Posted by & filed under Magazines.

This is part of a series of articles and interviews on TheMediaBriefing this week ahead of our conference Mobile Media Strategies 2011 on June 14.

It may only be three months since we published Mobile Media Strategies for Media Owners but already there have been significant shifts in the digital publishing industry. As the author of the intelligence report Dominic Jacquesson mentions in this video, many of its predictions have come to pass.

Platform changes

Things are changing fast. Now Research in Motions’s Playbook tablet will run Android apps, Nokia is no longer producing new phones using its Symbian platform and is working with Microsoft. Apple still dominates with Android in second place but maybe Microsoft can surprise everyone.

Publisher re-imaginings

Many national newspapers are really shining on the app front. Jacquesson singles out the FT and New York Times as moving away from the traditional print news-cycle and the trappings of established workflow. Regional newspapers are also – slowly – grasping how they can improve their classified adverts and mine the rich geo-location vein that Patrick Smith mentioned in thus article.

According to Jacquesson, magazines haven’t changed enough and they’re still “locked in with the design departments”. He continues: “They need to get their web teams in there and innovate around proper functionality. Re-imagining what magazines should be like for the future.”

Price switches

With Hearst and Condé Nast picking up the Apple’s new subscription model there’s been some speculation that this might force app prices down. But interestingly Jacquesson thinks that the new deal might give stabilise prices. However, he warns if publishers develop for Android apps it could affect overall pricing – consumers who use Google expect most of their apps for free.

Jacquesson’s final message is clear. There are plenty of ways to make money but some real thinking needs to be done about innovating fast. If you don’t act now there will be a new tech company who will take your audience.

Originally published on TheMediaBriefing

Posted by & filed under Social Media.

Adopting a successful social media strategy doesn’t just mean getting yourself a Facebook page or Twitter profile. Social media is no longer an add-on – it must be at the centre of your business, according to one leading digital interaction expert.

David Cushman, MD of the 90:10 Group, who blogs at, told me in a video interview that the biggest mistake publishers can make in this area is adopting a heavy handed “top down” approach. “It is not a channel, it is not a way in which you distribute content … it has to be at the heart of what you do,” he says. Now watch on…

Audit first

Cushman’s mantra is to listen to both your organisation and your audience and keep an open mind. “You have to let your audience inform what you do. Only then will they interested in passing it around,” he says.

Paywalls hinder sharing

Few would deny this stuff is important. But what if your business model isn’t compatible with social sharing? Erecting a paywall, for example, around your content hinders exposure and the building of interpersonal networks. Cushman acknowledges specialist information, delivered well, can lead to a successful paywall model but closed is still not good enough.

The New York Times realised this and sidestepped the paywall model – readers can view articles discovered through social media, even if you’ve passed your monthly limit. But as we’ve mentioned this approach undermines the paywall entirely.

Almost a quarter of a million people now digitally subscribe to The Financial Times, an increase of 8.1 percent since January 2011. But Cushman is cautious:

“Even they haven’t got it right for me, because they’re not doing it for me. It’s not focused enough and it’s not social.”

Who’s really open?

The Guardian’s call to media and technology bloggers proudly declares that it is an open platform. But as Cushman points out “the only truly open silo is the internet.”

Cushman (who spoke to the Guardian recently) thinks this attitude will encourage people who identify with the brand to contribute. Fundamentally, there has to be some incentive for the blogger to move onto the website. “The people who chose to go on their platform do so with a mission in mind”

Originally published on TheMediaBriefing

Posted by & filed under Magazines.

When the iPad launched last year few magazine publishers were as prepared as Condé Nast. It leapt out of the blocks announcing plans for mobile incarnations of Wired, Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker.

But all this could be about to change. Senior CN execs are stepping back efforts on iPad editions, following a less-than-impressive financial return from a signficant investment. Ad Age quotes an anonymous Condé Nast publisher who, while keen to point out this is not a reverse of ambition, admitted that creating iPad apps for all publications is no longer the goal.

“They’re not all doing all that well, so why rush to get them all on there?” they say.

So what can we learn from Condé Nast’s experiments?

Apps are fun but costs win out. Research commissioned by Condé last October (via Tom Foremski), involving 100 hours of one-on-one interviews and 5,000 in-app surveys, found that readers commonly spent more time with the electronic version than the print equivalent. Condé concluded:

“Users responded positively to the additional functionality of the iPad. Therefore advertisers that included compelling and unique experiences, that were self-contained and exclusive to the environment, were liked more than those that did not.”

But did they go far enough? Dominic Jacquesson, author of TheMediaBriefing’s report Mobile Strategies for Media Owners, told me today that Condé’s decision to use Adobe’s Publishing Suite to create its apps tied it too much to the print model.

Jacquesson says: “To their credit, they embraced the tablet opportunity early on and firmly. However, in partnering with Adobe, it was clear that they were going to treat tablet apps as print replicas with bells and whistles thrown in – both from an external audience perspective and in terms of internal production processes.”

Condé Nast has adapted to this situation. Special editions, such as location-specific Traveller apps or $0.99 Vogue exclusives have done well.

Cost And Subscription

Leaving aside Condé Nast’s free, mobile-specific applications such as the popular Epicurious, its magazine apps are highly priced. In the UK most editions in iTunes are priced around the £3 mark. Data from analysts at Distimo shows that only 45 percent of iPad apps were in this price bracket from January-December 2010.

It could be that the pricing is too close to newsstand price which doesn’t match up with the expectation of an audience that is used to free web content. However, the launch edition of Wired’s iPad app was $5 – the same as the US magazine cover price – which was welcomed by some overseas mag readers who were paying as much as $14 an issue.

They have kept their app prices too high per issue to entice either new readers to have a peek, or existing readers to switch” says Dominic Jacquesson. “The resulting repeated droop in downloads between issues 1 and 2 for each title they app’ed is definitely a case of ‘I told you so,’ and I fear it will be at least another year before they significantly shift their mobile strategy to a more sustainable footing.”

An appy future ahead?

Despite those early trouble, Condé Nast and constantly re-evaluating their mobile strategy Condé Nast have left room to manoeuvre. For Jacquesson this has meant that it has possibly averted financial collapse.

“The upside for Condé Nast is that its print titles are amongst the best in the magazine sector, with a particular appeal in emerging markets worldwide, and the economic recovery has therefore benefited it earlier than most. So its fears back in 2009 of a structurally permanent advertising collapse have not come to pass…at least, not yet.”

And for the rest of us, we can learn from its mistakes before we implement them.

We’ll be discussing all these issues at TheMediaBriefing’s next brilliant conference Mobile Media Strategies on June 14 in London. Early Bird tickets are available now.

Picture credit: Robert Nelson via Flickr.

Posted by & filed under Manchester.

I’ve recently started working with Inside The M60. In addition to being on hand to help with little WordPress tweaks, I’ve been trying to carve out a little niche for myself.

Obviously, I come from “down the M6” so my local knowledge isn’t great, but I do know my culture. The site editors Louise Bolotin and Nigel Barlow understood the advantages of having a listings section and so let me loose.

Inspired by the work of Wicci which runs through WordPress, I looked into suitable calendars. I’d previously encouraged Nigel and Louise to get their events into Google Calendar, so it made sense to at least base it there.

After a few false starts I found Google Calendar Events developed by Ross Hanney. I’m really impressed with the strength of the widget particularly its flexibility and the attentive nature of Ross. It makes such a difference if there is decent support for a plugin.

Setting the plugin up was a bit fiddly. What I wanted to do was make the calendar link out to tickets or, where possible, to link back to previews or reviews on Inside The M60. This way the calendar aids site navigation. There’s a bit of a jiggle which you have to make to the PHP to make it read HTML in Google Calendar details but Ross intends to introduce this as a dashboard setting.

Once I’d got the plugin running on the back end of my site I approached Philip John to get it installed on Journal Local, where Inside The M60 is based. Philip had some reservations about to cross-site scripting attacks again I consulted Ross and we introduced a bit of code to stop this.

Inside The M60 are really happy with the Calendar, it has increased traffic to the site and has added another dimension. It’s also helped me get a cultural handle on Manchester and makes me feel excited about basing myself here.

I would like to encourage more of a standard way of contributing and I’m considering following the example of Wicci and allowing promoters and people to add listings themselves. I’m also thinking about taking feeds from other site. But at the moment I feel we’ve got more quality control by doing it ourselves.

One of the MA Magazine groups from City University are doing a magazine for the East End of London and they wanted to bring in a map. I naturally recommended Google Calendar Events. This week they’re going live with it so keep an eye on Eastbound Magazine’s website.

Posted by & filed under Manchester.

My brother and I grew up with The Smiths, so when he came to visit me I decided to show him Morrissey’s haunts. I gathered together details from Cemetry Gates and noted venues featured on
Manchester Music Tour.

View The Smiths Music Map in a larger map

I cycled around a few sites on Saturday and I’ve added a few multimedia bits to those pinpoints. I’m also going to add a cycle route based on Cycle Streets and my own experience of cycling the route. This is open map so if you have more to add then feel free.

Outside Salford Lads

This image is on display in the Lads' Club

Posted by & filed under Work.

This is the first time in three months that I have decided to blog. There are many reasons for this but one of the most important is a rapid life transition. This site was specifically set up to track my progress through my MA in Online Journalism. So for a while after I found that I had essentially blogged myself into a corner.

Things have also changed for me geographically too. The week I submitted my final dissertation, my wife and I loaded several vanloads and transported ourselves (and an obscene amount of CD’s) to Manchester.

Of course, the process of gaining employment has been slower. I made a conscious decision whilst I was studying that I would stick to freelance for a while, do enough of that to keep me in reasonable comfort and only go for staff jobs that I really want. My wife often reminds me that this is a somewhat privileged place to be in.

So, I’ve been trying to find my footing in the Digital Manchester community – attending Social Media Surgeries and Cafes which have evolved in quite a different way to the Birmingham versions. These differences I will certainly mention and discuss in later posts. In the last few weeks I have begun to start working with the good people of Inside The M60. My progress here will also be written about soon.

I have carried work up North with me. The Birmingham City of Culture Social Media work continues not least because we engaged a sizeable amount of people during the campaign and it would be a shame to ‘disengage’ them. The Facebook and Twitter still continue to promote and celebrate the cultural delights that the city has to offer – large and small.

I’ve also begun to preach a bit of what I’ve practiced with a Visiting Lecturer role at Birmingham City University helping first year BA students understand the basics of journalism. Most recently I have also started to teach MA Magazine Journalism students of City University London how to complement their final printed production with an online presence.

If I’m honest, the most interesting full time jobs still seem to be in London and if I do find the right job maybe we’ll pack up and migrate there. For the moment however any London work is achievable due to my sister-in-law and Village Underground who have agreed to offer me a bed as long as I promise to occasionally “do something amazing” for them.

These current commutes have one definite advantage: long train journeys give me time to write. So at least once a week from now onwards I intend to reflect on what I’ve been doing. Track 23 is now on the rails…

Posted by & filed under BBC, cycling.

On Monday Inside Out West Midlands broadcast their report on cycling around Birmingham which featured talking about my Birmingham Cycle Data site but also getting on my bike and checking out facilities for cyclists around the city. This road footage was inspired by my previous excursions with a Flip.

The BBC filming was an invaluable experience but for me it highlighted the difference between how you can allow a story to develop online compared with needing to have elements pre-defined when you start filming. My challenge for Inside Out was based around a FOI request and inquiry with City Council’s press office as to the amount of cycling improvements that had been made in the last few years. I then hit the road to see how the improvements had been installed.

Obviously, filming time is precious and to have a crew follow me round each improvement would have been expensive. The Inside Out package is about the state of cycling in the city, so just me peddling on my bike would be wouldn’t have answered the general question ‘Is Birmingham safe for cyclists?’. Instead this is a montage sequence with some on the spot conclusions at the end then plenty of context and ‘right to reply’ by the council.

I was pleased to see that my Belgrave Middleway coverage was used as a way to introduce but something my online footage allowed me to do was show the extent of the law breaking and to back that up with stats.

Within the confines of the TV programme you get an impression of what happened but you don’t get an in depth investigation. Furthermore, the point of Birmingham Cycle Data was to explore many cycle stories that affect Birmingham cyclists. It mainly using data visualisation to display how a question such as ‘Is Birmingham safe for cyclists’ is a complex one that can’t have a simple answer.

I’d love the opportunity to now take the council cycling improvements story to my website. Ideally I’d display them on a map to visualise the scale of what the council has installed and where. Maybe even gather footage and evidence of me and others tackling them. This in conjunction with the larger exposure of BBC 1 programme would build up a more detailed picture of cycling improvements in the city and make suggestions how they could be further improved.

For now though you’ll have to just put up with my talking ‘helmet hair’ head.

Posted by & filed under MA Online Journalism, Mashed Festivals, Multimedia.

Since October last year I’ve been researching and developing my idea of bringing Mobile Journalism to Music Festivals. As festival season kicked off the website started to take shape. With help from Caroline Beavon, a few early experiments in uploading and curating content took place at Glastonbury, Sudoeste in Portugal and Off The Cuff in Birmingham but the main target was a full blown operation at Shambala Festival which took place on August Bank Holiday weekend 2010.

I’ve spent a lot of time developing the site and defining the brand over the summer, it’s still very much in development. In fact, one of the main advantages of working with Shambala was that they were open to new ideas and willing to help us develop, but naturally there was a degree of reciprocation with this relationship.

Shambala suggested Mashed Festivals (MF) offered media training to teenagers and taught them how to produce online content using mobile techniques. I wasn’t too keen to do this in the beginning as I wanted content on the MF site to be professionally captured from a team of journalists with different expertise. The best stuff for the site would be produced by my core team which would set the bench mark for the quality of the user generated content (UGC) – I was concerned the teenage training element would devalue this.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. With the cooperation of Shambala we sent out an invitation to all teen ticket members and cherry picked a small team of six girls and boys who were enthusiastic and talented to boot who became the MF Press Gang. Their final output which comprised 40 stories on the mobile optimised microsite is of such a high standard that I’m now moving away from the idea of curating unfocussed UGC altogether.

I still kept my professional core team who had a breadth of experience but were able to specialise and train in certain areas. I offered advice and assistance in photography, Juliet Spare advised on audio and Jon Kennard’s expertise lie in film and video. Caroline Beavon was in control of the process of collation and uploading.

Jon Kennard details his experience training for video with Hannah Lepper and Kyle Douglas here.

Both Iona Berry and Holly Game were studying photography at college. Iona brought her own camera and was pretty self-sufficient. We provided Holly with a camera and she needed a little more encouragement and guidance. I offered advice on what looked good online and stressed the importance of speed rather than spending days filtering and treating photos.

None of the teenagers had any experience in audio but wanted to learn so Juliet trained two members of the press gang. Josephine Gilbert learnt very quickly delivering perceptive interviews.



Piers Baker experimented with different media and with contributions from his girlfriend Phoebe and other members, delivered some excellent self contained packages.



Some of the best material came when the gang teamed up to combine skills. My favourite examples being the slideshows. Which included contributions from all the group.

My favourite experience was taking the Press Gang backstage for the first time, showing them how to gain access, secure interviews and find the person in charge! This resulted in a wealth of material and a superb interview.

I was very pleased the Press Gang didn’t just stick to one skill. Being competent in a few different fields is important for journalism overall these days and vital for Online Journalism.

Posted by & filed under #Brum.

According to Paul Murphy from The Destroyers one of the reasons why we missed out on the European Capital Of Culture award was that when the judges visited the city no-one on the ground cared about either the award or the cultural ongoings.


The traditional perception with Birmingham is that we do plenty of creative and cultural things but we don’t like to shout about it. Cllr Martin Mullaney has pointed out several times during this City Of Culture bid that as a city we have very low levels of cultural engagement per head of population. I was determined in my role as Social Media Manager to increase engagement and prove that, given the right platform, we would shout about it.

My first day on the job involved working on the 24hour Blog run by Jon Bounds. We received a phenomenal amount of contribution to the Posterous site in a 24 hour period. Since then our engagement was spread across Facebook, Twitter and the main website.

When monitoring other shortlisted cities social media activities it was interesting to discover their bids were mainly limited to Facebook. We on the other hand had a much larger amount of Twitter followers. Today it passed the 1000 mark.

Only eight people were allowed to present the Birmingham’s case to the judging panel in Liverpool, we wanted to increase our presence. Birmingham had plans to take a Battle Bus which would stage cultural flashmobs around Liverpool on the day.

UK City Of Culture Bid

Public Relations Manager Geoff Coleman mentioned doing something similar to 24hour blog and I pitched the idea of using Cover It Live as a scrolling commentary which could be displayed ‘in the room’. It was important to gather all the different threads across multiple platforms. I also thought it was an ideal opportunity to make a virtual event out of our final submission. I passionately stated at the time,

“Can I just say that Birmingham’s strength as a digital city is one of our greatest assets and it would be doing ourselves a great disservice not to do something really innovative.”

I’m pleased to say that it was a success, there were around 900 messages of support over the period, and the Council Site where Cover It Live was embedded reported a spike of over 1000 unique users.

@Katchoo has blogged about what it was like to be involved in the event. A point well made was that it wasn’t just the usual people mentioning the same things. The real success of the event came from the variety of comments, the amount of people involved and the many cultural things Birmingham offers. We’re a culturally rich city that deserves recognition. And for once we really shouted about it.

Posted by & filed under #Brum.

A small delegation of people presented to the City Of Culture judges on Wednesday 16th June. But being Social Media savvy types in this fair city, we got in the room too!

Below are all the interactions that took place on the day.

This live blog was also embedded on the Council website

People either logged into the site or used the hashtag #intheroom. Here’s a word cloud of the hashtag courtesy of @cmc1985.

Wordle: #intheroom Word Cloud style=

I also blogged about the day here.