There was many a line in this that caught my eye; most of which can be saved for another day.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/apr/23/bbc.pressandpublishing

It was Myners’ line right at the end, however, that maybe deserves some thought – the bit where he suggests that, when it comes to the regional press “there will be continuing pressure for consolidation of ownership to bring scale…”

We have been down this road a little before; in wondering just how Trinity Mirror’s excellent local community web-sites in Teesside – soon coming to a Coventry suburb near you – can be made to work in downtown Loddon.

It clearly can be made to work in Loddon; the question is whether or not it will be the Trinity-Mirror model that winds it’s way over the bridge from Chedgrave and up the High Street – or the Archant one. They are, of course, only ten miles up the road in Norwich and have, therefore, rather less of a trek to get here.

But Myners is clearly merely repeating what every regional newspaper executive knows; that to make their numbers work – to get that old, newsprint quart to fit in a web pint pot, they are going to have to get hold of some more pint pots… to give themselves scale, as Myners observes.

Now, I am no economist. But right now, with their share prices already halved and the credit crunch just starting to bite, who on earth has got any appetite whatsoever to consolidate the UK regional newspaper industry to the kind of scale that – in every likelihood – is now required must be something of a moot point.

Newsprint quart into a web pint pot and all that… how many pint pots are you going to need to make your scale viable in an age where, as Clay Shirky pointed out, traditional geographical constraints on our behaviour are flying out of the nearest window?

Does ‘scale’ entail a quantum mass that is numbers-only? Is that where advertising-heaven lies? In numbers? ‘Look, we have 22 million uniques… six million here, four over there, 200,000 down here…

But what if advertisers are looking for a scale that is more than just a patch-work quilt of numbers; more than pockets of influence? What if they want to hit every nook and crannie in the land?

Perhaps scale can come with ‘ownership’ of one of the four corners of this green and pleasant land… that Trinity Mirror and Northcliffe will sit down together and swap your Birmingham for our Bristol, our Cardiff for your Leicester, and so on…

Perhaps. But it seems unlikely. After all – and this is where I repeat that I’m no economist – but I presume that the wheels of any such consolidation process would need to be greased by large dollops of funding.

You sense that the markets have already delivered their verdict on newspaper stocks; the fact that the Birmingham Evening Mail didn’t exactly have people flocking to Trinity Mirror’s door might be further proof that whilst picking off the odd weekly here, the little free paper there might still be a possibility, the whole-scale reorganisation of the UK provincial newspaper industry looks one mountain that people have neither the will – nor increasingly the simple wherewithal – to climb.

Where that leaves us all is the next moot point. Under pressure, was Myners’ opinion.

In desperate need of starting from scratch, starting all over again from a blank piece of paper would be mine.

 

 

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

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

What’s a piece hall…?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and then download the interview…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Displayed to both reader and potential buyer alike.

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

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

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

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

Words, however, you can get away with.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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