lad on his push-bike delivered the newspaper down your street, I guess.

Is there a lesson? Well, if even half of what they say about ‘The Grid’ is true then the likelihood of the newspaper surviving much beyond the next decade grows ever less likely; that my eight-year-old little man will, in every likelihood, look at The Internet and laugh at how slow and clunky it seemed…

‘I can’t believe you tried to run a business of that, Dad…’

‘And before that I used to work on a newspaper… imagine that…’

Scary, scary times. We can’t even find an answer to the problems that The Internet poses. And now, deep beneath some Swiss valley, out comes ‘The Grid’…

And this time she really means business.

http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2008/04/what-newspapers-and-journalism-need-now-experimentation-not-nostalgia/

Some people talking a decent talk. Trying to find a new model when it comes to walking the digital walk…