Recessions are for wimps!!!

This is harsh! But I have a lot of sympathy with the sentiments having been through four recessions in the past. Now is the time to kick ass, including your own - I assume that is what Gaping Void intends.


Tough times for regional journalism

The picture above shows journalists from the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post – both based in Leeds, UK – striking over threatened redundancies.
This has been a common theme of the recession so far – the decline of regional journalism with swinging cuts from the South-West right up to Scotland. Now it has come to Yorkshire with 18 jobs up for the axe at Wellington Street. Full disclosure I used to work for Yorkshire Post and obviously my sympathies are with old colleagues.
Last year I took a phone call from an old newspaper colleague a couple of weeks ago. He wanted to know if I could help a former work mate find a job after being made redundant by a major regional newspaper publisher. I seem to be getting a lot of these calls recently
Since 1989, circulation is down 51% to 12,549 for the Birmingham Post; 49% to 70,028 for the Leicester Mercury; 43% to 50,256 for the Northern Echo (I used to work there); 62% to 32,874 for the Argus in Sussex; 38% to 38,844 for the Echo in Southend; 38% to 36,516 for the Herald in Plymouth; 49% to 20,976 for the Oldham Evening Chronicle; 46% to 19,956 for the Halifax Evening Courier. North, south, east, west, large, small, morning and evening, the story for Britain’s local papers is one of unremitting gloom.
Obviously, blogs, the internet, YouTube et al are having a huge impact on regional newspaper journalism and they are not going to go away. The main problem, certainly with the dailies, is that they are pretending to give local, regional and national news.
But parochialism is everything - and regional newspapers seem to have forgotten that. In my part of the world, what makes news in Bradford doesn’t make news in Leeds (ten miles distant).
Indeed, regionalism may have been deemed dead in some respects certainly at a local political level where people are not interested in what the councils of Hull, Leeds, Bradford or York have planned for their citizens. In spite of this I still love the Yorkshire Post and buy it every day. Similarly, as a resident of Barnard Castle I bought the Teesdale Mercury every week when I lived there.
Local is so important in regional newspapers. Back in the day when I was still a journalist - that meant covering the Women’s Institute meeting, the Parish Council and the local art competition. The idiocy of the current situation is that the more you cut the editorial resource the more you damage a newspaper’s ability to report local news.
Perhaps, we should launch our own web-based community funded newspaper for Yorkshire – now there’s a thought.


What I have been thinking this week


Total word of mouth

Sometimes, Andy Green tells me, we are faced with situations where a tenuous, fuzzy response – one that is deliberately vague – is the best strategy.
The recent response of a German Football league spokesperson is a delight to behold, a fantastic example of ‘tenuous talk’ at its best.
Just weeks after the revelation that Croatian footballer Dino Drpic had claimed to have had sex with his wife in the centre of his then team’s football pitch at Dynamo Zagreb’s (Metro Thursday February 12th) he suggested to his new Karlsruhe that he should wear the number 69 – apparently in homage to another of his passionate marital activities.
The German club’s marketing people rubbed their hands with glee only to be overruled by the League officials.
What do you say in response to a situation where you don’t want to focus on the direct innuendo, yet you have to justify your actions. Your comment must also have some form of coherence or validity.
“We asked the club to pick a lower number for the sake of clarity” was the wonderfully tenuous answer.
Can anyone out there beat that as a great response to a potentially embarrassing situation?


A few lessons from Obama

For anyone operating in the world of public relations or communications you could do worse than look at the principles behind Barak Obama’s campaign for the White House and how they can be applied to your own business…
1. Keep it simple and be consistent. Everything about the Obama campaign was big and yet simple. The big ideas addressed core issues that are crucial to the majority of Americans. They were communicated and addressed in a really simple way – consistency and simplicity ruled together for maximum effect.
2. Stay true to your message. Change was the one word that summarised the campaign and was referred to again and again. The prospect of moving away from a Republican government for the first time in eight years symbolised it all: change – that, in turn, led people to believe in change for the good. By simply staying true to the message, the campaign created a ground swell of opinion that it was change that was needed to win. Obama’s website is even called
3. Stick to your objectives. Obama’s campaign was rigorously committed to its objectives and every aspect of activity was focused on achieving one, some or all of them simultaneously. Not only did it achieve the primary objective of getting people to vote for Obama, but the campaign also successfully achieved its fundraising objective - more than £500m dollars.
4. Get to the people that matter. At the heart of the campaign was a quest to embrace and train local people to build volunteer bases in different communities – this led to one of the biggest grassroots campaigns in the world today. Individual advocacy is the biggest driver of sales – turning one supporter into an advocate was worth at least 10 votes, as the results show.
5. Make people feel empowered and involved. This was the real secret of its success. Every single person involved at the grassroots was made to feel like he or she had a role to play. Whether participating in a rally, donating or training, the campaign ensured that voters became the most important participants and felt like their contributions really mattered. Every piece of communication was personally addressed to the recipient with a personal message of thanks from Obama.
6. Refine your data gathering and completion. Such was the scale of the compilation of data that the campaign’s different hits reached millions every time. A centralised online database meant every detail was recorded and allowed for easy cross-referencing of information and creation of lists to target specific groups, ensuring that the communication was right on target every time.
7. Embrace different media forms. The Washington Post described Obama as the “king of social networking”. During the general election 46 per cent of Americans used the internet, e-mail or text messaging to get information about the candidate compared with 29 per cent who watched network TV news and 34 per cent who read newspapers. As a result, online activity including videos, YouTube, myspace and FaceBook were used to maximum effect.
8. Getting the language right. Every element of the campaign used language that captured the audiences and had maximum impact – the choice of words and tone had to be in harmony with the campaign’s overall vision and messages. It was about using few words for maximum effect – Yes We Can, For the Change We Need...
9. Mass integration. Undoubtedly the mass integration of all forms of communications and data gathering are mutually beneficial components of a cohesive political operation. This was the key to the campaign’s overall success. It shows that consistency and a conjoined approach works. To say it broke new ground would be an understatement.
10. Protect your brand. It’s all very well building up a successful brand but it is as important to ensure that you maintain and protect it. With expectations now well and truly raised and that’s what all will be watching. Obama’s next challenge is to protect his reputation which will be another fascinating story to tell… I’m sure.


OpenCoffee in Bradford

Following the success of bmedi@’s previous OpenCoffee events, we are running another event on Thursday, February 19.
The emphasis of OpenCoffee is very much on the internet and new media industries. The free events are informal and see a range of technology entrepreneurs, designers, bloggers, developers, geeks, investors and anyone else who’s interested in digital media and technology exchanging ideas and striking up relationships that would otherwise never have flourished.
The philosophy of OpenCoffee is very much of an Open House of ideas and people.
OpenCoffee Bradford (Shipley), is being sponsored by the YoYo Bar & Restaurant as well as hosting the event here.
The event is open to anyone who is interested in the region’s digital, creative and new media industries. You’re welcome to enjoy the coffee, the cakes and the company. To book e-mail or register at Upcoming here.


Bradford Vets Winter Training from Ian Green on Vimeo.

This is me in the number three seat on the River Aire with the Bradford Amateur Rowing Club Veterans. This is not completely about vanity - I have just started using Vimeo and wanted to see if worked!


LaidOffCamp - WTF?

It says something about the times we are in - in San Francisco they are now running BarCamps for those cast out by the recession. Here's an email I just received:

'I'm organizing an event in San Francisco on March 3rd (and 8 other cities at later dates) called LaidOffCamp that is partially built from the BarCamp model. Each LaidOffCamp will be an unconference style event primarily for unemployed & self-employed people looking to share ideas about 1) starting a company 2) being a freelance consultant and 3) finding a job. I thought I would post this message in the BarCamp Google group not only because XXXX said it would be a good idea, but also because I wanted to invite the BarCamp community to come to any of the currently in-planning LaidOffCamps, make suggestions to the concept, or even bring a LaidOffCamp to their own city. Also, because there is a wealth of information on this group and on the BarCamp wiki that has been helpful to my planning, I want to say thank you to everyone here for being so open and allowing others to learn from each BarCamp experience.'

Good for them - using social media to sort out your circumstances!


Blinging up my business

Thoughts of an East Coast Liberal

Quite often people point at me and laugh because I blog and twitter and even engage with friends on Facebook or Linkedin.
Mainly, I suspect, their derision is based on the idea that the internet is a bad thing - a medium inferior to say, the novel or newspapers, where the traditional literary narrative. And by the way I am one of the most hungry consumers of books among my peers and currently have 15 books stacked at my bedside waiting to be read.
Given the wealth of information available in the web I am always stunned by the accusation that internet has cut our attention spans, dumbed us down and reduced the literary narrative to text-speak - LOL.
So I was cheered to come across Clay Shirky’s interview with the Columbia Journalism Review. Shirky, the author of Here Comes Everybody, is one of the brainiest people on the planet who deftly anwers the question - is the web shortening attention spans? Here it is:

You know, "Life was better when I was younger" is always an acceptable narrative. Right? And so for anybody who was brought up genuflecting to the literary culture and the virtues of reading Tolstoy - and essentially Tolstoy is a trope in these things, War and Peace is the longest novel in the sort of Euro-centric canon - you could always make the argument that the present is worse than the past by simply pointing to the virtues of the past. And so, what the Web does is that it does what all amateur increases do, which is it decreases the average quality of what’s available. It is exactly, precisely, the complaint made about the printing press. So, the only thing surprising about the Web, in a way, is that it’s been a long time since we’ve had a medium that increased the amount of production of written material this dramatically.
But people made the same complaint about comic books, they made the same complaint about paperbacks, and they made the same complaint about the vulgarity of the printing press. Whenever you let more people in, things get vulgar by definition. And people who benefited under the old system or who dislike or distrust vulgarity as a process always have room to complain. But, the interesting thing is, when you say so many people believe this, in fact almost no one believes this, right? There’s a tiny, tiny slice of the chattering classes for whom “Life was better when I was younger” is an acceptable complaint to make, and they have these little conferences or whatever and agree with one another about that phenomenon. But when you look at the actual use of the Web, it is through the roof. And it has continued in an unbroken growth from the early ’90s until now. So, in fact, almost everybody thinks it’s a good idea because they’re embracing it and they’re experimenting with it and they don’t really care what we think.
And when I say “we,” I mean—I am a member of the Chardonnay-swilling East Coast liberal media elite. But I also recognize that anything I might have to say about the utility of the media actually isn’t going to influence whether or not people are going to adopt this. And so once you get out of the idea that basically the previous avatars of the cultural good, and the world that George W.S. Trow chronicled so beautifully Within the Context of No Context—once you grasp that those people are powerless to that effect, powerless with regard to the adoption curve—the question really becomes, “How do you point out an effect where something has been damaged?” And that’s where I think a lot of this conversation about reading breaks down, because if you assume that reading Tolstoy is an a priori good, your world crumbled in 1970. And it’s hard to point to the Web as responsible for any of that because that was a done deal for some time.
If you want to point to more proximate harms, it would be very hard to argue, for example, that innovation, inventiveness, new intellectual discoveries had slowed as a result of the Internet, and so people are left with these kind of mealy-mouth cultural critiques, because nostalgia becomes the only bulwark against change. The actual effects of making more information available to more people have been enormously beneficial to society, yet not to the intellectual gatekeepers in the generation in which that change happened.