Tag Archives: future

Big ideas

Very quickly:

This is what the NUJ has to say in response to Tory newspaper plans.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “This looks like a policy that has been rushed out in response to calls by media owners who are simply looking to make even more cuts to our already limping local press.

“These plans fail to deal with the problems facing local journalists. Consolidation of media ownership has meant office and title closures; it has meant journalists taken out of their communities, fundamentally undermining their ability to do their jobs well. The Conservative response to these problems seems to be more of the same, which will do nothing to help quality journalism.

“Where are the big ideas? We need our politicians to come up with proposals for how local journalism can be saved – not surrendered to big business interests who have taken multi-million pound profits whilst cutting back on quality journalism.

“The Conservatives might see media regulation as burdensome red tape – but it is what ensures people have access to varied media and different voices. To throw that protection away in response to business demands without any plans to secure improvement in journalism is foolhardy and an insult to our local communities.”

Now I happen to agree that letting the big companies buy up more papers so they can centralise all the subbing and make them soulless press release factories is a terrible idea.

But this?

“Where are the big ideas? We need our politicians to come up with proposals for how local journalism can be saved – not surrendered to big business interests who have taken multi-million pound profits whilst cutting back on quality journalism.”

Why on earth would we leave the saving of local journalism, that thing we love and care about, to politicians? Why would  we, the people who talk to our readers, who work with and see the applications of new technology, who have strong opinions about what makes good local news and how we’d do things differently if we were in charge – leave the future of our industry to people who know nothing about how it works?

Here’s an idea, Jeremy. Why don’t we, the journalists, try and come up with some ‘big ideas’ of our own? Why on earth would any body want to ‘save us’ if all we do is bleat about how the owners have taken our toys away without making any suggestions about what we’d do if they gave them back?

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Subs v Greenslade (part three)

So. Part three. Why subs aren’t useless.

Page design, for all that Roy says it’s templated and not creative, is a well-developed craft.
There are rules about minimum headline sizes to hold up a page, how many decks you need for a top single, best use of pictures and so on.
These are guidelines based on studies of how people read, watch works as eye catching design and what makes you turn the page without reading on.

Roy may think that online ‘page design is irrelevant, of course.’

Of course it’s irrelevant if you want your readers to miss half your content. Of course its irrelevant if you want your site to be grey and boring, or your text to look so dull your readers drift off halfway down the page.

Page design may indeed be irrelevant to most newspapers right now, hamstrung as they are by their templated cms and their lack of knowledge about eyetracking.

But should it be irrelevant? No, absolutely not.

Two examples (and I promise I’m not showing off here…)

First, online picture galleries.

Here’s the Newsquest official gallery.

And here’s the one we built last month.

Why? Well, the Newsquest version is small. It doesn’t show off the photographer’s work. You can’t really see what’s happening in the pictures. It doesn’t inspire, or make you smile, or make you think ‘I’m going to send this link to my friend.’ Were that paper to be running a picture supplement, it wouldn’t make you think “I’ll buy that, because I already know their pictures are great.’ It doesn’t give the photographers any reason to take anything other than a bog standard news shot. I could go on.

The point is, why should pictures online be relegated to 310 pixels?  Why does the fact that it’s a website mean we shouldn’t care about how it looks?

Second: Our Taste section. Here’s how it looks now

Here’s the version we’re working on for a relaunch

It’s not perfect. We’re stuck with only using basic html and none of us are wizards. But it makes a difference. It’s more appealing. You can see where things are. We’re selling the content.

So page design is absolutely relevant. And who better to deal with it than subs who already know the basic principles?

If I was an editor this is what I’d do.

Find and keep good copy subs. Train them in SEO for headlines and let them work out how to combine optimizing for Google with writing good headlines. They’re not incompatible. It just needs skill.

Find and keep good design subs. Teach them about eyetracking, train them in basic html and the vagaries of the cms so they can add links, create breaks in the copy, use pictures to their best advantage, use italics and bold and lists to make the stories LOOK good.

Teach them about Google maps and Yahoo pipes and Dipity and Flash so they can tell the story in a new way; the online version of fact files and breakout panels and graphics.

Give them input into how the site looks. Use their experience and flair, make them part of the process, keep them enthused about the future and hang-on to their knowledge.

So when a story breaks and you’re running constantly updating copy on the web you’ve got a sub who can make it accurate, make it clear, make it interesting, make it sing – in both the old sense, and the new SEO sense – and finally do it fast, like in the old days of deadlines. Exciting for them and for the reader. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

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Nine resolutions for 2009

They’re a bit late. But here’s nine resolutions for 2009

This year I’m going to:

1. Integrate our burgeoning social media audience with our homepage.

Specifically this requires: persuading the powers that be to let us self-host http://bmthblog.wordpress.com, http://roundfortea.blogspot.com/ and a photography blog in the style of the Croydon Advers (hat tip Martin Stabe for pointing it out Jo Wadsworth for filling me in on the details)
Why? We can’t pretend that being part of the blogosphere/twitterverse/flickrverse is going to be enough. While we are a for profit business we need to translate that into something, page impressions, advertisting eyeballs, unique users.

2. Recruit some new bloggers
3. Develop the dismal dorsetbusiness.net into something that’s relevant and useful
4. Look for ways to monetize that have value for us, our readers, and the advertisers. I’m not going to leave this entirely to the ad department. Why should I? It’s my business too.
5. Reorganise the navigation on our website so it’s easier to work out where things might be
6. Persuade, by demonstrating, that responding to comments, being transparent about mistakes and  linking to source material is a good way to build trust with online readers
7. Persuade the powers-that-be to let us have a twitter feed and feed aggregators as part of our site, not sneaked in though the back door.
8. Produce more news. Leading by example is the best way, they say. I’m not a sub anymore. And while I don’t, as yet, have a job title, I’m going to get a bit Gandhi and be the change etc etc
9. Nine is tricky. It involves taking an as-yet-unformed idea, a bit Regret the Error, a bit Newsmixer, aimed at preempting the ‘yes, but –‘ response readers often have to news stories, and turning it into something workable. I’ve no idea if it’s possible without being extremely labour intensive. But I’m going to try!

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