A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

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Sad  n Scary

[Photo by Orin Zebest on Flickr, and used under a Creative Commons licence]

It’s Carnival time. But I’m not really in a Carnival mood. Maybe it’s because of the sales or the mergers, or just a dodgy curry. I’m not sure. But I’m in a grumpy mood. So I’m not going to be all positive and optimistic and full of twinkly joy about innovation (which is what I’m meant to be blogging about).


I’m going to lecture those venerable US institutions that Mr Cohn has suggested we address about the sort of idiots they should throwing into the street, followed by their suitcases and battered hat. Here are the 5 biggest mistakes these guys are making:

1. Reinvent the wheel

For some reason, journalists and publishers have got in their heads that what we do is so very special that it warrants special technology. And so we try to build it. Quite why we feel the need to do this when we rarely felt the need to design our own, custom printing presses is quite beyond me. But we do. At worst, we spend millions on custom publishing tech that gets us maybe a 5% incremental improvement over the off the shelf stuff. At best, we buy the off-the-shelf stuff. And then we rewrite it until it breaks. Stop doing that. And sure as hell don’t fund people who are doing that. Please, please stop. This just upsets me.

2. Live in splendid isolation

Here a good question to ask someone who wants to spend your money for you: what do you read? If the answer to the question largely involves products that are rooted in killing trees and tattooing their corpses with words, then they don’t deserve your wonga. Any customer of an online journalism product is going to be a regular user of other online services. If I had a pound dollar for every time I saw a would be journo-startup say something like “yeah, we’re going to be a proper online news service, not a blog thing”, I’d be sat in a big leather chair, behind a huge oak desk making would-be journo-start-ups beg for their cash. Guys, reverse chronology has won. It’s at the heart of Twitter. It’s at the heart of Facebook. That’s how people consume stuff on the net. If the net’s not in your blood, net people’s cash is not going to be in your PayPal account. Capiche?

3. Believe in received wisdom

There are an awful lot of journalists who seem to feel that Moses actually came down the mountain with an extra tablet, one that had the commandments of journalism carved on it. The great, big immutable laws of reporting are apparently one of the fixed constants of the universe, much like the value of Pi or the inevitability of taxation. This is, of course, delusional self-aggrandisation. Much of what we think about journalism is, in fact, a characteristic of print, or an effect of management efficiency in the sort of large-scale media that justified the expense of presses and trucks and newsboys and that sort of thing. If your would-be innovation can’t grasp that the core of journalism is little more than “find stuff out that people need to know; tell them about it”, then they’re doomed. They’re too trapped in the strictures and concepts of a fading world to build something really innovative.

4. Delude yourself about the value of journalism

People have never bought journalism, yet we persist in the delusion that they do and did. In print, people have bought entertainment packages, which include news, fun reading material and even activities, like crosswords. We were actually selling them advertising delivery vehicles. The adverts paid for more of the journalism than the cover price did. Anybody who walks in the door with a proposal for a pure content sale business should be pushed straight back out of it.

5. Forget all about the business model

It’s pretty clear that the days of building a product and hoping that the path to monetisation will just materialise are done for web products generally. This applies just as much to journalism projects as anything else. If someone has an answer to the question “what is the journalism going to help you sell?” than you can start having that conversation, the one that might lead to cash changing hands. But if they don’t have a plan for getting other people to give them cash, then don’t be giving them any of yours, my friends.

There. Now you know everything you need to know to create your own failed hyper-local entrepreneurial journalism start-up. Go out there and fail!


Publican Newspaper - October 1996

In the mid-90s, I finally got myself out of university, and into the working population. And my first job was on a weekly B2B magazine – for the pub trade. This week, that publication puts out its last issue, before it merges with its long-term rival, the Morning Advertiser (called the Licensee back then)

The current staff have just published a retrospective of the title’s 36 years, and have included an issue I worked on (right). I remember vividly the very first sample crate of the very first alcopop (Hooper’s Hooch) arriving in the office, not long after I joined, and the staff generally poo-pooing the concept. Oops.

Another little bit of the print heritage of B2B passes into history. Of all the magazines I’ve worked on full-time, only one is still publishing now. Times really are changing…

Coffee and laptop

The tabs in my browser were getting out of hand. Time for a link dump:


I didn’t want to let the working day end without a quick post to acknowledge the news that RBI – my employer – is in the process of concluding a sale of Computer Weekly and Microscope to TechTarget.

Obviously, there’s not a huge amount I can say about this at the moment, as the sale process is still in progress, but there are a couple of things I’d like to mention. The first is that I’m surprised that so many people are surprised by the proposed closure of the print products with the sale. RBI itself has followed this path in the past, and given the size of the magazines these days, focusing and investing in the online business seems like the right strategy for the new owners, especially in the computer trade…

Also, there have been a number of tweets of this nature in the past 12 hours or so:

RBI sells Computer Weekly and title goes online only, at @pressgazette << Dismembering Reedless than a minute ago via web

Now, while Jack has never been one to shy away from a bit of controversy, I think this is just plain wrong. This isn’t RBI being dismembered, but part of a long process of refocusing the business. Oddly enough, the sales get all the attention, the investments and acquisitions get much less play…

Update: I feel the need to clarify after an accusation of corporate mealy-mouth syndrome. RBI is a radically different company to the one I joined in 1997, and even the one it was when I moved into editorial development in 2006. I truly believe that this evolution is a good thing – it has become the sort of company that can survive the rapidly changing times for the publishing business we’re in right now. If I didn’t think the ship was steering the right way, I’d have jumped overboard a long time ago…

Hotdesking at's offices

This post on Unclutterer might go some way to explaining why I’m always so productive when I’m hotdesking from the Estates Gazette offices in Holborn:

When your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus. The clutter also limits your brain’s ability to process information. Clutter makes you distracted and unable to process information as well as you do in an uncluttered, organized, and serene environment.

My work environment here is hardly rich in clutter, as you can see…

Mary Hamilton:

I take what I’ve read and I pass the best bits on, because that’s the other kind of journalism I do, and because I hope that my personal Twitter account is just as much a resource and a source as any professional one, and I hold myself to higher standards still. And I keep what’s relevant and use it every day to inform the decisions I make and the way I work, to back up my hunches and make sure I’m always learning more about what I’m doing.

I, too, have a job where reading the internet is in the job description. Honestly, it rocks. Feel free to hate us now.