Friday, 30 May 2008

Leaving Party

David Higgerson, pictured at his leaving do with half of the Girls Behaving Stylishly team - aka Emma Pinch and Laura Davis. As I left, David was clutching two pints and attempting to lift a third to his mouth. Isuspect it got very messy later on.

Posted by ShoZu

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Blogging Macca

The live blogs keep coming; we're blogging the Liverpool Sounds concert on Sunday with words and images (but maybe not live streaming as there organisers are confiscating cameras and 'recording equipment'. Boo!
So that will be sorted out today and Sunday will see various Post & Echo people Twittering, texting and phoning in their experiences to the live blog, along with readers. Should be really exciting.
In other news Ben Johnson has apologised to the Post and Echo journalists for calling us all lazy. He rang both papers to say he meant to say the national press, not the local ones, so I guess I can forgive him for that.
Don't know if my hard-working friends on the nationals will be so kind about his work next time they get to write about it though...

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Why streaming in high winds is a Bad Idea

It was a beautiful day at West Kirby - sun, sea, people's dogs hurling themselves into the marine lake after balls, perfect for streaming on Qik in fact. Erm no. It sounds like an excerpt from that Twister film where cows get picked up and hurled around by tornados.
So, today I learned: Streaming without wifi is slow and painful; streaming without wifi and in gale force winds is an absolute bloody dead loss.
I like to think I can search for a lesson in even the most mundane of defeats...

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Royal liveblog and Press walk-out

Today the Post and Echo liveblogged the Queen and it was a LOT more slick than the second [text ammended - see comments] one we tried. It featured videos, photos, reporters Twittering news in - we certainly learned a lot from the LDP liveblog.
I can even see the funny side of a post being accidentally put on the publicly-facing site by a twat who perceptively named himself/herself T.W.A.T (I told one manager it stood for Tunbridge Wells Automotive Trust and it was a well-known anacronym - for a few beautiful seconds he believed me.
Then the Post editor Mark Thomas, Echo editor Ali Machray and I went to the opening of the Liverpool Cityscape painting at the Walker Art Gallery. It was a gathering of the great and good, who had rocked up in the name of Art, fizzy wine and nibbles.
Then artist Ben Johnson got up to make a speech... and 20 minutes later was still talking, oblivious to his audience's growing distraction.
People had stopped listening... right up until he thanked the press office for "having to deal with bloody lazy press" and "managing to drag lazy reporters in so they could see what we were doing".
Well, the bloody ACRES of coverage this inflated ass has got in the local media doesn't bear telling. So Mark, Ali and I signalled our appreciation of his comments by Walking Out In A Huff.
The look on the Glitterarti's faces was, in a word, picturesque.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Too much paperwork - too little paper work

I'm fed up. I've done nothing but attend meetings, shuffle paperwork and answer the telephone this week. And when I'm not doing that, I'm being hunted down by people who want to make my life more difficult or just subtly shift more work onto me.
I'm naming this phenomenon geo-nagging (i.e. the ability of others to find me, wherever I may be, and give me problems) and I've Had Enough.
The latest random act of geo-nagging was someone I had never even seen before (probably using GPS) tracking me down so he could refuse to move chairs for a meeting. The chairs weren't fixed to the floor you understand... but they weren't being moved by his staff either.
Life was much simpler when you just had to negotiate your way past the loosely-tethered rottweiler to push a doorbell that may or may not work and then wheedle your way into the front room of a family whose little darling had just been banged up for some random thuggery - and then persuade them to talk about it.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Flowers for friends

I'm sending virtual flowers to Joanna and Sarah to cheer them up because I can't buy them a beer.

Mobile post sent by Alison using Utterz Replies.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Creating communities

This is a reply to Alison Gows´utter on newspapers building communities…Mw/utt.php

markmedia's Mobile post sent by Alison using Utterz Replies.  mp3

I posted Markmedia's reply to my Utterz here because it's actually a far more lucid and interesting answer than my ramble deserved.
Mark makes an excellent point about newspapers having to become a hub; I was talking to Neil MacDonald about this earlier although I used the phrase 'toolbox' - giving them as much information as we can in our online space and providing them links to expert external sites that can inform them further.
Mark is right - our products (paper and online) can be hubs for the audience. We need to make our sites indispensible - an information port of call - rather than a repository of our news. Users should be able to add to that information bank, as with wikis, and put up external links. If we don't offer the service, readers will find somewhere else that does. People use papers and websites in the most disposable of ways - occupying time on a bus, or searching for information, consuming it and moving on.
The idea of loyalty ("our readers love the paper")is a myth repeated by journalists but we're only fooling ourselves; our audience will stay with us if we can attract and hold their attention - if we can't they will move on.

Creating communities

This is the link to @foodiesarah's blog presentation

Mobile post sent by Alison using Utterz Replies.  mp3

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Live blogging

The LDP Live day is winding down now - unless there's some breaking news - and I've had two minutes to catch my breath. So I thought I'd just jot down my thoughts on the live blog while they're fresh.
I know some of those who took part followed Francois Nel's suggestion of noting how we felt about the project before it started. Mine were: "I wish we'd had a week to prepare for this; I really wish I had thought more about what it involved and I don't know if I'm up to this."
Revisiting that statement now I think what I actually meant was: "I hope everthing looks really good." Which is a very different thing indeed.
The truth is that the live blog was everything a newsroom really is - chaotic, good humoured, pacey and sometimes exciting, sometimes infuriating.
We rode a catastrophe curve some of the day and personally I feel we pulled it off - which is what live breaking news is about.
I think a news team is at it's best when things are just a whisker away from potential derailment: When the news is breaking as fast as you can type and the subs are screaming that you're 10 minutes past deadline with the front page... and you still don't actually have the story finished (although you never admit that).
And today felt like that, for me at least. It was very pressured, sometimes ropey and the streaming was hit-and-miss.
But still. But still.
This was one of the biggest team efforts in a newsroom I have seen in nearly 20 years of working in regional journalism. There were so many people of different technological abilities trying to make it work. David Higgerson - a hero of the day if ever there was one - told me we'd had 1,500 people on the live blog part of by the time I left this evening - be interesting to see what the final numbers were.
Martin Stabe asked me, quite rightly, what the point of LDP Live was.
Well, it wasn't just about seeing what we could achieve with the different types of social media; it got everyone on the editorial team thinking about different ways of breaking news, telling stories, connecting with people. I hope it gave a little transparency to what we do, and I think it achieved a cultural shift within the newsroom that will have a long term benefit.
The experiences today have helped me understand the myriad different ways we can approach covering stories in the future. We used Bambuser and Qik but I didn't even think of the potential for on-the-move podcasting with Utterz until a live blogger suggested it during the day. It was a real "Doh!" moment... Twitter also didn't feature as much as it might have. But you know, we learn from our mistakes and ommissions and I guess different papers might approach it differently after assessing what they liked and disliked about our attempt.
I think it was worth it. I learned a lot and I had (with hindsight) a lot of fun doing it. And the Twitterati were, as ever, fantastically supportive - thanks everyone!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Taking the LDP live for a day

Tuesday May 13 will be the day I go grey, bite off all my nails, and possibly take up smoking again.
For Tuesday is the day the LDP goes live for a day. From 7am when the first stories are uploaded to until 1am when the last page is sent down to the press room, our decisions and actions will be live to the world and up for scrutiny and questioning.
I'd started outlining the Bambuser Plot to the editor when he interrupted and said: "Why don't we just go live for the whole day?" in true Early Adopter fashion.
The LDP will run a live blog via all day so anyone and everyone can log on, follow what we're up to, get involved and post questions, observations and tell us how and why they want the news reported.
Reporters will be online through the day, talking to people who are logged on, blogging what they're up to or streaming from jobs.
The political reporter will crowdsource our audience for questions and topics before he goes to inteview Alistair Darling, and we're also going to stream afternoon conference on Qik.
The reaction from the various business, news, features and sports editors is really positive, and the writers seem to be up for it too. And those people from the TM Leaders course I've told have been very supportive.
I think we're getting funny glances from our sister paper - the main thing puzzling them seems to be why we would open ourselves up in such a way - but personally I think we as an industry have got to put aside this air of mystery and preciousness we like to cultivate around the way we allow stories to be told. There are enough rival mainstream news operatives and quality bloggers on Merseyside sharing information with our potential audience for us to have to look at the way we work; Tuesday is a way of trying to reconnect with past, present (and hopefully future)audience. We'll test the technology and hopefully change some mindsets - internal and external.
It's all set - I've written a page lead for Monday's paper and online, and I'm letting the local radio stations know tomorrow. Everything is steaming ahead... but it's nervewracking.
Will people like it? My hope is that while we're bound attract criticism from some of those who log on, at the end of the day a proportion of our audience will feel more emotionally involved with the newspaper.
That kind of involvement is what all newspapers need to be reaching for right now.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Going live...

Plans to take the LDP live for the day are going well; I've written the article for the newspaper and the website tonight; next step is to get them signed off by the editor.
And then we can start telling the world about the whole mad plan... and then it all starts to get very scary!
In other news, I listened to a post on Seesmic by Paul Bradshaw asking how he thought journalists might use the website.
Really interesting; if you're interested in what I think, you'll find it here.
Paul also expands on the theme in his Online Journalism blog; click here to join the debate.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Plotting an interactive day

Ooh I've had an idea which I think could be loads of fun to do and be excellent in terms of engagement and marketing for the Daily Post at the same time. I fired up Bambuser this morning so I could think it out loud, so to speak, and I'm still really excited about it.
Basically - and there's about five minutes worth of me plotting this on the Bambuser blog at the foot of the page - I want us to live-stream a day in the life of the LDP. (Or a fair approximation of it - I doubt people would log on at 1am to see the final page revisions going through.)
So I'm off to see the editor now and see what he thinks about the while thing. Fingers crossed...

Monday, 5 May 2008

Convergence thoughts

I am heartily sick of people who put finger-quotes around the word Convergence when they're talking about media.
It's becoming a pejorative term when, as far as I can see, it's one of the opportunities that may mean newspapers have a hope of prosperity in future.
There are so many definitions for the word but my favourite - and the one I think is most optimistic - states that convergence is when more "is entering a given area than is leaving at that level". Apply that description to newspapers for a moment: More money, more advertising, more readers - everything we want to ensure our survival is captured in this definition of a word some executives can't even bring themselves to utter without a self-deprecating little shrug.
But now I'm seriously starting to think that maybe convergence should be about more than how we mash technologies together to tell stories.
Maybe it should be about how we converge with other external sources to tell those stories - and I'm thinking here of the people within our readership reach who blog, Tweet, post on Seesmic or have podcasts.
The Daily Post is about to start co-hosting a blog with The Bluecoat gallery in Liverpool - their CEO is going to put his blog on our site and become an LDP blogger while maintaining his own over at Bluecoat. And I think that's great; it's not about unique content, it's about content people value - and I know he's going to be a really popular blogger on our site while we drive traffic over to The Bluecoat at the same time. And why shouldn't we support each other? We're both city businesses (very old city businesses) trying to connect with a changing world.
If newspapers see their remoteness as a badge of integrity and believe impartiality is maintained by observing and never participating, then we may as well give up and go home now. If we're not prepared to give more of ourselves - and by that I don't mean free sausage rolls offers - and allow readers to have more involvement in a product that is, after all, produced for them, then we are downsizing our way to oblivion.
Convergence, as far as I'm concerned, is essential. And if I'm to entrenched to grasp how a marriage of networks - social or technological - can benefit the industry that I love (and that pays my wages) then maybe it's not something I should be a part of any more.

Friday, 2 May 2008

So much to think about...

The week at the Editorial Leaders course in Preston always requires some Thought Downloading afterwards, and I'm going to probably use Bambuser to (semi)articulate them after I've had a good night's kip.
But for me there have been some real standout moments this week - for various reasons. Here are, in no particular order, mine:
1. Being asked to consider what animal your newspaper was, and what animal you would like it to be. Sounded like a gimmick but was one of the most interesting sessions of the week. My favourite response was: "A penguin - a bit clumsy on land (digital) right now but graceful in the water (print) and hoping to evolve some more!" I thought that was genius.
2. Finally understanding how to make and use Yahoo Pipes courtesy of a Joanna Geary masterclass We should definitely incorporate these in our offering - ideal for our busy readers; I think they would really value them (and us for providing them).
3. Hearing the very frank thoughts of some of Trinity Mirror's most senior executives on newspapers and how we compete in an increasingly competitive market. Unique opportunity to ask some of the hard questions...
4. Getting to hear Chris Anderson talking about his views on the future of journalism at the Journalism Leaders Forum.
Personally I thought he came across as too glib on some points and I wonder if his broadbrush approach to the death of newspapers says more about his 'brand personality' than his considered views, but interesting nevertheless.
5. Francois Nel talking about newspapers, conversations, the future... everything really. Just brilliant.
6. Streaming some of the sessions. I have Mark Commerford and Francois Nel on Bambuser and Qik respectively, and it's like having a teacher in my back pocket as they are archived automatically. Happy coincidence rather than careful planning but I'll take my breaks where I can get them.
So now I need to just let these ideas slosh around a bit. Right now, my head is so stuffed full of thoughts it's hard to articulate them. The Bambuser Brain Dump will have to wait til tomorrow.