Category Archives: News

i newspaper – first UK paid for daily in a quarter century launches with a hush

i newspaper launches with a whisper

This week has seen the launch of a new daily newspaper: i.

You would think that the launch, by the Independent newspaper, would be big news – especially as the newspaper industry has been subject to recession and the challenge of social media.

Yet Britain’s first paid for daily in a quarter century was a secret until last week.

Even the doomed NW Enquirer (a regional version of The Times) that was launched for Manchester was given some fanfare.  (I only learnt of “i” when I happened to catch a piece on it on Newsnight).

Still the issue is whether the paper will be a success.  Priced at just 20p and being 56 pages long with good content – I assume – you would think so.

The Newsnight guest was cautious (I sum up): everyone is used to free papers and the convenience of having it placed in their hands.

So “i” might find it a struggle to get established simply as we have been conditioned to the point that going into a newsagent with 20p is too much.

Other criticms centred on selling a quality daily at such a low price would lower the value and status of newspapers in the public’s eyes, an unwelcome message.

I would try it, but I haven’t seen it.  I really do need someone to put it into my hands to have a peek.

Update: I find myself buying “i” quite regularly – hands up, a good idea from my experience.  I only have time to flcik through and as its 20p it is not a question of sizing up the options.  I am actually surprised others have not followed.

A night at Social Media Cafe Manchester: Hyperlocal News

hyperlocal news

Is hyperlocal news set to challenge local newspapers?

Hyperlocal News – what is it and why should we take note?

On Tuesday I was at Social Media Cafe Manchester, held at the BBC on Oxford Road.

A good venue – I am sure the drinks are subsidised, well a little bit – and not a bad turnout at all.

As usual the attendees include a range of professionals from journalism, PR, digital and other interested parties such as Salford / Manchester creative & digital recruitment agency Orchard.

Anyway on to business and in particular the first talk (and the one I will talk about) on hyperlocal news.

What is it you ask, well might be asking?

If you will allow a little short cut, Wikipedia gives the following explanation:

“Hyperlocal content, often referred to as hyperlocal news, is characterized by three major elements. Firstly, it refers to entities and events that are located within a well defined, community scale area. Secondly, it is intended primarily for consumption by residents of that area. Thirdly, it is created by a resident of the location.”

Local journalists Nigel Barlow and Richard Jones were on hand to talk about the issues as well as mention that they are planning an M60 blog to be launched in April  (Manchester’s answer to the M25) .

They are other Hyperlocal news blogs such as ones for Lichfield and Sunderland.

The benefits of Hyperlocal news is, or are claimed, to be more versatile, vigilant and immediate.

But without the necessary advertising revenue it is not a sustainable business model as both Richard and Nigel admitted.  The value of having community based news has to be recognised by local government and associated organisations for it prosper.  There is the big sell.

Yet hyperlocal news was proposed as vital for democracy.  Richard expounded the view that robust reporting of say a council meeting can be done better by hyperlocal news than a traditional newspaper that is relying on press releases owing to lack of resource.

Simon Wharton of PushOn commented, when the talk was opened up to the floor, that search and hyperlocal news are ideally suited to one another and the volume of content with a focused reference will be picked up by search.

One local example is Salford Online, which is in the process of developing its reach in the city.  It seems to be looking at both the advertising and community based funding model.  It should make interesting viewing as it progresses.  I know Brian who runs the team is putting his all into making it work – it has made good progress.

Nigel Barlow concluded: “No-one has got the journalistic model right and we need to come out of the ad recession before it will be possible to make a call.”  We are all wondering about that to some level.

Lunch with Kevin Feddy – business editor of the Manchester Evening News

Kevin Feddy

Kevin Feddy: Eveyone can have a voice in the media

This lunch I was lucky enough to be invited by Manchester Science Park to hear Kevin Feddy.

Here is a synopsis of what Kevin, who runs the MEN business desk, had to say:

“It is all about (the business pages) people, innovation and ideas….how ideas relate to the public at large.  It is much more than figures, it is about people, dreams and aspirations.”

SMEs are of interest as much as the blue chips.  In fact there is a lot of room for stories about smaller concerns.

Kevin is especially interested in hearing from businesses that he feels will emerge from this recession in a very healthy state:

  • Internationally trading companies / exporters
  • Green technology
  • Innovation – companies that will shape the way we live
  • Technology – but make sure the layman can relate to it.  The MEN business readership is general and professional in nature and stories must be understood by all.

The key point is that business titles such as the Manchester Evening News want to hear from all types of business, of all sizes that have something to say.  As a PR I ask potential clients, “What can we say, what do you want to say?”

Everyone can have a voice, offline and online, providing their company, service or product, is of interest.

Nicola Fisher and the media

The recent catapulting of Nicola Fisher to stardom and a  rumoured £50,000 fee for selling her “story”after being hit by a policeman at the G20 protests raises some interesting PR angles – ones that have been covered in other stories before but are worth looking at again.

I am not going to comment on the right to protest, whether it was excessive force or Nicola Fisher’s decidedly poor contribution to society (on benefits and never worked at 35 years of age; sorry I did for an instance).

The interesting things from a PR point of view is how the media can magnify certain stories – it is not a level all encompassing balanced view of our world, if you were in any doubt and Max Clifford’s involvement:

Perception moulded in the media

The issue of the right to protest in safety, police reactions to provocation and the myriad of causes represented by G20 protesters were discussed and rightly in the media during and after the G20 protests.

But I have just been reading about Police Officer Gary Toms on the Inspector Gadget blog.  Never heard of him?  Gary died tackling a robbery and barely made the media a week ago.  The author points out the distorted focus of our coverage (link above).

Yes the G20 makes headlines and there was video of the incidence to illustrate the story and there were the issues mentioned above, but so little interest in a policeman dying in the course of duty?

You have to accept the media is simply a lens to look at the world and not always “the true picture,” perhaps never a true picture depending on your point of view.

Max Clifford

On YouTube and on a number of blogs there has been a decidedly hostile view of Max Clifford’s participation.

Whether the cynicism he is accused of is of any interest to him or really damages him is doubtful.  The next person with a hit and tell or shenanigans at the FA will probably not be turned down by Max.

But I can’t help thinking that many people confuse his “ethics” and operating style as synonymous with PR professionals.  Of course they are not but it is once again for all of us to redress that record.

The fight for local newspapers

On Friday I was at the the Manchester Chapter of the NUJ’s meeting to fight for local newspapers and halt the proposed job cuts.

It was a passionate and compelling event and one that certainly opened my eyes.

The received wisdom that many might have is that digital media is the main cause of print media’s demise and in turn the local media – it’s an unstoppable force.  Well the speakers eloquently expressed a different side to the debate.

One of the key messages and this is especially relevant to the Manchester Evening News and the Guardian Media Group is that the publishers are still making a profit.  And those profits were more than healthy when redundancies were made over the last two to three years, including at the MEN.

One fact that might surprise it that The Guardian is not the money maker at the GMG.  It was stated that The MEN and local papers actually propped up the flagship paper.  What is perhaps more galling for local journalists is that there are no substantial cuts at The Guardian, not that anyone wants any cuts anywhere.

It is the ridiculous effort to prop up unsustainable and ludicrous profit margins that is a prime driver behind the redundancies programme.

One speaker pointed out that Tesco expects to make a profit of 9.8p on every pound spent whereas some publishers expect nearer 40p.  Coupled with executive bonuses it is clearly an unsustainable policy.

The result is that if the proposed cuts are to go ahead then the quality of local media will be seriously compromised.

Newspapers are already relying on wires and press releases to a greater extent than ever before.  But the figure of 12% that was quoted as the percentage of news that is researched and sourced and written by the journalists themselves was shocking.

What is more journalists are already responsible for taking images, uploading stories onto the web and taking on the subs work.  Standards will inevitably diminish and quickly if the proposed cuts are made.

So what is the solution?

Whether news is conveyed in print or web is not the issue here.  The issue is the standard of local media and indeed its survival.

And it can survive and prosper.

Initially we all have to as a community make sure the publishers are aware of community feelings and that pressure can be brought to bare.

It is up to the community and if it is not interested in defending our local media then we deserve none.  But I think there is enough of us that do – many attending the meeting were not journalists but members of the public showing their support.

Writing to politicians and the papers themselves might be a start – express support and make sure the publishers know the depth of feeling.  To their credit there were politicians in the room including John Leech MP for Withington, so that is promising.

One solution could be that journalists take over local titles or set-up co-operative style managed media – an emphasis on quality and not weighted on profit.

Whatever the solution is, the current model of bleeding the local media to sustain unsustainable profits is certainly not the way forward.

Hot off the live blog

The Liverpool Daily Post, Echo and sister Merseyside based launched its real time newsroom today.

A behind the scenes look crossed with news hot off the keyboard.  It is billed as a live blog, one that allows comment as stories to flow – I think it has a Twitter feel to it as well.

It looks like it will be a valuable tool for PRs to interact and engage and follow the journalists.

Thanks to Craig McGinty for another nice spot.

Post Script

North West online business title Business Desk announced its arrival on Twitter on Monday as did the Liverpool Daily Post, last week.

In defence of Robert Peston

A caught 10 minutes of quite a preposterous episode today: The Treasury Select Committee grilling five well-known journalists about their coverage of the credit crunch and especially Northern Rock.

The caption underneath kept coming up with “should coverage of the credit crunch be restricted?”  Ridiculous!

The five business journalists included Robert Peston, Jeff Randall and Alex Brummer.  As you might guess Robert Peston was the centre of attention.

The MPs questioning centred on responsibility.  Shouldn’t Peston and his colleagues hold off with stories to give Northern Rock a chance?  Hadn’t they created the run on the building society?  Did they have inside information and mysterious sources?

The rebuttal was that Northern Rock was a badly run business.  It had failed because its wholesale division had stalled and big investors saw the writing on the wall and took their money out.  Holding off on a story for 48 hours would not have saved it.

The run was in many ways Northern Rock’s fault.  Their website had gone down because the bandwidth capacity could not cope with visitors and this created panic.

The queues had built up because they have too few branches for their client base and too few staff were put on duty.

And if a financial institution is badly run, whose fault is it when savers want to take their money elsewhere?  And more so when it is on the brink of collapse?

As for the insinuation that the journalists had shady sources, well that proved to show the MPs as lacking an understanding of their subject.

Peston maintained he had many sources and had used many different sources over the years, including some of the MPs questioning him.  He cross checked everything and did not have narrow weak biased source to base his stories on – unlike Bush’s evidence of going to war with Iraq.

If this was a trial then the case would have been thrown out on the first day.  It was embarrassing for the MPs and they did not know hope ridiculous they sounded.

This view that the media somehow created a recession is seeking a convenient scape goat.

And as for recklessly putting economic institutions in danger by their reporting, it came out that there is a suspicion the the Government used the media to suppress share prices before buying them by leaking the appropriate stories.  I wonder if that will go before a select committee.

Looking to accentuate the positive

Business Desk has recognised there is only so much doom and business reporting gloom you can take.  To be fair a number of NW business publications are looking for positive stories, realising that there are many businesses that are still thriving.  Indeed, I work with two that do especially well in these economic times.

Chris Barry says in his article today on Business Desk there are “plenty of business people striving to grow their firms despite the downturn and we will look to highlight their stories.” A much welcomed approach.  Newspapers are there to report and have no obligation to be positive, but there has been a lack of balance across much of the press recently.

In November I placed a story in the Salford Advertiser (below) in response to insolvency practice Begbies Traynor’s apocalyptic assessment of Salford businesses looking into the abyss.

On the nationals’ side I am not so sure.  One contact that receives a lot of media requests at his work has told me that the calls they receive want redundancies, redundancies, redundancies.

Four In Ten Can’t Cook A Potato

images2.jpg

Is that a surprise?

That it is news or that people cannot cook?

We tend to think at times that the media is looking for that knock out story or that we have to wait for something to happen before contacting them.

The media is competitive.  It has pages, airwaves and web pages to fill every day.  Where a good PR comes in is to supply the staple diet of stories, but also look for new angles: reveal something we did not know or had taken note of.

Two stories come to mind are the potato one today, which we probably knew many people can rustle up a mean Pot Noodle but not much else.

The other from a little way back is one about the deadly keyboard: the bubonic germ investedWMD Saddam loving environment.  We could have guessed that keyboards are dirty places, but the delivery from the University of Arizona was done so well in made headlines worldwide.

It is creativity and presentation that count.

A new era begins

I have just moved to Word Press, which is long overdue.

With the holidays and moving over to the new format there has been a little gap in entries but that should be resolved shortly.

Thanks to all the support I received when I was on blogger and I am looking forward to writing new entries.

Thanks also to PushON for their help with moving over.