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.


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…

I spent, ooh, at least two minutes this morning trying to find the right biological term. And failed. I thought the word I might be looking for was ‘osmosis’ – but I’m not sure it is.

Should have stayed awake in biology…

Anyway, what I wanted to describe was the way in which local advertisers are starting to buy into this whole ‘long tail and water lilies’ type idea and can be ‘sucked’ up moisture-up-roots fashion.

New to that notion, where have you been…? OK, here’s the link…


So, that’s the image to bear in mind – of water lilies and long-tails… tails that drop down into the murky, rich depths of local journalism. Where the good stuff is – be it in either content or advertising.

And up that tail goes rich, sticky stories; to be felt and sold at our ‘piece’ market, by ‘mother’ – be it MFW or MLW.

But what is interesting about this whole long-tail concept is the fact that it is not just editorial content that can be drawn up towards the sunlight. Cos ‘local’ advertising can come too…

OK, here’s our Nigel; bright lad; runs the village garage. Services our cars.

Out of the side of his garage he also runs a little scooter empire; ESS Scooters, complete with its own website. ‘Natch.

And here’s his ‘sky’ ad. As made up by our Nick.


Which originally appeared on www.myfootballwriter.com/norwichcity. And, just as the British Army and Norwich City College have twigged, there’s a decent demographic ‘fit’ there; lads and football. Good place to find some likely eyeballs if you’re selling scooters, too. Good way to get to Norwich City College…

So anyway, this being Loddon – getting towards the heart of bandit country; the Waveney Valley badlands that separates Ipswich folk to the south and Norwich folk to the north – me and Kev wondered whether he’d like to advertise on the Ipswich site, www.myfootballwriter.com/ipswichtown.

‘Natch, he said.

Oh, and we’re opening up in Essex in January; fancy a run on the Colchester site; do you a deal… Essex boys, scooters…?


Because? Because the web has set little local firms free; just as it might little local journalists.

And having signed a nationwide courier deal and opened the doors of his web-site for on-line business, our Nigel – all from his little showroom tucked away on an out-of-the-way industrial estate – is now flogging bikes to punters in Fort William, in Birmingham, in Leicester and beyond.

Is he going to take out individual adverts in the Birmingham Mail, the Leicester Mercury, etc, etc? Or is he going to work out of a convenient network? One that gets him to the on-line eyeballs that he wants?

So up the tail he comes… fancy www.myfootballwriter.com/bristolcity? Sure… do me a deal…

The Internet has set him free commercially; he has a global shop-front and with a courier deal in place, he can deliver his products – deliver the ‘content’ of his little showroom in the back end of Loddon – to wherever his customers are.

That’s why being local in focus but national in scope can work… because these days thousand upon thousand of local businesses are, likewise, learning to be exactly that.

Nigel can put his scooter outlet into the palm of people’s hands. The breadth and range of his potential customer base has exploded. And he’s intent on taking full advantage.

Give him an elegant, simple opportunity to develop his brand across a network and you’re sucking up local advertisers towards the water-lilies and the sunlight; you’re not asking the likes of our Nigel to wander off and find Mr BlogAds or whoever and then asking for a price to cascade ‘down’; this is local advertising working from the bottom up.

Nor, of course, is he entrusting an algorithm to find him the eyeballs he wants; he can see where he thinks the lads will be looking for himself, thank you very much.

Clearly, it’s not an answer for every local business; some will only want eyeballs that are within 30-minute drive time; you won’t get too many takers for Norwich City College on the terraces of Ashton Gate, but there is something going on here; something that ought to work going forward – that if you can re-organise yourself sufficiently elegantly that you can be local in focus, but truly national in scope then local advertisers will come too.

We are, it seems, travelling the same bumpy road together.

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 www.myfootballwriter.com 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, www.myfootballwriter.com.

And if MFW can, eventually, be a 72-room hall as we cascade down the Football League ladder, www.MyLocalWriter.com 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 – http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2006/mar/13/news.rupertmurdoch1

“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 www.mylocalwriter.com was even less than a twinkle in anyone’s eye – we stumbled out into this digital world as www.rickwaghorn.co.uk

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, www.rickwaghorn.co.uk. 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 www.rickwaghorn.co.uk and it collapses; on a wholly different level altogether, it’s why I don’t think www.jeremyclarkson.co.uk 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 www.myfootballwriter.com/ipswichtown – just as we would three months later when Nick went into www.myfootballwriter.com/colchesterunited.

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.

www.rickwaghorn.co.uk 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.

With Kev hanging out of his back bedroom window, Ian slaving over a hot addiply cms in his mum’s spare room and Neil off proofing the history of art, it was time for the boss to treat the rest of the MFW troops to lunch.

Both of them. It should have been three, but Tom was down with flu.

Mark does Ipswich, Nick does Colchester; both do MFW like a dream.

There was a time when we thought we might go the franchise route with MFW; build a football reporter starter-pack and let people take the ‘kit’ off the shelf and off they go; it’s where we think MLW might be able to go.

But go down the franchise route and, as far as I could ever work out, I’d have spent the last six months slaving night and day writing a training manual.

So instead when first Mark and then Nick joined the party, their ‘kit’ was a 3G data card, one of those digital voice recorders with the UBS thing that makes them a radio station and a decent, second-hand motor off Col’s Cars in Acle. £120 a month over three years; works out OK.

Like most 20-somethings, they come with a lap-top attached.

A quick chat about remembering they’re a local; that it’s great to get a headline one day; not so great if that same headline doesn’t talk to you the next… and that was about it, I think.

I showed them once how to upload the Action Images stuff off the CMS; Neil bunged them the link to their site stats to keep track of their hourly circulation figures and neither of them have missed a trick. Or a deadline.

They’ve had to change; to adapt. We all work Sundays. For until the provincial newspaper industry start producing Sunday newspapers – or flooding out the post-match quotes and copy ahead of their Monday print editions – we’ve got that day to ourselves; but they don’t seem to be bothered.

Write the piece on a Saturday night before you go out; time the piece on the CMS to go up at 10am on Sunday morning and these boys can still be sleeping off the night before as they publish to the waiting world.

During the week, minus deadlines we have this deal that they aim for the whole ‘My first coffee break…’ market sometime around the mid-morning; then hit the ‘One last look before I log off…’ brigade some time around 5; 5.30pm. And all the time, you’re about to roll out stuff as and when anything breaks.

Because these days punters call the shots; they access their news when they want to – and where they want to. Not when we tell them. It’s on your door mat at 4.40pm. Take it or leave it…

And we’re not going to get everything first; ask most football reporters these days and they get sweet FA first – not ‘news’ wise. News belongs to the clubs; that’s why they run their own TV stations; hire ‘club journalists’… the rest of us just mop up afterwards.

That’s why we run the RSS feeds from elsewhere; look here’s the news from the local newspaper, Sky, BBC, Telegraph football… just get it off our site while you’re here… And look, before anyone starts to complain, here’s your branding on our site…

News is everywhere; me, Mark and Nick can’t be. So we link.

And this is the thing; they get all of this; the fact that all we can ever do now is aim at this ‘When I get a mo…’ market; the fact that they need to work slightly different days; be slightly more flexible in their thinking.

But they’ve been flexible in their thinking since the first time they set a finger on a keyboard. When they were five, probably. In school.

This generation of young journalists embraced the web years ago; they know what it can deliver; they don’t need a training manual; it’s in their DNA.

Podcasts? Yeh, fine… Upload pictures? Whatever…

We got 72 CVs through for the Colchester gig; good CVs; nigh-on all were the same age, same background; journalism courses, year or so on a local weekly; a good few on an evening sports desk. All can clearly see the writing on the wall.

So you go back and say: ‘Right, given a choice…. given your contacts, location… what club would you like to do?’ And they’re all there; the six for Watford, four for Preston, eight for Palace. Cos they all get it; like I still don’t most of the time.

Twitter? Me? Behave.

But my boys will. Stand in front of that JEECamp and listen to Paul talk about what his kids are up to and, boy, are they going to have fun.

Someone, somewhere, just needs to set them free. That’s why we want to beta MyLocalWriter through the J-Schools, the colleges, the universities. Cos the kids know what they’re doing; they know where their world is going.

Most of the time, we haven’t got a clue.

My BlogAds pal – he of the ‘race to the bottom’ cheeriness – was right in one respect.

Once you get out here, it is all a numbers game. We are, indeed, entering ‘the Age of Quantification’.

And, as he suggested, for all us professional locals the numbers don’t add up.

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.

We took AdSense off www.myfootballwriter.com/norwichcity round about September. www.myfootballwriter.com/ipswichtown and www.myfootballwriter.com/colchesterunited have never run AdSense; it didn’t make any sense; by the time both launched, for better or worse we were giving ‘addiply’ a go.

AdSense remains sat there on the mother site, www.myfootballwriter.com in the hope that any passing Colchester United, Norwich City or Ipswich Town punter might want to buy some Champions League quarter-final tickets off www.acetickets.co.uk

Unlikely, I suspect, but as the publisher it’s one of those little straws that Google leaves me to cling to.

It’s somewhere about now that ‘Out With A Bang’ veers more towards ‘Shuffling Off With A Whimper’ as we start to tip-toe around the whole G-word issue.

Cos clearly, in many other aspects, we need to cling to their magic black box with a passion. It is, after all, how all-too many people get to find us in the first place. And where would any of us be without that Google searchlight to illuminate this infinite web darkness?

But when it comes to earning anyone a living off their local web toils, well, I’m sorry. I can’t get it to work.

Not on my numbers; great, sticky 436-second copy twice a day and all that, but £110 for every 400,000 page impressions… someone’s having a laugh.

Of course, Google has now got a new toy for us all to play with – Google Ad Manager. It has, says Mr Jarvis, the odd chink in its armour – one that is unlikely to make the life of the local publisher any easier in terms of sourcing local advertising.

Because for 400-odd years that’s what under-pinned the business model of local newspapers, local advertising. And that hasn’t changed; that’s still there; all that’s changed – albeit dramatically – is our reliance as journalists on the wood-stainers to distribute our thoughts.

Nor for that matter do the little local advertisers increasingly want to bother with the wood-stainers any more – not when they’ve got a nice, new shiny website to promote. Like Ady. And his skips. www.adysskips.com

But back to Google Ad Manager and our Jeff’s thoughts from www.buzzmachine.com…

One big problem with its program is that it doesn’t share that data with the publishers and let them use it to more efficiently serve its ads. It also doesn’t share it with advertisers and let them take advantage of a more transparent marketplace.

“No, Google’s holding onto that information itself and, once again, becoming smarter than all of us. And I say that’s our own damned fault for not building our truly open ad marketplace. It’s not too late, but it soon will be…”

That’s why for the Ady’s of this world we built www.twadservices.co.uk – these people have been used to paying 500 notes for a half page ad in their local evening paper and seeing that half page ad on Page 17 on a Monday night. So when the Mrs does the books, Ady can point to where, exactly, that £500 went.

What, exactly, they got for their money. A half page. On Page 17. On a Monday.

www.twadservices.co.uk causes me, the publisher, a pain in the a*se cos armed with all his new figures from his own client log-in page, I have to explain to Ady why we’re unlikely to hit 1.3 million banners this month; that January was transfer window month; that Norwich are doing crap; Colchester are bottom of the table; Ipswich are falling away from the play-offs…

But look, Ady… there’s your new ad. We’ve made it a sky-scraper this time. And look, don’t worry about this cpm stuff; just give us 140 notes for the month… and we’ll bung you a month for free at the end.

Go back to New York and my pal with his race to the bottom, and his other gem was the battle was lost; the war was won; that before any of us had re-organised and re-grouped, Google would have an ad rep in every city and town in the UK.

Me and our Kev bust our proverbials to get Ady and his skips onto our site. The story was that he got a call from Mrs Huckerby one day, ordering a skip from an ad that she’d seen on-line somewhere…

I would pay a small fortune to watch a Google ad rep go and get an ad off Ady.

I would pay an even bigger fortune to watch a Google ad rep go and get money off someone like an Ady. He’s as good as gold; doesn’t owe us a penny. But most of these boys come from a generation – maybe that’s now passing – in which paying us out of what’s rolled up tightly in their back pocket was the norm.

Cos they’re a local. And that’s where our future lies. At an Ady’s door, not at Google’s.

A scribble, yesterday

It was a simple question from Pete Ashton – and one that, at the time, I had no answer to.

I’m not sure I do now.

Which is why, in part, Out With A Bang is here to help. Kind of.

Anyway, the question. ‘Is that model you drew online?’

Drew is probably over-stating it. Scribbled is a more accurate phrase as the old flip chart, marker pen and A-frame were assembled for the new kid on the (un)conference block as I tried to offer some ‘elegant organisation’ to the whole MFW thing. And, indeed, potentially to the whole www.mylocalwriter.com baby.

I’d scribbled the thing out a couple of times before – once to some Barclays Bank types who drew a really lovely triangle by way of return; all-too-often to Col and Gary at the accountants who tend to nod politely as their eyes glaze over; once to Shane Richmond in the midst of a ‘Norwich aren’t going down, are they?’ conversation that he invariably demands.

OK, the idea is that if journalism is to thrive and survive in any post wood-stainer world, we have to build new alliances, forge fresh commercial links; re-organise; re-invent; start again from a blank piece of paper – and scribble all over it. Elegantly.

And what we create are these tubes – and I’m sure someone will think of a better term – but tubes that are, as I discovered at Charlie Beckett’s POLIS gig way back when, “two inches wide, but a mile deep…” Long tails. That’s the theory.

So beneath our mothership, www.myfootballwriter.com, we bolt a succession of sub-sites on www.myfootballwriter.com/norwichcity, www.myfootballwriter.com/ipswichtown and down and down we go.

For down there in the depths is this hyper-local world that features not only some prime, ‘sticky’ content, but also all that untapped local advertising; all these traditional, evening newspaper types who have built their own little business websites of late but don’t now know what to do with them…

Up top, where the sun shines and the lily pads are, that’s this new and emerging world of previously ‘national’ media brands who are suddenly discovering an escape route via global audiences – that’s where the circulation wars of the future will be fought between your Mails, Times, Telegraphs and Guardians. In their ABCe’s – how many monthly uniques are they pulling from the Mid-West US….

The trick is to devise an editorial and advertising platform that mirrors a Craig’s List or an eBay; that has this similar capacity to be both local in focus, but national in scope.

That’s why the BBC is laughing – or would be if it ever got the green light to do what it’s doing on its Worldwide platform and source UK-facing advertising.

For it can be this huge, global media beast – and yet at the same time via its county radio stations and its forthcoming BBC Local roll-out – it can drill down to being local in focus.

Just as MFW can. As ITVLocal.com can – albeit via its regional platforms. As, in fairness, RightMove, PrimeLocation, Monster and all those boys are.

With their minds all set on broadening their global appeal, do the Mails, the Telegraphs and the Times’ want to dive down to the bottom of the pond and see what’s there? Or will they concentrate their energies on spreading their wings and being a lily pad – and let someone else hoover up what’s down below?

Cos then, the theory goes, you just bolt your tube onto the bottom of a lily-pad; up comes local content and local advertising – down goes national content and, potentially, national advertising… BMW ads and Russell Brand’s Saturday football column makes it to the bottom of the MFW pond, as podcasts with Mick Mills and Johnny Wark reach the surface.

And this is where me and the provincial newspaper industry go our seperate ways.

Cos they’re neither lily-pad nor bottom-dwelling pond-life.

As this new kid on the (un)conference block I did my homework before JEECamp and looked at Trinity Mirror’s excellent online communities site that they have trialled – very successfully – out of the Gazette. I know that TS10 is the postcode for Redcar.

And fair play, it’s good.

And then you read that they’re planning a ‘national’ roll-out. Fantastic.

So when are you going to do NR14? Have one of those TrinityMirror babies rolling down our street? Complete with a local advertising revenue driver…

Cos clearly this being Archant-land, they won’t mind. As they won’t in every other traditional provincial newspaper fiefdom across the country. Don’t mind us, you carry on…

Me, Neil, Kev and Ian are four boys on their laptops. This being Norfolk, if I want a mobile phone signal to speak to Kev my ad man, I need to stand in a three-foot circle in our dining room; he answers by leaning out of his back bedroom window.

But we can still see a lily pad.

mylocalwriter.com/ts10, mylocalwriter.com/nr14 – or mylocalwriter.com/redcar, mylocalwriter.com/loddon if you prefer.

From there it’s up and into MySun, MyTelegraph or whoever…

Well, that’s our theory. F*ck it.

Like the blog says, let’s go out with a bang.