Four years ago, I left journalism to venture into online marketing. Two years ago, I decided I still needed to be a journalist (though I still carry on with the marketing bit. It’s where the money is.) Scuzzy and doomed though it is “the craft” does not make me as uneasy as marketing. Bill Hicks explains why:
Thanks to my mate Giles in Japan, I’m now on the Google+ Project social network thingy. And I like it. I like it a lot.
It’s perfectly summed up by xkcd’s now viral cartoon.
What is it?
What’s it like?
It’s like Facebook.
“So what?” you may mutter. Wellllllll, Google Chrome is like Internet Explorer, except it’s slick, quick and has none of the annoying crap. It looks so much cleaner than Facebook, has a fairly intuitive control panel with lots of drag’n'drop and – the main sales point – allows you to categorise your friends in categories (such as friends, family or whatever you will). It also has some nice mobile and webcam interaction.
It’s not perfect though. The picture galleries get confused and start throwing weird background images up (in Google Chrome as well, tut, tut). Also, it has the usual Berlin Walls that make social networking so, err, un-networked. Why can’t I just suck images in from my Flickr stream like I can on WordPress? Why do I need to upload the same images again? Can’t we have FriendFeed-like functionality that sucks in all my activity to one place?
What will be very interesting is how Google+ takes on the most – only – impressive thing about Facebook: its extraordinarily segmentable advertising.
But in the meantime, see you next Thursday Facebook.
After a gap of lots I have resurrected my personal site. The lacuna was not just down to laziness. In the interim I have been:
- Running a newspaper: The Caledonian Mercury.
- Writing for said paper.
- Consulting on digital and social media.
- Training others how to use digital and social media.
- Speaking at conferences and on broadcast media about digital and social media.
And other things, such as attending the Fèis Ìle – the Islay music and malt whisky festival, hence the picture.
Journalists! Now is the time to start your own news site.
Confusing their need for income with a desire among customers to pay for content, the papers are about to hand over their audiences following the lead of the Dirty Digger.
They made you and you friends redundant, they froze your pay, they made you write umpteen stories a day during 12-hour shifts in increasingly empty newsrooms. And all the while they creamed off ludicrous profits. Now they want the online reader to foot the bill.
It’s an enormous mistake but it’s great news for the future of journalism.
Murdoch’s wrong because everything about the net is moving towards sharing and the free movement of content. Hiding content behing barriers simply ignores how most people access it.
Murdoch, Lionel Barber and the other pro-chargers assume that because they need a lot of money that people will pay to access news and comment online. But that’s not how life works. Something is only worth what people will pay for it.
Charging for news has alwyas been bonkers. How can you put a barrier round “Lord Jones is dead”? It is instantly, immediately copiable without contravening any known or possible copyright laws.
In essence, the problem is that of Spotify vs iTunes. Spotify lets you listen to unlimited amounts of music from a vast playlist. It’s free but the catch is you don’t get to download or keep any of it. If you want to own it, you need to hop onto iTunes and buy a download.
The problem is that online news and comment is like most music on Spotify – you access it once and walk away. Unlike with music, though, there are very, very few news or comment items that you would pay to keep for ever.
However, news media companies do have access to a suite of products that people will pay to keep – and that are more suited than the web to the presentation of all that high-quality fabby content that the moguls have been boasting of: print.
You see, it’s not the online products that are broken: it’s the print ones. Just because large numbers of readers don’t like the one size fits all version doesn’t mean that that’s it for print. And it doesn’t mean they’re suddenly going to want to pay for material online.
So what’s the good news for journalism?
Well, when J Arthur Reader pops online to enquire after the health of Lord Jones, what will he do when he sees that all the “Lord Jones is dead” stories from the mainstream news organisations are behind payment barriers? Will he A) get out his chequebook or B) read the story for free somewhere else?
And what is to stop journalists from setting up their own nimble news enterprises to supply that free news? (Sure there’s the BBC but it can’t do attitude or opinion.) These specialist enterpises would have no legacy costs and which could make use of targeted print products to boost revenue. They could even co-operate with other non-competing enterprises to buy back-room services (ad sales, printing, IT).
When the big boys shoot themselves in the foot, it’s a great time to challenge them to a race.
The BNP winning seats in the Euro elections puts the nail in the coffin of my belief in the United Kingdom. I know there are bigots aplenty in Scotland but I want no part in a country that elects fascists.
But this parody of a BNP video cheered me up greatly.
Remember, in the words of The Angelic Upstarts, “fascism doesn’t start with concentration camps, that’s where it ends”.
Gordon Brown’s troubled premiership last night suffered another blow with the news that a Chocolate Teapot was distancing itself from the Prime Minister “for the sake of its reputation”.
Sources close to the cacao-based container said it was “deeply concerned” about its standing within British politics if it continued to be associated with the Brown regime.
This shock defection follows a slew of similar movs by key figures, including:
- One Legged Man at an Arse-kicking Competition
- Inflatable Dartboard
- Spare Prick at a Wedding
Friends of the PM moved to play down the split, saying: “I, uh, I mean the Primer Minister sees this as an opportunity to promote thrusting, new talent such as a Catflap in a Submarine and Fart in a Wind Tunnel.”
The row overshadowed an attempt by Mr Brown to defy his critics by organising a piss-up in a brewery – an event which featured a range of beverages supplied by the Temperance Society.
An earlier attempt to find his own arse with both hands and a map floundered due to a compass error.
OK, you’ve probably all seen this but if you haven’t, it’s comedy gold. The Apprentice remixed to make Alan Sugar entertaining… Get’s very, very funny at 2:45. ”From Tower Bridge right up to Westminster”.
Lord Foulkes has demonstrated how out of touch politicians are with public feeling by attacking BBC journalists for criticising MPs’ expenses. Sure, there are newsreaders who get paid more than most of us think they should. But they are not clearly on the fiddle, unlike some of George’s former colleagues in the Lower House.
I await with interest the launch of Herald Scotland.
I have not held back from criticising Johnston Press’s handling of my baby scotsman.com but I see signs that what the Herald are about to do will make JP’s decisions look like the greatest internet wisdom since Tim Berners-Lee saw a spider making a trap for flies. (Actually that might have been Robert the Bruce but you know what I mean.)
My pessimism is based on four warning signs:
1) A new URL: According to the excellent AllMediaScotland, the Herald plans to amalgamate its existing sites to create one seven-day operation. The key risk here is what happens to the current sites and, crucially, all the inbound links and search engine reputation they have built up over the years. If the old sites are junked then all those inbound links (vital for search engine reputation) will be lost. Also, their very valuable search engine page ranks will be lost. Now there are ways and means of sending traffic to new address. But even a 301 redirect can take months to take effect completely (thus losing valuable traffic and revenue). Also, given that the Herald and Sunday Herald’s web addresses have different structures a redirect might struggle.
But if they run the old and new sites in parallel then they face a massive search engine penalty for having duplicate content.
And if they launch the new URL without a ton of content, it will lose the huge benefit of the Heralds’ exisitng content.
In short, once you ‘ve got a URL stick with it. Sod rebranding.
2) Flash: The holding page is a search-engine-invisible Flash animation. An emphasis on “looking pretty” over “working properly” is no a good sign for whatever’s coming next.
3) Tag line: The marketing slogan for the new site appears to be: “Make it home”. That smacks of “make this your hompage”, which has been made hopelessly outdated by bookmarking, decent search engines and social networks.
4) The suggestion of charging. No, no, no, no. No matter what Rupert Murdoch says, the arguments for charging for content are all to do with what newspapers would like and not what readers will do. If you put your content behind a payment barrier, people will not pay you. They will go to a free site that offers content similar to yours. This is not an argument about quality – though the Herald’s has taken a big hit by cutting so many staff – but about how the customer behaves.
Now, all these indications might be off the mark but, for me, they point to worrying times ahead for Scotland’s online media.
But it’s begun already.
You see the process starts slowly but it follows a well-worn formula. As news outlets get bored with the story but know they have to keep flogging it, they will quickly tire of the insane “a star is born” hyperbole that has enveloped us now.
Then the tone will slighty change. At first, there will be “concerned” noises about the impact on this on Ms Boyle.
The next phase will be cautious: perhaps a lengthy chin-tugger from a “weighty” commentator about the questionability of this kind of lowbrow culture. Maybe a music critic will give a “brutally honest” account of her singing compared to professionals.
After that it’ll get nasty. Perhaps there will a Daily Mail-esque “Is Susan the kind of role model we want?”. Then a lifestyle columnist will, in an attempt to be controversial, get stuck into Susan Boyle with snide references to the fact she never married. There’ll be a vox pop taking potshots at any financial success she has on the back of her performance. A style “journalist” will have a go at the way she looks.
Then we’ll get into the muck-raking. Hacks will be crawling around looking for scandal: perhaps a never-been-kissed-and-tell (In fact there’s already a comment on YouTube saying: “I know Susan Boyle’s childhood love Patrick Quinn, he is an alcoholic living in Cambridge, I have GENUINE footage of him.” Nice.)
You can bet someone’s checking out the benefits she claimed while looking after her mother. The pubs near her will be staked out in the hope she gets blootered or says something unguarded. The hunt will be on for proof she mimed.
Maybe it’ll get desperate and there’ll be revelations that she once embezzled tent pegs from the Brownies or likes dressing up as Osama bin Laden.
Given its recent form, I fancy the Scottish Sunday Express to come into its own at this stage.
In any case, the process has begun. The Telegraph website has entered “concerned” mode. And, in a taste of things to come, seasons that concern with a wee dig at Susan’s appearance. With her ghastly frock, wedge of frizzy hair and cowboy-like gait, Susan Boyle surprised us all and has since dipped her toe into the waters of fame.
With her ghastly frock, wedge of frizzy hair and cowboy-like gait, Susan Boyle surprised us all and has since dipped her toe into the waters of fame.
On your marks…
- Ambitious Outsider on Death of Scottish journalism: we name the guilty men
- mark gorman on How to save The Scotsman, The Herald and newspapers in general: a modest proposal
- Alan Rodgers on about
- Stewart on Start your news site now – thanks to Murdoch
- scottdouglas on Start your news site now – thanks to Murdoch
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