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

Posts tagged malcolm coles

Stealing the punchline from Peter Yeung’s interview with Malcolm Coles of The Telegraph:

There’s no way I’d have predicted the end of 2015 at the beginning of the year, so I’ve no bloody idea what’s going to happen in 2025. But I’m sure cat GIFs will still be important.

Not the most profound insight from an interview full of them – but certainly the most amusing.

(This year’s Interhacktives have really hit the ground running with the site this year – check it out.)

Slightly baffling post on Guido today:

The Telegraph has suffered an exodus of seasoned reporters yet there is good news on the horizon: the paper is hiring no fewer than five new “social media and search engine optimisation” staff. They will be working with “Director of Digital Media” Malcolm Coles to produce more of the Telegraph’s recent tepid Buzzfeed-style “trending news” content

So it does:

Now, why on earth would The Telegraph want social and search experts?

Traffic share to publisher sites

Oh, yeah. Well, why would a website want experts in the things that drive 70% of traffic to publisher sites? What possible use could they be?

In fact the whole piece is just plain curious. It has so many buried assumptions – that search and social expertise can’t be used on “serious” journalism (which they clearly can, to boost its audience greatly), and that “fluff” content and investigative journalism can’t co-exist – that it looks like Mr Wickham may have an axe to grind. At the very least, he’s become a mouthpiece for someone with some deep issues with the current Telegraph setup.

Take note, for example, of the off-hand assertion that the “Buzzfeed lite” content is low traffic – and its lack of proof. That would be, I suspect, because that almost certainly isn’t the case.

It’s deeply ironic that Media Guido – a blog – is slowly devolving into 2008’s Press Gazette, telling us that all digital is bad and dumbing down journalism.

[Full Disclosure: The Telegraph is an occasional client – I provide training to their “furious to the point of mutiny” hacks, who have always been quite lovely, in my experience]

Apparently the Mirror has had enough of experimentation:

Sources close to the online team told BuzzFeed News that they believe Picton’s vision for The Mirror’s websites is based around the MailOnline model, so the current crop of brands do not fit with his plan.

Oh, goody. The world needs a new MailOnline imitator.

The consequences?

BuzzFeed News understands that 14 jobs across UsVsTh3m, Ampp3d, and Row Zed are at risk of redundancy after a 30-day consultancy period. All three brands will continue to publish content, but on a reduced basis.

Well, the good news is that there will be some decent digital journalists with skill in producing viral content hitting the market pretty shortly. I would put money on many of them following Malcolm Coles – who built the Mirror new formats team – to the Telegraph, if it wasn’t for the political difference that might be too much for some to bridge.

Start up your poaching engines, people…

The ampp3d site

When I first heard about Trinity Mirror’s Us vs th3m, I rolled my eyes. Did the UK really need another Buzzfeed clone? Were our publishers incapable of innovating rather than jumping on yet another bandwagon?

It took a talk by one of the key personnel – Tom Phillips – to change my mind. He characterised the launch of the site as a skunkworks – an agile, but ultimately disposable, attempt to gather learning that the business could apply elsewhere, and an attempt to capture an audience that was drifting away from its traditional products.

The second iteration of this skunkworks experiment is now underway, under the guidance of Martin Belam. It’s an attempt to create a data journalism site that attracts viral sharing – and it rejoices in the name ammp3d – although it’s operating as a Mirror sub-brand, rather than an entirely independent entity. Some of the pre-launch workshops were exciting enough that I lost a chunk of my Interactive Journalilsm MA students from the second half of a lecture because they wanted to attend (and at least one of them is now writing for it).

An agile team

Neil Perkin thinks the way the team is structured is noteworthy:

I also particularly liked the blurring of lines between functions in the team. The publishing industry, says Martin, tends to silo people into editorial, pictures and graphics people, and technology people. Instead, they have a lean team of five where everybody to a greater or lesser extent can do words, pictures and code.

It is interesting – but it’s not quite as innovative as you might think – it’s certainly the way a lot of smaller pure online sites work already, and it has its roots in really small mags, where an element of that was necessary.

Victory conditions for innovation

I tend to think that the most interesting thing about the project is its three months of funding. Some people have characterised this as a lack of commitment to the projects, but Martin spins it – successfully I think – as a positive thing:

I think it shows exactly the opposite. I think it shows a real commitment to making something work. It self-selects the people who are willing to join the project as risk-takers who have a real stake in the success of the project, and it stops us just drifting aimlessly for months on end because we don’t have a target date to be considered viable. And why would I commit to doing anything for longer than we need to find out if it is a success or not?

To give some context here, one of my regrets from my corporate days is that I didn’t fight harder for victory/defeat conditions on more of the projects I was involved with. Too many of them were hand-waving “let’s give this a go and see if anything comes of it” type projects. I think too many publishers at the time were enamoured of Google-style innovation coming from 20% time, and weren’t taking the manifold threats to their business seriously enough.

No time for hobbyists

The very structure of traditional media companies demand that you have some sort of success or failure condition in place, otherwise there’s no existing corporate way to get the money and attention you need to continue to grow what’s evidently a success – or to stop a failure being a resource drain. And, as Martin suggests, putting those sorts of parameters around a project gets people to take it more seriously.

We have to stop treating innovation in publishing as a hobby, and give it a serious business focus. Kudos to Malcolm Coles at Trinity Mirror for doing exactly that.