Don’t mess with the press

10 August, 2010

There have been a couple of stories already this week that have illustrated just how hard it is now to stop both the media and the general public from talking about you – and the harder you try, the more they talk.

For some reason, Southampton FC’s executive chairman Nicola Cortese made the decision to ban national and local newspaper photographers from the game. Suffice to say both the local and national press didn’t take too kindly to being forced to use official photography. The Sun used the first part of its match report to complain about the decision and then for the rest refused to name Southampton, instead just calling them ‘the opposition.’

In contrast the Plymouth Herald newspaper hired artist Chris Robinson to sketch cartoons of the action resulting in some of the most unique pictures to accompany a match report in memory.  The second of the two is frankly brilliant and a trend that I’d like to see more of in football stories.

Also in the news is Tory MP Dominic Raab who has demanded his email be removed from website 38 Degrees as he doesn’t have time to go through all the emails he gets a result. The website has refused to back down (supported by the Information Commissioners office) saying that as an MP, his email address should be public. Suffice to say that as a result the story went viral on Twitter and this morning appears in many of the day’s papers gaining the hapless MP even more publicity (and no doubt emails) than he ever would have got originally.

The lesson for everyone here? Sometimes, no matter how much you think something is a good idea, it’s best not to take on either the media or the internet…

(Image from The Daily Nation)


The police are listening

13 May, 2010

Must be a slow news day at the BBC. A man from Brighton was ‘shocked’ to find out that the local police force in Brighton were following him on Twitter. That’d be Twitter, the publicly viewable site where anyone can follow your updates unless you make your profile private. The one where if you mention certain keywords you quickly acquire a whole load of extra followers trying to sell you something from that industry.

Ssshh, the police are watching

As the spokesperson for the Police in Brighton said, “We use Twitter to engage with the community in a really immediate way. It’s really helpful for us because we can allay any fears or rumours going round.
We can also engage with them and ask them what they want. It’s better than traditional media in that sense.”

Quite. It’s hardly like you’re going to pick up people tweeting “just broken into a house, ROFLMAO,” but instead you might see people in the area complaining about the noise or something relevant where you can get in touch quickly to address these concerns. Twitter isn’t just a medium for businesses and the media, there’s no reason at all why public bodies such as the Police shouldn’t get involved to speak directly to those they serve.

Of course it can go completely overboard as the ‘joke’ tweet about blowing up an airport showed in what has to be one the most ridiculous court cases and conviction in memory.

The social media election

16 April, 2010

First of all, is this really a ‘social media election’?

On the back of the successful Obama campaign politicians everywhere have been talking about the potential for social media and how it will shape this election. Social media is already playing a major role, with Rory Cellan-Jones of BBC news regularly analysing Twitter trends and sentiments, and several politicians, including Sarah Brown, tweeting regularly.

While it would be mad to suggest that social media alone could decide an election, it could however make a real difference with things so close between the three major parties.

Social media not only allows politicians, (and their significant others), to directly reach out to the public, (over 1 million in Sarah Brown’s case). It also allows them to track the sentiment and reactions of its users; something that was particularly interesting from the first TV debate.

This extra ‘human’ element to the campaign adds a new dimension that was tricky, if not impossible, during the last election. Even a simple reply to a tweet can make someone feel as though their point of view is important or that people are listening; an obvious vote winner.

By tracking Twitter and forums the reaction of the public to debates and news can be analysed instantly. People are more likely to be honest on their Twitter account or a forum compared to being interviewed by either a journalist or a polling company.

In November of last year stats showed that the UK makes up 8.2% of Twitter’s roughly 6 million registered users. This is set to be one of the closest elections in years and the party that does a good job of reaching out through social media could tip the balance in their favour.

Image taken from the excellent Matt.

The Times they are a’ charging

26 March, 2010

Today The Times and The Sunday Times announced that, from June, they will start charging for access to online content.

The whole pay-wall debate has been going on in the media for quite some time now, with the FT already charging for content and even a few of the trade press such as Global Telecoms Business joining in. While the FT has been successful, I’m not convinced that The Times or The Sunday Times will be able to pull it off.
The FT is so specialist that people don’t mind paying for the content. However news on The Times, aside from the columnists, is all available for free on The BBC and countless other websites. Admittedly the charge is only £1 a day or £2 for a week, which isn’t much. But that’s still £2 that you wouldn’t need to pay on the BBC.

Oddly one of the more sensible suggestions on the paid-for debate came from Charlie Brooker’s column in August. The idea of a system of micro payments is, I believe, a good one as it doesn’t really feel like you’re spending anything. But crucially this needs to be adopted across the board otherwise people will just go elsewhere for free.

It’ll be interesting to see how successful this experiment is, as a lot of people are commenting, why would you pay for content that you can get elsewhere for a similar (or better depending on your preference of newspaper/website) standard for free?

Wasted technology?

10 March, 2010

Ok so a bit slow off the mark here, but a story from last week found that Britons waste £52 billion on gadgets that they cannot operate every year. Also that 50% of functions are left idle on the majority of gadgets.

The tech blogs all sounded surprised at this, and from a techy point of view this is fair enough. Those with an interest in gadgets will be the ones who want all the extra features and functions, but what percentage of those who own, say a digital camera, are just people who want to just take a photo? I’ve got a half decent compact digital camera but for about 95% of the time it’ll just be left on auto mode as I can’t be bothered with changing the settings. And anyway, the auto mode takes decent photos which is all I need it to do.

Take the TV as another example, how many different functions are there on a TV? God knows, hundreds probably. But which ones do you need apart from the channels/inputs and volume? Maybe the screen resize one but the majority of sets now are clever enough to work it out themselves.

I was sat in an interview the other day where a client of ours was talking about when a technology has really made it into the consumer space, and this is when his wife and children could operate it without needing to play with the settings or wonder how it works (or in some cases why it doesn’t.) The majority of devices will now work out what functions we need and what settings are best, so it’s no wonder that the majority of consumers are happy to leave these alone and trust the product.

The plot thickens/a thick plot

5 February, 2010

In the last year or so plenty of publications have been cut and staff numbers reduced. One of the papers that didn’t make it through was evening free sheet The London Paper. With this in mind there were plenty of raised eyebrows last year when a new London free paper was announced.

The London Weekly, which published its first issue today, has been a bit of a mystery for the last few months with nobody sure who was writing for it. It didn’t seem to have a clear idea of what it was doing either.

It’s a tough time to launch any new title, let alone one that is going into an already highly competitive market. It therefore seems odd to launch a paper that leaves people with little (if any) idea of what its supposed to be.

The first edition hit the streets this morning and to say it looks poorly put together is a slight understatement, I can only assume it was put together by someone’s child on work experience.

See here for some more photos but it really doesn’t look good, to say it looks like a small local paper would be doing a massive disservice to local papers. And spelling someone’s name wrong on the front page isn’t a great start either.

Another edition is due out next week and it will be interesting to see if there is any improvement. Many people have already questioned if the paper is actually a joke, but if not, and the next edition (if it makes it that far) doesn’t show any improvement, then I really can’t see such a poor paper lasting long in what is such an incredibly competitive market.


18 January, 2010

While it’s fairly well accepted now that joking about any sort of airport terrorism is a daft idea, it still seems a tad overkill to arrest someone for a Twitter comment, confiscate his laptop, iPhone and home computer. However that’s what happened to a Doncaster man who, frustrated with the airport’s closure in the snow, threatened to blow it up unless it was cleared in a week.

Any sort of airport related threat, particularly taking into account the last few months, isn’t the brightest thing in the world to write, but still, you’d imagine the police would have been able to work out pretty quickly that this was a poorly thought through joke. Maybe even pop round his house and explain just why it wasn’t the best idea. However questioning him for almost seven hours does seem a little over the top. Let alone taking into account that after he was released on bail, he was suspended from work pending an internal investigation and has been banned from Doncaster airport for life.

Obviously there needs to be some sort of common sense applied to the Terrorism Act and our right to freedom of speech. Surely for the Terrorism Act to work properly and for the police to be able to do their job they need the support of the public, and ridiculous over the top reactions such as this just ruin the credibility of both the police involved and the act itself.