Make money from journalism - he was hoping it could appeal to the many Caledonians living around the world.
Last more than three months!
He calls his model ‘the Economist meets the Huffington Post drinking Irn Bru’. He said he felt it was important to be unique and go for depth coverage in profitable niches.
The paper has already had over one million page impressions, over 5000,000 visitors and 8,000 plus intelligent comments. CM also got a Highly Commended’ in the Newspaper Awards.
While UI is key to the website’s success, Stuart said he’s spent a lot of time dealing with the results of less well considered remarks on the site. he pointed out that it’s legally better, oddly, not to monitor comments.
Stuart said that his chief challenge is advertising, since its the core of his business. Particularly difficult, he said, was learning to be nice to them.
There are other issues, including - the site, hosting and legal (which keeps him awake at night). Stuart also pointed out that it was essential to spend money in order to find audience, including traditional advertising, which poses problems, partly obviously financial.
They have gone from 10 to 14 reporters and are more engaged in multimedia production now. There will at some point be a publicaton, probably quarterly.
Stuart, kindly, finished on a positive note, albeit rounding it off with a caveat: there’s never been a better time to be a journalist… And there’s never been a worse time to get a job as one.
He also argued that the future of journalism isn’t the future of print. It’s about journalists coming together to form their own projects - cutting out the machinery of newspaper publishers.
Afterwards said some intersting things during the questions:
Stuart said that his main revenue streams are relationship-based sales to advertisers. Enquiries to the site and network sales, such as Google. Stuart said that nobody is going to get rich off.
He also said that he was hoping for between 20 and 30,000 unique visitors a day by the end of the year.
He said his background helped in opening doors, partly because Scotland is a relatively small media environment. He also said he expected that more startups would follow the Calie Merc route. While some would fail, he said he believed that others, too, would be successful.
JeeCamp: panel discussion: What does the election result mean for publishers and startups?
After lunch there was a panel session titled:What does the election result mean for publishers and startups?
Dave Harte, who chaired the discussion, started off by talking about the change in government.
Sion Simon, the former MP and government minister, said that he expexted the change in government would have a negative impact on journalism. While he said that the broad picture would ‘not be a million miles away from what it was,’ it would still be worse. He said there would be less govt money avaialbe. ‘If you thought the previous govt didn’t seem that interested, believe me, the present one won’t be at all interested,’ he said.
There was a lot of work by the last govt. done on open data started by Tom Watson, he said, which the civil service had absorbed. ‘There were really serious plans to open up data massively in the second half of the coalition. I can’t see any reason why that won’t continue.’
Mark Pack said that one of the impacts will be that there’ll be a huge amount of information that anyone can start to make sense of.
Stuart Kirkpatrick: From a commercial point of view is over the Independently Funded News Consortia. He said he was heartened that the Conservatives would be getting rid of them. STV, having heard it will miss out on £7m funding as a result of that cut, is employing 10 new journalists.
Sion Simon: The bill dealed with the pilots - for which contracts haven’t been signed. The The Tories have said the full national roll out won’t happen. Whether the regional pilots will go ahead is not clear.
From the floor Chris Taggart said that the new governments’ ideas of allowing the public to take control of some public institutions, such as schools, could be very significant for journalism and could be helped by the new open data movement.
Mark said that it might help to make journalism easier. It, he said, exposed how narrow some Westminster journalists’ frame of reference was, because there was so little reference to Scotland, where coalition governments have existed since 1999.
Sion said that he didn’t think it would make much difference. He pointed out that every government has a honeymoon. He said the first few months of Tony blair’s government was like ‘living in a pink candyfloss cloud’.
He said the notion of a coalition is one that there is an immediate sympathy among the public. Newspapers, Sion said, attempt to reflect their readers. Over time, he said, it would give way to the fact that the whole of journalism is propelled by the desire to bring down the political class - the tension between the fourth and elected state. ‘When the honeymoon is over that dynamic will reassert itself,’ he said.
Anna Blackaby of the Birmingham Post asked about the difficulty of getting information out of commercial, but public organisations.
Matt said that he tried to ensure that openess was there as a principle before other things got in the way. He said it was important to be as open as possible.
Sion said the ‘micro level’ problem will be solved by the trend of open data, because he believed that the civil service culture had now been changed so significantly that it could not be reversed. He said ‘They now know the game is up,’ referring to the senior civil servants in Whitehall.
Stuart Kirkpatrick pointed out that there may have been a change in the public mood, as a result of the expenses scandal.
Chris Taggart said he didn’t think there’d be a move as a whole in the public sector. The tendering process had not helped and there are still too many incentives to do big, slow projects.
Philip John said there could be a risk that the open data movement might be undermined by the Big Society, because these services might not be controlled by private or voluntary organisations.
Matt said he was wary of a trade-off between cuts in services and open data. He pointed out that open data could be used to improve services.
Mark talked about the Office of the Public Guardian, which due to the bureaucracy and cost involved meant it was effectively a service only available to the middle classes. The foundation of the organisation had effectively shifted accountability from the government to the office.
Was it an internet election?
Sion talked about Jon Bound’s point that the difference between our recent election and the US election was one of access. Instead of using new media to engage and to give them ownership, British parties used it in an old-media way, effectively as a means to broadcast.
The power of social media is in finding people, identifying where they are and what they’re interested in.
Mark said the potential for any political party that hits controversy will find grassroots members much more power.
#JEECamp (fringe group) MA courses at Birmingham City Uni
Dave Harte, Sue Heseltine and Paul Bradshaw hosted the fringe group on MA courses at Birmingham City University; Social Media, Online Journalism and Freelance Journalism and Enterprise. The courses are open to those who have either completed undergraduate courses or those who have worked or have experience in the industry.
The basic structure of the courses was explained. Dave, who leads the Social Media course said that students have the chance to manage a ‘micro’ project to begin with and then work on a bigger second project, having developed the skills and knowledge from the previous. The courses are largely driven by students and their interests, capabilities and skills. Sue adds that the courses are also very much about networking and creating relationships with organisations and projects outside of the university.
Paul, leader of the MA Online Journalism course at BCU said that some of his teaching was done at the local coffee lounge; ‘it gets students away from the classroom environment and helps conversation and interaction.’
Two other university lecturers from Sheffield University attended the session and asked how best to teach the core skills of journalism but using the tools of online. Sue and Dave said that most of the students on the MA courses already have the core skills or experience to apply them to new projects. Paul: ‘The most interesting thing is how students learn from each other, those with web skills help those who aren’t so skilled.’
Another group member asked the kind of backgrounds students come from and what they go on to do. Dave said that some of the current Social Media students come from undergrad courses, communications/PR and also public services and local government. He said they go on to do various things; one lady has gone out to Strasbourg to work with the European Union for example. Some students have had some form of short/long-term career and others have no experience of Social Media at all.
Dave said the project aspect of the MA allows students to see how organisations like West Midlands Police are using social media and manage their own projects as part of the program. He also thinks the peer-to-peer learning is important and helps students develop skills and share knowledge.
The use of uni intranets as learning resources was briefly discussed - BCU students use a system called Moodle which allows lecturers and students to post resources, links, assignment briefs etc and use forums to discuss projects. There was also talk of experiments with Google Wave but several people admitted that students often don’t see the point or don’t engage as fully as they could. This is an area for improvement it seems.
Finally, the question was asked whether those who have come to the MA as undergrads get more or less out of the course than those who have the experience of industry. Generally, it was agreed that it depends on what the individual wants to get out of the course. Paul thinks that it helps to have some experience of the industry but largely the benefits are there for anyone who wants to learn more and widen their skills base.
For more information on any of the MA media courses at Birmingham City University visit www.mediacourses.com
#JEECamp (fringe group) Inside the M60 - Nigel Barlow
Hyperlocal blog, Inside the M60 has been up and running for a month now and uploads 4/5 articles everyday focussed on local news and issues across Manchester.
Founder, Nigel Barlow was a qualified accountant before recently going to university to study a degree in journalism. He set up the site as a response to the lack of indepth news coverage in the city.
At the moment, Nigel is spending time building the brand and gathering feedback rather than worrying about traffic; in fact he hasn’t looked at the figures yet.
Sources of funding he is looking at include advertising and events but Nigel thinks it’ll be around nine to twelve month before he will be able to earn an income from the site.
Currently, things like comments on individual articles and re-tweets on Twitter are being used as a measure of success. Long-term success on the otherhand will be judged on revenue - something that will decide the longevity of the site.
Despite some negative comments from local press, Nigel fully believes that Manchester needs Inside the M60 and is determined to make it work.
The group started with formalities of introductions - a variety of individuals with different interests in community either through hyperlocal publishing, regional press or student projects.
Lots of people were interested in how to get users to interact instead of just publishing content that nobody comments on. ‘If the conversation is going on elsewhere then you need to go there and talk,’ suggested one person. ‘Don’t expect the conversation to happen on your site or blog.’
Adam Tinworth talked about how the final article is just a part of the process, ‘it’s an ongoing conversation with tweeting and blogging on the way to the final piece.’ In discussing community building and encouraging interaction, it was suggested that talking to people directly (e.g. face-to-face) is as important as all the online communication.
One of the group members explained the problems faced by the site he runs; issues surrounding online behaviour and the way people talk to one another about certain issues. He said that a lot of the comments posted on the site revolve around social issues and ‘divides’ within the local community (e.g. “well nothing good ever comes out of xxxxxxx anyway”). How can gaps be bridged in terms of behaviour online?
Someone raised the thought that avatars are really important for connecting visually - putting a face to the name and being able to ‘trust’ someone in terms of community engagement. Adam said how recently changing his avatar had increased his followers - ‘maybe because he looks more approachable on the new one.’ Someone else added that they think personal avatars defeat the object of community and maybe alienate people in terms of interaction.
Moving on to hyperlocal and community based sites, a few people were interested in how others ‘get the word out there’. Dave Harte, who runs the Bournville Village blog, said that he has gone down the flyering/poster route - targeting local businesses that may want to advertise on the site but also connecting with local schools who have published info in their newsletter. He also talked about linking up with schools in terms of encouraging students to contribute to the site.
Incentivising community involvement was also a key discussion with various suggestions and points raised. One person described their experience of ‘hiring’ community reporters; ‘you start off with like 100 people who want to do it, then after a few weeks you’re down to 20 and then eventually it’s 2 or 3 who are really committed and see the point of doing it.’ Keeping volunteers engaged is something which people seem to struggle with.
A late-comer to the group, who’s a journalist on local papers in the east of England, asked whether anyone had any experience of using gaming apps to incentivise e.g. the badges in Foursquare. An interesting idea that no-one really seemed to have come across themselves, although some talked about how users can be ‘rated’ in terms of contributions.
Social capital and ‘status-driven’ incentives were discussed both positively and not so - one concern raised was about hierarchies within local sites and whether that detracts from the notion of community.
A few also raised the question whether it would be better to engage several local bloggers to collaborate on a ‘bigger’ site than individuals posting their own blogs with smaller user numbers. Adam argued that communities ‘smear out’, they’re not restricted to one or two sites so they will move around and engage wherever they choose to online. It was also debated whether or not individuals would ‘forfeit’ their own ‘egos/online status’ to contribute to something which was a joint effort.
#Jeecamp Breakout group: Newsgathering and production
The Newsgathering and Production Breakout group at Jeecamp very quickly came round to the use of ultra-modern technology.
The initial question, from a student journalist, into how best to find news and approach people brought an interesting array of answers (including visiting the Tourist Office in an area, and making contacts) but the one that sparked the lengthiest debase was Twitter.
Is Twitter a good source for news? The group was divided, with some believing it is a now-vital machine where you can follow the right people and get some great tip-offs. However there was some scepticism about the constant stream of traffic, and how best ot manage that - filtering out the nonsense and the speculation from the valuable facts.
The best advice came through: be careful not to follow too many people, or create a list for subject areas that you are working in so you can dip in and out when you need to.
The other big debate was blogs: and more specifically, are blogs journalism?
Considering this was a room of journalists and journalism students, there was a surprising accepance of blogs, with a pressumption that they can be sensationalist and opinionated. Some felt blogs were not a form of journalism, others that they had a role to play in filling in the gaps left by overworked jouralists who can’t, or won’t head into certain areas, geographically or otherwise.
Sports blogs were touched on, and the potential business model - but it was generally accepted that blogs were more vauable in building reputation either for future employablitity, or in becoming a freelance expert on a particlar subject.
Hyperlocal - one of the buzz words right now - sparked some interesting opinions, and questions about the future of traditional news outlets. Are we at risk of losing the objective news coverage, for a more subjective, and ultra-local focus?
Hyperlocal blogs, such as SE1 and KingsCross were raised a examples of sites covering an area well - but what is the future for the hyperlocal blogger? Are they going to make their blogs pay, or will they all be snapped up to become paid-up journalists/reporters for news outlets?
The final debate, before lunch was called, was the use of live streaming, and how this changing how people now experience news - instead of being happy with receiving the news the next morning in the paper, they want to not only have the story as it breaks, they want to participate, comment and help shape the story.
Our discussion group included: Sue Heseltine of Birmingham City University; Judith Townend of Journalism.co.uk, James Hatts of London SE1, Martin Moore of Journalism Standards Trust, Martin Belam, an information architect at The Guardian, Andrew Mackenzie and David Hayward of the BBC College of Journalism.
We started talking about privacy, which many on the panel felt was an issue of increasing significance for journalists and the general public. In particular, there was a feeling that social media poses a serious threat to any individual’s right to a private life.
It didn’t, however, take too long at all for the conversation to move on to the thorny issues surrounding libel law. There was a sense from some panel members that journalists’ ability to do their jobs might be increasingly undermined by what appears an evermore threatening and punitive legal climate.
The idea of “libel hanging over you” appears to be an issue for all practising journalists at the moment. In fact, one panel member said that libel law as it stands “does more to damage to freedom of information than it does to protect people.” It is exploited by the rich and leaves the poor - whether they are individuals seeking legal redress from a damaging story or a struggling, small-scale publisher - often powerless to protect their rights.
We then talked about how Facebook may be having a profound effect on peoples’ privacy. How does, for example, an individual’s use of Facebook affect that individuals’ privacy?
The same forces affecting our privacy are also having a significant impact on aspects of law, including Contempt of Court. We talked about how a Google search can uncover infinite information about someone who is being tried, and for a juror, that massive availability of information surely means that you cannot fairly fulfil your duties? Facebook and contempt of court are both separately and together very fuzzy grey area. Like, thick fog.
Many journalists don’t even know (or at least don’t practice) the idea that a case is active as soon as someone is arrested, not when it goes to court. The next area of discussion focused around the bodies; the NUJ and the PCC. The general consensus was that the Press Complaints Commission ‘mediates’ but doesn’t ‘regulate’. Being made a fool of, as a newspaper or news organisation, is still embarrassing, and more so than it used to be, but most of the high-end of the publishing industry lives often enough outside the law of the PCC. The NUJ on the other hand was a more constructive issue of discussion. Should they offer formal legal advice, and should they tackle the issue of protection of ISP? Legal advice does come from fellow journalists through the process of blogging your journalism experiences. But is it enough? Bloggers, and our group, admitted that when someone came sniffing at them about a story they weren’t happy about, it was very intimidating. More often than not, you are forced to sound a public retreat whether or not you feel you are spouting libel. And, I think, in one of the most rambling and disjointed ways ever, that is the discussion about Law, Ethics and Regulation. Thank you, and goodnight.
Simon started off at Shoe and leather News, before ending up at Media Week and later joined the Guardian, where he was the launch editor of the Guardian Unlimited in 1999 and eventually director of digital strategy and development. Now he’s the product director of Love Film. In the meantime he’s been writing a book called Creative Disruption.
He spoke about what led him to write his book. He said: ‘It’s really about what it’s like when an industry is shaken to disruption.’ He loves the web and journalism but also has a ‘keen business streak’.
Simon started off by talking about how the web has changed the business rules for the media. Simon said that there are four aspects to this:-
1) Entrepreneurs and new entries - outsiders do things to change your industry. Simon gave the example of Reed Hastings and Net Flix and how that has changed the video/DVD hire business.
'You should think about the problems you can solve for other people,' Simon said.
2) The economy - a lot of structural changes in newspapers were hurt by the downturn. The classified sector isn’t likely to come back, for example.
3) The people: We have desires and concerns and we now have tools to change things in ways we couldn’t before.
4) The growth of devices: New technological devices bring profound changes to our behaviour. Simon gave the example of wifi and the way it has changed the way we consume content.
Simon pointed out there has been a great deal of change. For his book, Creative Disruption, he decided to look at businesses that are struggling to deal with change, including IBM which declared the biggest corporate loss in history in the early 80s.
Simon said that there are three things businesses have to do to survive that he has learned from his research:-
1) Transform your core business - biggest challenge is to make sure your business as a whole is working well.
2) You have to move into new areas to find big ajacencies.
Simon talked about Encyclopedia Brittanica, which was once a very profitable business, but has been hit by the success of competitors. Brittanica 20 years on has lost 80 per cent of its revenue. Simon said he suspects that kind of shake-up is looming for other business.
An important message, Simon said, was to get away from trying to understand how you can fund what you want to do, but it’s crucial to think of what you can do to answer the questions that people need answering.
He said there’s a difference between most people and entrepeneurs, because entrepeneurs are happy to go off and do things quickly. He believes that, with the great changes that we are experiencing now, entrepreneurs have a fantastic opportunity. But it’s essential to move rapidly to take advantages of these changes.
Simon then went on to talk about advertising. Most businesses will always want to be based on some sort of advertising. The piont is that it is no longer possible to have the same position because there are so many competitors.
You have to think what you are going to do to think how your businesses will grow their business, not yours. Advertising has to be phenomenally hard fought for. At the Guardian it was not about not doing subscriptions, it was about doing advertising phenomenally well. He believes that there is growth but it is essential to do the job really well.
To sum up, then:
There’s a ton of change, there’ll be a ton more.
He said that now is a fantastic time to be entrepreneurial, but think about how you build a proper business - not one that’s there to support your own desires.
And, above all, do brilliant things. He said: ‘You are so lucky to work in this time of spectacular change.’
Paywalls: Simon then took questions, including, firstly, one about his thoughts on pay walls he said it was ‘very desirable but very difficult to achieve’. But Simon accepted that, ‘practically, it may be the only option for some businesses.’
'The challenge isn't whether you charge,' he said. 'If you take a macro view of the business [a paywall] is quite small.' He said the two major newspaper groups haven't been concerned with them. He cautioned against getting 'stuck on' paywalls.
Portfolio vs one revenue stream: Simon agreed with a questioner that B2B magazines, which are portfolio businesses are better placed to survive in bad times. The problem, he said, is to get single-issue businesses - like newspapres - to kick-start that kind of change.
Costly content: He also said that there is still a place for professionally produced content. He said that it was professional journalists who get to the hard-to-reach places (such as Bandar Aceh during the great tsunami, where there were no ‘citizen journalists’) and tell important stories.
Newspapers: He also pointed out that many newspaper businesses are not doing it purely for the money. Newspapers are not the businesses they once were, because more people can compete. Now, he said, journalists would have to ‘get on deal with it’.
He said it’s remarkable that people still buy newspapers - and it was important to think about why they were still, in many ways, successful. He said it’s not worth debating where things will end up, but to make your business better today and better tomorrow.