19.12.13

RIP: Liverpool Daily Post

Today the last edition of the Liverpool Daily Post after 158 years – it’s a very sad day for regional journalism.
The Daily Post, a pioneering newspaper that challenged the decision makers of the city and Merseyside, was my first newspaper where I worked for a while on the subs’ bench for the business desk. Since then I have worked on a number of regional newspapers as well as a spell on Fleet Street.
Back then we thought newspapers would last for ever but even by the 1980s we could see circulations were declining and that strong regional journalism was at risk and then the internet came along and newspaper management were left scratching their heads about how they should respond.
Indeed, many simply ignored the world wide web and were unable to accept that the internet was one of those disruptive technologies which would impact on every industry including newspapers.
The slow, predictable decline of the UK's regional newspaper decline is continuing unabated.
For the 257 regional and local papers that reported stats for the first six months of this year, there was a total year-on-year decline in circulation from 7.32 million to 7.1 million - a drop of three percent. Very few publications had anything very positive to report when to print figures:
15 regionals saw a fall in circulation in excess of 20 percent.
61 suffered a decline of at least 10 percent.
 40 saw a rise in circulation, but only four of those added more than 10 percent.
It's not a great picture, but not a terrible one either. Industry-wide declines of three percent year-on-year seem sustainable for a while yet, even if some regionals are doing far worse than others. The transition from print to multiple digital screens is not an overnight phenomenon.
Among the top five dailies - total circulation dropped more than 40,000 year on year, or 10 percent of the total.
Looking at the sector from the outside – although I speak to journalists regularly – the future does not look good. Management still continue to make swinging job cuts, newsrooms are under staffed and under resourced.
There has always been a traditional of gallows humour in the newsroom. Even in my day when I think the regional press was still reasonably strong – the hacks would hark back to the good old days of boozy lunches, generous expenses and the opportunity to take the time to investigate and write really good news stories which impacted on peoples’ life. 
It’s a sad day for the Post – but I do not think this will be the last obituary written for the regional Press.

25.10.13

New book from my mate Joe Moorwood

Congratulations to my old colleague Joe Moorwood who has just had his first book published.
Joe, a former account manager with GREEN and now a fire fighter in South Yorkshire, wrote The Yorkshire Meaning of Liff.
Inspired by John Lloyd’s and Douglas Adams’ cult-classic The Meaning of Liff, first published thirty years ago, The Yorkshire Meaning of Liff recycles the lesser known place names of God’s own county, and twins them with all things in life there should be words for (aka ‘liffs’)…
John Lloyd says: “After 40 years in radio and television, I think I’m right in saying I have never produced a show, directed a movie or got involved in a book based on a script sent to me out of the blue by someone I’ve never met. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s never happened yet. Until now, that is.
“Joe first wrote to me earlier this year, after hearing an appeal on Radio 4 for contributions to a programme called The Meaning of Liff At 30. Designed to mark three decades in print of a book I wrote with Douglas Adams in 1983, listeners were invited to submit new ‘liffs’ – definitions of ‘things there should be words for’ brought to life by attaching them to a place name.
“Some 400 people responded to the BBC’s call and the standard of entries was impressively high, but one person in particular stood out. He had not, like most contributors, come up with one or two ideas, he had written an entire book.
Here’s some of Joe’s Yorkshire Liffs:
ARKSEY n.
The tilt of an imaginary pint glass to ask if someone on the other side of a noisy pub wants a drink.
BLUBBERHOUSES pl.n.
Holding areas used for guests on The Jeremy Kyle Show.
CROOME v.
To lock eyes with someone inside a parked car in the process of checking out one's appearance in their window.
FYLINGDALES pl.n.
An adolescent male's first attempt at sideburns.
HOULSYKE n.
The high-pitched screaming noise emitted by fairground ghost trains.
NORRISTHORPE n.
The first person in a motorway traffic jam to get out of their car and walk about sighing.
You can buy the book here.

11.9.13

Goodbye to the Bunker


Every day I drive past it in the morning on the way to work, and for many years I worked in it – under a murky glass dome in stygian gloom – and now that it’s going I can’t say I am sorry.
Anyone familiar with Leeds or northern provincial journalism will know the Yorkshire Post building on Wellington Street home to some great regional journalists and one of Yorkshire greatest indictments of 1960s Brutalist architecture. It always seemed risible to me that it was officially opened by Prince Charles The Carbunclist.
The huge joint newsroom – housing the Post and the Evening Post - was often referred to as the “bunker” as it was surrounded by grey concrete with no windows. Later is was known as the aquarium after the management thought it would be a good idea to paint the interior walls aqua-marine – which just seemed to add to the gloom.
English Heritage said in February the building would not be listed owing to the tight integration of the architecture with the building’s use for printing, and the loss of that use diminished “its ability to demonstrate its original function” and had “impacted on the integrity of the building”.
Yesterday it was announced the building in could be bulldozed, after a demolition order was submitted to Leeds City Council.
It was never a beautiful building compared with the old premises in Leeds city centre on Albion Street but it still contains many happy memories for me, especially through old colleagues. Nowhere else have I experienced the buzz I’ve had from a job other than as a journalist but even then back in the late 1990s we knew we were witnessing the last huzzah of good, quality journalism where the work of the reporters, sub-editors, production editors and snappers were still recognised by management.
Serious journalism was still cherished then before the swathe of takeovers and mergers turned regional newspaper journalism in to a homogenous mash of bland and tepid news reporting.
The building on Wellington Street, which used to house 1,300 people, is now empty with bug For Sale signs plastered all over it – which is a neat testament to the decline of regional journalism.
The Yorkshire Post is still there – stoutly supported by a loyal team of journalist determined to do their best during a time of cuts and redundancies. I wish them luck.

9.5.13

25.1.13

Comic Sans fights back

Listen up. I know the shit you’ve been saying behind my back. You think I’m stupid. You think I’m immature. You think I’m a malformed, pathetic excuse for a font. Well think again, nerdhole, because I’m Comic Sans, and I’m the best thing to happen to typography since Johannes fucking Gutenberg.
You don’t like that your coworker used me on that note about stealing her yogurt from the break room fridge? You don’t like that I’m all over your sister-in-law’s blog? You don’t like that I’m on the sign for that new Thai place? You think I’m pedestrian and tacky? Guess the fuck what, Picasso. We don’t all have seventy-three weights of stick-up-my-ass Helvetica sitting on our seventeen-inch MacBook Pros. Sorry the entire world can’t all be done in stark Eurotrash Swiss type. Sorry some people like to have fun. Sorry I’m standing in the way of your minimalist Bauhaus-esque fascist snoozefest. Maybe sometime you should take off your black turtleneck, stop compulsively adjusting your Tumblr theme, and lighten the fuck up for once.
People love me. Why? Because I’m fun. I’m the life of the party. I bring levity to any situation. Need to soften the blow of a harsh message about restroom etiquette? SLAM. There I am. Need to spice up the directions to your graduation party? WHAM. There again. Need to convey your fun-loving, approachable nature on your business’ website? SMACK. Like daffodils in motherfucking spring.
When people need to kick back, have fun, and party, I will be there, unlike your pathetic fonts. While Gotham is at the science fair, I’m banging the prom queen behind the woodshop. While Avenir is practicing the clarinet, I’m shredding “Reign In Blood” on my double-necked Stratocaster. While Univers is refilling his allergy prescriptions, I’m racing my tricked-out, nitrous-laden Honda Civic against Tokyo gangsters who’ll kill me if I don’t cross the finish line first. I am a sans serif Superman and my only kryptonite is pretentious buzzkills like you.
It doesn’t even matter what you think. You know why, jagoff? Cause I’m famous. I am on every major operating system since Microsoft fucking Bob. I’m in your signs. I’m in your browsers. I’m in your instant messengers. I’m not just a font. I am a force of motherfucking nature and I will not rest until every uptight armchair typographer cock-hat like you is surrounded by my lovable, comic-book inspired, sans-serif badassery.
Enough of this bullshit. I’m gonna go get hammered with Papyrus.

This is courtesy of Timonthy McSweeney

24.10.12

Blogs are still going strong

With the rise of Twitter and Facebook many people downgraded blogs. In social media’s evolutionary history they were regarded as some kind of Neanderthal anomaly that had served its purpose.
However, like the Neaderthal the blog has been surprisingly robust – I personally have at least ten “musr-read” blogs that I visit every day ranging from the history of typography to a rather wonderful blog on life in the East End of London.
As a marketer you write off blogs at your peril.
A recent  MORI survey for Hotwire warns against a blind corporate blogging frenzy in response to growing power of blogs. Blogs are becoming an influential source of information across Europe, according to the MORI research, with more than 25 million adults in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain having changed their minds about a company or its products after reading comments or reviews on a blog.
The direct link between user-generated content and people’s intentions to purchase a product or service is highlighted by the new research which found that a third (34%) of Europeans say they have not purchased a product after reading comments on the internet from customers or other private individuals.
Other key findings from the research include:
Blogs are now a near second to newspapers as the most trusted information source: A quarter (24%) of Europeans consider blogs a trusted source of information, still behind newspaper articles (30%), but ahead of television advertising (17%) and email marketing (14%).
High spenders are most trusting of blogs: Of those who spend more than £100 online every month, the proportion of people who trust blogs rises to 30%.
France leads European blogging, Britain lags: Across Europe, six out of ten (61%) internet users have heard of blogging, and one in six (17%), have read a blog. France is the most blog-savvy country in Europe, with 90% of respondents familiar with blogs. The British are the least blog-aware, with only 50% having heard the term. In Germany, 55% have heard of blogs, 58% in Italy and 51% in Spain.
Blogs are now driving purchase decisions: More than half (52%) of Europeans polled said that they were more likely to purchase a product if they had read positive comments from private individuals on the internet.
They also block purchases: Nearly 40 million Europeans have not bought something after reading negative comments posted online.
Gareth Deere, head of technology research, MORI said, “We all trust people’s opinions in the real world. Now we’ve proven the same link online, and it’s having a major impact on people’s buying behaviour. Word of mouth is no longer restricted to close friends and family, it can have the same level of influence upon millions of people across the world.”

29.9.12

Are you a digital media expert?

God give me strength. Just been spammed by a “digital media expert” offering a training course on “New Digital Training”. Here it is verbatim:

“As the world of new media continues to explode, I’m writing to introduce you to our new training course: Digital Marketing & PR.
“This in-house course gives a comprehensive overview of the different aspects of new media. It shows delegates how digital techniques can be simply and successfully integrated with more established PR strategies to generate new revenue streams for your agency.
“Who is it for? PR professionals with a basic knowledge of new media, wishing to advance their skills, speak the language with confidence and sell more digital work to their clients.”


Oh Dear. I am not sure that new media is exploding nor do I know what a “digital technique” is – I wish I had one though.
The curious thing is the person who sent the email – obviously blind CC’d to all the unfortunate recipients – has not got a clue about social media. Otherwise, she/he would not have spammed me in this manner. Meanwhile, their online presence is decidedly Web1.0 – no blog, no social networks, no Twitter.
I’m finding that a lot of PR companies which have, up until recently, ignored the possibilities of social media as a medium for communications – and in some cases even derided it – are now putting themselves forward as experts on social media. All this on the strength of a month-old blog and a Twitter account with five followers.
As with traditional media relations, the sloppy agencies which gave the industry a bad name with the media, will tarnish us with same brush with their backward approach to social media.
There are some excellent agencies out there doing some fantastic work through social media – but now that others have spotted the bandwagon they threaten to turn it over as they struggle to get on board.

Learning about social media from an old fart

Now this story might appear a bit crude, but it really happened, and inadvertently provided a wonderful metaphor for understanding new developments in communications, particularly social media.
Picture the scene: I am in a busy Edinburgh pub, crowded with delegates from conference.
At the end of the evening, me and some acquaintances were still talking shop at the bar, with one delegate airing his view that he ‘really didn’t see the significance of this social media thing.’
One senior delegate patiently sought to explain how social media was not just another channel for communication, but required a different mindset. And then, without announcement, surreptitiously, slipped away from the bar.
His new found friend at the conference, an Irish guy then declared in his Dublin brogue: "Someone has farted - and it’s not me!"
I reassured him that it genuinely wasn’t me either. The absent friend seemed prime suspect.
The episode instantly provided me with a metaphor:  This is how social media is different. You see, normal communications is telling the world what you want to say. Social media, is picking up conversations which may be about you, and may, in many instances not be instigated about you. So, you would not issue a press release for the equivalent of ‘You have just farted’. The fart, however, is a reality for those out there. And is more likely to be picked up as a conversation piece, regardless of your embarrassment.
If you’re not out there listening, and appropriately responding you are in danger of living in an artificial, You-Centric world, and not being part of the real conversation. That’s the real difference with this social media thing.
The metaphor seemed to work in making his new friend understand the different mindset of social media. It’s funny, how an ill-wind can bring new insight.