Newspapers still failing to grasp web, doom UK reporters – SEO to blame

Papers still don’t get the web and just like every other time, it’s the management’s fault, which begs the question of should the webguys be getting even higher positions in papers. Here’s the latest press screw-up and it involves SEO.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been hearing more and more tales from reporters – from the highest titles in the land to the lowest – getting really fed up with the digital newspaper concept (Iain Hepburn has a vivid case study about it).

Why? because all it’s meaning for them is that they go in, spend two hours rewriting copy from other sites (without including linkback credits of course) for the website. And then they go off and do the other journalistic jobs they are allowed to, like rewriting agency copy, perhaps even getting to pick up the phone to speak to a contact (who probably can’t talk back as they are in their office).

But why are they having to spend hours carrying out what is fairly known as churnalism? Because the top brass want to go with the phrases that will boost them in search engines.

Now there’s two problems with this:
• By rewriting copy from elsewhere, you’re just getting the same hit as them
• You’re also hosing it by not providing a linkback, which might actually just do you more good

The main problem though is that by doing this, you are going for the lowest common denominator nine times out of ten – you’ve got a journalist wasting time writing about Britney Spears instead of chasing up their own stories – stories which may matter more locally to readers than what Miley Cyrus bra size is.

As I said the other week on Newsnight Scotland – and this applies to PR as much as any media – fresh, exclusive content is the driver these days. Keep it fresh and others will link to you, talk about you, refer back to you. And that’s the SEO gold. And to get that fresh content you need content providers. In the media industry, they call the reporters. You know, the ones that management keep sacking and letting go.

Oh. There’s a potential problem.

Who is to blame then? Ultimately, the blame for this one has to go to management – but also the web teams and reporters for not standing up and pointing out that using reporters for churnalism is a waste of resource. I can see why it’s done, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s right.

If churnalism is that important to a publication, here’s what they should do: find the nearest media college and get a bunch of interns/work placements in. They’ll be happy to be getting in the door – they may even bring in some stories – but that frees up the reporters to go and find the real SEO booster – original content. Exclusives. Scoops. They may even do it multimedia.

The press has always been, in part, a numbers game, but this is taking it too far.

(And yes, I know churnalism has always been a part of the job too – rewriting agency copy, PA and AP, but at no point did you have to spend two hours doing it every day.)

Why the Daily Telegraph was right to try twitterfall despite the twitterfail and the lesson for marketers

The Daily Telegraph had a nice idea for its website – run a Twitterfall of terms related to the 2009 Budget in the UK, but within hours of it going up, people were – you guessed it – throwing up comments like “The Telegraph is the worst paper in the UK. I wouldn’t wipe my arse with it.” They took a pounding for it, but I think they were right to do it – even if they forgot the first rule of web2.0.

For those wondering, the first, most basic rule of web2.0 is that once you do it, you lose control, it’s out there and it’s a two-way thing. Skittles saw that recently when they switched out their homepage with social media sites, newspapers and other sites have been hammered by runaway comment sections. It’s a strength of 2.0 but also a weakness – the conversation is only as good as the lowest common denominator.

So it was a daft thing to do but easily seen coming – heck, I remember saying to someone before that if I worked at a paper still and my main competitor set up traffic/weather tweeting systems I’d have them down in less than a day as you could easily flood them with unreliable data if you know how to play the system.

(That might shock some people, but it’s worth remembering that while a lot of web2.0 is built on a fabric of goodwill, kindness, optimism and a little naivety, newspapers are ferocious places where you do what you can to screw over the competition. Hell, I once redirected a competitor’s phone to mine: all was fair in love and war for a scoop. And it was far worse in the 80s and 70s.)

So it was daft to do, but were they right to try it? Yes. They may have thought that people would have better things to do than take the mickey out the feed. (This may have been one of those times where having a PR person about might have had them point out the dangers to the editorial side.) It might even have been worth a SWOT analysis. Ultimately though, papers are trying to show what people are thinking out there and a Twitterfall is as good a way as any.

What they should have done was left it quiet until tomorrow then announced it was happening and what the hashtags would be. That and not started the Twitterfall until about an hour before the event. That way even if people were coming on with abuse, the real content would drown them out.

Another possibility might have been to use a form of Liveblogging instead of Twitter – but that would have involved more staffing and I suspect the appeal of Twitterfall was that it could be automated and Twitter is still the tech du jour amongst many.

Either way, like most experiments, was worth a try, a couple of lessons will have been learned and everyone will have forgotten about it in a couple of weeks – more than likely overshadowed by what’s actually in the budget.

Sly Bailey at Digital Britain 1: Less is more when it comes to readers

Going through Sly Bailey‘s speech from Digital Britain last week – full thoughts later – but this part popped up:

It means rejecting the relentless quest for a gazillion unique users…….instead focusing on delivering loyal……valuable customers.

To me (and I’m not saying if I agree or not for now), she’s saying one thing there: less is more.

Interesting to see that applied to outwith the newsroom. Anyway, more thoughts on this later.

Dinosaur 1: Dorothy Grace Elder still doesn’t get digital media for newspapers

Couple of interesting pieces been kicking about the last few days – both of which continue to show old media’s complete and utter failure to grasp digital media for newspapers. First up, there’s a piece on All Media Scotland about a report on how Finnish financial newspaper Taloussanomat went web-only and what happened to the revenues/staffing. The original report as linked to by Compute Scotland is worth a read and I’ll come back to that in another post.

But what was of interest – for the purposes of this post – was the comment by Dorothy Grace Elder:

The City University research on a Finnish local paper which lost at least 75% revenue from readers and advertisers when it stopped printing and went online should be a wake up call to the industry. Also, it shows the folly of Governments and political bodies aiming to switch public notices and job adverts to the web, destroying more local papers. We need much more research like this in Scotland to give the results to the web-obsessed. The Finnish results are no surprise – few want to be saddled with a computer at all times to gain a scrap of news. How few can always find a plug in beyond a minority onboard top of the range trains? To gain instant access to the media, on buses, suburban trains, or at home in the toilet, garden, bedroom or kitchen, something easy and instant needs to be invented – oops! It’s known already and called A NEWSPAPER. Wake up and smell the newsprint.

Now, I like Dorothy. She’s opinionated, great for a quote (or was regarded as such when I was a reporter) and her heart is normally in the right place. But on this one she’s well out of touch.

Firstly, she criticises the Government and others for switching job adverts to online instead of staying with press. That’s fair enough, but for years that hasn’t been where people looked for jobs anyway – job centres and larger papers were looked at, not the locals. Also, as a taxpayer, should she not be wanting the council to make best use of their cash – I’d rather have a streetlight than a bunch of job ads in the Hamilton Advertiser anyday.

Her other comment also shows how she’s missing the point. For a start, laptops can run for up to five hours now without a topup, but more to the (missed) point, more and more people are using their phones for news – Blackberries, N95s, iPhones, what have you – and the screensize on them is growing and we’re going to see news apps grow. Mobile is where it is at now – and it’s frustrating to see so many people still failing to grasp web, never mind mobile.

Dorothy also talks about “To gain instant access to the media” and says newspapers are a way of doing that. Yes, but it’s old news – in some cases more than 24 hours old. Digital news is far more up to date. And what’s more important is the fact that news is still being provided – that’s why they’re called NEWSpapers and not papernews – it’s the content not the delivery medium that’s important.

Basic lesson from the Damian McBride affair…

The whole world is going on about this and the role Guido Fawkes played in it, but what gets me is the sheer basic and bloody incompetence of it all. First rule of anything that might bite you on the backside is that you don’t leave a trail that lets it come back to you. Have our politicians became so crap that they can’t even plan a decent black op anymore?

(and yes, while I do think it is a good day for bloggers, there’s at least half a dozen ways Labour could have controlled this online and minimised damage)

(and a very salient point from Dizzy Thinks with Derek Draper talking about the emails:

Imagine if all your emails suddenly became available to people wanting to damage you. That is, of course, the other question that needs to be asked: how were these emails obtained? Was criminal activity and hacking involved? Believe me, these are issues I will be looking at when I return from my holiday. “Blog wars” are one thing but hacking into people’s emails is surely a step too far?

As Dizzy puts it in response:

I wonder whether Derek is aware that the Government and party that he supports is actually has an official policy of reading our emails if it wants? Or taking contorl of our computers remotely if it suspects us of something?

Splitting in two – anyone else done it?

Quick post. It’s bugged me since setting up that this site is a bit of everything for me, so I’ve decided I’m probably going to split my sites – one for my mass media/PR/twitter/social media thoughts and one for Craig McGill, the writer because they’re too fairly different markets and areas for me, so if I want to work in both and promote both, they should get their own spots. I’ll be splitting stuff like Twitter accounts and RSS as well to see if it makes my life more structured or not.

Anyone else done anything like this? Any pointers, hints or tips?

Free SMS Twitter on your phone returns to the UK – for Vodafone users – is this their iPhone killer and is it exclusive? (yes it is)

It’s confirmed on the Twitter blog after being broken on Electropig (great scoop lads) and Mashable – very soon free SMS text service for Twitter will return – but only for Vodafone UK customers.

Many said that the loss of the free SMS service from Twitter was a blow for the service and there was the usual outraged moaning (I thought it made perfect sense – you can’t give stuff away forever) and Twitter went from strength to strength afterwards.

Anyway, let’s look at this another way – is this Vodafone UK’s way of fighting the iPhone? O2 has the iPhone, Orange are rumoured to be joining them (as well as getting the option for the 3G sim-enabled macbook when it comes out) and it seems to be a fairly tight agreement, so what do you do if you can’t have the iPhone? Go get the main channel of communication instead. I wonder if a phone network could insist on this as an exclusive – and make that the carrot they offer to customers?

I’d watch and see what phones Vodafone start to tout now becuase they’ll push phones that let you make the most of this – though I wonder if they will charge a small amount – £5 a month say – as an add-on for the unlimited Twitter option or if it will be free for everyone. If so, who the feck is scaling their network?

Be interesting to see how this plays out.

UPDATE: It’s a Vodafone exclusive right enough. According to Yashin19 

devices tab in Twitter settings confirms SMS alerts are exclusive to Vodafone. Along with good coverage in Edinburgh it seems!

I think this could be a bit of a gamechanger – though the debate has already started (guess where).

Twitter and Google Latitude/GPS to be used in ARG/social media safari hunt in Glasgow and London

This is a quick shameless plug but I’m excited by it – with Whyte and Mackay I’m launching a safari hunt in Glasgow and London with the idea being that anyone who can find the Whyte and Mackay lions on a bar (they’ll be a cut-out) gets a bottle of whisky. (They’re both on Facebook as well – London safari hunt and Glasgow safari hunt.)

In an age when people say it’s hard to judge social media metrics, here’s the old fashioned test – how many people will come out for free bottles of £40 whisky and other free drinks?

There’s more details here and all the excitement can be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/whytemackayhunt.

And here’s what people should be looking for:

Is Scotland rubbish at PR?

Simple enough question eh? The reason I ask is that All Media Scotland is talking about PR Week‘s PR Week Powerbook (yup, you can read the whole thing online) – ‘the definitive guide to the most influential people in PR’ – and according to AMS, there’s only a handful or two of Scots in the 300 strong list.

According to the article:

Of the Scots entries, seven are actively practising in Scotland. They are: Alex BarrBIG Partnership, Glasgow; Barbara ClarkVisitScotland; Neil GibsonBIG Partnership, Glasgow; Carol MatthewsMatthews Marketing, Glasgow; Julie McGarvey3×1, Glasgow; Nora SeniorWeber Shandwick; and Beverley TrickerTricker PR, Aberdeen.

The others are mainly London-based: Mike MurphyTrimedia, Gordon Beattie – Beattie Communications, Andrew BrownEDF Energy, and Alan TwiggSeventy-Seven PR.

(one thing that stuck out for me – how few of those main Scottish PR sites have anything even remotely resembling social media/web2.0 – even basic things like blogs or twitter details).

Now the tone of the AMS piece suggests that there should be more in there. So let’s have a look at the figures

  • The CIPR has more than 780 members drawn from public relations consultancies, public sector organisations and PRs working for private sector companies in Scotland.
  • It is estimated that around 4000 people are employed in the public relations industry in Scotland and that the industry turns over around £450 million per year.
  • Scotland’s population is around 5 million, compared to 61million in the UK

So there’s 11 Scots out of 300 in the list, Scotland’s population is roughly 8% of the UK total. By that terribly simplistic set of sums and some assumption making, there should be around 24 or 25 Scots.

So what gives?

In all honesty, I don’t know – but can’t wait to sit down and have a full read to see what it says – but one simple explanation may be that people had to be nominated and the vast majority of PRs were just too busy to get round to nominating themselves, spending their time on clients instead (that’s not to imply that the people above don’t spend time on clients – far from it. They all have fantastic track records).

It will also be interesting to watch this over the coming year as digital media moves more to the fore and how that affects things.

But is Scotland rotten at PR and is Willy from the Simpsons the best person from Scotland at shouting from the rooftops (yup, that is what you calla tenuous link)? I don’t think so, but what do others think?

Will OnLive be the decider in Sky TV v Virgin media content battles?

According to this story at the always excellent Kotaku, OnLive is a facility that lets any machine (more or less) play the latest games. The trick here is that our broadband connection does all the work – cloud computer gaming.
Now, imagine such a device squeezed into your Sky or Virgin set-top box.

As the article puts it:

The concept is simple. Your controller input isn’t going from your hand to the controller to the machine in front of you, it’s going from your hand to the controller through the internet to OnLive’s machines then back again as streamed video. Whether you’re using a USB gamepad, Bluetooth wireless controller, or tried and true keyboard and mouse, the processing and output happens on OnLive’s side, then is fed back to your terminal, with the game “perceptually” played locally.
In other words, it’s cloud computed gaming.
Using patented video compression in tandem with algorithms that compensate for lag, jitter and packet loss, OnLive delivers video at up to 720p resolution at frame rates up to 60 frames per second. Of course, the quality of the video feed relies on your connection.
For standard definition television quality, a broadband connection of at least 1.5 megabits per second is required. For HDTV resolution, a connection of at least 5 mbps is needed.

If I was a content provider like Sky or Virgin in the UK, I’d be on the phone to these guys right away as this could be the new football but for kids, teens and solo flat dwellers (actually, it’s for everyone except mums).

Now, if you’re a company with an already decent infrastructure (and it pains me to praise Virgin because their customer service is terrible, but there’s no alternative where I live – damned if I’m paying BT £125 to reconnect me to their network) this is a double winner as it lets you offer more gaming (and more than one set-top box in each house – kids will want one each in their own rooms) and a high-speed web connection.

But what’s in it for the gamemakers? On the one hand you have the loss of console sales – unless the console makers go for this as well (not beyond the realm of possibility) – but for PC games, this could be fecking massive – no distribution or manufacturing charges, harder piracy (if the set-top box is a closed system), but you could have various charges for owning a game for a night, a week, a month, for eternity.

What’s in it for the customer? Tons of games while gaining space from household clutter (no need for a console in the living room) and potentially some cash savings compared to what the house spends now on games.

Someone else who would be onto a winner: any company that managed to sell add-ons for games like a tennis racket, sniper rifle and so on…

Really wild thought: could we see a company with an interest in you staying at home – Domino Pizza for example – meeting the cost of these boxes as part of some promotional activity?

Anyway, as we reach channel saturation with HD and 3D being the things touted at us for TV (most people I know with a HD telly bought it to save space in their living room, not for the content) it may well be that the old chestnut of games is actually what helps decide the content provider wars.

(The story’s on Wired and Ft.com/techblog as well)

Full thoughts on Battlestar Galactica finale: nice ideas, terrible finish

The more I think about the end of Battlestar Galactica, the more I have to applaud Ron Moore and his team for providing an ending, but the more I really want to slap them as well. Rarely has a finale tried so hard to hit all the emotional beats for characters but fail so dismally at plot resolution.
(Tons of spoilers ahead – but my initial thoughts are here)
Continue reading

Memo to Polly Toynbee: insulting the customers doesn’t work

Last thought on the Polly Toynbee/Guardian piece: At the end of it she says:

In the end, it’s up to you. If you always read this on the web, go out and buy a copy, skinflint. Use it or lose it.

How about this? Create the compelling content and people will come to you instead – give them a compelling and unique reason for looking at the print instead of the web. Don’t blame or insult the consumer, that’s never going to increase sales. And find decent ads that they may click on.

It seems to me that insults are rarely going to work. Like many others in the world of media she’s clinging to the old model – buying the paper – instead of looking to see what alternatives there may be.

Polly Toynbee on saving the media: turn back the clock, ask for government help

Polly Toynbee has written a piece over at The Guardian on how the death of local papers is a national emergency. It’s a decent piece going over some familiar ground but there’s a few flaws which I’ll address with Polly’s points in bold.

This jackal financial crisis picks off the weakest, so it’s no surprise newspapers are early fallers.

Newspapers aren’t the profit disasters that many assume them to be. The problem is that the owners are far too used to profits of 20-30% instead of leaner figures that make others happy. The second problem is that so many – especially Trinity Mirror – are beholden to large groups who are only chasing maximum profit and don’t actually have any belief or care in the product. (I was going to add that the likes of The Economist and New Scientist seem to be doing OK but you could argue that they are specialist magazines.)

Comment is free, but serious news journalism is phenomenally expensive – and the web has yet to find a way to generate funds to pay the true price.

To an extent that’s true for daily press – but for years many magazines survived by having quality journalism at their core – Rolling Stone for example. The problem with daily news is that it is seen as a disposable product and also news quality varies on a day by day basis. Perhaps the problem here was as much to do with news judgements and price competition?

The government talks piously of community engagement – and a newspaper with real journalism is the most vital local forum of all.

Totally agree, but there’s another aspect to this – how much do people actually care about what’s going in their area? I have friends and neighbours who literally use their homes as beds and shower places. They work long hours, get home and sleep. Get up in the morning and repeat. Others, just use their homes as places to change clothes before heading back out.

While I agree that local news is important, is it possible that newspapers have still to catch up with the concept of local not mattering as much as it used to for people – and the only local news that matters is what roads are open/closed and they get that from the radio?

Mention subsidy and the regulation that goes with it, and newspaper groups cry press freedom….Many never bother to cover council meetings, let alone key committees, when pensioner-scaring crime stories are cheap and PR handouts plentiful.

But crime is an important factor to many communities, especially inlight of what the Daily Record had today about the recession forcing crime up, causing a creditcrunch crime wave. And some PR handouts can be informative, I hasten to add.

Polly also has to be fair, most council meetings take place out of hours and when local journalism is as underpaid as it is, would you spend an evening in a council meeting – that even most readers probably won’t care about – or spend time with friends and family? The concept of ‘quality time’ has probably been as much of an impactor on journalism as anything else – after all, after being made redundant, “wanting to see my family” is the most common reason I hear for people leaving the the press. It’s certainly been a strong factor for me when I’ve been invited back to the cut-and-thrust. (that’s not to say I wouldn’t ever go back but the terms would have to be a lot more generous than they were a few years ago).

Polly then goes on to talk about how subsidies, BBC money and other income streams could be used to save the day but then dismisses local councils (who I think should actually lead the way in providing news to residents while Seth Goodin thinks it should be real estate firms) “Then oblige local councils to stop wasting money on their own Pravda sheets,” which seems to be missing the point – surely that’s the perfect place to provide a newspaper? And here’s the contradiction at the heart of Polly’s piece – she wants the Government to intervene but then stand back which basically means making the BBC model apply to press as well (which seems OK. I’ve been wondering if the licence fee should expand to include some printed press as well as everything else the BBC does).

But the question Polly isn’t asking is this: given how much a pain in the butt and pest the press can be in exposing certain activities, is it not more in the interests of some (not all, I stress) politicians at a UK/Westminster (and US/Washington) level to let the press die a death? The less there is reporting, the less they can be exposed for or criticised about (of course some politicans welcome the debate and Scotland over the last few years as been an incredibly open country, but not enough in my opinion).

Britain without the Mail or the Sun would be a happier place, less biliously nihilist, less miserable, angry and afraid. But democracy without the scrutiny of good journalism is unthinkable. In the end, it’s up to you. If you always read this on the web, go out and buy a copy, skinflint. Use it or lose it.

There’s an element of snobbery in this – and it also misses one rather important point: both The Sun and Mail have broken some incredible stories over the years. The profitabilty of The Sun has also probably helped shore up cash losses in other parts of News International’s UK press operations, notably The Times, allowing them to do their thing.

(her comments about what the country would be like also lead to the old argument of ‘do people get the press they want or does the press shape the people, but I’ll leave that for another day)

Her key argument of But democracy without the scrutiny of good journalism is unthinkable is fair enough but you can have that good journalism without print so she’s moved the goalposts a little.

I believe print should survive – to me, there’s still few things better than a well-designed newspaper page with exciting content (though the web is more convenient for me when on the move) – as there are still generations of people aged over 35 who aren’t fans of news by other methods. To that end, I believe the likes of Metro and Business7 at least have a decent chance of survival.

Anyway, go and read her piece – it’s sparked off a fair bit of debate with 155 comments there at the moment.

A look at the newspaper/media of 2028 (from 1998) by Pat Kane

Pat Kane is one of those guys who is never dull. In true Scottish style he often gets the mick ripped out of him for having the temerity to be passionate about more than one field (it’s a deviation on ‘I kent his faither‘).

Anyway, you can agree with him/disagree with him, but he’s normally worth reading and he’s dug up this little gem from 1998 where he speaks about the papers and media of the future, notably what’s going to be the format and content of The Herald in 2028 (no sarky comments please…).

It’s well worth a read and worth pointing out that some people were thinking about this stuff before the recent bandwagon of ‘Oh noes! the press and print are doomed! DOOMED!’

Guardian boss: PRs need to learn to pitch by Twitter

Like many journalists, The Guardian’s tech editor Charles Arthur deals with a lot of enquiries and press releases coming from PR operators – some of them relevant, many of them not. But in an effort to try and make PRs be more concise with him, he’s decided to take it to Twitter. He’s removed his email address from Gorkana and wants pitched by tweet alone.

For Charles, it’s a chance to free his inbox from some clutter and perhaps free up a chunk of his time as well. For me, it’s completely fascinating on a number of levels:

It forces PRs to play catch-up and be Twitter-savvy

It changes the rules of interaction between PRs and press

Firstly, making PRs change their method of contact is quite interesting. I’ve often argued that even if they do nothing else, PRs should be monitoring Twitter to see what is said about their clients, but now they have to learn how to use it if they want to appeal to the UK’s top mainstream technology supplement. It’s not the only bit of education involved as Charles also hopes it means people will start to be more relevant in what they send to him.

Secondly, making the PR and journalism interaction take place out in the open is a significant game-changer (and how long before some organisations insist on it for all comms involving publicly funded bodies?). A phone call or email are limited to those involved, but a tweet can be seen by anyone.

So by theoretically tweeting a pitch to Charles – and remember you can’t direct mail unless Charles follows you – everyone knows that you’ve pitched to him and knows what you are offering. So if Charles rejects it, you can’t then go to someone else and say ‘I’m offering you first bite…’ which then gives you the quandry of going to reporters one at a time or all at once. (But Charles himself is quite accepting of this, saying “I’d understand it was non-exclusive. That’s OK – exclusives last about three minutes online.”

At the other end, it’s a lot harder for a person to ignore a @reply than an email – and takes less time to reply to as well.

There’s also the possibility that this might increase PR tweetspam because if PR A sees that PR B has sent Charles a tweet about a product and A has something similar, then they are also going to get in touch with him.

(of course, some are also wondering if this will lead to people phoning up to see if someone received a tweet, just as some currently call to see if an email was of interest/received)

It’s going to be interesting to watch because if Charles – who is one of the more polite and patient senior newspaper staffers when dealing with PRs – does stick to his guns, does it mean he runs the risk of missing a good tale by email? What implications are there for PRs who don’t/won’t use Twitter? Will other reporters follow suit? Will PRs return the favour by saying ‘reach us only via Twitter?’ (Which would crazy, but that’s another post.)

But I wanted to ask Charles a couple of questions about it and he graciously took the time to answer them for me.

What do you expect to gain from this?
Less spam in my inbox. Seriously: there’s no reflection given to the stuff people spew at me. How many separate technology sections are there in Fleet Street? One. How many technology correspondents are there on Fleet Street? About five…If you can’t tailor your email output to a group that select, you simply shouldn’t be in the business.

How many pitches a day do you get?
Oh, God, twenty? Thirty? People to meet: average two a day. Twitter is starting to build up; I tell people to pitch the idea in 140 chars.
(Note: for a comparison to what Charles is saying, see Chris Anderson from Wired’s now legendary post on PR people)

Anyway, Charles continues…
(Or try to DM me, but I’m not following them so it’s lost.) Then there’s just all the other part-ideas. The thing though is that almost all PR stuff is announcements.

And then, he had the decency to point out something that’s probably obvious to those who have worked in editorial departments and PR but perhaps not to all…

I have a sedimentary concept of news. At the bottom you have all the debris: announcements. Almost all press releases are announcements. Above those are “issues” – topics that have people energised about something, but with no particular timeliness. (Eg parking near your house being discussed for charging by the council. Grinds on for months. It’s an issue.)

Then there’s news – when an announcement plus some issue comes together and makes news. That’s the top level, where I work. Why bombard me with sediment? I’m working at the news level. I need issues, not announcements.

And here’s possibly the most salient point from his email when talking about sending out a press release via email to a lot of reporters: I realise it’s the client who pays the bills, so they want the press release put in front of as many people as possible. But I’m afraid that model is officially broken, and has been for about five years – possibly ten or more.”

Now that’s an opinion I’m coming back to tomorrow…(what? a blog can’t do cliffhangers? It’s how you get readers coming back. Works for Jack Bauer every week)

(As an aside Anna Svenson also pointed out that Dan Martin of www.BusinessZone.co.uk has done the same – pitches via Twitter – and hopefully Dan will drop us a note to let us know how he got on with it. And thanks again to Charles for taking the time for this.)

The internet says I like to dress as a pigtailed sporty teen girl…

Thanks to Stuart Bruce, I found Typealyzer which looks at your blog or web address and says what kind of person you are. Now Stuart is apparently a scientist – intellectually curious and daring, but might be physically hesitant to try new things – so I thought I’d have a go and see what it said about me. Certainly didn’t expect this pic:

But it turns out that I am an ESTP – a doer – which involves: The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

And apparently that means my brain looks like this:

I’ll let others judge for themselves how accurate that is, but feel free to have a go and post your result below…

Watchmen creator Dave Gibbons on Doctor Who

Managed to catch up with the always-sociable and chatty Dave Gibbons, co-creator of Watchmen at the weekend and spoke about the book, the film and his other work, including Doctor Who.

It was a nice chance to say hi – I first met Dave a few years ago at the outrageously funny Hypotheticals panel co-run by Dave and Lee ‘Budgie’ Barnett – as Dave was in Borders Glasgow to promote Watchmen and his Watchmen book ‘How to get paid for drawing a 50-foot blue penis‘ (OK, it’s actually called Watching the Watchmen but how often do you get the chance to write blue penis unless talking about naked eskimos?)

I mentioned the fact that Dave was in town to the online editor of the Daily Record Iain Hepburn and he thought it might be a nice interview. When he mentioned he planned to record it using the Flip Mino camera, I asked if I could come along as it’s a bit of kit I’m interested in (especially after seeing it used for reporting in Afghanistan), though I’ve had my doubts about how it would compare to a ‘proper’ video camera.

Now, Iain’s going to put the full interview up at the Daily Record soon, but he’s posted a little teaser where Dave talks about his work on Doctor Who – and some scripts that were written by other comic legends like Pat Mills. Have a watch if that’s your thing and after the box, I’ll talk about what I thought about the Mino.

It’s hard to judge the colours and so on because the codecs involved in getting it onto YouTube may have stripped some detail (Dave’s shirt was definitely more colourful than the video suggests), but it looks as good as any other YouTube video I would say.

The sound on the other hand is a little bit different. Iain was asking the questions and even though he was about a foot to my left hand side, he’s hard to hear. Dave comes across perfectly fine though.

In use, it seems fairly simple – though I don’t know if I would trust the digital zoom on it – and we did have a heart attack at the end when I tried to stop recording by pressing the big red button and it frooze. Iain had a heart attack that the video would be lost. Fortunately that doesn’t appear to be the case.

I’m still not convinced that the original footage would be good enough for TV, but Iain’s going to pass on the footage so I can judge for myself (he claims it is), but for web events/web-only video I would certainly say this is a decent piece of kit. Sadly I never got the chance to compare it the N95 (T in the Park footage here) but I think they would seem similar.

The sound is the only thing, but having a slot for an external mike would defeat the purpose of this being an all-in-one/point and shoot camera. I’d say papers and PRs should be picking these up at the earliest opportunity because they are cheap and easy to use. It’s certainly easier to lug about than a full ‘proper’ camera kit.

Of course, with video, shooting’s only half the battle. You still need it edited…

The Wire comes to BBC – good news and awful news

David Simon’s excellent TV show The Wire (no link there as every one I could find leads to potential spoilers) has been picked up by the BBC according to reports and I’m happy but sad too as this show has some rabid fans.

It is good news – it is an incredible piece of TV and well worth seeking out (especially if the BBC are running the 60 episodes on a nightly basis – that will be fantastic for keeping up with the narrative).

But there’s a downside to this: The Wire has a following in parts that makes Apple fanbois look like civilised members of society. It has an effette group of followers who seem to routinely dismiss those who say it’s not for them or that it’s too slow or that it’s too unusual for them compared to normal cop shows.

And those are all valid points: it’s not meant to be a normal cop show – far from it. Go watch The Shield for that, it isn’t too everyone’s tastes and for some it’s not worth the struggle or time investment to ‘get it’.

But that won’t be good enough for some of the Wireistas, who will pollute print and online pontificating and that’s a shame because it may actually put people off a TV show that has some genuinely valid social commentary issues to make.

Of course it may well be that pontificating about the show is a lot easier than looking outside, seeing the same issues affect us in the UK and then going and doing something about it.

(and for those wondering, the ranking for the actual seasons are 2, 4, 3, 1, 5 with 2 as the best and 5 as the worst and I’ll elaborate about this in a later post)

So yay that The Wire is getting a bigger and better shot at exposure. Boo for some of the people who follow it.

(Here’s hoping the viewing figures are good though – it may even lead to the equally excellent The Corner and Generation Kill being picked up – again more good news, though The Corner is tough watching and reading.)

It’s social media – so why aren’t more bloggers social? (and forgetting the basics?)

Something that’s bothered me for a while on a lot of blog sites (and other sites) is the lack of that most basic function: a contact button. Now I know that many people realise they can leave a comment and the odds are that the blog owner will spot it as part of an approval process – but that doesn’t cover all blogs. Also, many people coming to the web now (yes, there are still newbies out there) aren’t familiar with how blogs work.

Sometimes, people do want to provide some comments in private and not for all to see.

So, this is a little plea for site owners and content managers out there: why don’t you check to see if your site has a contact sign or button. It’s a social media after all, so let’s be social.

(Notice I’m not suggesting putting your email address up as that can lead to a spam hike – but there are other solutions.)

(Pic on the homepage provided by Jase n tonic and was taken at the Feb 2009 launch of BrewDog new lager Zeitgeist, which was organised by BrewDog, DADA and Tipped.)