One Man and His Blog: September 2012 Archives

September 2012 Archives

September 25, 2012

MySpace is rebooting

It's always worth bearing in mind that new developments in the social web rarely completely erase those that went before. MySpace is planning a revamp that looks like a tablet-ready Pinterest for music. 

Vapourware for now, but a promising rethink if it works...

Google respects your Authorship

This dropped into my mailbox yesterday:

Google Authroship markup
I've been an advocate of using Google Authorship markup for a good while now, but your success or failure was a hidden thing - the closest you could get to finding out if Google was registering your pages for Authorship was using the Structured Data Testing Tool and checking if it recognised your markup. 

Now, it appears that Google is actually sending out e-mails acknowledging the success of your markup. That's good to know. 

I still advocate that all serious online publishers look into this. It both gives you some measure of protection from stolen content ranking higher than you and, in my experience, greater click-throughs from search. 

September 21, 2012

Cool Content: Lauren Hogan is personalising Cornwall

Lauren Hogan

About two and a half year ago, when she joined Visit Cornwall, she started talking about blended marketing - to some scepticism. But they agreed objectives: get visitors, get them to come back, and to spend more while they're in Cornwall. They decided that the websites should be a brilliant planning and research tool, giving them information they can't get anywhere else. they'd leave price and availability to others. 

Cornwall is so vast in terms of its offer, that there are parts of it appeal to pretty much all elements of the potential tourism market. Which is, basically, a nightmare for marketeers. Oh, and people research their visits around six months ahead. So, it needs to look current in January - but also be relevant to people planning for June. Their website planning was beginning to look worryingly vague...

She used to work for the Eden Project. That site launched Real Cool Futures that allowed children to dig down into personally applicable case studies to help plan their careers. Could she take that idea and apply it to the Visit Cornwall website? That would be one way of making it a must-visit portal, and one that could cater to that wide range of visitors - and do that by recognising their needs really early in the visit. Nameless pitched and won the contract. They "guerrilla researched" the project, which meant a lot of time, posit notes and painstaking detail...

On the website, filters allow you to chose the party - and their ages. You can filter for dog-friendly and access issues. You can choose which section of Cornwall you're going to, and when you're going. That opens up another level of filtering around activities.

It's been live since March. They've had a difficult year - constant rain in the UK hasn't helped Cornwall. But they're working on developing the site for next year. 

Cool Content: Matt Simpson on making BT credible in football


Matt is going to talk to us about his favourite subjects - content and football. Apparently he's miserable, downbeat and sarcastic... He writes a blog - View from the West Stand - about Leyton Orient (and it was a commenter on his blog that gave him that flattering description). He works at Zone, a digital agency based in London, with a mix of planners, creatives - and journalists. 

In June 2010 BT announced that it was going to show Sky Sports 1 & 2 on their digital TV service - BT Vision. And BT is a brand with no heritage in football. In the pre-digital world, they'd have bought credibility with a football celeb. But then, in the pre-digital world marketing was really, really easy. Come up with a proposition, create your content, and bash your audience over the head with it. you've seen Mad Men. They were all drunk - anyone could do it. 

In the digital world, it's all out of your control. Conversations happen all the time, and anyone can make a vast amount of noise about your brand. Content can become part of these conversation by giving people something of value to discuss. And you'll get business and loyalty out of it.

BT already understood this. They'd set up a a website called Life's a Pitch. They used newspaper journalist to create content. But the writers they were using didn't understand how to engage. Theres no point in being credible if no-one's listening. They were getting 100s of visits a week. Zone took over and brought in a full time editor, reached out to noisy online football people, and spread content. Dan, the editor, comes from the fan base. He understands.  But equally, they needed to find the 6% of people who make 80% of the noise about a subject. They needed to find the real online content stars in football. They found a diverse range of people who deeply understood how to connect with an online audience. They know how to create content that gets that audience excited.  And they became the content creators and distributors. They brought their audiences with them - by seeding and distributing what they wrote to their existing base. 

There's a news aggregator called which people use to keep on top of their club's news. It drove 47% of the traffic to the site. 

Their issues included the huge volume of existing digital football content. Previews and reviews already happen. No point in competing. No point in competing on news - Sky have that. No point in doing interviews, because footballers are genetically boring. 

BUT fans love high quality, opinionated material. So that's what they went for. Provocative tactical analysis works well. Perspective amongst hysteria is good, too. Poking fun at millionaire footballers gets lots of traffic. Criticising popular figures - or praising unpopular ones goes over well. And seize the chance to pick up the baton where fans feel ignored. 

They do video as well. They get the bloggers alongside national journalists, and then they seed and distribute the content. 

They increased traffic by 1465% - and it's been growing ever since. And that's off a distribution channel focused on the content creators. All for far less than the cost of hiring a celeb. 

Now, BT has grabbed the Premier League off Sky. Life's a Pitch will be a hugely important part of that story. They have content, an audience, and relationships with them. Now they need to convert that audience to customers, while maintaining the relationship. 

  • Don't think about digital content in isolation from its method of distribution
  • It's as much about targeted influencers as targeted audiences
  • Quality really, really matters
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Cool Content: Sarah Ellis is digitising Shakespeare

Sarah Ellis

How do we interpret Shakespeare in the 21st century?

That was the question that the RSC digital content team set out to answer in a project for the World Shakespeare Festival. There's a awesome amount of digital content about Shakespeare online already. Why create a blank page when so many people are already accessing and creating stuff online?

The internet has created an opportunity to share and interact with all the responses and interpretations of Shakespeare online. They wanted to showcase all this - and they created a Banquo database, the digital ghost of people's interest in Shakespeare. Our sense of memory has changed on the internet. We can be reminded of our mistakes and the things we do well.

Banquo looks for mentions of Shakespeare on Twitter (social), Flickr (visual) and eBay (value). On any day in a month you can see an online gallery of what people have done around Shakespeare on those days.

The next step was to allow artists to explore these ideas, ideally those without  relationship to Shakespeare. They worked with students from Central St Martins - could they inspire the RSC? Brendan Dawes (sp?) built a link between the news api and Shakespeare quotes, to match events with quotes.  One artist is using a Tumblr to explore the deeper reaches of Google searches to find how the works of Shakespeare inform society, from an Ophelia wedding dress to Shakespeare Solictors. And a Hip Hop artist combined Hip Hop with iambic pentameter on SoundCloud.

They invited a range of people to write think pieces on Shakespeare. One student wrote an insightful essay exploring the idea that we encounter plays differently now - we can watch Ophelia's death again and again, on YouTube, in isolation. The play is fragmented, and that demands a different response. 

Language has changed - we're sharing, not telling. The narrative has factored. The canvas is changed - it can be shorter, it's probably digital. They have new audiences who are semantically close to them, not geographically. And hopeful this creates spaces for new works. They have no excuse for not listening and for not valuing insights. 

Archives are being opened, and things are being shared where everyone can see them. The past, present and future can meet.

Cool Content: Simon Davis on using content in the Haiti crisis

Simon Davis

On the 12th January 2010, a massive earthquake hit Haiti. Within hours, the Governement's humanitarian team is assessing and looking to get people on the grounds. And the comms team need to be communicating as quickly. Their aim was to show the impact of the aid while it was happening, while being the authoritative voice of the UK government. They had to inform the public, other aid workers and the news makers. Long term, they wanted to turn spikes on interest into enduring engagement.

They started with fact sheets for the public, and for aid workers on the ground. They got updates from the secretary of state out on Twitter. Timescales are the big thing in this situation. You need people hands-on around the clock. You need people on call, and systems ready for breaking events.

Their suggestions:

  • Work with what you've got - draw on available content, update and customise it to the event
  • Work with pruners to bring in other content
  • See what your people in the field can contribute
  • Be creative with what you get - what can you do at home base to supplement what's coming from the site?

They pushed updates that came to then via Text out through Twitter, using hashtags to indicate whose updates they were. Press officers are often frustrated journalists - and love being the ones getting the news out there. 


  • Updates on the ground - rolling news page, Twitter
  • Pictures of the aid's impact - Flickr and YouTube
  • Experts from London - blog

Photos and videos of British firefighters in action in Haiti were reused by national news media. 

How did they then sift to ongoing engagement? They kept the coverage going beyond the media spotlight. They kept using real life stories, about the people helped. And they did progress reports, including  bit multimedia feature six months and a year on. 

Have a digital team ready to deploy to the scene of a disaster

Interactive content could offer an immersive understanding. Digital content can really aid people in understanding both the impact of a disaster and of aid on the ground - that excites him. Emerging digital platforms are becoming a huge part of aid efforts, allowing people to communicate their situation - and aid workers to assess and plan. 

Everything this did is still on the DFID website.

Cool Content: Anthony Palmer on capturing the Olympic Park

Anthony Palmer

Anthony Palmer has spent the last few years working for the Olympic Delivery Authority, capturing and communicating the process of building the Olympic park. He's going to condense to 20 minutes that took four years to do...

In March 2008, the whole of the Olympics Park - about the size of Hyde Park - was only just a construction site. 

ODA had to build the set, while LOCOG put on the show. The ODA was regenerating the East End, LOCOG inspiring a generation. And his role was to show the world what was happening. He lives in Stratford - he was able to photograph the streets being destroyed before the big blue fence went up. However, the images weren't just of decay - they had fantastic designs for the new, sustainable venues. 

The third element of the communications were the local community - who found the biggest construction site in Europe happening on their doorstep. 

All of their comms included the lustiest images and video. The ones with aerial photos and video were absolutely lapped up. In 2008, they started a process of using webcams. In 2012? There's loads of broken links on the site. He's no longer running it - it was handed over to LOCOG a year ago. But he can show us a photo of the webcam - a metal box on a scaffold on a roof in Stratford, with a camera, a hard drive and a 3G connection. The stadium cam was taking an image every 10 minutes during daylight - 90 images a day. There were no tall buildings north of the sites, so the contractors kindly built them a scaffold on top of the site office. 

They started harvesting the photos into written blog posts - and from their into an image gallery. There's a limited gallery of images left on the active site. They were a victim of the image gallery created within the CMS - rather than, say, hosting them on Flickr. But there are a lot of brand restrictions on what the organising committee can or can't do. Non-sponsors couldn't have a presence on the website, which limited their options.

The webcams were getting about 100,000 hits a month - during  period when the general site wasn't getting much traffic. They were always the most popular part of the site.

They did videos of visits - like Tom Daley on the completed dive tower -, they did fly-throughs twice a year, and behind the scenes stories. They had to white label host the videos - as a non-sponsor like YouTube couldn't have a presence on the main site. However, all the videos are available separately on YouTube itself. 

He's proud of what they did - they added something different to the content mix, not just adding to the editorial noise. They let people look into the park and see what was going on. 

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September 20, 2012

Community for community's sake

Neil Perkin:

Too many brands attempt to establish communities with no clear purpose to that community, or plan for what they're going to talk about not just over the next few weeks, but long-term. So they soon find that they can only talk about themselves for so long and they start to run out of interesting things to say.

For "brands", you can equally well read "publishers". The days where publishers could afford to throw up communities and see what happened are long gone - and were probably an illusion even when we thought we could. Chasing buzzwords is never a great idea unless you have a clear vision of how it fits into your overall content strategy.

Neil's piece does a nice job of setting out a rule of thumb of how to balance experimental and bread-and-butter content. Well worth a read. 

One Man on

Me on
In news not entirely unrelated to my last post, you can now find me on Twitter alternative

Twitter has chosen a fickle monetization mistress

IFTTT CEO Linden Tibbets:

In recent weeks, Twitter announced policy changes* that will affect how applications and users like yourself can interact with Twitter's data. As a result of these changes, on September 27th we will be removing all Twitter Triggers, disabling your ability to push tweets to places like email, Evernote and Facebook. All Personal and Shared Recipes using a Twitter Trigger will also be removed. 

I don't think anyone objects to the idea of Twitter going in search of a business model. Seeking to make that work by progressively making the service less and less useful to a subset of their users while chasing the mainstream seems like an odd decision to me.

Remember when TV shows had links to AOL keywords or MySpace pages on-screen? The mainstream is fickle, Twitter. You may live to regret this. 

[via TechCrunch]

September 17, 2012

Where Content Strategy and Brighton meet...

Brighton Beach
So, content strategy is the new hotness. Lots of people who were once web editors or content managers or even, heavens forbid, journalists, are now describing themselves as "content strategists". But there's a world of difference between just being a content creator, and knowing how to use content strategically (the clue's in the title name, you see...) to enhance your publication, website and business.

Which is all a terribly good excuse for spending this Friday afternoon in sunny, beautiful Brighton. Cool Content Coming soon is a half-day conference delving deep into some cool uses of content, from use of video by the Olympic Delivery Authority to personalising content for potential visitors to Cornwall. You'll learn how content strategy helped relief efforts in Haiti and how the RSC is digitising Shakespeare. And you'll see me chairing the final panel discussion with all the speakers...

During the interval, leading content agency Zone will be viewing people's portfolios and giving free career advice for people looking for their next step into the content world.

Plus, you know, Friday afternoon. Brighton. Bars and beaches. What more could you want?

Please join us for a great afternoon. (discounts for freelancers and a two-for-one offer available)

Brighton Pier

September 13, 2012

Charlie Peverett: why it's time to ban the blog

Charlie Peverett, iCrossing

Thumbnail image for Charlie Peverett

Companies that blog have 434% more indexed pages - and more indexed pages get more leads - or so says the slides that opens Charlie from iCrossing's presentation at the Brighton Digital Marketing Festival. He's going to make the case for banning the blog - or some of the bad habits we've all slipped into...

And he quotes Tamsin suggesting that many people ending up using blogs because their main website is too awful to easily add things to:

Marketers think that blogging will increase engagement, visibility and things like that. But blogs are buckets - clever buckets. We invest the things we put in buckets with our hope and aspirations for what it'll do. Some people are more interested in the bucket than the contents. But it's what's in the bucket that counts. 

Time has moved on, and the discussion hasn't. 

1. Blogs as workaround

Blogs are often workarounds for websites that are no longer fit for purpose. The arrival of blogs was a godsend for those of us trying to manage content for a bad website. We're used to thinking of them as our friends - those of us who anthropomorphise tools on the web...

2. My boss heard about blogging...

Often the job isn't to be blogging, but to create effects that blogging can bring.

3. It's treated as a media buy

Social media is still being annexed by marketing. And that's... fine. But actually social media is not a media buy. If we look at a blog as an alternative to paid attention, it's easy to slip into the language of "not buying this, but buying a blog". Panda and Penguin has put pressure on those working in content to come up with the goods. 

In short: the success of you blog is increasingly tied to what you say - not just the fact that you have chosen to speak. Sometimes alternative platforms might suit you better. Thinking hard about what you're trying to achieve something can save you a lot of pain later. 

There are some terrible corporate blogs. It's hard to find examples - because everyone just ignores terrible stuff online. They're bad in a sad-making way, rather than an embarrassing way. Sometimes they put up (say) a great interview with a designer - and nobody watches it. And then the PR team insist you put up a PR release about a new opening. It's not interesting.

There's the Hippo phenomenon - the opinion of the highest paid person in the room. Without a clear idea of what you want, the Hippo's opinion dominates. 

Charlie recommends:

  • in the early stage of planning, ban the word "blog"
  • Take those questionable claims for blogging, and replace with being interesting and relevance
  • See if the conversation goes somewhere else

Focus on the purpose, not the bucket. If you do decide that a blog is what you need - that's a positive decision. It's the difference between the knee-jerk reaction of signing up for WordPress because you need to be "more social" - and choosing one of a set of communication tools. You might end up with a blog - that should always be a positive decision. 

Continue reading Charlie Peverett: why it's time to ban the blog.

Journalists: get your liveblogging boots on the ground

Sketching a liveblogging team

Well, this is a good quote:

"We've sort of evolved to this bizarre thing where people sit within newsrooms and cover breaking events from afar," Tinworth said.

"Actually I think one of the things, particularly the big news organisations who have multiple people, should be thinking about is how they can get reporters with their boots on the ground, producing video, producing audio, producing pictures they can all feed back and make that liveblog a much richer, much more multimedia experience when a breaking news event happens.

I can't quite believe I managed to be that articulate when Rachel spoke to me on the phone - it was only a few weeks after Hazel was born - but I sound like I know what I'm talking about. There's also much wisdom from Josh Halliday and Neil Macdonald

(Image from the liveblogging course I taught last night. Me and flip charts...)

Steven Gradidge: when SEO and social media hug - in a gym

Steven Gradidge

Steven Gradidge, White Hat Media

Search and social have finally come together. They're hugging. Ahh. That's the premise of Steven Gradidge's talk at the Brighton Digital Marketing Festival.

There's been a shift from a link-focus to a content-focus, with a wrapper of social. Google have implemented 27 updates to their algorithm this year so far. Panda was the first one - that took down link-exchange sites. Penguin targeted over-optimisation. And Venice targeted local companies rather than big brands. 

So - content and friends are far more important to the SEO ecosystem now. 

For the Gym Group - a budget gym chain - they used social in part of their campaign. They've grown from five gyms in 2009, to hit 50 gyms this time next year. SERP domination is the bread-and-butter of their work, because the gym is focused on pushing all the admin online. It's a tough, competitive market. The demographic is 18 to 34 year olds - socially savvy and active. They do like commenting on posts or retweeting. They're heavy smartphone users. Mobile traffic is up 300%. And ⅓ of the members have never been a gym member before. 

Facebook membership is biased towards males, and they get 202 sign-ups for a Facebook referral. They focus on social because Google has made it clear that social is part of the algorithm - Google are "feeding us the bullshit" that they're protecting the users. More and more data is being extracted from us as webmasters. People engage more with subjects they have some idea of - so social reverses the wisdom about duplicated content. 

They integrated Facebook with the sign-up process, so you get a Facebook facepile of friends who are users of the gym when you complete sign-up. They ask for reviews on services like Yelp. They target the honeymoon period of the first month or so to ask for reviews.

Obviously, they've had to optimise the site for mobile - and they've used responsive design. They run competitions - they do work. The reward has to be of value or interest. 

Incoming tweets are up 103% - they've compared themselves with rivals, and target gaps in the market. Followers are up 32%. Retweets are up 61% - they members love the monday motivation tweets. Referrals from Facebook are up 25%. 

Key points:

  • Seamless sign-off process - a planned, managed editorial calendar
  • Minimal stakeholder environment - as few people involved as possible
  • Trust between client and team
  • Awesome content - what people want to see.

James Hamlin: selling tickets, socially


Liveblogging - errors, omission and unfinished sentences possible

James Hamlin, marketing director, seatwave

Seatwave is seat marketplace - buying and selling tickets. They've moved it from a shady business in car parks to something open, transparent and social on the web. And social media and e-mail are crucial to their CRM. 

collectfrom - allows direct pickup of tickets from sellers and then customers to buy/collect the tickets from the O2. The mayor of their shop there on Foursquare doesn't pay fees. They offer a photo booth at their pop-up collect from locations. It allows people to memorialise their experience - both as a physical product and through social media. The photos can become Facebook photo pictures, for example - with seat wave branding in place. 

What are the marketing challenges?

Fluctuating prices. Keeping in contact with sellers, to keep the supply funnel topped up. Reaching the right fans using targeting and user preferences to maximise conversion. The number of true fans is quite small. Most people are more casual. You need to push the message home to casual fans that the price might be right for them. 

No-one in the audience uses Facebook Connect! seatwave does - it allows them to connect deeply with Facebook, showing whose going to gigs, and which friends like the artists. My Bands encourages people to follow their bands on Facebook - and this find out about events, and potentially buy tickets. They've layered a price alert mechanism on top of that. Five times more effective than standard e-mails.

E-mails direct to sellers promoting collectfrom are effective at getting new stock. Marketing tickets starts with previous buyers of that act, with coupon codes, then spreads out by location. Price-led offers have highest CTR. Social kicks in close to the end of the sale process, with people sharing offers and ticket purchases widely once prices drop low. 

Allister Frost: Noble marketing through brain hacking?

Liveblog: open to error, inaccuracies and howling typos

Allister Frost

Allister Frost, managing director, Wild Orange Media

Have we ever been to Go Ape? He has. And he's talking about the dissonance between knowing you're safe (because you have a cable attached to you) and your body's instinctive reaction that you're going to die - and the exhilaration that brings.

So... social marketers

In 1990, you didn't have much to think about - TV, radio, print, bit of outdoor. But since then the number of channels to reach people has shot up - it's the old attention scarcity replaces channel scarcity argument. And from that we're on to a see-saw metaphor, about the value to the consumer and the value to the business. Sure, the web is making things more transparent - so marketers have a responsibility to make marketing noble again. It's one of the most hated professions in the world. People know we're trying to sell them crap they don't need...

Are the audience prepared to use the skills he's going to give us to make marketing better? The majority are.

The "new brain"-  our most recently evolved part - is rational. The mid brain is emotional, and your old brain is about survival. It's very difficult to do anything without the co-operation of the old brain. That's the one that makes you afraid in Go Ape. 

7 whole brain marketing tips:

1. Social proof - the need to fit in is hardwired in our brain - our old brain. Photos of people who gave reviews of holiday destinations increase purchase by 20%. Somebody like us has been there - social proof in action. Tell people how many of something have sold is social proof - other people buy it, must be good. Apple is a master of social proof. The "I'm a Mac" campaign played to the old brain - I want to be the cool kid. The mistake made in the UK was using Mitchell and Web - and their images from Peep Show subverted the adverts. Microsoft responded with the I'm a PC ad - social proof that the majority of people use PCs.

2. Contrast

The Economist has a a chart comparing the digital subscription and a print and digital sub - they're the same price, but the wording is different. It's designed to make you analyse, and realise you get more for the same money with print in there - which is what they want for ad reasons. 

Why did Microsoft use those odd Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld ads? They were coming off the back of Windows Vista - everyone hated it. Even he hated it. They knew "I'm a PC" would work. But they couldn't go straight into it. They knew the Gates/Seinfeld ads would be controversial - but they'd get people talking and pave the way for the ads that game after. Contrast.

3. Scarcity

Identical cookies taste better if they come from a jar which is nearly empty. The brain gives it more value because it looks scarce. BA does this with "2 seats left at this price" on their website. After a while, though, scarcity becomes implausible. 

4. Hidden Delight

Making people work to spot things - like the arrow in the FedEx logo - creates hidden delight. The US gave them "the 'Wow' starts now" as a strap line for the launch of Microsoft Vista. It didn't deliver. The delight wasn't hidden. Let consumers decipher messages - and don't over promise.

5. Commitment

It's easier to get people to agree to putting a large "drive carefully" sign in their yard, if you get them to put a small "safe driver" sticker in the window first. It actives a feeling of commitment in their brain. Small acts of commitment open up people to bigger ones later.

6. Reciprocity

Free samples make you want to reciprocate - you feel slightly indebted. That works online. Visit Sweden gives you a free screensaver. Give people a freebie than ask for data - you'll get twice the response of doing it the other way around.

7. Visual stimulus

88% of wallets with baby photos in them get handed back. People are programmed to respond to babies. We respond with saliva to photos of food. That's why photos and videos get more likes on Facebook - they respond to visual stimulus. Consistency builds association. 


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September 11, 2012

One big secret of journalism change management

Martin Couzins on modelling behaviour:

If you are the one who is trying to encourage others to try something out then a good place to start is to model the behavior ie actually use the tools and techniques you are helping others to adopt.

The bottom line is that by doing and being (and enjoy doing/being) what you are asking others to do you are giving everyone a chance to see what that behaviour looks (and can look) like. People see and hear if you feel good about something.

Be the change you want to see. One of the reasons I never stopped blogging during my time doing editorial development work at RBI was that by doing what I was asking others to do, I was both leading by example, and proving that I could find the time to do it while having a demanding job - so they could, too.

Telling without doing is never very persuasive.  

FInding the story in the data

Fabulous account of how, while all the tech press were busy writing comment pieces, one guy used the data to figure out where all the Apple device IDs that Antisec claimed to have stolen from the FBI actually came from:

I’d heard about the alleged FBI/Apple UDID leak shortly after arriving at work last Tuesday morning, and immediately downloaded and began reviewing the data. Less than an hour later, I’d surmised that comparing apps across multiple devices might help narrow down the source.

That's finding a story in data…

Update: Here's a similar set of analysis from Alastair Allan

September 10, 2012

Reed Elsevier: a business model under pincer attack

Robert Andrews highlights the political dangers to the traditional Reed Elsevier business model, by quoting a research note from Berstein Research's Claudio Aspesi:

We think the risk posed to the Elsevier business model is substantial. We believe investors are underestimating the disruption that both the EC and even the UK policies could pose to the business model of Elsevier...

Being a paid publishing gatekeeper is a very difficult situation to maintain in any field right now. People with the money and time to access printing presses no longer have an advantage. Business models based on that advantage - and make no mistake, that's what journal publishing is - are in trouble. To have a business model which charges people to both be published and to read the publication is to doom yourself. It's been a great money-maker for decades, but the game is pretty much up.

But it's not just that structural change at play here - there's a political will to break the power of the journal publishers. Andrews:

In July, three UK education research councils and the European Commission announced stipulations that future research partly funded by taxpayers - much of which is currently published through subscription journals - must be made more open-access. The UK government has labelled research "paywalls" "deeply unhealthy", and wants to free up availability.

And they're just joining pressure that already exists from the contributors and readers. Andrews again:

Many researchers were already revolting against health and science journal publisher Reed Elsevier for selling bundles of journals containing their work, rather than individual journals, to libraries. Tens of thousands of people signed a petition.

Pressure for government - which funds much of the work published in journals. Pressure from the users and contributors. 

Winter is coming...

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Publication disruption denial: a lifecycle

The graveyard of St Marys

Five steps:

  1. "We're a print business and we always have been".
  2. "Digital will be important, but we have to prioritise print, where our profits are right now".
  3. "We'll go digital first from the autumn".
  4. "With regret, we're closing the print edition".
  5. "With regret, we're closing the title".

September 8, 2012

Pop-up digital newsroom at Brighton Digital Festival

Pop-up Newsroom signHacks/Hackers Brighton are running a pop-up digital newsroom at the Mini Maker Faire in Brighton today, as part of the Brighton Digital Festival. The results are going up on the Hacks/Hackers Brighton Tumblr as they're created...

Sarah Marshall at the pop-up newsroom
Adam Oxford

September 7, 2012

A word to the wise content creator...

Cool Content Coming Soon logo

I've not got time to blog about this in detail right now, but in a couple of weeks I'll be moderating a panel at a cool content event called Cool Content Coming Soon... I'll talk about it more tomorrow, but what you need to know right now is this:

  • A Friday afternoon conference in Brighton
  • 21st September
  • A top-notch panel of content experts ready to educate and entertain
  • The early bird discount ends this evening at midnight - book now for just £40 (a £10 saving)

C'mon. Friday afternoon, late summer, Brighton, with its beaches and bars a stone's throw away. How can you resist?

Let me enter-train you: liveblogging and SEO

Had a fun day yesterday, running a bespoke training course for a property industry client with the talented, genial (and caustically funny) Steve Bustin of Vada Media. Watching Steve - a former stand-up comedian - at work reminded me how much entertaining the people you are training helps in engaging them - and thus making the training more effective.

I'll be doing my best to bring that to the two public training courses I'm running with over the next few weeks:

Liveblogging - next Wednesday evening

As the last news:rewired made clear, live coverage of events is  becoming more and more important. This evening course is designed to give you all the skills you need to get started in the various styles of liveblogging - a vital component of any journalist or content creator's armoury. 

I believe there are still a few places left on the course, and I'd be delighted to see you along there.  

SEO for Journalists (and content creators) - 20th September

I ran this course earlier in the year, really enjoyed it. Feedback from the attendees was good, which is always encouraging. This is very much a hands-on guide for content creators, particularly journalists, who want to know how to make sure their websites look as good as possible to search engines. It's not designed to turn you into an SEO "guru", it's designed to give content experts the SEO tools they need. And yes, it's a Panda- and Penguin-ready course. (And if you don't know what that means, you need the course. ;-)  )

A one day course in London on 20th September.

September 4, 2012

Joanna Geary: So, that online community stuff - it's all sorted now?

jo-geary-sarah-marshall.jpg Liveblog of a talk given by Jo at Hacks/Hackers Brighton in September 2012

Joanna Geary

In 2010, the last national reporter picked up a Twitter account, and we're done with online community.

I've noted one or two people have been appointed and everyone thinks it's all done. Back in 2009, we decided that the two-way communication thing with the readers was a good thing. Lots of people got got community-related job title. [Liveblogger's note: I take issue with some of this characterisation of history. Will post about it later...) Sky appointed a Twitter correspondent. In 2009, the news world's way in to social media was one person to "deal with the Twitter thing". 

We still considered people who knew how to do this stuff as trailblazing. Trailblazing is nice. You get to go into uncharted territory, noodle around and so on. But we should be past that now. And we were in 2009. What she could do at The Times in 2009 was pointless, unless you could teach other people, and get support for them to do things. We need to get our Brunel on - start creating routes for other people to follow. 

Questions to ask:

Why are you doing community?

"Common practice should be a factor that we consider..." came back to her in an e-mail. It's the heads-in-an-oven principle - we should do it if other people are. It should be there to: improve your journalism, or increase your traffic from social platforms, get people spending more on your sites, improve customer relationships, or get customer data. You need to know what the reasons are. 

How are you measuring that? 

The Guardian has a suite of proxy metrics - identifying x number of stories helped by readers, or growth in contact lists. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of the metrics you're using. The Britney Dilemma - if all you care about is unique browsers, Britney's lack of underwear is the height of your journalism...

Are you paying attention to the results?

Experiments are a good thing - but she's seen them used as an way of forcing through ideas, that get developed, but never really checked. They shouldn't be a distraction technique. Know what the results should be.

Are you sharing what works?

So far, they have stand-ups at morning meetings, they have lunch-time talks, they have formal trainings, they have informal training, they have daily and weekly e-mails. It's not enough. They're starting community clinics, based on social media surgeries. A session where people can come and get advice and help from those who know, in an informal atmosphere. They're going to be Guardian-only initially, but they'd like to open them to readers eventually, too. You can never stop - and people forget easily. And new people come in.  

Are you doing enough to support them?

She helped get a live stock update option into The Times's CMS. She was really excited - but it didn't get used. It was too much extra to ask people to do without support. 


Jo Geary

Q. When you're talking about journalists about social stuff, is it more effective to persuade or tell?

A. In my experience, no-one likes being told what to do. Persuading them that they'll reach so many more readers is more effective. 

Q. Is there a future for hacks who don't turn into hackers?

A. I'm aware of people who are frustrated because they can't get their ideas implemented because they can't code. But... hackers don't have a preserve on communicating clearly. Neither do journalists. The current culture is that hackers are always right - and they are, apart from when they're terribly wrong. Sometimes the ways hackers look at data isn't the best way to communicate it. 

Q. (From me): There was a generation before the 2009 one, who started in 2006 or earlier. Meg Pickard at The Guardian is pretty much the only one left. How do you think the 2009 generation can do differently - and survive better? 

Meg came from a very different view point on community - anthropology - when she came to The Guardian. She knew why they were doing it, and she had a relationship with Alan (Rushbridger, the editor) at the top of the business. But it wasn't easy. A lot of other organisations never knew why they were doing social stuff - the common practice element mentioned earlier came into play. Meg kept that focus. The journalism business is very good at employing people to do new things, but we need to give them the resources - and keep the high level relationships - to make sure they create the Brunel pathways. 

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Aral on identity, privacy and

Liveblog of Aral's talk at Hacks/Hackers Brighton:

Aral Balkan

He's going to talk to us about identity and privacy. He's an experience designer. He makes things for people - mainly virtual products, his focus is on the human side of things.

Aral Balakn

If you could send free letters to everyone you like for free, would you sign up? Yup, say the audience. OK - but what if that service could read everything you said? Only two people went for that. How many are on Gmail? Way more. But that's exactly what Gmail does - reads the e-mails to show you advertising. They have to examine you, build a profile of you. Whatever they do: a phone, a tablet, a computer - they want you do given them your data. That's what their business is built on. Imagine if that were the case with the telephone. 

It all began with Web 2.0, amongst the starburst and rounded corners, with free web apps. The steps of creating a free web app:

  1. Get loads and loads of users. Go to venture capitalists and get them to lend you money based on your users
  2. ?????
  3. Profit

It's the second step where you get screwed. The VCs want money, and you have no business plan. So you go for advertising, and optimise your sites for advertisers not users. Free... is a lie. The cost is your personal information, your privacy. 

The Kindle Fire compresses your web browsing and squirts it down the internet to you. Great, right? Well, they know exactly what you're browsing and buying. They know every site you go to. Any government would give their right arm to get the information you give for free to Facebook. Facebook is a prime example. Their shares have collapsed to $18 since their launch. But they do have $6bn cash in the bank, so they're doing not that great.

Twitter? It used to look far more simple than it does now. It was a friendly place - he had warm feelings towards it in the early days. They had a lot of problems scaling it. The early adopters built a lot of the conventions - @ replies, retweets. Twitter paved the cow paths - the places people have already been. Hashtags were the same. What Twitter has was an API - a means of getting just the data out of the system. That allowed people to build their own clients. Tweetie was one of the best iPhone and Mac clients using the API. Tweetdeck was one of the most widely used. 

The developers built a lot of the platform, the infrastructure and the culture. Things wents south in 2010, when Twitter built Tweetie. For the first time their was an official Twitter client. They they bought Tweetdeck... The in March 2011, they published a blog post telling people not to build client apps. "Explore other verticals" - a suit phrase. On June 29 2012, they followed it up with a post that started implementing limits that make it very difficult to have a successful Twitter client. The reaction of the developer community was negative and shocked - because they loved Twitter. 

Like Flipboard? It could die under the new rules. Twitter wants a Tweet to look the same everywhere. Flipboard contravene this. The CEO of Flipboard quit Twitter's board. July 13th - Dalton Cladwell wrote and audacious proposal for - an alternative people paid for. That's crazy. We never pay for shit. So what is ADN? It's an ad-free, open standards-based alternative to Twitter for real time social communication. They did a Kickstarter-like pitch to get $500,000 to start it. They did it with 38 hours to spare. In the last 38 hours they hit $803,000. 

Aral's conclusion? Web 2.0 is dying. ADN's API is completely open. It's on Github. You can add notations - metadata - to the posts. It's been going for a month - and there are dozens of apps being worked on already. 121 of them, in fact. Some of them are really, really polished. 

Right now - it's not for the general public. It's for the geekier amongst us. But this allows us to get it ready for the general public. 

Have you looked at Twitter lately? The trending topics are nonsense. They way he views it is that Facebook and Twitter are targeting the same audience as McDonalds. It's the McDonaldsification of social media. It's good that we have alternatives to McDonalds - not all of us want to eat there. But there's been a backlash about the $50 charge, but it misses the point. Is your identity, privacy and security worth $4 month? Is it worth a pint? 


Q. How is different from, a free and open source equivalent? 

A. Part of it is that it has a sustainable business model. With a lot of open source projects you don't have that focus. Plus, is very focused on the user experience. Aral doesn't believe that open source and great user experience are mutually exclusive, but the examples out there right now don't support that. Design thinking is sorely needed in open source. doesn't have the mindshare.

Q. Will you be able to use the funds raised for marketing?

A. Exactly. Dalton has said they can go for two years with what they've raised so far. Plus, we're emotional creatures - we like the underdogs. 

Q. It's not the only game in town I've got nowdly in review in the app store.

A. I hope Libya doesn't do anything nasty to your domain name - but there's a groundswell - a trend. 

Q. Are we being anti-capitalist? I like Amazon knowing what I read, I want this pub to know what I drink.

A. First time ever we've discussed paying for something as anti-capitalist. Twitter and Facebook aren't going away. It's good to have an alternative. 

Q. Is the fragmentation of the social networks a problem?

A. Things aren't set in stone. MySpace was huge. Bebo was huge. People move around. 

Q. doesn't have to be the only one - it can be interoperable. You could build another service that talks to it.

A. To sum up, we're living in a very exciting time, when there's going to be a lot of upheaval. 

September 3, 2012

Hacks/Hackers Brighton tomorrow: popup newsrooms and community clinics

In the Brighton or Sussex area? A coder or a journalist? Then we'd love to see you at Hacks/Hackers Brighton, because there are some great things in store:

The next Hacks/Hackers Brighton meet-up is tomorrow (Tuesday, 4 September, 6pm at The Eagle). All are welcome. (Here's the meet up group if you'd like to tell us you are coming)

It's an extra special meetup with an excellent speaker, it's part of the Brighton Digital Festival, plus you will hear about how Hacks/Hackers Brighton will be part of the Mini Maker Faire on Saturday 8 and you'll find out about a Hacks/Hackers UK event in November.

Joanna Geary, digital development editor at The Guardian, will be speaking about community clinics, among other things.

The Guardian's approach to open journalism sees the news outlet reach out to its readers in many different ways, including through soon-to-launch community clinics.

We are also planning a "pop-up digital newsroom" on Saturday 8 September. We'd like as many people as possible to get involved. We will explain more at the meet-up.

Pop-up newsroom: Hacks/Hackers Brighton is becoming a Maker at the Mini Maker Faire. From 10am-2pm the Founders Room at the Brighton Dome will become a digital newsroom, allowing those who attend the Maker Faire to learn skills in digital news production. The event is free and all are welcome.

What is the Mini Maker Faire?

Maker Faire is the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth – a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. It’s a place where people show what they are making, and share what they are learning. Activities for all ages include arts & crafts, robots and engineering, wood and metalwork, electronics, science, tech, music and more amazing do-it-yourself creation.

Over 5,000 people piled into the Dome for the first Brighton Mini Maker Faire in 2011, to witness the mind-boggling home-made creations of the best inventors, crafters, hackers and DIY-ers from across the UK – and they got involved: making, experimenting, playing, learning and interacting.

Brighton Digital Festival is a celebration of digital culture. It is run by members of Brighton's arts and digital communities, administered by Wired Sussex in association with Lighthouse and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.


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