What follows will touch on two places that we’ve been before – the scarcity (or not) of media and the value of anything we, as journalists, do in this digital age.

Quotes.

If I was Paul or Charlie or Adrian or anyone of those boys entrusted with the education of the next generation of journalists, I would start my first term with a lesson on the treatment of quotes.

Given that in all likelihood we are now always going to be talking about quotes in their sound clip form – ie as held on a digital voice recorder not as an ineligble scribble on an reporter’s notebook – in a sense the classic meaning of the ‘treatment of quotes’ has changed.

You don’t ‘treat’ them at all; you have a perfect record of the conversation, of the interview; one that you could – and I’m not sure as to the argument why we don’t – simply attach the sound clip of the interview as a ‘source material’ link beneath your article.

It’s there in all it’s dropped ‘aitch, no sentence glory. But it’s fresh, it’s original, it’s untreated and, above all else, it’s yours.

And that’s key; that’s a fundamental. That possession of quotes is nine-tenths of our digital law.

And when we talk of the digital treatment of quotes, that’s what has changed – we don’t ‘treat’ them in the sense of smoothing out the grammar; applying the right tense to the passage – and we’re back to the whole ‘Who needs a sub?’ line here – instead we treat them as you would the family silver. Never let them out of your sight.

Every quote is a prisoner, there we go. Theme for the day. Every quote is a prisoner…

If you give them away, you only do so for a very good reason. Cash, ideally.

And if that fails, then it is a credit. ‘Blah, blah, blah…’ told MyFootballWriter.com.

And that’s your fall-back position; you don’t budge from that line.

Clearly it depends on the occasion of the interview. If it’s open season and the world and his media wife are there, then the argument shifts; then perhaps it is more a case of who’s first, who’s got the best analysis, the best intro…

But – as all locals do – if you know it’s the same old faces attending the same police calls, the same pre-match Press conference, etc, etc and, by the same token, you then know where those same quotes are head next – onto BBC Radio, the morning provincial paper 24 hours late(r) – then you have a fair chance of ‘tracking’ your babies. And watch where they go like a hawk.

And here’s another trick that we should all learn – insert the odd, quirky punctuation. Bit like an individual stone mason used to leave his mark.

Because in this age of cut and paste, that’s your ‘finger print’ – mine tends to be over-use of the semi-colon; I like a liberal dash of hyphens – anything that will lure some unsuspecting cut-and-paste clown into nicking your quotes complete with your punctuation… cos that’s so much harder for any news desk to defend; that not only are the quotes the same, so is the punctuation…

And it’s hugely important. If there are just two of us who have got off our arses to talk to a single football player in the West Country rain and you know who the other ‘local’ face is… then you know where those quotes are going; and where they shouldn’t be.

Or at least, not without either a cheque or a credit attached. Because a credit is a marketing device; it proves that you had the quote first; you were the one that got your hands dirty at the coalface; that you’re the one with the fresh, organic stuff – you don’t re-package and re-use for a living.

Back to the Piece Hall. By all means let people feel the quality of the cloth; that’s why you’ve built a communal space in the first-place; for people to see, to feel and – ideally – to trade.

But you don’t let people wander off with your hand-woven ‘pieces’ and then re-sell from the back of the dirty white van parked round the corner.

Value; you delivered value by sourcing those quotes yourself. And if you are selling your wares to a passionate, niche audience for whom those fresh quotes have a real value and interest, do not give them away.

Guard them with your life because, with a fair wind, they may just save yours…

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I’m sure our Luca’s sick and tired of people having a pop and I’m not about to re-visit that Ersnt & Young report; I’ll let these boys do that – http://adrianmonck.blogspot.com/2008/03/can-consultants-save-national.html and, whilst you’re there, http://virtualeconomics.typepad.com/virtualeconomics/2008/03/solets-demolish.html.

And I was thinking about this the other day as we started to wander our way around this whole local advertising thing.

Because the other model that appears to have slipped under the Ernst & Young radar is PPM. Has anyone actually done PPM yet? It’s pay-per-month.

It’s very simple. Me and/or Kev wander into a local advertiser and, say, ‘Here you are, fella, give us a 150 notes and you can be on our site for a month…’

What can then follow is a conversation that would make Jeff Jarvis’ head spin and our new best pal Luca reach for his triangles.

But it’s a conversation that again needs to be slipped into next autumn’s course-work because out there – where the metal meets the meat, so to speak – it’s a conversation that the next generation of local, self-financing journalists need to have.

Because not everyone they encounter will, actually, have a website. But they may still recognise a good, banner placement opportunity when they see one.

And for all those thousands and thousands of little local firms out there who have known nothing else but advertising in their little local paper, you have to hold them by the hand and lead them oh-so gently across the great divide and into this whole new world of digitally-based advertising.

These are busy people; with small ad budgets and even less time than most to worry about the latest CPM rates; PPC ratios, etc, etc… We’re back to Ady and the man from Google. Out there, down Sprowston Road and up Martineau Lane, you just make their lives as easy as possible.

And if they have grown up paying £250 for one night in an evening newspaper, then the next step is to say: ‘OK, how about £150 for 31 nights on a local website…’

Gently, gently catchee monkey… Let’s start with PPM. Let’s go from there.

Here, you go Luca. Take yourself up Aylsham Road – if memory serves it’s just before the Bingo – and there’s a pawn-brokers. Good lads. Not yet got round to getting a website.

Busy people. Times are hard; business is up.

But you bring an ad-make up function to the party – and this is what our Nick down Norton Road knocks me out…

http://twadservices.co.uk/viewbanner.php?i=95

Now, it is not about to win any awards at some swish London bash; this isn’t Saatchi & Saatchi – this is a pawn-brokers half-way up Aylsham Road in Norwich; and he’s got a second place out Lowestoft way.

But to my little, local mind – that ad looks good.

And what is more important, that simple PPM ad makes that pawnbroker feel good.

I bet, quietly, he’s quite proud of his new – if not, first – web presence. After 30 years running virtually the same ad in the local paper, now he’s got that to show his family and friends.

Whether it actually drives him new business, who knows? Depends, as ever, as to whether or not he asks every customer who walks through his door where they saw his ad.

But it’s interesting – and very telling as to what you can actually do out there on the front-line; what models you can actually get to work at a local level. Cos if he actually likes the way his ad looks on-line, then there’s a sneak of a chance that come the end of his four-month PPM, he’ll book again.

Just like he used to do when the lad from the local newspaper used to pop his head round the door. ‘Same again..?’ he’d ask.

‘Yeh, go on then…’ they’d reply.

That’s how they’ve given local newspapers a living for donkeys years; that’s how – in part – they might, just, give local news websites a living, too.

It’s still mights and maybes. Ifs and buts.

But PPM and pawn-brokers; we ignore them at our peril. For let’s face it, way things are in our line of work, we may all need cash quick…

When I was first cutting my journalistic teeth on that mighty organ of the west that was the weekly Wiltshire Gazette & Herald, the advertising department was something you tried to get off with pass seasonal greetings to every Christmas.

And it was the same when I graduated to my local evening paper; the advertising department was something that you wandered through en route to the accounts dept; it was another world; one that we journalists never knew anything about. Like I say, we’d try to build bridges come Christmas time – for the rest of the year, we went our way; they went their’s.

And I guess that’s true of 90 per cent of old newspaper institutions; more, probably. Even now, I don’t think habits and perceptions have changed.

But they need to. In fact, given what most reporters can – in theory – do with a digital camera these days, I’d ditch the old reporter-photographer combo altogether and send the reporter out into battle locally with an ad person at their side – you get the story, I’ll get an ad… and they’d sit next to each other in the office.

And swap contacts books. One would gut the other’s battered little black book for stories and leads; the other would likewise gut the list for ad leads… this parish councillor, doesn’t he run a garage…?

It’s funny, but doing what we’ve done of late you tend to bump into more academics than newspaper executives. Don’t know why… perhaps it’s something we’ve said.

Anyway, you listen to what the likes of Paul, Adrian, Charlie, Roy, Jeff and people are all up to with their students and they all seem to be grappling with the same big issue – what do we actually teach our J-School kids these days that’s going to be of relevance to their digitally-based journalistic lives?

What do you teach the next generation of journalists? Simple.

Advertising.

In fact, I’ll even get the ball rolling with a simple, multiple-choice question for their Fall ’08 module on ‘Enterprise and journalism; making ends meet when the local newspaper goes t*ts up…’

Johnny Smith’s family furniture store half-way up the Sprowston Road was one of your early launch advertisers. You join your ad-man for what you presume to be a straight-forward re-booking. Johnny Smith, however, has had a re-think. ‘To be honest, we’re going to give it a miss this quarter,” he says. “We’re just not seeing any response…”

Do you…

(a) say: ‘How the f*ck do you know that? What, do you ask everyone who walks through the door where they heard of you? What about them over there, you asked them?’

or (b) say: ‘Look I know you’ve only had six click-throughs this month, but how many f*cking click-throughs have you had off that ridiculous taxi you had painted last month? Who’s ‘clicking through’ on that, twat? And while we’re on the subject, how many people have clicked through that half-page newspaper ad you’ve been running for the last 30 years… eh?’

or (c) say: ‘Johnny, that’s fine. We’re just grateful for all your initial support; maybe we can pop back in again in a couple of months when you’ve got your new autumn cane furniture range in…?’

If you answer either (a) or (b) you are a journalist.

If you answer (c) you’re our Kev.

But if, as a journalist, you can learn and/or be taught to answer (c) then you’ve got a chance.

Even if you still think (a) and (b). You’ve got a chance.

Teach the kids how to sell; at a local level certainly. They sell, they survive.