Tonight I’m due to attend a leaving do for half a dozen of my former colleagues at Archant; some 200-years worth of local journalistc ‘brand’ and experience left to face an uncertain future.
Indeed, my old job disappears in the latest round of ‘efficiencies’ as the EDP and the Evening News share one football reporter between them. Neither of my old jobs in provincial journalism now exist. The first one – as the sports ‘editor’ (aka department) of the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald – went in 2008.
This morning I got an invite through the email post; to attend the latest Westminster Media Forum as Steve Auckland, Ceo of LocalWorld, leads a debate on the future of the UK’s local media; amongst those also contributing include Peter Davies, director of content policy at OfCom and Ed Hall, chief exec of Comux – those that have taken it upon themselves to manage the TV transmitter infrastructure behind the new generation of ‘Local’ TV stations about to take to the airwaves in the next 6-9 months.
This was an interesting line from news of the latest roll-out of said Local TV licences; that it was Comux suggesting which TV transmitter mast would be best suited to deliver new stations…
‘The areas comprise 28 proposed towns suggested by Comux, the multiplex operator, as well as further appeals for interest in Swansea and Plymouth which did not attract bids in the previous round…’
The fact that local media policy is still being dictated by ownership of a hill and TV transmitter mast that, conveniently, points in the right direction has long been something of a sore point around here; though I am biased… we are working towards 300 ‘TV’ transmitter masts stretching across the Diocese of Norwich, all riding on the back of the Bishop’s broadband backbone.
#21VC is, a bit like Comux, also in the infrastructure game. Only most UK towns have a church tower; the vast majority of UK towns don’t have a hill and TV transmitter mast to call their own.
What’s happening on the Wirral will be interesting; which way is the Winter Hill transmitter pointing? Presumeably Mr Comux can reveal all.
The person who I am most looking forward to hearing speak, however, is Claire Enders – to see whether she has budged from her ‘ubiquitous’ view of the world; one that dismantled – in a single word – Jeremy Hunt’s plans for Local TV; the birth of which we are about to witness.
And, for me, that’s the single, greatest challenge everyone in that room faces – the question that the Web demands ever more urgently that they answer: ‘Can you go everywhere?’
Because some can.
The UK media landscape lends itself to five ‘ubiquitous’ areas that the Web gets and delights in. Single entities that can offer a simple, networked solution. Scotland (STV), Northern Ireland (UTV), Wales (S4C), London and Local.
Local is both England outside the M25; and local beneath the umbrella of an STV.
London is a country unto itself; they don’t do local. They do London. And they spell media with a j.
Actually there is a sixth – the United Kingdom. We will come onto them in a bit.
So, if Ms Enders’ is right, and the answer needs to be ubiquitous… who is actually in any place or position to command the heights of the UK’s local media landscape into the 21st Century?
They are fascinating; because ubiquity demands the Competition Commission yields to their demands that the merger between Illiffe News & Media and Northcliffe sails through unopposed and unhindered; and doesn’t become a victim of the same, anti-competitive thinking that ran a nasty horse and cart through Global’s best-laid plans for GMG’s radio arm.
Even if it progresses, Local World’s ‘ubiquity’ stops anywhere east and north of Newmarket as Archant takes hold; they can do Swansea, but not Cardiff. Nottingham, but not Coventry.
<They are tied to their medieval print press fiefdoms just as surely as the latest round of Local TV stations are tied to their TV transmitter masts. They can't go everywhere.
Look at that guest list, those that are speaking on the future of the UK’s local media landscape and there is one, huge player absent from the party. Sky’s ‘local’ offering is almost the love that dares not speak its name in those provincial media circles. Few in London luvvie-land even know of its existence.
And yet it commands an audience of 500,000 monthly uniques – on the banks of the Tyne & Wear alone; it can splice and dice premium Premiership football content whichever way it wishes; and, above all, it has a ubiquitous broadcast platform in the shape of TheCloud that can broadcast their content out of every Little Chef, Costa Coffee and Wetherspoons pub in the land.
And if you know where your audience is – just as we do when anyone accesses our wifi AP in one Norfolk village – then you can unlock the whole mobile-local market; the $10.3bn pot of gold that sits at the end of a connection rainbow.
Watch my Newcastle footie goals highlights on my mobile, in a Wetherspoons… and get a local offer coupon for the curry house opposite. That we can do. That they can do.
I have absolutely no idea where you are when you buy a newspaper – and access local content that way.
Right now, I suspect Sky sit and brood. They have built a beast of a local content platform – with all the ubiquitous broadcast ability that anyone could ever want.
Switch on a local ad model – to mobile, to tablet, to the palm of your hand because they know where you’re sat – and they will rip Local World, Archant, Trinity et al a new one in the field of local ad sales; who is the bigger brand Steve? You? Or Sky?
Who has access to the kind of video-led sports content that the boys churning out the back pages of the Bristol Evening Post can only dream of?
And what if their out-bound, tele-sales centres were re-purposed? Not for subscription sales, but for local ad sales?
‘Hi… is that the Bristol Hippodrome? Its Sky/Bristol here…’
And they are playing on Web, on mobile… where the traditional rules of the OfCom TV game don’t apply.
Sky make one move out of the North-East, launch Sky/Leeds and throw half-a-dozen more ‘Mo-Jos’ into the field and the whole local media landscape in the UK – wherever there is a Little Chef or a Costa Coffee – shifts in seismic fashion.
Straight into the laps of the Murdochs with their ubiquitous answer to the UK’s local – and mobile – media needs.
For anyone who has a ubiquitous local advertising platform that is, likewise, about to go to mobile, the rise of Sky in this local space is of keen interest; who knows what conversations have already been had?
But you ignore them at your peril; find them no room at your Westminster table and you’re kidding no-one but yourselves…
As one or two of you may have noticed, we made the news yesterday…. here.
Its been a little while in the making; there are 201 things going on in everyone’s lives that doesn’t always lend itself to perfect timing. And, even now, there are a few loose wires; wet paint on the walls. A snagging list, in short.
Ben provided an excellent news summary of the launch here.
But there are aspects to the whole #21VC project that probably need a little more by way of explanation; in particular why I am ever more convinced that connection and content have to walk hand-in-hand. It’s something we’ve touched on before – most recently here.
At that stage, we hadn’t fully integrated the Voovio thinking and tech into the platform. Now we have; albeit again there is so much more we would hope to achieve going forward.
But with that level of connection, we can now offer new and far more engaging tools of advertising content with which we can start to look to build new and sustainable models for hyperlocal journalism.
Because if I am visitor to that community, why wouldn’t I want to take a virtual tour before I actually started to spend my tourist bucks? ‘Which pub to choose… which curry house looks nice… And you know what, this looks a nice village; lets ‘walk through’ the TaylorWimpey show home whilst we’re staying here…
These are the conversations and the digital engagements we can now prompt and provoke off a connected platform; and as a local SME, why wouldn’t I want to be part of that same conversation?
Let people have a ‘look-see’ before they got off their boat moored at Loddon Staithe; or left the confines of the village’s central car park on Church Plain…
We’ve sold banner ads on MyFootballWriter/NorwichCity for seven years now; it remains a hard, hard sell. It is a tired and familiar format. And for as long as the local newspapers give it away as little more than a bolt-on to your Page 10 quarter-page ad in the print edition of their wares, it is such a hard task convincing local SMEs of the value of that proposition.
Offering a next generation walk-through ad of the ilk that Voovio serve – and their next target city, conveniently, is Tokyo – however can raise the bar for all concerned.
But there is another opportunity that is hoving into view here; one that was centre stage at a webinar run by the StreetFightMag people in the US last night.
And it comes back to local coupons/offers/vouchers… the stuff that we’re working on here. And, ideally, will have in place before the summer is out.
Because ‘the deal’ that sits behind #21VC is pretty straight-forward.
We’re giving you free wifi access in return for you giving us your location.
I know where you are to the nearest 150-metres now – because you’ve just logged in to that AP point. The same AP point that sits 100-metres away from Co-Op (Loddon). Who can now ping out perishable goods offers to anyone within ‘range’ at 7pm of an evening.
Or we could encourage the Dilraj curry house to ping out an offer of 15% off if they have a late cancellation on a table; Loddon Mill Arts could do a discount rate for one of their comedy nights… Likewise the White Horse.
The pic at the top is the new numbers coming out of that webinar last night that run in conjunction with the Location Based Marketing Association and YP; fresh numbers that might start to justify our faith in this whole local-mobile-coupon/offer space – once you have both the connection and the content to deliver a locatable audience. To be able to pin them down to within 150-metres of where that offer needs to be made.
And I can’t do that when I engage with a local newspaper. I have no idea where my audience is; in the case of the Eastern Daily Press as the number of slip pages and editions shrink and shrink, I could be reading that content platform anywhere from Kings Lynn to Kessingland; and of no interest whatsover to Co-Op (Cromer).
But look and digest those numbers; and I keep hearing that there is no money in local… Really?
The space is exploding. At a huge rate of knots. And the question remains as to who is best placed to take full advantage… Because, to my mind, the local newspaper groups are trailing badly; their ‘connection’ comes off a print press – all too often one located 120 miles away; Sheffield printing Sunderland’s newspapers; Oldham printing Liverpool’s.
You are literally miles away from where the connection needs to be had – and that’s into the palm of my hand off a connection point no more than 150-metres away.
That’s where the action is; that’s where the future lies.
As many of you might be aware, I have long been a fan of Sky – in their ‘local’ guise.
Or as ‘local’ as anyone of their ilk can get; so that’s local as in Sky/Tyne&Wear.
To this day, you can wander round the streets of London’s Meeja-ville, and people will look at you quizically and say: ‘Sky, what? Never heard of it…’ which always just reinforces my impression that when it comes to London and ‘Local’, you might as well be talking a different language.
You are certainly trying to converse in a different country; one for whom the most northerly river valley is the Lea.
But that is to wholly miss the significance of Sky’s foray into the field of local – an act of connection and content genius that could yet rip both the local newspaper groups and the OfCom/DCMS ‘vision’ for Local TV in this country apart, if Master Murdoch and Co reached for the ‘Go!’ button and rolled their tank south down the A1.
Let’s pluck a ‘circulation’ figure for that platform out of a hat and say 500,000 punters a month access it; a million eyeballs; supplanted as it is by spliced up premium Newcastle United and Sunderland football content which none of the competing local newspapers can touch.
Delivered to your mobile; whilst having a pint; off the nearest Cloud Access Point (AP). As in the Sky-owned Cloud.
That’s their ‘broadcast’ model; that’s where connection meets content in stunning fashion – right in the palm of my hand; be I either in the nearest Wetherspoons pub or Costa Coffee shop.
Which is also why BT appear to be so hot on their trail belatedly – trying to flog their choking copper broadband network off footie content.
It prompted an instant and wholly telling ‘tweet’ from @alanrsharman, when I tweeted out The Guardian piece over the weekend.
‘@Addiply Most of my rural friends have such slow speeds they’d never be able to watch BT’s live footie…
They and millions of others; vast swathes of the UK that handily fall within the ‘last 10-20%’ and are unlikely to see a fibre wire to their nearest cabinet until, say, 2017. It remains a moot point to me how many of the blessed 80-90% will ever see a fibre to their door…
And if everyone is pulling connection off the same fibre to the same cabinet and thence via the same old copper wires to watch the same match, what will the consumer experience then be?
And can they deliver such content to me moby, in me local? OpenZone, but at a price.
That, I suspect, is one of the reasons Sky appear to be in a ‘Whatever…’ frame of mind when faced with BT ‘channel shift’ from copper connection provider to Premier League rights holder and TV broadcaster.
Because the other point about owning the infrastructure – of the single Access Point (AP) variety – that puts premium footie content into the palm of your hand whilst supping a pint in the snug bar of the Dog & Duck is that I know where you are…
You have given me your location – by signing into that AP – in return for my football content. That’s the unwritten deal here. In return for my usefulness in terms of connection and content, make yourself useful to me and my commercial model and give me your location.
Because if I know where you are to the nearest 50-metres, I can now serve you advertising that is tailored wholly to you in your present location. Sat in the snug of the Dog & Duck, I can ping you an offer, a coupon or a voucher for The Dilraj curry house 50-yards across the way. I could even time it for the end of the game.
Particularly if the uptake of The Cloud’s wifi services becomes ever more ubiquitous.
And then, of course, we could do advertising for good… the world of mobile-local opens up before you if you know you have a captive audience gathered around one, specific AP and not sat screaming at the lap-top and an age-old, ever-buffering copper wire.
All of which is fascinating to behold as connection providers wade into the content space with little or no regard for anyone left still staining trees and employing kids on bikes for a distribution platform.
But it still doesn’t answer the immediate conundrum of what Sky may or may not do with the 500,000-strong model of mobile-local news delivery they have assiduously built on the banks of the Tyne and the Wear.
For now – still – they haven’t switched on the ‘local’ ads model; started a turf war with the local newspapers for the ad spend of the Theatre Royal, Newcastle – a war that the newspapers would lose given the strength and traction of the Sky brand, let alone the audience that gathers around it in that one locale.
And for now – still – they haven’t rolled out of the North-East with a ubiquitous, network model that – albeit in the vain of an ITV ‘regional’ news model – could see a Sky/Leeds, a Sky/Manchester or a Sky/Birmingham hit snug bars nationwide.
I suspect they are at a crossroads; and have a big, big decision to make as to which way to turn – their natural, predatory commercial instincts being, for now, tempered by the huge political bunfight that would erupt if Sky made the move to ‘own’ the UK local space.
But on the basis of ‘If you can’t beat them, join them…’ we’ve recently made a similar leap; only we’re going from content… into connection.
We now own an AP. In one, rural Norfolk village – somewhere, one suspects, deep in the heart of that last 10-20% who will be forever off BT’s radar as they focus on settling our Jake into his new studio.
Log onto our free public wifi and I know where you are… to the nearest 25-50 metres. And I know, therefore, that you are then likewise 25-50 metres away from the front door of Co-Op (Loddon). And perhaps you would like a perishable goods offer pinged straight to your moby.
Because I have one right here…
As is the wont on these occasions, I always feel slightly beholden to ‘take away’ something from the various conference spaces you end up in.
Way back when it was even one of your own… #1000flowers (Nov, 2010).
Since then there’s been, in no particular order, StreetFightMag (Oct, 2011), SxSWi (March, 2012) and Collab2012 in Berkeley, Ca (April, 2012).
All the time – hopefully – looking and learning. Seeking out the wisdom of the crowds and, maybe, finding smarter people thinking local than – thus far – ol London town has managed to produce.
This week and it was to Salford that a few eyes turned as the BBC College of Journalism hosted its ‘Connecting Communities’ Conference.
In my mind at least, I had already ‘penned’ a few thoughts; that whilst transparency is going to be one of the cornerstones of all we do, so too must be visibility.
It was a theme that Dave Harte took up in the sense of his recent work sifting through the data that the UK’s hyper-local ’scene’ is starting to deliver – above all, just where are they? A simple enough question to which he turned to his own map; in the best traditions of OpenlyLocal.
The issue of ‘visibility’ has two, significant strands to it – one being the benefit editorially if your work and your content is visible to both your intended audience and potential content partners and publishers; the other being the commercial benefits that can accrue – hopefully – from being seen by potential advertising partners. Ahhh, that’s interesting… you’re in that postcode…
That we can now do.
The College of Journalism itself swiftly produced its own ‘take away’; as one of its own gathered his thoughts on the day’s discussions – in particular, focussing on the thoughts of the man from Google.
I have to admit I was elsewhere when Ade did his turn; I can’t remember who I was talking to, but I do tend to turn my attention elsewhere when anyone from the ‘Big G’ starts to talk local.
Me and our Eric agree whole-heartedly on the fact that local will be one of the three cornerstones of web living in the future; thereafter, our paths tend to diverge dramatically.
So I didn’t listen to Ade’s presentation; but this being the BBC, I’ll just take it as read that Charles Miller’s ‘take away’ caught the full thrust of Ade’s thinking – or rather that of his paymasters.
That, in short, ‘Future media challenges are about finding compasses not maps…’
That in the ever-shifting sands that make up this new, web landscape of ours, we are still in full search mode… We have still found no certainties; no firm piece of bedrock upon which to build.
‘What is the difference between a map and a compass? he asked. His answer: people have too much faith in maps, which are, in the end, just someone else’s view of the world. Whereas a compass only gives you a rough direction and we don’t expect more of it than that.
‘The point? It’s the same with finding a successful model for local media in the future: getting the direction right is better than trying to find the perfect strategy with the false certainty of a map…’
For someone who has spent the last six years of his life wandering through this evolving digital landscape only to end up with a map, I would beg to differ.
I don’t see ‘false certainty’ in clicking on a specific pin in a specific post or zipcode to be then be presented with a specific advertising proposition for that space in front of that local community.
Click a pin for our old friends in Jesmond and I know what their asking of me as a potential advertiser… It’s here.
And I reach that destination via a map, not an algorithm. Or a compass; something that – likewise – points me in only roughly the right direction.
To my mind, there’s no ‘false certainty’ within the confines and constructs behind that map. It is simple. And certain.
The people who are still ’searching’ for the route into local are those that need the ‘compass’ of a keyword to guide them… and that would be you ‘top down’ AdLand; left to rely on the locals for the appropriate ‘keywords’ that unlock the message relevant to that particular postcode, zipcode, council ward or electoral district.
A search engine giant wants to keep us all searching. In the meantime, the ‘false certainty’ that comes with an algorithm will continue to work its magic and deliver up big bra ads as I read my footie stories…
“The hard part is coming up with the right metrics to see if you’re getting there…” Ade concluded.
In that, we wouldn’t disagree. Boy is it hard to turn a world upside down; to find the certainties that come with a map, having searched and – possibly – now found one or two answers.
As for the right metrics to see if you’re getting there, that’s not easy either. But late Friday night, Applegate Wood Floors found a map of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and became the first person to take out a $100 ad via Addiply on BucksHappening, thus far our lone US publisher trialling the new v3.
One tiny, tiny metric that – in the grander scheme of things may still come to mean absolutely diddly squat – but it came through the certainty that comes with a map; Applegate Wood Floors didn’t need a compass to guide them to that local advertising opportunity.
If I had a pound – or, indeed, a dollar – for every time I’ve written ‘Now, that’s interesting…’ on this blog over the last four years, I’d be on that beach and long gone.
But this is interesting.
Because it touches on conversations and thoughts that have been a-foot here for the last three or four months; it also *might* start to address one of the biggest challenges facing local media here, in Europe or in the US.
Where do we find the next generation of digital ad reps? Who in our local community can we trust enough to part with our local ad dollars in the hope of winning the hearts, minds and eyeballs of our local customers?
It is a subject that we have touched on before given that Addiply in its v3 version now comes with an affiliate sales programme in-built – the chance to open up a secondary market in localised ad sales via an automated commission model.
The door to which sits here: ‘Start Selling Now’…
The premise being very simple; from their 90% revenue return, publishers set aside a percentage of that figure to act as a commission incentive for third party sellers – be they the stay-at-home Mom, the local marketing agency, the college kids on a digital sales course or a fully-fledged national ad agency.
Publishers can now ‘out-source’ the sales function to people who know what they’re doing – whilst always retaining the right of veto on any advert thus delivered.
We lift the burden of ad sales off community publishers and re-arm and re-equip new armies of local ad sales folk to go out and build their own, new businesses servicing that secondary market.
Which then brings us to this: TechStars Patriot Boot Camp.
Its intentions are bang on the money: ‘This initiative can put these service members back into battle – a new battle – one that can harvest their incredible drive, hard work and determination much more than a normal job or unemployment can…’
Go back to the challenge facing us all – be it GroupOn, Digital First, TrinityMirror, JP, AdSense, LivingSocial, Addiply or any of the raft of ‘deals’ people now swamping local merchants on both sides of the Atlantic.
The key to unlocking the merchant’s marketing purse is to have the most trustworthy and respected ad/offers rep in town.
Nothing has changed in that regard; just because their ad spend is switching from one medium and timeframe to another, the act of sales is still P2P – person-to-person.
That was the big ‘take away’ from my trip to StreetFightMag’s gig in New York last autumn; that …Face to Face Sales Is The Key To Unlock That $150 Billion Door’.
That people have to be authentic; they have to be respected; they have to be trusted… Particularly in the Wild West that remains online, local marketing. Just who can I trust with my ad spend?
Having watched our Kevin pound the streets of Norwich raising c£102,000-worth of locally-sourced digital display advertising over the last five seasons for MFW/Norwich you begin to twig what makes for a great ad rep; what skill sets and personality traits are required to prise that ad money out of your butcher, your baker and your local candlestick maker.
And they include presentation skills – looking the part; they include punctuality – turning up on time; suited and booted – ‘in uniform’, in many a sense. And have presence; being confident and assured in your bearing. And be one of them… be authentic.
All of which has pointed me to one, richly deserving group of people who are wholly tailor-made to be a new, model army of local digital ad reps as we seek to collaborate ever more with the instinctive forces of the web and turn this world of ours upside down.
They are the Veterans. Suited, booted, respected and authentic, that’s your recruitment ground as the old ad reps stay all-too wedded to their print ad sales commission and the college kids – for now – lack the same presence of the returning neighbourhood/neighborhood hero.
For HM Gov’t or, indeed, the Federal Gov’t in the US, re-arming these people with a simple, transparent tool set that can then start to address one of the greater challenges of our digital times – namely the survival of local media – then it would appear to be a win, win.
After all, how many local merchants are ever going to say ‘No!’ to the guy just back from Afghanistan? To the lad with two tours to Iraq pinned on his chest?
They’re not. Because he or she is one of them; they’re authentic; they’re local. They’ve done their bit; now it is time for the local merchants to do their’s…
All of what follows is based on one, simple premise. That the executive chairman of Google Inc, Eric Schmidt, knows what he’s talking about.
And if you don’t buy that – if you think-stroke-know that Eric Schmidt is wrong and you know better, walk away now. There’s nothing for you to see here.
And in that category, I would throw everyone from Northcliffe Newspapers, OfCom, DCMS, Guardian Media Group and, of course, BT. And if I was in a mood to be particularly picky, Martha Lane Fox and the whole Race Online crew, too.
Line implies a wire. As in copper. As beloved by BT.
OK, I’m not wholly unversed in what follows; Addiply sat on GuardianLocal; likewise, once upon a time I sat for two hours in Northcliffe House listening to Roland Bryan’s vision for ‘Local People’ and we have, of late, just rolled out of the 2,700-odd AboutMyArea sites, now run by James Rudd. Our collaborative and open approach now delivers an advertising opportunity in every postcode district in the UK.
But let’s start here: with the news that Northcliffe were restructuring their whole ‘LocalPeople’ platform; leaving 75 of their ‘local’ publishers to their own fates and stream-lining their efforts around just 25 operatives; more tellingly still, they were pulling out of their non-footprint areas.
Abandoning their attempts to park a little tank on Archant’s lawn say, here. The more ad-savvy amongst you will note that if I am a local business in Sheringham, Holt, Cromer, etc… I can’t actually advertise on that site. Unless I go via California and back. Or give someone a ring. I presume that Sue Sweeney and Ian Arnold will be two of those ‘Local People’ for whom the future in now rather uncertain.
But in terms of worlds being closed and silo’d or open and networked, I’d have to say LocalPeople was stuck in the former camp. Commercially, that site is closed for business – unless you went via either Google or the centralised ad platforms in London town.
And *exactly* the same proposition presented itself to the local SMEs in Leeds, Edinburgh and Cardiff that wished to place a relevant display ad in front of 50,000 Guardianistas – commercially, it wasn’t an open platform. You had to deal with a centralised, complex, top-down ‘troika’ that involved Eric and Co, Guardian AdNetworks and, say, Operative.One.
Why is the future of local, display advertising so key in these debates?
Ask Eric. Or rather watch him speak to the IAB Leaders Conference last year; let him outline why there’s a $200 billion marketplace awaiting those that can marry mobile to display. Simply.
First, where are the eyeballs going? Where does Google see ‘connection’ happening? Via a PC and a copper wire (Martha/BT)? Or from on high? From a mobile connection?
“We look at the charts internally and it’s happening faster than all of our predictions. So everything we talked about in our opening and what you hear here says: ‘Do mobile!’”
Do mobile. Martha. Do Mobile.
“So when I look at it from an advertising perspective, I see the union of the mobile device and advertising. And I see, in particular, display advertising as the thing that is really going to revolutionise this.
“How big could this market be? When I modelled it – using some of the assumptions that I am talking about – I’ve concluded that the overall advertising display business can be a $200 billion business globally. That gives you a sense of the scale of the market that we’re all walking into.”
Or out of. If you still think your future is within a silo.
But that marketplace can only be unlocked via simplicity. And not having to give someone a ring…
“It’s still too complicated to get a campaign up (4.28). It’s just too hard. When you actually sit down and sit down with customers, they say: ‘Show me how you do this!’”
Three images; three maps; three local networks relevant to the people of Norfolk.
Number one, LocalPeople… before they retreat into their Bristol bunker.
Number two, when Addiply meets AboutMyArea across Norfolk. With added LoddonEye, MFW, etc…
And number three, WiSpire. When the Diocese of Norwich starts to deliver, higher-speed rural broadband across its network of church spires.
“Churches have historically been at the heart of their local communities and in many rural areas, where the church is the only community resource left.
“WiSpire will enable the church to re-establish itself as a community hub and WiFi hotspot available for everyone to use within its vicinity providing information about the church and the local community to tourists and other visitors…”…says the Diocesan website. The Bishop sits on the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications. Next week they will be hearing from Sean Williams, Group Strategy Director for… BT.
The man from the canal industry being quizzed by the Bishop, who is busily building a railway.
One that plans ‘hubs’ at the centre of every local community – offering a potential mobile connection, with both social and commercial opportunities, for the SMEs that gather around that local church spire.
Eric has one other message to us all; one that he elaborated on in a keynote at DreamForce last summer. Again, worth watching. That the next ’something’ in this space will not only be mobile, but will be local. And social.
“What I do know is that the next generation of these leaders will be something involving mobile, local and social which are the terms we use today for the way that people live and work,” he said.
Nor was he looking to a box in the corner with the line attached – copper or otherwise – being a major player in this space.
“If you go back to the history of PC platforms… they were essentially invented in the mid-70s, so you have something that is essentially 35-40 years old. And we have exhausted what can be done with that kind of platform – there’s a new kind of platform and the top programmers are building mobile applications first. Because it has location…”
It has locality.
It’s local. And you abandon that at your peril.
As the more observant Twitter followers will have noted, today I have been helping out Francois Nel and contributing to his commendable #uclanMADE initiative in Preston this weekend.
The aim, I understand, being to arm those present with a greater, practical understanding of the range of digital tools currently doing the rounds for those that wish to go build…
Brilliant. #jfdi to all concerned.
But there was a lovely moment for those who opted to follow that #uclanMADE hashtag today; and it came via a priceless tweet from Chris McCormack as he looked out of the window at the Preston sky-line.
#uclanMADE where is the money in hyperlocal? Divine inspiration needed? Luckily it’s close by ow.ly/i/Hxne wrote the man from Postcode Gazette.
What if Chris is – potentially – spot on? What if the answer might, indeed, come down from on high? From atop that Preston church spire?
I had a chat on Friday at AfricanGathering will Will Perrin; a man well-known in these parts; I’ve always kinda figured that Addiply and TalkAboutLocal are a bit like a mixed doubles pairing in tennis – Will’s at the net smashing home the ’social action’ message; we’re back on the baseline… batting back the commercial side.
But we’ve long inhabited the same court when it comes to the transformative power of digital and local.
Anyway, the subject of the Bishop of Norwich came up; through whose Diocese the www.WiSpire.co.uk project is starting to roll.
This is the Bishop… the Rt Revd Graham James. The Church’s Parliamentary spokesperson on matters of ‘Media & Communications’.
He sits on the House Of Lords Communications Commitee; the same one that was listening to evidence from Rory Stewart MP just last week on the progress of Cumbria’s pilot broadband project – the one that run aground some 48 hours later as Cumbria CC rejected the two, tender proposals by BT and Fujitsu.
The two have been told to go away and come back with a rather better-stroke-more-imaginative idea of how they are going to deliver broadband to the rural county of Cumbria; or at least one more fitting the 21st Century.
Fair play to the county council for standing their ground – or ‘holding them to the fire…’ as Stewart would tell the House of Lords committee last week as his frustrations with the whole procurement framework became evident. This latest development will, of course, knock the project back another four months by which time, Cumbria hopes, both BT and Fujitsu will have upped their game.
Back in his own, rural Diocese, of course, the Bishop is busily building his own railway; pushing on into local just as others opt to bail out.
What fascinates and intrigues in equal measure is the wording deployed to describe the WiSpire roll-out on the Diocesan site.
‘The joint venture called ‘WiSpire’ will use parish churches across the Diocese as the platform to deliver high speed reliable wireless broadband internet access to local communities (especially to areas where current speeds are very poor) supporting both business and residential customers as well as the potential for the delivery of services.
‘Churches have historically been at the heart of their local communities and in many rural areas, where the church is the only community resource left.
‘WiSpire will enable the church to re-establish itself as a community hub and WiFi hotspot available for everyone to use within its vicinity providing information about the church and the local community to tourists and other visitors…’
It offers the potential for the ‘delivery of services’… download your audio tour of the church and its surrounds, for example.
It returns the church – still the owner of some of the highest roof-space in both rural Norfolk and downtown Preston – to its former role as the central ‘hub’ of that community.
A ‘community hub’ that will bring wifi into the heart of that parish; a hub upon which all manner of services might hang; not least a commercial aspect if said wifi hub had a portal door-way attached.
One around which you could wire in all those parish magazine advertisers – now seeking a way to market their wares online, now that such a goodly proportion of them have a web presence to call home.
It is the Starbucks/Yahoo model mentioned of old; only Holy Trinity, Loddon, might get to play the part of the coffee shop.
And then you just repeat; hopping from one church spire to the next as the men from BT encourage us all to dig our own trenches and light up our communities from out of a ditch – and not from on high.
All of which makes for an intriguing proposition as Chris looks out of the window at UCLAN and seeks inspiration; divine intervention, if you will.
I hope he’s right; I really do. It is, after all, what #21VC is all about.
First things first – the thank you.
Clearly to NESTA and all their ‘DestinationLocal’ works, but equally to the people of Loddon who – in pretty short time – rallied to the #21VC cause; helped in no small part by the fact that Ben Olive has bust his proverbials over the last two years to keep LoddonEye at the heart of that community’s affairs.
In many, many ways, today’s funding announcement is his reward. I would read this; and the comments. There’s one very proud Dad to be found there; and rightly so. Ben deserves this as much as anyone.
As, in fairness, do the Diocese of Norwich, whose determination to restore Holy Trinity Church, Loddon, to the ‘hub’ of that community underpins our ability to deliver this project. Willi and the Parochial Church Council rallied to the cause; come the autumn they can not only download audio tours of the church, they can also slash their insurance premiums by having live CCTV cameras on the roof combating the threat of lead theft – to the delight of English Heritage as their Grade I listed buildings find a digital ally.
I’m not about to re-visit the role of the church and its far-sighted Bishop with his twin passions of rural issues and media; nor return to the inspiration that was Starbucks’ US tie-up with Yahoo… supporting free wifi in their coffee shops via channels of ad-supported content wired around that wifi ‘doorway’.
We did that in the summer of 2010.
The point of this piece – now we have funding in hand – is to ponder what it might mean for the wider, UK media landscape. Where right now nothing works, but everything might…
Unless, of course, you’re Lynne Anderson. In whose world, everything’s fine. A world in which King Canute is still king.
For the rest of us of lesser thinkers getting local media to work in a sustainable and networked fashion is one of the greatest challenges of our age; everyone continues to wrestle with it.
Is the future even local? Or is it actually America? And is it simply a case of being open – can we start to understand this space by floating a cheese barge down the Grand Union Canal and offering the world courses on how to be funny?
For me, I think we have to start from the very scratch; find the lowest form of editorial *and* advertising life and work from the bottom up. From, in effect, a blank piece of paper.
Set ourselves a bar. To find £100 a week so that someone that is both authentic to and trusted by their community can report on the matters that really matter to that one local community.
Many of which are likely to be found at the monthly parish council meeting.
How do we address that democracy deficit in a sustainable way?
By re-establashing a part-time village correspondent at the heart of that community’s life. Whose bread and butter is the village pars; the fetes and the funerals, the awards and the charity walks.
They are, in a very real sense, the molecular building blocks of new, journalistic life. There are, roughly, about 3,000 people in the combined villages of Loddon and Chedgrave. Look again at LoddonEye and Ben has 323 FB likes. Its the kind of penetration statistic that the Newspaper Society would delight in. If it involved a tree and a paper boy.
But the other point to #21VC is the opportunity to marry the lowest form of advertising life to his editorial content.
A text ad for Loddon Jub Club’s website is unlikely to vie with Three Pigs in terms of sketching out the future of the UK’s media landscape; nor is it about to be on the red carpet at Cannes mingling with the finest digital marketing minds of WPP, MicrosoftAdvertising and Google.
But then that ad is not about to go to California and back to get on Ben’s site. It doesn’t need a fancy algorithm to get there.
And at say a tenner a month… to the audience that really makes a difference to them… that’s some 10% of Ben’s weekly ‘wage’ covered.
That’s eight hours labour a week, parish council meeting included; that’s all – for now – we have any right to expect or ask.
The parish magazine for Loddon has 82 adverts for local SMEs within its pages when I last looked. Of those 50-odd came with a website attached. Even the butcher has a FaceBook page.
Ben edits the parish magazine.
Loddon also has three other businesses. A small, village super-market, a bank and a chemist.
Otherwise known as Co-Op (Local), Boots The Local Pharmacy and, er, Barclays Bank plc, which is known by a lot of different names.
But they can now get that if they drop national brand into such a local space, then they can drop that brand into at least 2,800 other local spaces… All we do is put LoddonEye on the map.
That and find their national and/or regional marketing agency and give them the sell about the value to be had in backing such local, community initiatives.
How much will we charge Barclays Bank plc for a banner ad on #21VC Loddon branch…
A small fortune. Because, you know what? They can start to pay to keep both democracy and decent community values alive in the rural village of Loddon.
For those that haven’t read it, may I commend the GQ piece on The Guardian to the house.
It is a worthy read and presents the same, anxious undercurrents that Peter Wilby’s recent piece in the New Statesman did; the doubters, in short, are afoot.
People, like me, whose natural habitat is such an institution and yet who fear for its future; who wonder out loud whether the path The Guardian are on really is the one to digital redemption; whether that away lies real danger.
In particular whether the decision to send Mr and Mrs Busfield across the Pond to go do America (again) was money and resource well spent. The rationale is, it appears, that once The Guardian (US) hits a critical mass of visitors and views, that’s when the big brands will sit up, take notice and flood their ads through the system.
It’s a top down numbers game, in short. ‘Juan Señor, a partner at Innovation Media Consulting, is critical. “It’s the same old strategy of going for volume when they should be going for value. They’re obsessed with volume…
Volume. And in top down they trust…
But there was one passage in the piece that needs even greater dissecting; because as loathe as any of us are to cast aspersions on the Solomon that sits astride his Kings Place temple, for Alan Rusbridger to define The Guardian’s journey of late – from Local (09-10), to America (10-11) to Open (11-12) – as that of a classic start-up is, frankly, bollo*ks.
Here we go… This:
‘Can the Guardian afford to keep pushing in new directions like this? “It’s a cliché of modern start-ups,” says Rusbridger. “You launch early, you launch often, if the product’s not quite right, you change it.” This is an odd turn of phrase to use about a paper that is a decade away from celebrating its bicentennial, but Rusbridger has decided that if it is to survive, it must act like a start-up. It must stretch its ageing legs to keep up with the upstart kids…
Let’s drop a brief bit of background in here.
In January, 2010, at a high point in The Guardian’s interest in ‘local’, I was invited to speak on a panel on ‘the future of local news in the UK’.
At The Guardian’s own Oxford Media Convention.
On that panel was Stuart Purvis (then OfCom), Helen Boaden (BBC), Sly Bailey (then Trinity Mirror), Rusbridger and… Me.
Somewhere in amongst that time, we managed to drop Addiply – in text ad only version – onto the three pilot sites that were GuardianLocal. In Leeds, Edinburgh and Cardiff.
In no particular order, but three of the more prominent architects of that local push were Emily Bell (now Columbia), Simon Waldman (now LoveFilm) and Mike Bracken (now OpenGov). Or put another way, none of whom are now – two years later – to be found in the ballroom of the SS Guardian.
Me? Two years on and whilst we have come through a seed fund round with NorthStarVentures last May, we are still very much in start-up mode; still sat here trying to make hyperlocal gold out of all the green that thus far this space has delivered.
It was interesting to note this week that even The New York Times couldn’t get hyper-local – as in The Local – to work; albeit after three years of trying. But they didn’t cut and run after one.
For me, maybe, part of the answer will come from on high; that by teaming up with the Bishop of Norwich and his WiSpire broadband initiative here in Norfolk, we can build a parish portal that is sustained by the hyperlocal advertising goodness that lies within that community’s parish magazine.
It is what #21 VC and our NESTA gig is all about.
The point being that we’ve not moved from the same space we’ve been in for the last 5-6 years.
We’ve just learned – all too often, the hard way – what does and doesn’t work in this space. And we’ve tweaked and adjusted both our thinking and our platform accordingly.
We haven’t, however, decided that our future is now in a Soho loft; nor does it involve a cheese barge and the Grand Union Canal.
We’ve stayed in local. Cos like Eric Schmidt – and the Bells, the Waldmans and the Brackens of this world – we still firmly believe that our futures will be defined, in no small part, by our interaction with our locality.
So, to borrow from my now evening job and the world of football, we belong to the ’stickability’ school of thought; you stick at something you fundamentally believe in – as opposed to ‘pivoting’ across the Pond at the first hint of, what?
Boredom? Commercial indifference as they wedded themselves to the volume game and couldn’t/wouldn’t grasp the values – both financial and social in the sense of authenticity – that come from being both networked and local?
Whatever. You bugged out; changed tack; sought other climes. So much spilt milk.
But the other point here is that having actually visited Guardian Leeds’ office, it was no such thing. It was one reporter and his lap-top hot desking in a shared communal office.
It was the classic habitat of the lean start-up.
Which you then promptly swapped for a 30-person loft in Soho, Manhattan – a boho piece of European white-washed, glass corner office cool that was the total opposite of the model being pursued for local.
But – and herein lies the alarming but – it wasn’t as if you’d ever had the big, second or third funding round to go crack America in the manner of a Spotify; you were drawing from the same Scott family well that you always have been.
Only for rather more than it took to keep our John in a lap-top and shared office space in Leeds.
The message that ‘launching early, launching often and if the product doesn’t work, you change it..’ has relevance to our start-up story. We recognised that our product didn’t work in the sense that journalists, by and large, didn’t or couldn’t sell… So we changed it.
Now others can sell that ad space for you.
And relaunches – such as they are – aren’t taking us out of that local space; if anything they are entrenching us ever further in it; we’re digging ever further down in the search for the Higgs boson building block of sustainable local media life. In a parish magazine.
Pivoting your product into new market-places every 12 months is, indeed, classic start-up behaviour – but only of those start-ups that, basically, don’t know what they’re doing. Or who or what they are trying to be.
And that’s not a good place to find yourself.
It is with a weary heart that we re-visit this. Not with any great enthusiasm and certainly no malice. Whatever Ms Gibson may think.
The Manchester Guardian had a central place in my childhood; it is still my natural bedfellow, politically.
But this week’s announcement that operating losses at The Guardian and Observer newspapers had slumped to £44.2 million last year before ‘exceptional items and amortisation’ compared to the £31.1m loss the year before begs some questions.
Ever more urgent questions as up to 100 editorial staff out of an editorial workforce of 650 will be invited to apply for a re-opened voluntary redundancy programme. Executives insist that this is the ‘high water mark’ for losses.
‘Executives said 2011/12 is intended to represent a high water mark for losses at the beginning of a five-year transformation plan that aims to bring the newspapers’ losses down to a sustainable level…
Scroll down to beneath the story and the ‘Related Information’ panel and the history of the paper’s travails in this space is revealed:
11 Jun 2009: Guardian News & Media to cut 80 commercial roles, with 32 redundancies
15 Jun 2009: Guardian Media Group set to report operating loss
31 Jul 2009: Guardian Media Group posts pre-tax loss of nearly £90m
10 Jun 2010: Guardian Media Group’s pre-tax losses rise to £171m.
It is quite a stark time-line – however much anyone frames it in the context of this being The Scott Trust; of this not being about the money. At some point soon, it will have to be.
For those who held those 80 commercial roles and now up to a further 100 on the editorial floor, it is very much going to be about the money. As in where it is coming from once their regular employ disappears.
The two men at the helm admit that both papers will be “smaller” – a welcome departure from the usual phraseology of ‘leaner’.
But smaller where, exactly?
For this is one of the questions that begs an answer. For given that Ms Gibson could be found calling for ever greater resource to be thrown at GuardianAmerica at the paper’s Open Weekend, is the Soho loft operation to be spared?
She wants more bodies, not less. America is a big place after all. Far bigger than Leeds.
But it goes straight to the heart of The Guardian’s troubles – who and what is it for? For people like me; children of a Manchester Guardian generation? Or for them across the Pond; where the volumes are.
And, of course, where Google rules.
What fascinates about the ‘Related Information’ panel is that loss of 80 commercial roles; 80 people; people who put a human face to The Guardian’s commercial operations.
Now, ads are delivered via a machine – or certainly the online variety, upon which The Guardian’s drive to stem its losses to a sustainable level must, in large part, rest. Either that or become the poor news relation to a popular dating site.
Its that relationship with the Big G that continues to intrigue. Just who is getting what, exactly, out of that relationship?
Guardian videos are, of course, now part of the Google ‘TV’ offering; part of the digital development spend was hoovered up launching an app with said intention…
‘If you don’t have Google TV, be warned: we’ll be making our way to an internet-connected television set near you soon…
Given this presumes a level of ubiquitous and reliable broadband service across the UK – or else, in the meantime, the kids aren’t upstairs on FaceBook whilst Dad is trying to watch someone put up the Fairy Queen set at Glyndbourne I’m not wholly convinced that either Guardian ‘TV’ or Google ‘TV’ is about to prove such a smash hit.
And nor am I alone in that.
<Equally, I presume there are now likely to be up to one in seven less editorial folk able to feed the Google TV beast; can we feed video into Google TV and crack America?
There is another point to enslaving ourselves to Mountain View. And I know, I bang on… and on… and on about it.
And nor am I about to offer an alternative; we’re off to seek the Higgs boson of advertising life in the parish magazine of Loddon.
But reading that piece on The Guardian/Observer losses, I’m presented with three ads.
I’m 46; live with my 81-year-old Mum for as long as she still fights the good fight; and am ceo of an ad platform built on the back of not being able to get AdSense to work.
You tell me which of those ads are tailor-made to engage me?
Because your future depends on it.
This, I promise, is going to be short and sweet; much of our DestinationLocal thinking can now be found over here… on www.21vc.co.uk
But that, above, is the first ‘throw’ at building a portal play in which we might first house and then nurture a ’21st Century Village Correspondent’. Or rather my first throw; done off a PowerPoint deck. It has not anyone who knows what they are doing design-wise touch it.
All I really wanted to achieve was a sense of the functionality that we can bring to bear into that space; and maybe a brief to make the ‘channels of content’ Filofax in style.
But for me, personally, it is an interesting moment; one of those ‘Put up, or shut up!’ opportunities.
I’ve long muttered about the whole ‘Starbucks Model’; whether we couldn’t replicate what one coffee shop does for one, rural community.
This was written in the summer of 2010; two, long years ago now.
It needed a huge amount of planetry alignment for Jupiter to meet Mars to meet Uranus over one, small village in Norfolk, but between the four of us – me, NESTA, the Bishop and Ben – we can now see what may or may not work if we follow Eric Schmidt’s dictum to build stuff that is ‘mobile, social and local’.
It is still, clearly, very much a work in progress.
But the basic elements are there, I hope. The ability to manage both top down national ads and bottom up local ads… the ability to run a pure, no-nonsense classifieds play out of the Addiply API… and now to over-lay a local text ad across a local piece of video.
That’s interesting – are we, by default, building Parish ‘TV’; but deploying the church tower as our TV mast?
And, of course, here comes the Diocese of Norwich, getting on with building a rural broadband network as BT, BDUK and Norfolk County Council – in common with nigh-on every other rural county in the UK – twiddle their thumbs and wait for state aid rulings, demand surveys, etc, etc.
And all the time leaving my son’s ability to engage with this digital world of ours hanging by the slenderest of copper threads.
‘Learn’ will be where the schools can come out to play; show us what you’ve done in Media Studies this week; drop your moby interview with the Vicar into that space – per-lease, don’t stick a newspaper page lay-out onto the classroom wall…
And so, hopefully, it will go on; trying to find that hyper-local and rural connection gold in, thus far, an unrelenting sea of 20th Century green.
Be fun, I hope.
For obvious reasons, I traditionally shy away from revealing any timetables to our development work.
Principally, because its never me doing it. And I know, therefore, diddly squat as to how long X, Y or Z might actually take. I’m just the monkey in that and many other regards, not the organ grinder.
So I think the safest thing for me to do is to suggest that what follows is scheduled for ‘this autumn…’That can then cover a multitude of development sins. And me making a specific commitment that we can’t deliver on.
But on the back of a meeting in the City yesterday with a translation team and various bits and bobs of development work successfully concluded over the last couple of weeks – particularly now that we have a bright, new, shiny API to work off and rip linguistic strings from – there is a real prospect of Addiply being available in Welsh this autumn.
We’re not far away, in short.
Addiply’s history with the good people of Wales goes back a few years; not least to the whole IFNC process – the Independently Financed News Consortium that were the Labour ‘model’ for Local TV before a change in Government heralded a change in policy and the launch of Jeremy Hunt’s own vision for ‘Local TV’.
One of the three winners of that process was WalesLive; and buried deep within that winning bid was a hyper-local ad platform called… Addiply.
Because we could build a network – one that spanned a nation. And, equally, because we don’t have a huge, great algorithm churning away at the back of our platform, we can – *relatively* simply – re-face Addiply into any language of our choosing.
And Welsh always made sense; particularly given that emergent nation’s commitment to furthering its own language.
As it happens, wiring Addiply into the AboutMyArea content platform earlier this summer has already demo’d how we can deliver a localised advertising opportunity, if not yet an audience, into the four corners of that kingdom… Along with every postcode district in the UK.
Particularly once you start to geo-locate and map said opportunities.
How this… translates to this…
And, therefore, would allow both Co-Op Local and the Welsh Assembly to place ‘messages’ into any postcode district of their choosing; in Welsh, to boot.
We were, of course, on Guardian Cardiff and, hopefully, continue to enjoy a rich and enjoyable relationship with Cardiff’s J-School, now of course, the home to a major, hyper-local research project via the ‘Connected Communities Programme’.
Maybe, just maybe, Addiply can help connect said communities. That if nothing works, then this just might… etc etc
And it will need said communtities to collaborate together to help make it work; alone, we are not the magic bullet. For example, can we teach a new generation of Welsh college kids how to sell – and not just how to write stories?
But what is clear is that there is a crisis afoot in terms of the sustainable provision of local news in Wales; even from a distance, you can sense the hand-wringing and the consternation as to whatever next…
It has already prompted one, major report delivered to The Welsh Assembly earlier this year.
Page 66 makes for an interesting read re ‘Co-operation and a Single Media Hub for Wales’… perhaps if you have an organising principle delivered, in part, by a simple and unified ad platform that now is yours to play with, we can start to rebuild the Welsh media landscape in a truly networked manner that wholly befits this new, digital age…
That would be my hope, anyway.
And for me, that’s what Addiply is always about; it is a simple and transparent tool for people to go build upon.
The fervent hope is that we will – in time – take that on to another level and make our API public; for people to build again on top of our existing work; programmable interfaces that allows all of us to ‘experiment, experiment, experiment…’ in the words of Mr Shirky.
If there was one paragraph therein that summed up the state of the Welsh Media Nation it is probably this:
‘For the next few decades, journalism will be made up of overlapping special cases. Many of these models will rely on amateurs as researchers and writers.
‘Many of these models will rely on sponsorship or grants or endowments instead of revenues. Many of these models will rely on excitable 14 year olds distributing the results.
‘Many of these models will fail. No one experiment is going to replace what we are now losing with the demise of news on paper, but over time, the collection of new experiments that do work might give us the journalism we need…’
Hopefully, a Welsh-language Addiply can be a part of that process; can be a small part of the kind of experiments that NESTA’s DestinationLocal programme is designed to foster; can be part of the new experiments that might give the people of Wales the kind of journalism they need… and, indeed, deserve.
A swift story – before we crack on.
As people may recall, Addiply was part of the winning bid for WalesLive, the IFNC platform that never was for the good folk of Wales. It is why we have always hankered for a return; one that, hopefully, moves ever closer as we start to play with the language strings within our new-look API.
Up in the North-East, David Peto and his team at Aframe were, likewise, part of the winning bid for the North-East. The one that included TrinityMirror, Ten Alps and the Press Association.
Aframe do very clever things with video in the cloud. And by simply being part of that whole IFNC process, clearly *get* where the future of local TV in this country may be going. If its not off a big, tall mast sat atop a hill above Mold.
So there we were, hyper-local networked-focussed ad platform set to roll through Wales – and a smart piece of video thinking ready to help underpin the future of local ‘TV’ in the North-East.
Two years later and the pair of us have finally got to meet. And together – in the spirit of collaboration that we all seek in these experimental days – we now sit on http://loddoneye.com, the home of our #21VC NESTA-funded project.
The usual range of caveats apply; it is just one, tiny, tiny toe in the water; both deal and kit set up for the specific purpose of seeing how we might start to monetise hyper-local news video going forward.
We have work to do to make such a service available to all Addiply’s publishing clients; it is – for now – a one-off pilot with Aframe as we play to Google to their YouTube. So, we shall see…
And a quick round of thanks; to David and his dev team at Aframe; to James and our Ian on the Addiply side; to Phil John on whose JournalLocal platform LoddonEye currently sits; to Ben, NESTA and Simon at the White Horse for being game for a first ad.
And, sure, the video is old; it’s a demo. The point, for me, being that we can now offer the White Horse, Chedgrave, the chance to advertise their wares to that ‘audience’ – many of whom might have started said parade from the pub’s own car park.
To get their ‘brand’ in front of that hyper-local audience, that text ad has not had to go via California and back to find its natural home in front of 3,000-strong community on the banks of the River Chet.
And if anyone else wants to take that opportunity, then Ben (Olive) – the publisher of LoddonEye – has the kit to do it:
Simple, transparent and straight-forward. I just want to over-lay my local text ad over a local piece of cloud-hosted video…
Aframe is not the only video show in town, but the ‘fit’ works well. Drop them a line if video is the next thing on your shopping list…
What’s interesting next #21VC-wise is the ability for Ben to potentially now manage a ’show reel’ of video content off his portal platform; have say five or six 90-second video clips of an interview with the parish council chairman, the local bobby, the retiring undertaker – whatever.
But in the midst of that ’show-reel’ why not find a national advertiser seeking space for a locally-focussed, 30-second promo ad? Co-Op Local advertising their commitment to Norfolk growers? Or Taylor-Wimpey Homes showcasing their new housing development on the old Express Plastics factory site?
What might that ad opportunity be worth? Perfectly focussed, perfectly relevant and perfectly-placed for an audience that is ever more likely to see video as part of their daily lives; particularly when delivered onto mobile.
Is the answer to ‘Local TV’ in this country really going to come off a TV mast? A mast that can do Norwich, but can’t do Ipswich. Can do Birkenhead – if everyone’s aerial is pointing in the right direction.
Addiply, hopefully, starts to empower people like Ben to monetise his media wares, just as it empowers people like Simon, the landlord of the White Horse, to ‘find’ his own local audience on platforms that are ever more relevant to how people will live their lives in the 21st Century.
And it won’t be around the Beccles & Bungay Journal; nor ITV Anglia; nor BBC Look East.
And Aframe is the same; its an empowerment device for Ben and his ilk to manage their video space in a smart, simple and efficient manner. It even enables Ben to ‘export’ his video offerings at the touch of a button… and syndicate upwards his ‘exclusive’ footage of that nasty, fatal RTA on the A146 last Tuesday afternoon…
That, for now, my well be in the future.
But as the 20-odd contenders for Jeremy’s Local TV crown jostle for his attention this autumn and start to pin their commercial hopes to being 240ft up the nearest TV mast, so we’ll go with Addiply, Aframe, a part-time, 21st Century village correspondent and the church tower.
Every once in a while you stumble across – or are handed – a piece of thinking that you feel obliged to commend to this house.
It can be something so spot on that you need blather on no longer – see, say, D Limerick and B Cunnington and their thesis on ‘Collaborative Individualism and The End of the Corporate Citizen’.
Or, equally it can be something so up its own, London meeja a*se that it deserves to be thrown to to the wolves of local. Cue The Journalism Foundation and ‘How To Build A Local Site’. A work of lingering genius.
This, from Brunswick Plc, is one from the former camp.
The intro is decent… ‘It is said that there are only seven plots in drama. We think there are 11 big conversations about the challenges facing the world today – and that corporates need to join these conversations…’
And it is the 4th ‘conversation’ that is the must-read… the one on Communities. It is, say Brunswick, ‘where the heat is…’ – a message they then take into the boardrooms of some serious Plcs.
Which is my point; its not so much the subject of that fourth conversation that causes any great stir around here; rather it’s with whom those conversations are being had… Right now.
How many FTSE 250 CEOs are taking Brunswick’s ‘conversations’ to heart and re-positioning their strategic thinking accordingly? If ‘the heat’ is here; in communities; if the recognition that ‘online networks are dramatically reframing the idea of community, empowering people to join together wherever they live in the world on the basis of a shared interest…’
A shared interest, say, in the affairs of Loddon Parish Council? A community that would gather here…
In short, global is thinking local. As is Eric.
The corridors of corporate power that the likes of Brunswick work are, likewise, starting to wake up to the fact that ‘local communities have become a force to be reckoned with…
Cue the CEO of mining giant Anglo American.
‘Communities are better informed,’ says Cynthia Carroll. ‘They know how to make their views heard…’
Through a local community blog, for example.
‘Companies that think they can afford not to engage [with local communities] are deluding themselves.’
The challenge for the global ad networks and ‘top down’ ad agencies, of course, is how they ever get to do local… What if both their kit and their thinking isn’t fit for a Brunswick conversation? Doesn’t work for said local communities… What if they can’t turn their world upside down and re-tool themselves for a future that is one where global brand seeks to sustain local connection and acceptance?
All of which is a very long way of me announcing the fact that Addiply was fortunate enough this summer to be one of the winners of the Technology Strategy Board’s Convergence In A Digital Landscape funding call – launched in parallel to NESTA’s DestinationLocal programme.
Our proposition was very simple – to make Addiply’s API public. To let third parties go build; to further enhance and enpower those ‘conversations’ that we have already been having in local for the last five years.
To work, for example, with GitHub’s community of programmers and let them loose on our existing work; to correct it, if needs be. Hopefully, we’ve never been too precious about what we’ve built. We will forever be a work in progress; a simple tool with which others can go build.
A public API was the principal thrust of the funding call, but within that we will also seek to deliver linguistic enhancements – starting with a Welsh language version of the platform.
‘Empowering people to join together … with a ’shared interest…’ in the Welsh language.
We will, ideally, empower third parties to build programmable interfaces atop our data stack; to enable global brands to more easily reach local – in a manner that is more accountable, more transparent and more empowering for local communities as they seek their own solutions to the problems of their times… in, of course, the finest traditions of the last, great English Revolution.
When a world did, indeed, threaten to turn upside down.
Plus we will look to mobile; we will look to grids of classifieds; we will look to a network-wide notification system – to make the platform ever more social.
But above all else, we will stay open, stay collaborative and stay true to our local roots.
For as Brunswick keep telling people, that’s where the heat is…
Cindy Gallop strikes me as quite an interesting lady.
MakeLoveNotPorn is one string to her bow; advertising another. This is, clearly, one of the grande dames of the New York advertising scene; a transplanted Brit who became the US’ ‘Advertising Woman of the Year’ by 2004 courtesy of her success at BBH (New York).
Little wonder, flicking through the cv, that The Guardian would be interested in her views for their forthcoming Changing Advertising Summit 2012.
I imagine she must have bumped into my old mate Dents at some stage. Them both being in New York.
She ‘likes to blow things up’; she’s ‘the Michael Bay of business’. Seeking to be a transformer of an industry… Or a mind-set.
Last week she sketched out a few of her thoughts before said Summit. It made for a fascinating read – particularly for those of us who believe the world is, indeed, turning upside down and that the traditional, ‘top-down’ advertising networks aren’t fit for purpose.
Certainly not in local – a space that Eric Schmidt, for one, thinks that the world is head.
Me and mighty AdLand have had our run-ins before – I was banging on about it at CUNY in 2007. Of course, I have also had the odd run-in with The Guardian’s own web advertising strategy.
But, anyway, back to the inimitable Ms Gallop. With an ‘O’.
Her view - about to be delivered to The Guardian’s Changing Advertising Summit?
‘Too many people, including the ad industry, believe the future is something that happens and just rolls them over in it’s wake.
‘What’s around us currently is the death of the old top-down model of making things happen through hierarchies, organisations and institutions, and the growth of the bottom-up model – collaborative people power and collective action.’
Which is a good line. Rings a bell.
This one is good, too.
‘Client companies and advertising agencies are old world order places. The systems and processes and structures come from a time when you shot the TV commercial, then you did the print ads, then you did everything else – including the website. Everything has changed but the systems haven’t…’
It chimes with much of what another of New York’s finest has to say re complex business models – how, for example, a ‘top-down’ ad network ever allows a Leeds car dealership to place an ad themselves on a popular Leeds website is all-too complex.
The ‘old world order’ that Ms Gallop once bestrode is now caught with the wrong systems, in the wrong places, for the wrong market-place. And if they can’t see that they’re wrong, then collapse looms. Complexity is no longer the name of the game.
‘It’s tempting, at least for the people benefitting from the old complexity, to imagine that if things used to be complex, and they’re going to be complex, then everything can just stay complex in the meantime. That’s not how it works, however…’ writes Mr Shirky.
But two more points leap out of Ms Gallop’s thinking. One is the ‘collaborative’ aspect of this new world order.
Which is why, at the heart of Addiply, lies a collaborative sales tool; one that empowers publishers to out-source their ad sales to third party sales houses – and all on an automated commission basis.
It also lies at the heart of our thinking with regard to making our API Public; as an open network, we want to collaborate with as many smart folk as we can find. It’s why we would have collaborated more with Leeds Trinity; taught the kids to sell into popular, local web platforms; to then enable the local reporters to hold local authorities to account – freed from the necessity of pursuing local ad sales at the same time.
A kind of ‘collaborative people power and collective action’ type approach.
The other line that, for me, stands out is actually walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.
‘When I give talks like the one I’m going to give at the Changing Advertising Summit, one of the points I often make to the audience is that I’m not one of those speakers who stands in front of the audience and pontificates – everything I talk about I’m actually doing myself. I’m living it…
This week, with a fair wind, Addiply will hold true to its promise to the people of Wales and will launch in Welsh.
We will seek to collaborate across that nation as they seek an answer to the local media challenges of their time; as they look for a new world order that is free from the ’systems and processes and structures…’ of an old world order now in full retreat.
The one that could only deliver richer media advertising from the ‘top down’ into Guardian (Cardiff) and couldn’t-stroke-wouldn’t see that ‘everything has changed…’; that the old ‘hierarchies, organisations and institutions…’ are not fit for purpose; that the world has turned upside down.
It promises to be a fascinating talk delivered, presumeably, to some of the finest advertising minds within GMG.
Whether any of them will actually ever f*cking listen is, I suspect, a completely different matter. In ‘top down’ and Soho lofts they trust their fortunes lie; bottom up, collaborative ad platforms are really not their thing…
First things first. A thank you; those without whom this wouldn’t have been possible.
My co-founder and dev hero Ian Thurbon has always been the organ-grinder round here; I’m the mouthy monkey. James Rutherford from CreativeNucleus in the North-East has also been a God-send dev-wise.
And, of course, our funders – NorthStarVentures and the Technology Strategy Board – who have shown such faith in both the platform and our thinking. Plus Jurga Zilinskiene and her team of translators at TodayTranslations.
We, like Cindy Gallop, think the future of advertising is bottom up and collaborative. We also believe, like the indomitable Ms Gallop, in walking that walk, not just talking the talk.
So here we go.
Addiply in Welsh… as promised earlier this summer. The paint still wet on the walls. So watch where you walk…
It has been a long and, occasionally, rocky road to get here. We were part of UTV’s winning bid for WalesLive – the IFNC proposition with regard to the future of ‘Local TV’ that bit the dust with the change of Government; we were, likewise, part of the Guardian’s ‘Local’ proposition for Cardiff in 2010. Collaborative, bottom up, local… You get the drift.
But now we’re here.
Now – I hope – the media nation of Wales has one, small building block upon which they can *begin* to re-imagine the way that they can start and *sustain* local, community news across the Principality.
It can, in time, involve video; something that we are now looking to explore with the help of A-Frame and NESTA in that #21VC project out of Loddon, Norfolk. See http://loddoneye.com/video
Likewise out of that whole TSB/NESTA competition space this summer we can offer TSB-funded ‘enabling technology’ in the UK hyperlocal space to a Welsh-focussed NESTA-funded content play in the shape of, say, a Papur Dre.
But I think there is a bigger opportunity here – if people that once only saw the world from the ‘top down’ grab this chance to join those of us that have long been bottom dwellers.
Re-reading that piece from March, 2008, and this line seems fitting enough for today’s little milestone moment:
‘The trick is to devise an editorial and advertising platform that mirrors a Craig’s List or an eBay; that has this similar capacity to be both local in focus, but national in scope…
Four and half years later, I would change that. Given the news that Facebook has just crashed through the one billion user mark.
The trick is to build an editorial and advertising platform that mirrors a Facebook; that has the capacity to be local in focus, but national in scope – that can stretch from Holyhead to Chepstow, from Fishguard to Rhyl – but above all, empowers people to build a ’social network’ that encourages conversations and connections of a local sales nature.
People buy off people. Particularly in local. They want a face-to-face relationship with those seeking their tiny marketing spends. Somewhere down the TSB development line is an internal ‘notification’ system for Addiply; we already have a Forum space. Or rather a ‘Fforum’ space.
We have the ability for people to collaborate and converse re local advertising sales, as opposed to who was with whom at whose party on Saturday night. And all within their local language. It is an intriguing proposition; to wonder whether you could ever build a Facebook for local advertising.
In the meantime, however, delivering an open network opportunity to one nation, fascinates.
Because if I am the Welsh Office seeking to support and sustain local community news platforms, I can pin-point specific Government advertising campaigns into said community spaces and – in essence – deliver a local ’subsidy’ for those local publishers BUT with advertising that is wholly applicable and appropriate for their particular postcode and community.
The ‘messages’ that need to be delivered to the people of Ely, Cardiff, may be very different to those that need to put in front of those in Caernarfon.
Equally, there may be a Co-Op (Wales) in Ely, but not in Caernarfon. Tesco (Wales) might be looking to open a new store in Caernarfon. Those that hold the purse strings to Land Rover’s ad spend might find reason to punt their national brand into spaces and communities that are upland and local.
National brand can find local spaces – simply and transparently. Just as the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker can now place their local brand into their own, local spaces – without having to go to California and back to deliver a text ad in the ‘window’ of a Papur Dre. And all in their own language to boot.
Hopefully we can now collaborate with the Centre for Community Journalism at Cardiff, with Glynn, Emma and people to see if we can’t help the digital migration of 56 local, Welsh language newspapers that will come to seek a new home online.
And, hopefully, as our API becomes ever more open and ever more public, we can work with the Welsh developer community to see what future programmes and apps we can build together.
For the record – and if anyone is interested – we can now rip out one language ’string’ from the API and, roughly for the cost of a 2,500-word translation, re-install a new language configuration back into our API and ‘localise’ ourselves in terms of language.
Spanish and $ gives us a model for the US Hispanic market-place, for example.
For now, however, we’ll help the Welsh to help themselves. To build a new media landscape for themselves from the bottom up…
There are 201 reasons why I watch the travails of GMG with keen interest.
And, I guess, some 199 of those boil down to one simple fact. I was born and bred in a left-leaning, liberal-minded household; The Guardian newspaper – along with jazz, his pipe and his founder membership of the SDP – provided the corner-stones of the Old Man’s life. He is long gone; courtesy of said pipe, he never saw me graduate.
How long The Guardian newspaper clings to this mortal coil is now the pressing conversation; and if I were ceo Andrew Miller I wouldn’t expect the National Union of Journalists to be offering any easier answers.
“There have been less than 35 positive voluntary redundancy applications, much less than the numbers we know [GNM] is seeking. Our position is no different than before. We do not expect this to be resolved by compulsory redundancies,” was the word from the King’s Place Chapel.
How the NUJ actually ever sees the transition from print to web ever being resolved continues to be a moot point.
But then, in fairness, they’re not the ones charged with delivering the strategic vision expected of a Miller.
Who this week found himself laying out that survival vision to the Chartered Institute of Scottish Accountants. Or is it the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland? Either way, the ‘vision thing’ was duly reported here.
The ads that followed provide the top image. A familiar refrain, of course, but if part of The Guardian’s digital survival strategy rests on collaborating with a ‘top down’ ad provider of Google’s ilk, then they better start praying I either have a sudden urge to go either ballroom dancing or to visit Chile… Or that I have the spare cash to fund either.
Cindy Gallop heads into their own Changing Advertising Summit this month to tell them that the future of advertising is ‘bottom up’ and ‘collaborative’. It’s not about pinning your hopes on me and mine fancying a long weekend in South America.
The thrust of Miller’s thinking appears to toe the 2011-12 line that ‘Open’ will prove The Guardian’s salvation; in the meantime its fate can rest on its greater GMG stable-mates; used car mags and dating sites, for example.
I have no qualms with the concept of ‘Open’; like The Guardian – courtesy of the Technology Strategy Board - Addiply’s own API will soon be open and public; we will seek to collaborate with the likes of GitHub’s ’social coder’ community to build new, ‘bottom up’ revenue models for web and mobile to, hopefully, empower publishers of all ilks and languages to be less dependent on the crumbs off a ‘top down’ ad table.
But then 70% of our revenue doesn’t still derive from staining trees. And whilst we may give our code away for free, we still charge a 7% commission on every ad delivered. And we also believe fundamentally in Eric Schmidt’s belief that the winning platforms of the future will be ‘mobile, social and… local‘.
They won’t, in short, be born out of a Soho loft.
But it’s the tagged on thoughts of Dan Sabbagh that I find particularly interesting at this crucial moment in Guardian time; as a still-revered institution tries to marry the presumed legacy of The Scott Trust’s thinking to this new world order. A ‘Trust’ that itself is now a Ltd Company, as two of the commenters point to.
‘Sabbagh praised the Guardian’s ownership by the Scott Trust, and said it was “a precious thing” that no rich man told it what to do.
‘He said that in most cases, ownership of newspapers had drifted to what he called a poor football model, where the businesses were funded by “lively characters” – a model that carried with it a certain burden.’
Which is fascinating. For if not one rich man, who does actually tell The Scott Trust (Ltd) what to do? To rob Peter to pay Polly, in terms of its other assets funding its ‘loss-making core newspaper’?
Having failed to attract the number of voluntary redundancies it sought this autumn, GMG is now caught between a rock and a very hard place with the NUJ if it now moves to seek a minimum of 40-odd compulsory redundancies in line with the reduction in editorial head-count it has already announced.
Me? I know what I would do. I’d shut Guardian US tomorrow, slash the cost of my boho-cool Manhattan loft space and revert to back to the local strategy as championed by no less a person that the executive chairman of Guardian’s beloved Google and hold every metropolitan authority in the UK to democratic account just as The Scott Family did with the burghers of Manchester. And all by one reporter, one lap-top and one desk.
Get the ‘fantasy of European cool’ off the books.
It won’t happen, of course. That US die is cast. To ‘pivot’ back to the plan that Emily Bell and Co drew for them in the shape of creating Manchester Guardians for three British cities and then another nine more would be a hugely embarrassing U-turn for the men at the helm.
GMG are stuck with their loft. And where do the job losses come from? Does the London sports desk take the hit for Manhattan’s finest?
There is no Russian oligarch running The Scott Trust in the manner of a Second Division football club chairman – in that Dan is right.
But that is clearly not to say that within The Scott Trust (Ltd) there isn’t still a guiding voice; one hand that is stronger than any other around that table; that does more than anyone else to shape its direction and mode of commercial travel.
And, for me, I wonder if that’s not Mr Miller’s biggest challenge at the cross-roads moment in the life of The Guardian newspaper. What if his biggest problem is, actually, Alan?
Of all the regional newspaper groups in this country, I have long had most sympathy for TrinityMirror.
Because, to my mind, there are individuals – and, hopefully, they know who they are – who have long ‘got’ where this world of ours is going and – to their credit – have fought the corner for ‘local’ from within what was once the very belly of ‘The Bailey Beast’. Their hearts have always been in the right place. It was certain heads in that there London town that weren’t seeing our world for what it increasingly is…
So couple this month’s news that Trinity’s Regional and National Divisions were merging to create a ‘One’ brand under new CEO Simon Fox with this weekend’s reports in The Sunday Times that DMGT were looking to ‘ditch’ Northcliffe completely with a fire sale to David Montgomery and I think we can claim a crossroads moment is nigh for the regional newspaper industry. Or rather another one.
NewsQuest have always been a US law unto themselves; Archant might see part-salvation from being the proud new owners of a ‘Mustard TV’ channel for Norwich; JP might, finally, have true digital natives at the helm – alas, they have the banks banging long and loud at their door.
GMG, of course, have long abandoned the regional news industry to its presumed fate; Andrew Miller and Co are off to play the volume ad games of a global variety. Let Eric Schmidt think the future is local; Cindy Gallop claim the future of advertising is ‘bottom up and collaborative’.
So, I think hope rests with TM. ‘One’ TM.
Who, with this one move, have a chance to think like a network, not act like a silo. Or, at least, not act like the two silos of old.
To, in short, try and join up a few dots while regional brands and local audiences are still on their side. And, given the smart new broom that Mr Fox appears intent on bringing to the corridors of Canary Wharf, they appear to be of a mindset to change. The $64 million question now is whether or not they see how their world might have turned upside down of late; that, in part, perhaps their salvation lies from the streets of Morpeth and Machynlleth up and not from the top of Canary Wharf down…
So his interview in The Evening Standard made for an interesting read. That the future wasn’t one of being a GroupOn clone, but rather of pursuing a more coherent and ‘joined-up’ approach to advertising…
“It was very obvious coming in as an outsider that it was not an efficient structure,” Fox, pictured, told the Evening Standard. “We weren’t presenting a joined-up approach to our advertisers…
Morpeth and Machynlleth interest me for a number of reasons. In one, far-flung corner of Mr Fox’s new empire we have long sat as a bottom up and collaborative advertising platform of the Gallop ilk; into another we would seek to go with our new, Welsh-language platform - now we can localise by both long-lat and language.
Because the challenge that sits on Simon’s desk is simple… does he buy the Schmidt idea that the future is local? And if does, how does he leverage 350 years worth of local brand development and, above all, local advertising sales experience into better monetising those vast swathes of local, digital advertising space he now commands?
Because to my mind, its the Mirror that’s the dead duck here; not the locals. That’s where your future lies; not defending your national titles in the High Court as the whole, phone-hacking scandal lands on your door-step – wiping 20% off your company’s value in an instant.
I look at that JournalLive site for Morpeth. ‘Morpeth news from Morpeth…’
And, see above, an ad for Deloitte. From Canary Wharf. No Morpeth ad from Morpeth…
In part, that is our failing as a self-serve ad platform; people aren’t taking the opportunity to place a fiver-a-week text ad into that space… no matter how simple and transparent we try to make that transaction.
Hence, why we firmly believe in the fact that the future has to be collaborative – local ad sales relies on local people selling to local merchants. Its a P2P world we inhabit; person to person. Salvation won’t come from an algorithm down; it’ll come from a familiar, trusted face selling from the streets of Morpeth up…
And if you haven’t got a field sales rep left on the streets of Morpeth; offer an automated commission for someone else in that community to sell for you. Or, alternatively, empower the ad agency that runs the WM Morrisons account to place an ad for their Stanley Terrace branch into that space…
A Morpeth ad for Morpeth.
And then repeat. Across a nationwide network. In a joined-up and collaborative fashion. Do local, as one…
‘When ecosystems change and inflexible institutions collapse, their members disperse, abandoning old beliefs, trying new things, making their living in different ways than they used to….
‘It’s easy to see the ways in which collapse to simplicity wrecks the glories of old. But there is one compensating advantage for the people who escape the old system: when the ecosystem stops rewarding complexity, it is the people who figure out how to work simply in the present, rather than the people who mastered the complexities of the past, who get to say what happens in the future…’
Those two lines come from Clay Shirky’s essay on ‘The Collapse Of Complex Business Models’. Along with his ‘Right now in media nothing works, but everything might…’ it is a piece of Shirky lore that I have kept close to my heart in the six years since I left the complexities of being a provincial football writer on the back pages of the Norwich Evening News and sought to figure out ‘how to work simply in the present…’
Freed, for once, of staining wood and getting an 11-year-old on a bike to deliver it.
But it is to Shirky’s thoughts on the ‘Collapse Of Complex Business Models’ that I turned as David Montgomery returned to the UK media landscape with a wad of Crispin Odey’s hedge fund money in one hand and plans for a ‘Local World’ in the other.
For the last two years, the one-time Mirror Group and Mecom CEO has ‘escaped the old system…’ and has, one presumes, spent his time since figuring out how he, too, might ‘work simply in the present…’ and, thereby, gets to say ‘what happens in the future…’
Roy clearly believes that to be the case: ‘If Local World gets off the ground I think this could well be a major turning point for the whole industry… was his parting line in the MediaGuardian piece.
With Northcliffe and Iliffe in play and TrinityMirror kind of at the table, PaidContent crunched some numbers as to the scale of Montgomery’s likely empire; NewsQuest and Archant are keeping their powder dry; JP are out of the running.
Ashley has the bankers snapping at his heels. His thoughts are solely focussed on keeping those wolves from the door.
So, for now, Montgomery could command the heights overlooking some ‘260 plus’ local websites. Or rather the audience that they draw on a daily basis. I suspect Montgomery’s own numbers will not have stretched to the number of paper boys and girls he now has at his disposal. Marshalling that 19th Century army is one distribution problem he can do without.
But the Ashley piece is interesting; not just for the recognition that his first masters are now the banks. Keeping the Sheffield Star out of the hands of RBS, for example.
It was the line from the ‘analysts’ that caught my eye; someone who clearly still views the world from the ‘top down’… and will have crunched his numbers from the prospective of dropping a Deloitte’s ad onto the streets of Morpeth or – in the case of GMG and their abortive foray into the world of local – dropping a generic bra ad onto the streets of Leeds. Stickability in that local space wasn’t one of their strengths.
But here we go… the expert’s opinion on the merits of LocalWorld: “Local World is not big enough in and of itself to make a difference,” said one senior industry executive.
“It needs another big player, not small deals. Consolidation is about cost synergies – the bigger it can get the better it can operate titles that might otherwise be uneconomic. At its current size it will not be any bigger in the market [than Northcliffe is on its own]; it will still be probably fourth by revenue and that is not enough.”
That statement is based on several, potentially false assumptions.
That in his two years in the wilderness, Montgomery hasn’t brought a spot of rational thinking to bear on the irrationality that is the current, fractured and silo’d nature of the provincial newspaper industry in a web setting.
LocalWorld could make a huge difference *IF* it masters ‘how to work simply in the present…’
Montgomery has, after all, escaped the ‘inflexible institutions’ of old; he can come back into the market-place with a far freer hand than a Highfield whose hands are so tightly tied by the banks.
Consolidating is, indeed, about ‘cost synergies’ ; but if you view the world as turning ‘bottom up and collaborative – as Cindy Gallop does - then the cost synergies of, say, out-sourcing your advertising sales to a third party on an automated commission basis makes for completely different numbers.
Again, the assumption would be that the ‘complexities’ of integrating three, competing ad platforms out of Northcliffe, TrinityMirror and Illiffe would in itself produce little by way of immediate savings and synergy; you would be back to rewarding the ‘complexities of the past’ as three, ‘top down’ ad networks and their various inventories were re-routed into a new, unified and simplified LocalWorld platform that was designed to encompass 260-plus local websites.
Addiply currently hosts some 2,800 local UK websites - one for nigh-on every postcode district in the UK. The challenge for the AboutMyArea platform is not its scale and its simple, elegant spread – rather the audience numbers that sit behind say, http://aboutmyarea.co.uk/mk17
But that’s just what Montgomery, Odey and Co are buying – audience and eye-balls; bums on local seats.
As for the revenue numbers, again if you base your calculations on failing CPM returns from dropping a Deloitte’s ad into Morpeth and not the c£104,000 worth of locally-sourced, tenancy-based digital display advertising we have sourced for MyFootballWriter over the last six years, then maybe our David is not about to turn the provincial newspaper industry in this country upside down.
Views the world in the same way as me, Ms Gallop, Ms Bell, Mr Schmidt and Mr Shirky do, and Monty just might get to have his say on ‘what happens in the future…
As both regular readers of this blog will know, I am something of a Cindy Gallop fan.
And having now watched the woman perform on video, I am even more of a fan.
Her thoughts – as delivered to The Guardian’s recent Changing Advertising Summit - are fascinating when it comes to the collapse of the ‘Old World Order’ and the invention of the New – as applied, in particular, to the world of advertising.
“The Old World Order business model has been completely destroyed by everything that is happening in the world around us [7:20],” she tells the great and the advertising good gathered at King’s Place.
Watch it all at your leisure; there’s a lovely reference to the need to humanise big data [10:50] which strikes a long-time chord round here. Faces Of The Fallen, etc…
‘It’s enormously important to humanise [that] data… big data offers tremendous opportunities, but they have to be processed through the lens of humanity…’
Great line. Among many, in fairness.
‘In the world of big data, the new marketing reality is complete transparency…’ [13:06]. We like. These are my numbers, ad-wise.
Where she then goes is *really* interesting – when you view it through the prism of local advertising sales; and the traditional relationship that an old-fashioned newspaper ad sales rep enjoyed with his or her local client. Keep that thought at the forefront of your mind as Ms Gallop continues… That and the ‘relationship’ a local merchant may or may not enjoy with a data-driven algorithm. One invariably sat on another continent.
‘When I talk about humanising… what you want to get to is exactly the same scenario as when you meet someone… you really want to know more about them…so you begin the process of sharing information about yourself in a way that will make them want to share information about themselves…’
It is a conversation that underpins not just the act of making love, but also the act of securing an advertising sale. For in both instances you get to a point of trust. One that comes through the intimacy of human interaction and co-action between local ad rep and local ad merchant.
‘You build up more and more information about them – and you do this in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect and liking…’
The goal is to get to know them; the same goal, Gallop says, that you as a business should drive towards with any client. Why should I advertise there? Because I know, trust and like the person that tells me to advertise there…
By 15:20 we are into thoughts on action. ‘What do you want people to do?’
You want them to act. Advertising as action… ‘I believe the future of marketing is co-action…’
Now, this line…
‘Brands and consumers micro-acting together to create impacts in the real world that benefit consumers, benefit society and benefit the brand and its business… [16:35]‘
Later this month I have a meeting with the good people of the East of England Co-Operative Society. There is a Co-Op, you see, in the village of Loddon, Norfolk. Over which – courtesy of NESTA and the Church Of England - we are about to drop a rural wifi/mobile portal; the advertising proceeds from which will go towards supporting a ’21st Century Village Correspondent’ within that community. Our Ben.
To my mind, the Co-Op now have the opportunity to fit Cindy’s vision of marketing as co-action; delivering real benefit in the real world to their consumers. Advertising as a rural subsidy for mobile connectivity.
“I believe the future of business is about doing good and making money simultaneously…’ [16:43]
So do I. Passionately.
Addiply isn’t a charity; we will take our little slice out of Loddon ‘TV’ – http://loddoneye.com/video – as will AFrame. But – hopefully – the biggest winner is the community itself. And Ben; the young man who has got off his a*se to report on the affairs of his own community as the local newspaper groups continue to retreat; in the case of Archant into ‘Norwich’ TV.
We act in the New World Order way. ‘We make money because we do good… [17:01].
‘We find a way to integrate social responsibility in the way that we do business on a day-to-day basis that makes it a key driver of future growth and profitability. I believe the business model of the future is shared values plus shared action equals shared profit – both social and financial… [17:15]“
Our profits out of the ‘micro-action’ that is Co-Op (East of England) taking out an ad on that Loddon portal will be shared with Ben and the community of Loddon; for everyone’s betterment and benefit.
My 12-year-old boy – along with millions of other rural kids in this country – might, at last, be able to join the digital revolution once he has a mobile phone signal above his head.
His future will not hang by the copper thread beloved by BT and Norfolk County Council. His future will be mobile, local and social – just as Eric Schmidt insists it has to be.
And how, in part, do we do that Ms Gallop? By advertising.
‘I believe this is the business model that we should all be striving for… and it’s what I mean when I say we have to move from a focus on making good advertising to making advertising for good… [17:30].’
Advertising for the good of the people of Loddon. #21VC really is that simple.
We have mentioned AirBnB before on these pages.
For me, they were an eye-catching example of collaborative behaviour; of person-to-person (P2P) sales; one-to-one relationships established between owner and traveller – with AirBnB merely facilitating that relationship for the common web good.
I stayed with AirBnB for StreetFightMag Summit in New York last December; I stayed AirBnB for SxSWi in Austin and again in Berkeley for Collab2012. I’m a fan, in short.
This week, the more observant of you will have noticed that AirBnB added another string to their bow – a collaborative platform they call ‘Neighborhoods’. Others tagged it differently – that AirBnB were going #hyperlocal. Drilling ever further down into the rich goodness that can be found on every street corner.
Be it the local book store, coffee shop or all-night deli – travellers were now going to be given the opportunity to really get ‘under the skin’ of a particular neighborhood before they ever stepped foot on a plane. It is smart stuff; intuitive; of the moment.
And if Eric Schmidt is right – that the winning platforms of the future will be ‘mobile, local and social…’ then AirBnB are getting ever more local, ever more social in both their outlook and their delivery.
Watch the Vimeo video from last week’s launch; or read the various reactions around news of the launch. Both are interesting.
<Not least when AirBnB co-founder Brian Chesky talks about the wealth of neighborhood locations that the platform offers across San Francisco – including Mission. Where once-upon-a-time Addiply walked; right under Google's nose. There and Oakland North.
Only the kids from Berkeley's J-School were not about to go and prise an ad out of the pizza parlour on the corner of 18th and Main; the one that the AirBnB locals are now in the midst of recommending to their prospective travelling guests.
And that’s what fascinates now.
Whether or not AirBnB can move this conversation on from being ’social’ and ‘collaborative’ in the travel guide space, to being collaborative and social in the field of advertising sales. And, indeed, be local. Or #hyperlocal.
Collaborate with those within said individual neighborhoods and let them sell that hyperlocal ad space for them – and, in so doing, reward both platform owner and community ad seller for their collaborative behaviour.
We can, of course, map each and every one of AirBnB’s original 300 neighborhoods; just as we can a Starbucks on the Pennsylvania Turnpike – and all with the kind of certainty that comes from a map and not a Google compass.
And, of course, courtesy of the TSB and our ever-more open API, we can now start to deliver said collaborative ad sales opportunities in any language; we can do any neighborhood in Cardiff in a language that the natives are more and more having to understand.
See whether we can’t prise a conversation out of someone at the heart of the AirBnB beast.
But I like the direction of their travel; the path they are choosing to tread.
It is bottom up and collaborative. All very Cindy Gallop, in short.
Many, many moons ago – out of the back of hosting our own conference on the future of local ‘TV’ in this country, #1000flowers – I wrote a piece on here about the need for all of us to share.
To share content; to build a ‘common treasury’ for all; a national, local video library, in effect.
Here it is. But what is important here is to frame those thoughts from the back end of 2010 in the context of the current debate around Local TV in the UK; in particular, OfCom’s latest move to put eight of the remaining franchise awards on ice while they review the programming plans for each.
Part of the inspiration for that piece came from none other than Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian. And this from Poynter: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/106389/rusbridger-openness-collaboration-key-to-new-information-ecosystem/
The title says it all: ‘Rusbridger: Openness, Collaboration Key to New Information Ecosystem…’ And, indeed, it is.
Cue the blog post, back in 2010:
‘This line is worth repeating… and worth placing in the context of where on earth a multitude of local ‘TV’ stations will ever gather enough content from to drive a decent enough advertising proposition to – at the very least – get them to a position of being ‘not-for-loss’.
‘[Rusbridger] Collaboration refers to the way we can take this openness one stage further. By collaborating with this vast network of linked information — and those who are generating and sharing it — we can be infinitely more powerful than if we believe we have to generate it all ourselves.’
Worth repeating; again… ‘By collaborating… we can be infinitely more powerful than if we believe we have to generate it all ourselves…
For me, that’s the big question that is troubling the minds of OfCom right now; can all the promised local programming really be generated by the Local TV franchise holders themselves? Or rather, can enough of the local programming be generated by the Local TV franchise holders themselves…
‘The media regulator has asked all the bidders for the remaining eight licences – for cities including Manchester, Leeds and London – to clarify key areas of their content plans, including the levels of original programming and the amount of news they intend to provide,’ says The Guardian piece.
Cards on table. I don’t like the Local TV process as envisioned by OfCom – and those that tie their visions to the nearest available TV transmitter. It’s bollocks.
It’s trying to propogate new media life from inside a silo. Only this one is off a TV transmitter mast, as opposed to a newspaper printing press. So, for example, God help anyone on The Wirral that wants to watch Liverpool TV, and not that from Manchester.
OK. Courtesy of the good folk at NESTA and their ‘Destination Local’ competition, we are in the process of building a rural wifi portal for the community of Loddon, Norfolk. Sustained and supported by local advertising of the type you find in any parish magazine; supplemented by national brands seeking local spaces. It’s called #21VC.
As empowered by ‘advertising for good’.
We have already had one play with video. And if we think that the future will be dominated by mobile, by video, by local and by social, then more and more you begin to wonder whether what we’re actually creating is a pilot example of Parish ‘TV’.
But one that, till now, was only about to generate its own content. Our Ben doing video clips with the village ‘news’, three or four times a week.
But what if someone has now actually built a ‘common treasury’ for us all to share? For prime, engaging video content to be shared and aired on a far more collaborative basis; wholly in keeping with these networked times?
And I think someone has.
The picture at the top is this: http://studio.skatta.tv/tv/LoddonEye
First throw; first sign-up; first look. But its Ben building his own ‘channel’ of content for LoddonEye ‘TV’ out of the Skatta platform. ‘Multi-platform Television & Content Distribution’.
Content that, beautifully, doesn’t need to be broadcast off a TV transmitter mast; it can be ‘broadcast’ off your nearest church tower.
And now Ben’s local ‘news’ channel can be supplemented by richer, more engaging video content drawn from across the globe; or, indeed, from a neighbouring parish ‘TV’ channel.
The richer the content proposition that we can hang off the local church tower, the more compelling we can make the advertising proposition; the more sustainable we can make our first ’21st Century Village Correspondent’… the more chance we then have of building another village correspondent for the next village… and the next… and the next…
‘By collaborating with this vast network of linked information — and those who are generating and sharing it — we can be infinitely more powerful than if we believe we have to generate it all ourselves,’ says Mr Rusbridger.
And who are we to ever disagree with the editor of The Guardian newspaper?
This week’s news that Addiply has taken a six-figure equity investment from Tokyo-based Power Technology, Inc, clearly ought to warrant a mention on here.
Posts have – rather obviously – been thin on the ground over the last month; this is the principal reason why.
The hows, the whys and the how much’s can wait for another day.
Suffice to say we are all very grateful to Chris Wade, Sarah Turner and the team behind UKTI VC for their help in facilitating the first meeting and the initial presentation to Power Tech; the fact that it was Google Campus playing host somehow made subsequent events all the more sweeter.
What does it mean going forward? It means that we now start to have sufficient fincancial stability to welcome the ex-MD of Scoot to the team in the shape of Sue Barnes; to as a result see if we can’t move Addiply more towards being a sales solution for publishers as opposed to purely a tech one.
Everyone can write, not everyone can sell. That’s the single, biggest lesson I have learned as an online journalist running MyFootballWriter/Norwich for the last five-and-a-half seasons. It wasn’t me that has sold c£110,000 worth of local, display advertising in that period.
But that very figure alone suggests there remains a huge and rich stream of local advertisers that are currently seeking new and appropriate homes online to market their services and their wares – homes that will become increasingly mobile in format as the years pass. The meeting of long and lat, user and advertiser on a mobile device is a fascinating space; a $5.8bn playground by 2016 according to the latest forecasts from BIA/Kelesy.
“Growth drivers include smartphone penetration, location data, ad targeting innovation and advertiser evolution to utilize these factors for higher-performing mobile local ad campaigns,” said Michael Boland, program director, mobile local media, BIA/Kelsey.
Given our TSB-funded tech development work will see Addiply launch onto mobile during the second-third quarter of 2013 – by when our API will be both open and public – I think local will be one of the hotter spaces to be in media-wise.
And the fact that what we can now do in Welsh what we’ve always said we can do in English, it didn’t take a huge leap of imagination – or, indeed, command of the English language – for Power Technology to see that both thinking and tech could swiftly move into that Japanese market-place. That we could be on the streets of Tokyo before the spring was out.
As ever, nothing works… but everything might. So who knows what that opportunity may bring.
But, for me, what I would also hope is that this week’s news acts as a long over-due shot in the arm for the still-nascent British hyper-local ‘movement’. Such as it is.
Actually ‘movement’ doesn’t read at all right; the UK’s hyper-local community sounds far more nice and not-for-profit.
Many have been treading the boards for the last five or six years; ’stars’ of the space have come and gone – Josh Halliday’s SR2Blog; Richard Jones at least managed to pass the baton of SaddleworthNews on. The list grows ever longer; people build beasts – monsters that need constant feeding content-wise. All too often up to now for next to nil reward.
In conversation with David Hayward of the BBC College of Journalism the other day, he mentioned Marc Reeves’ typically thought-provoking blog on the fate of Birmingham’s hyper-local ’scene’…
People ‘run out of steam’; every good intention is, eventually, drowned out by the basic need to go and earn a living somewhere else – or at least for as long as the numbers simply don’t stack.
‘…the real prize is a more ruthlessly commercial approach that embraces the potential of aligning hyperlocal content with hyperlocal advertising. Paradoxically, this will require hyperlocal sites to come together in a single body to aggregate their audience figures to a level where they’re a compelling option for major, multisite national advertisers such as Tesco.
‘I also believe that the public sector can and should play a part. Not by publishing hyperlocals itself, or doling out grants to worthy sites, but by targeting a portion its considerable marketing spend through specifically hyperlocal channels.’
Interesting stuff. If only in the sense that Marc still sees a prize to be had; that the game is still afoot.
And I completely agree. As I suspect would Eric Schmidt. And my new friends at Power Technology, Inc.
The future is still local. Just as it was in 2009 and 2010 when The Guardian was dipping its toes into local under the guidance of Emily Bell, Simon Waldman and Co.
They left the field; claiming such local platforms of Emily’s imaginings to be ‘unsustainable’. And in so doing – I believe – knocked the whole confidence and belief in the UK’s fledgling hyper-local movement. That if The Guardian couldn’t get it to work, then who could?
The Guardian were wrong; they bugged out early – just as the space was getting interesting. And now as they seek to find another 68 job losses across their editorial floor in the face of huge opposition from the NUJ, who are the new forces fast assembling their tanks on those prized local lawns?
The Murdochs on the banks of the Tyne and the Wear; David Montgomery, Lord Ashcroft and a hedge fund manager on what’s left of the Northcliffe and Iliffe regional newspaper empires.
Manchester could yet belong to the Murdochs if Sky/Tyne&Wear proves rather more than a simple, single pilot. CP Scott would be pleased…
Be warned. A very unseasonal rant is about to follow.
Good will to all men is in short supply right now; a spleen needs to be vented. And blame Barclays Bank Plc. And their online banking system. And an Error 79 code.
Online advertising. And people who think they are soooooooo smart. When they’re really not. They are just annoying.
So, by way of background…
After 48 hours of mutual, elderly Mum-sitting over the Christmas period and a little pot of Japanese gold sat in the bank for Barclays to go rig with, I figured on a Christmas treat for me and the new ‘Mrs’. A night in Cambridge.
So, to LateRooms.com I go. And have a little surf. Look at the Nobleo Apartments. As it is, we put a final decision on hold. I have cold, she has cold, Mum has a wound infection… usual joys of Christmas.
Visit the good old Guardian with their super-smart ad delivery tech – the pieces of kit that is, one presumes, designed to keep the wolf from Alan’s door next year – and I’m being followed by LateRooms ads. And, indeed, even an ad for the very apartment that I looked at. See above.
Now I have no doubt that somewhere deep in the bowels of MountainView – or, indeed, within the online advertising department of The Guardian itself who have clearly bought into this ‘tech’ – there will be high-fives all round from the various wonks, quants, geeks and coders that have now developed this latest piece of ’smart’ ad tech.
‘Isn’t that clever? We can now target you that precisely…’
No, it’s not clever. It’s f*cking stupid.
Because you’re targetting me retrospectively on an action I once considered and decided to act against.
As ever, you are trying to second guess my intentions; to be the third half of my brain. To act for me…
It is a running sore round here that Google has this hugely arrogant belief that we all want them to manage our lives; I don’t.
The Business Week piece from April, 2011, is worth a re-read. It’s good.
This line… about how the smartest geeky kids are now turning their attention to the sort of ad tech that has Nobleo Apartment follow me round the web… ‘engineers burn the midnight oil making sure that a shoe ad follows a consumer from Web site to Web site until the person finally cracks and buys some new kicks…
Or, in my case, do indeed book that apartment.
And for that I have to thank the Jeff Hammerbachers of this world – the ‘Wants’.
‘At social networking companies, Wants may sit among the computer scientists and engineers, but theirs is the central mission: to poke around in data, hunt for trends, and figure out formulas that will put the right ad in front of the right person.
‘Wants gauge the personality types of customers, measure their desire for certain products, and discern what will motivate people to act on ads.
“The most coveted employee in Silicon Valley today is not a software engineer. It is a mathematician,” says Kelman, the Redfin CEO. “The mathematicians are trying to tickle your fancy long enough to see one more ad.”
Carry on reading the piece. So what do the ‘Wants’ want? And what does developing such souper-douper, data-driven ad tech give them?
‘The Era of Ads also gives the Wants something they yearn for: a ticket out of Nerdsville.
‘”It lets people that are left-brain leaning expand their career opportunities,” says Doug Mack, CEO of One Kings Lane, a daily deal site that specializes in designer goods.
‘”People that might have been in engineering can go into marketing, business development, and even sales…’
That, for me, is the killer line. ‘Even sales…
Developing such tech gives them the belief that they can crack sales. That – once again – an algorithm can crack one of the most basic of human activities – selling, trading, bartering. Primeval activities that have been with us since I swapped my kindling for your mammoth chop.
Only we did it face-to-face; person-to-person. We shook on it afterwards; we built the trust that comes with dealing with another physical human being into our bargain. I didn’t deal with a machine.
Machines suck. I don’t trust them. Not with the last of my ad and marketing spend. Who knows where it goes? Where my ad might end up?
For me, there’s a fundamental problem that lies at the heart of the ‘Big G’; why they have still to crack both building a truly social network and finding the answer to online advertising sales – particularly at a local level.
Because you can gather all the smartest quants, wonks, wants and geeks in the world that you want and if they still believe that an algorithm can do a salesman’s job, then you’re in trouble.
Not if they don’t understand what turns me on as a human. And what, in the case of being stalked by Nobleo Apartment ads, turns me off.
Think of it this way; in the context of ‘The Big Bang Theory’. Who – as a small town merchant with billions of bucks-worth of local ad spend to throw someone’s way – would I prefer to deal with? A Penny – or a Sheldon?
It really is no more complicated than that. Whatever the Wants might claim.
On the basis that the New Year is all-but upon us and it is the time that the world and his wife air their hopes and fears for 2013, so I thought we’d revisit where we are right now with our whole #21VC project – in particular, our hopes for a bigger, brighter and better-connected future for the communities of Loddon and Chedgrave, here in Norfolk.
In part, this was prompted by a green cabinet spotted on my walk home from the centre of Norwich this morning and the ‘news’ that BT’s fibre broadband had made it to a cabinet in Cringleford.
It has probably, likewise, made it to a similar green cabinet in Loddon.
After all, according to the latest from BDUK in these parts, it’s all ‘Go! Go! Go!’ as far as BT and Norfolk County Council are concerned. A ‘Superfast…’ future awaits us all. A ‘historic’ deal has been signed.
And here it is….
‘Ann Steward, Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Norfolk County Council, said: “What a fantastic Christmas present this contract is for Norfolk. It brings the promise of better broadband access and speeds for thousands of properties, with the first services due to be available by this time next year…”
We are, says Bill Murphy from BT, ‘This project will move Norfolk well and truly into the broadband fast lane…
And is due to be completed ‘by the autumn of 2015′. By when my son will be nearly 16. Whether his teenage education will ever get to be conducted by a fibre to his Loddon home is something, you sense, neither BT or Norfolk CC would wish to dwell on.
What’s been interesting of late is to read the whole ‘Where media?’ predictions for 2013; certainly in the sense of what devices are going to dominate our lives for the next 12 months.
Most ‘experts’ appear agreed. It had, for example, been a very good Christmas for the tablet and smartphone market… and those that run applications across either. Some 328 million more of them by the end of Christmas Day. The Observer was giving a list of the best apps for your tablet and smartphone. Curiously, I couldn’t find a similar list for your home PC.
Instead, analysts were predicting a tough time in 2013 for those used to attaching a box in the corner of the study to the wire – fibre or otherwise – from a BT cabinet.
‘So far, the PC industry has failed to create the kind of buzz and excitement among consumers that is required to propel Ultrabooks into the mainstream. This is especially a problem amid all the hype surrounding media tablets and smartphones…’ [My bold].
The picture to my right is the latest roll-out of the WiSpire broadband roll-out across Norfolk. Courtesy of the NESTA funding via our #21VC project for Loddon & Chedgrave, two ‘hops’ off the church spires of Bergh Apton and Ashby St Mary, and Loddon’s Holy Trinity Church should be armed with high-speed broadband by the end of next month.
Within 4-6 weeks thereafter, we will use that ‘pipe’ to feed a rural, public wifi cloud that we will drop over the community of Loddon & Chedgrave so any visiting tablet or smartphone user beneath it can get decent connectivity. And, at the same time, they can get offers from the local Co-Op, curry house and estate agent – all of whom know that said punters are literally less than 500-yards from their front door. Advertising for good, as Cindy Gallop might say.
For the community, they can access mobile broadband when out and about in the villages; in their home, they can now – potentially – opt to sign up for WiSpire’s domestic ISP services beamed, initially, direct into their village off the church tower.
All in the knowledge that together it is helping to support the young person in their village who is still holding local democracy to account at the monthly parish council meetings, namely Ben Olive and his LoddonEye platform.
And given the enhanced connectivity and the rise and rise of mobile video – be it to tablet or smartphone – we can then make the new-look LoddonEye video-led. Village video; parish ‘TV’. Broadcast off one, rural church tower.
That can, so easily, become a network…
The picture to my right is the TV transmitter mast ‘map’ of the UK. It is the one around which our terrestial TV masters at OfCom and DCMS have designed their new ‘Local TV’ roll-out. So Norwich ‘TV’ can happen because Tacolneston ‘mast’ is local. As is the one atop Winter Hill; or at least for some people on Birkenhead.
Such masts are, inevitably, big pieces of kit; far bigger than the three ‘masts’ that me and NESTA have just paid for atop the churches of St Peter and St Paul (Bergh Apton), St Mary (Ashby St Mary) and Holy Trinity (Loddon). And, equally, the services that they deliver to the box thing in the corner of the living room are complex and expensive beasts.
Way beyond the ken and purse of any parochial church council.
Which may, in part, explain the latest delay to the whole Local TV ‘roll-out’; individual licences may have been awarded to a clutch of pilot ‘local’ stations, but the contract to the big, infrastructure boys hasn’t – delays are afoot, as further clarification is sought.
Like BT’s plans for fibre to every rural cabinet, one version of ‘Local TV’ looks unlikely to hit our small screens until the end of the year.
Me? I’d hope to have our version of ‘Local TV’ on an even smaller screen by the middle of March.
Have a great New Year and here’s to an interesting 2013…
In November, 2010, I hosted a conference on the future of Local ‘TV’ in Norwich. It was called #1000flowers.
A day later, Will Perrin of TalkAboutLocal and I would share a stage at City University as the great and the London good staged a rather grander debate about the future of local television in the UK.
We were two dissenting voices – who didn’t ‘get’ how, in this digital age, the future of local television in this country would be wholly governed by the need to deliver said ‘local’ service into the same, square box that’s sat in the same corner of every living room for the last 40-odd years – and all from the same 300-foot high transmitter mast.
A third was that of Claire Enders; she appeared to doubt whether the word ‘ubiquity’ meant anything to anyone within the corridors of broadcasting power.
It was if the world had stopped turning in 1988; as if the Web had never happened; as if Steve Jobs had never been born.
Two years on and #1000flowers is returning – to the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers in Newcastle on Tuesday, March 5th.
It has a rich history when it comes to shedding a little light into the darker corners of peoples’ thinking.
George Stephenson is one of its most famous forebears; his ‘Geordie Lamp’ would become standard issue in the pits of the North-East – as opposed to the ‘Davy Lamp’ of elsewhere. It is a fascinating story of how the two lamps came to occupy the same market-place within months of eachother; of how Stephenson’s peers refused to believe that someone so ‘uneducated’ and local could possibly come up with a solution to rival that of the eminent Cornish scientist Humphry Davy. Indeed, the Royal Society would accuse Stephenson of stealing the idea of the ‘Davy Lamp’.
‘The experience gave Stephenson a lifelong distrust of London-based, theoretical, scientific experts.…’
A perfect venue, therefore, to cast continuing doubt on whether our London-based ‘experts’ at OfCom and DCMS *really* know what they are doing as Mold [pop: 12,000] gears up to accept its Local TV licence as the likes of Portsmouth and Sunderland, Derby and Ipswich wonder if they are, at best, destined to watch their ‘local’ TV from Southampton and Newcastle, Nottingham and Norwich.
It is not often on these pages that I sit, read and nod in agreement with The Daily Mail. But this is fascinating: ‘How the tablet is taking over from the TV: BBC reveals record iPlayer figures for mobile devices…’
‘Record numbers of people are abandoning their living room TV set to watch shows on their phone, tablet and laptop…
‘BBC bosses said the biggest trend in 2012 was the huge growth in iPlayer requests from mobiles and tablets which almost trebled…
[Interestingly, a trend that the editor of BBC News Online, Steve Herrmann, would bear out when he spoke at the DigiCity event at the BBC Mailbox in Birmingham earlier this week.]
The Mail even finds an expert of their own. ‘Dominic Baliszewski, telecoms expert at broadbandchoices.co.uk, said: ‘It’s not surprising that the old-fashioned television is losing its crown as king of the living room.
‘With so many different ways for people to view films and programmes over a broadband connection, modern devices such as tablets allow viewers far more flexibility to choose where and when they watch their favourite shows…’
And there’s the line: ‘…for people to view films and programmes over a broadband connection…’ No mention of a TV transmitter.
As many of you may be aware, for the last 6-7 months we have been working with NESTA’s DestinationLocal programme to deliver a ’21st Century Village Correspondent’ to the village of Loddon, Norfolk.
Within the next 2-3 weeks, the first ‘plank’ of that plan will arrive as WiSpire deliver higher speed broadband to the top of Holy Trinity Church. From there, we connect up a series of wifi ‘relays’ which delivers public wifi over the heart of that one village. In effect, the church tower becomes our ‘TV’ transmitter as we deliver local and national video content into mobile and tablet. Alongside the usual written content of Ben’s LoddonEye platform.
Simples. And we think like a network. Potentially, rolling out one parish at a time if we get our advertising numbers to stack.
Someone within the Diocese of Norwich clearly gets what a network looks like. And having sat and listened to the BT/BDUK vision of a broadband ‘network’ for his rural flock as part of the House of Lords Communications Committee last autumn, I think that same person – a bit like George Stephenson – is a little distrusting of London-based ‘experts’ and their answers to the challenges of our times.
Dissenting folk, in short.
The Ranters and the Ravers, the Diggers from the hills of Lancashire … Those are to whom I hope #1000flowers will continue to appeal.
People who don’t see their children’s digital futures tied to either a copper wire or a TV transmitter mast; who believe – along with Eric Schmidt – that the winning platforms of the future will be ‘local, mobile and social…’
And there’s one other person – or peoples – to whom I will extend an invite. Someone who long ago tied their broadcasting fortunes to local and mobile. And raised their flag in the North-East. And are busily putting a new model army of mobile journalists into the field.
They, too, get this space. Hopefully, they will join us far from the madding London crowds.
As, hopefully, will a few of you…
Here’s a question. In the, say, ten years since the Web started to turn our world upside down, what is the biggest, single innovation to come out of the five major, regional newspaper groups in the United Kingdom?
What one platform, one change of direction, one app, one paywall, one strategic purchase or timely exit made you sit up and really take notice?
How have JP, Trinity, Archant, Newsquest and Northcliffe re-armed, re-built and re-designed themselves as news platforms fit for the 21st Century?
Or have they simply rested on their 200-year-old brand laurels and trusted that the next generations of readers will – without hesitation or question – follow them into this new, digital landscape without a sideways glance at any new arrival in ‘their’ metropolitan spaces if we are all about to follow Eric Schmidt’s famed dictum to be ‘mobile, social and local’ in the future?
Actually, re-phrase that. More important still is whether the next generations of advertisers will – without hesitation or question – follow them into this new, digital landscape without a sideways glance at any new arrival in ‘their’ metropolitan spaces?
I say ‘their’ because the Newspaper Society have already seen off the challenge of the BBC in terms of local video in their spaces. That sense of ownership, of proprietorial-stroke-fuedal rights to these metropolitan landscapes still seeps out of every boardroom pore and public NS utterance.
There is, for example, absolutely no other way of communicating local authority public notices to the people of Yorkshire than through the print pages of the Yorkshire Evening Post and Co.
Why ask the question now? Because I was in Leeds on Friday; sat on, to my mind, the very front-line of ‘local’ and wondering who the big winners and the real losers are going to be in one of the smarter, digital cities out there. In fact, I might even argue it is the smartest city out there. Certainly in terms of new content players building up new, young and engaged audiences in the face of those still wedded to staining trees. Round here, we’ve long held Leeds folk in high regard.
The picture at the top of the page is the home news page for the Yorkshire Evening Post [Average net circulation Jan12-Jul12 33,805].
And the one here is for one of our fellow, NESTA DestinationLocal winners: LeedsOnLine: The City, Talking. It is worth comparing the two; and keeping one thought firmly at the forefront of your mind – that, in every likelihood, the winners of the race to command the hearts, the minds and, above all, ad incomes of the people of Leeds will be those that are more social, more local and more mobile than their rivals.
Whether or not they have been in that space for the better part of 200 years.
So, lets do social. After all both platforms are all social; there’s their Facebook link. And one for Twitter. Right now, it is hard to argue against Facebook’s domination of social. Certainly amidst what you would look at as the core audiences of your traditional evening newspapers.
When I looked the FB page for the Yorkshire Evening Post had 19,222 ‘likes’. LOL had 52,710. On Twitter the roles were reversed; the YEP had 22,721 followers; LOL a mere 6,333.
Either way, it would be hard for anyone to claim that the Post was winning the war to be the most social news platform in Leeds.
More importantly, from a potential advertiser perspective which would I prefer to target? The one with 19,222 likes on FB – or the one with 52,710? And which of those can I gut for greater demographic data to make sure my ad spend is ever better targetted within that city?
Local? I’m not going to do a head count of truly local stories; the Darwinian fight for survival will go to the one that can commercially adapt to the new, digital landscape the quickest. On the occasion I opened the page for the YEP – and, who knows, maybe it was because I viewed it in Norwich – I saw the generic, nationwide Dominos Pizza ad pictured above.
On LOL, it is for Leeds Digital Fashion Week.
But let’s talk mobile. And apps. Because there the YEP already has one… it is buried deep within the new JP DNA, that all platforms will go mobile. A tablet app. For iPad. And Android.
The first time I met Simon and Lee, the guys behind LOL!, was at a NESTA workshop; they are one of the ten winners – along with #21VC in Loddon, one of the two, English ‘regional’ winners of the NESTA funding.
To build… An app. ‘LOL! Leeds Online will develop a map based interface that allows access to its content via a mobile app. In addition to providing users with geographically relevant content, the app will use the map as its dashboard, allowing users to upload, search, read, comment, rate and tag news items…
As smart as I think they are, the point of this piece is that LOL! are not the only people to threaten JP’s grip on that city’s attention. At some point, one of OfCom’s 21 ‘Local TV’ enterprises will emerge holding the keys to the Leeds ‘TV’ space.
There are five bidders. ‘Made In Leeds’ is just one. By early 2014, someone else will be competing for eyeballs and ad bucks at that local level.
And I can think of at least one other player in this local ‘TV’ – aka video – space that could roll a very large tank down the A1. Against whom the lingering ‘might’ of the YEP brand would have little or no answer.
Leeds, for me, is worth watching. It may well deliver a lesson for every other city in the UK as to for whom the digital bell is starting to toll…
I hesitate to call it the money shot; people will get the wrong end of the stick.
But when I recently presented to the DigiCity people in Birmingham, it was the second slide that caught one or two eyes. It was the BIA/Kelsey forecasts for the value of the US mobile-local ad space come 2016. An eye-watering $5.8 billion. A market-place that BIA/Kelsey sees expanding at 54% year-on-year.
The full deck is here:
….what follows after the money shot is the usual fare on the power of local networks – be they those of rural church spires or 183 Co-Op Local Stores.
The slide is of Main St, USA. The fact that there’s an insert pic of the local church spire isn’t wholly coincidental.
But for anyone who still doesn’t believe that there is something interesting going on in this local space, even the exec summary of the BIA/Kelsey research should make one or two sit up and think.
Here’s the report with those headline numbers; and here’s the executive ‘take away’ from what those numbers are saying…
“Growth drivers include smartphone penetration, location data, ad targeting innovation and advertiser evolution to utilize these factors for higher-performing mobile local ad campaigns,” said Michael Boland, program director, mobile local media, BIA/Kelsey.
More interesting still, however, is BIA/Kelsey’s latest tome of January 22: ‘From National to Local: Mobile Advertising Zeros In‘… ie national brands are seeking out local spaces; particularly those that are mobile and highly-targetted. For that’s where the value is for, say, a Co-Op local store manager – punting out his perishable goods offers at 8pm of a night to whoever is sat on their mobile 500-yards from his front door.
“Following the typical pattern of new media, advertiser adoption of location-based mobile marketing trails consumer adoption,” said Michael Boland, report author and senior analyst, BIA/Kelsey.
“It’s been relatively slow-moving until now, but we see growing signs of an imminent tipping point for location-based mobile ad adoption.
“A key driver of the mobile-local share shift will be the evolution of national advertisers, who, to date, have run mostly mobile campaigns that mirror the tactics of the desktop, missing opportunities for more precise location targeting.”
That’s nice. Growing signs of an ‘imminent tipping point for location-based mobile ad adoption…’
National brands seeking local audience has, to my mind, long been the key that unlocks the door to sustainable platforms of community news.
Its how anyone manages that relationship simply and transparently that is the $64 million question; or rather the $5.8 billion question. On just one side of the Pond.
<On March 5, we will be hosting our second #1000flowers event – in Newcastle. Nominally, the Ranters and the Ravers of the UK local space are gathering again to talk about the future of Local TV.
Which is why I’m delighted that Jamie Conway, ceo of the ‘Made In… network of Local TV licence holders has agreed to speak; he has the gig for Newcastle TV. Among others.
Also speaking that day, however, is our Ian.
‘Unlocking a $5.8 billion market: Drive into that mobile-local ad space via Addiply’s Public API.’
Last year, we won funding out of the Technology Strategy Board’s ‘Convergence In A Digital Landscape’ competition.
At its heart was a commitment to open up Addiply’s API for developers to go build; for us to be part of a new, collaborative community. It is why I headed to Berkeley last year to take part in the conversations at the Collab2012 space.
The point is that if the world is, indeed, getting ever more mobile, ever more local, so we all need to work together to tap into this new-found opportunity; to pool our resources and our thinking in these straitened times and try and get something to work.
By good fortune, our Ian is a mobile app developer by trade. ‘Cocktails Made Easy’ is one of his.
So we have a rich heritage in that mobile app space. And as our TSB-funded tech developments start to come on line, so we will be moving our thinking into that app and mobile space; SDK codes to take our platform into the world of mobile app development are coming down the pipeline…
The fact that we can now localise advertising by both long-lat and language is courtesy of the TSB funding; hopefully, the first beneficiaries will be the nation of Wales for whom re-building a new, indiginous platform to sustain community news in the Principality has long been high on the Assembly’s agenda.
Rightly or wrongly, the don’t appear to be in a mood to trust their nation’s media future to a London-based TrinityMirror or, indeed, a London-based OfCom whose plan for ‘Local TV’ in Wales boils down to the ownership of a hill.
Hence why Mold ‘TV’ is a runner; one for Swansea isn’t. Hence why they are seeking fresh tools to go build…
So come and listen to what Ian has planned… and what the TSB has funded. A collaborative advertising platform whose API will, come the summer, be open and public; and whose drive is towards making something work in mobile and local… the space where, according to the man from BIA/Kelsey, the real fun is to be had.
Details of #1000flowers can be found here…
Let’s talk about local. Everyone else is, it seems.
In particular, Marketing Week, who this week ran a decent piece on why national brand should seek out local spaces. ‘The brand benefits of going local’.
That there is something going on in local right now should not come as too much of a surprise; we have already highlighted the fact that BIA/Kelsey see a local-mobile market exploding in the US - driven in large part by national brand seeking the same local space that both MarketingWeek and LocalWorld see unfolding here in the UK.
Little wonder, therefore, to find the new team at LocalWorld flagging up that ‘trend’ for all they are worth… the sub-head makes for an interesting read, too.
‘Targeting niche groups isn’t just an online trend. Brands are finding that with innovation in regional press, local activity is a valuable tool.’
‘Innovation in regional press…’ Therein lies the challenge. And has done since the moment that the Web was born.
For many a nice reason, I’ve found myself knocking around with the bright, young things of London ad land over the last six months. Those paid to consult; to develop marketing strategies to be pitched at CMO and board level.
Brunswick are one of those; their message is clear… that there is something going on in this local space. ‘Local communities have become a force to be reckoned with,’ was one of the takeaway messages from a recent Review.
And as more and more senior corporate comms teams spread the word that national brands need to re-visit the world that is local, so that Marketing Week article will resonate more and more with those that actually hold the advertising purse strings.
So, let’s do the journey.
One of my take-aways from mingling with the bright, young things of national ad agency land is that they ‘get’ two of the three pillars of Eric Schmidt’s wisdom – with bells and whistles on. They are more convinced by mobile and social than anyone; they have lived their late twenty-something London lives around both paradigms.
It is the third – local – that causes the problem; the mind-shift that rocks their top-down, London world. That view that Leeds is a small village somewhere north of Kilburn.
But if Schimdt – the exec chairman of Google, no less – is right; that the winning future platforms will be something that involves mobile, social and local; then AdLand needs to swiftly re-calibrate its thinking.
That if their client – say, Hollister – has picked up on this trend, how do we deliver a campaign to match? That ticks all three of the boxes prescribed by Schmidt? A campaign that is mobile, social and local…
And if you want to layer on another wind of change blowing up Charlotte Street, how about throwing Cindy Gallop into the mix? That advertising needs to be a force for good; that it needs to view the world… ‘From the bottom up…’
And this is where the local landscape in the UK makes for such fascinating viewing right now.
In the last week OfCom has awarded two of the biggest ‘Local TV’ licences at its disposal – to the Evening Standard for its London concession and, today, YourTV for Manchester.
Read the rationale behind ESTV’s success and it is fascinating – and proves, again, that even in the very bowels of OfCom, someone is seeing something afoot in local.
‘ESTV’s proposals also provided important opportunities for close local community involvement, taking into account, in particular, its proposals for IPTV services in each London borough which would be included in its programming commitments…
IPTV services – ie free from that Crystal Palace TV transmitter – for 33 London boroughs. ESTV committed themselves to drilling down. Deeper into local.
So here is the first challenge for the LocalWorld. And the rest of the regional newspaper groups in their current, tree-stainer guise. They are not the only people about to fight for Hollister’s local ad dollars.
Here is the second one. Let’s drill Hollister into our local world. Take, Cambridge.
I need mobile, social… and local. So, Iliffe’s Cambridge News (circ 22,500).
I see no ads. Its 2013. I see no ads.
I have no doubt that – right now – LocalWorld are running round like no-one’s business building a networked platform across all their various properties that will allow the cool kids running the Hollister campaign to ‘get’ why they should be on that platform.
I suspect that the ’sell’ of LeedsOnLine will be less of a challenge; there’s a ‘circulation’ of 53,000. A ‘circulation’ figure that London agency ‘gets’.
At some stage there will be a Cambridge ‘TV’. Just as Leeds TV is arriving down the track. A high-speed track in the case of that little village somewhere north of Kilburn.
But you get the drift. If London AdLand gets what BIA/Kelsey is predicting; sees big client benefit – aka cash – out of taking Hollister into local, then who is going to reap the benefit?
And, right now, I don’t see it saving those who are still staining trees.
To talk more about all this… and a whole lot more besides – come and join us in Newcastle on March 5; for #1000flowers.
Amid much jingoistic jubilation the other week, our Lords and Masters celebrated a rare ‘victory’ in Europe – by pushing through the first-ever cut in a EU budget.
‘Tough-talking Dave…’ was flavour of the month again; courtesy of a ‘a spectacular and historic diplomatic triumph’, roared the Daily Express. The Mail wasn’t too far behind. ‘Huge credit must go to David Cameron…’ read its leader piece.
‘The new spending limit will be £768 billion, a real terms cut of £29 billion on the previous budget and £68 billion lower than the figure proposed by the European Commission…’
The British people can be proud. Can’t we just? Well done, Dave.
For there goes £7 billion worth of EU funding for broadband infrastructure projects; little wonder that the Vice-President of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes, could be found lamenting the fact that minus such sums, it will be down to national governments and ‘the market’ to deliver a solution. Europe wouldn’t be in a position to help.
‘Such a smaller sum does not leave room for investing in broadband networks…’ she noted in her blog. Her bold, not mine.
Minus that EU cash, the delivery of next generation broadband into huge swathes of rural England will now be left to the likes of BDUK, Norfolk County Council and, of course, BT. Who saw nothing to worry about in all this – despite both The Guardian and The Telegraph twigging to the fact that Dave’s ‘historic’ diplomatic triumph might have f*cked anyone whose engagement with the global, digital economy will continue to hang by a copper wire for the forseeable.
As it will for communities in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and beyond.
‘Charles Trotman, of the Country Land and Business Association: “This would mean it’s up to member states or the private sector to put up the funding,” he said. “It’s highly unlikely that certain member states would be able to. Just a billion euros isn’t going to be enough.”
The man from BT shrugged it off. ‘“BT had no plans to make use of CEF and its reduction (from €9bn to €1bn) should have no impact on existing or planned funded projects, such as Cornwall, Northern Ireland or the BDUK process…’ their man told The Guardian.
Likewise, the man from DCMS – those charged with delivering the whole BDUK project – was in an equally ‘Whatever…’ frame of mind. ‘The UK does not support unaffordable increases in spending. The commission had interesting proposals for the €9.2bn CEF but the government has not developed any future broadband plans on the assumption that it would go ahead,’ was the quote in The Telegraph.
BT always make me laugh. We are a global broadband leader, apparently.
The photo caption on The Telegraph piece is a classic of a certain genre: ‘BT said more than 13m premises can access its high-speed fibre optic broadband and it was passing around 100,000 additional premises every week as it rolled out the network.
‘Can access’… as opposed to being on.
It was ‘passing around 100,000 additional premises every week…’ who likewise aren’t actually on… 100,000 premises whose ability to engage with the global digital economy continues to hang by a copper thread. My son included. He was 13 today. He – like millions of others – will be one of those whose premises will be ‘passed around’ by a BT fibre. One that will never actually knock on the door of his house.
At some stage in the none-too-distant future, a broadband ‘pipe’ will arrive in Loddon. We – with a little help from our good friends at NESTA – have persuaded the Bishop of Norwich to re-route his WiSpire roll-out into the Chet Valley and onto the top of Holy Trinity Church.
I suspect – and I would, clearly, hesitate to put words into his mouth – that the Bishop doesn’t have huge amounts of faith in BT that they will deliver the kind of connectivity his rural flock needs to engage in this digital revolution of ours. So, from on high, he’s doing it himself.
Bear in mind that the Rt Revd Graham James sits on the House of Lords Communications Committee; his interests are Culture & Heritage and Media & Communication…. He also sat on last year’s House of Lords committee investigating the whole BT/BDUK broadband roll-out.
The very title of their first report suggested something of a ‘non-conformist’ attitude. ‘Broadband for all – an alternative vision..’
Indeed, you can even find him speaking on the future of investigative journalism in the UK; he notes (12.55pm)… ‘we also need partiality and passion as well as balance to ensure that those exercising power and authority are called to account. If in due course council decisions are reported only through the newspapers and magazines published by councils themselves, it is hard not to think that the consequences will be far from happy…
The affairs of Loddon Parish Council will, hopefully, now be reported as we look to sustain a 21st Century Village Correspondent off his church tower… and the local advertising that can utilise that age-old ‘hub’ of village life.
He is even more interesting in his contribution to the Lords’ debate on Leveson; steering the conversation back to local… and the role that local newspapers have in binding communities together; even if their precise future as the stainer of trees continues to perplex him.
‘Safeguarding what Leveson describes as the unparalleled value of local and regional newspapers is, I believe, just as important as the establishment of a just and fair system of regulation…
The point being that our Ben, on a platform that we will look to commercially sustain off his church tower, is addressing the very ‘democracy deficit’ the Bishop fears at local council level by attending Loddon Parish Council meeting tomorrow night.
Boil #21VC down further and, in essence, we’re bringing the Bishop’s network of parish magazines ‘online’, advertising included; making them fit for 21st Century purpose; equally making them fit the Eric Schmidt model of being mobile, social… and local. With a dollop of local video thrown in; after all, we’re all broadcasters now.
One final point. The loss of that EU funding makes us ever more reliant on Government and the major incumbent delivering on their promises. Me? I’d far rather place my son’s digital future in the hands of the good Bishop and hope, rural connection-wise, the answer does indeed come from on high and not at the end of a copper wire.
Remember, #1000flowers is on March 5… All welcome.
Many, many moons ago, I wrote a blog post on here about Adrian Holovaty and EveryBlock. March, 2009, to be precise.
When it comes to both data and hyperlocal, Adrian is – and will remain – a Hall Of Famer. What he did with the ‘neighborhood’ data feeds through Chicago suburbia was brilliant. He was among very first of the quonts, the wonks and the geeks to be ‘mining’ out hygiene reports and crime updates and then tying them to zipcode locations on a map.
Anyone in this country that thinks they are breaking ‘new’ ground in that regard, you’re five years behind the curve.
And last week EveryBlock’s owners, NBC, shuttered it. And as the Gawker piece reveals, it’s demise brought much hand-wringing on the far side of the Pond that the whole hyper-local thing was a false dawn; no-one can get it to work.
I disagree. EveryBlock was a step-change project that lacked just one thing – the ability to get an ad onto the corner of EveryBlock and find the revenue needed to support a part-time ‘curator’ of said crime and hygiene data. Moving into social merely heightened that issue; moderation costs – and in individual, neighborhood blocks passions and emotions can run high. So don’t let your community run riot on your message-boards. But, as I say, moderation costs.
All EveryBlock ever lacked was a way of funding a part-time ‘block correspondent’ to keep their community playing nice – something akin to our own visions of a ’21st Century Village Correspondent’ for the community of Loddon, Norfolk.
But it proved one point; a point that ought to make people over here sit up and take notice – on its own data won’t save journalism. Its a team effort; that involves a neighborhood story-teller and a neighborhood ad seller. Data just makes the story-teller’s job that much easier; particularly if said data rolls across his or her desk in real time. Then it becomes a ‘breaking news’ feed. Which the ad-seller can them sell around.
Around 365,000 individual data points across the country in the case of Jonathan’s transport API; chart the real-time movement of every bus and train in and out of, say, Newcastle and Leeds. A piece of data content for every bus stop in the land. Not just London.
Data that he and his API can drill into any equivalent of an EveryBlock; most ‘blocks’ have at least one bus stop. And most people want to know if their bus is running late. Why too, ideally.
Most blocks also have a local shop or two. That’s why I am equally delighted that Nick from Voovio is joining the same panel at #1000flowers next month. The trick there is to look at the button on the top right. ‘Visit Local Shops of the World…
Because where Adrian also got it right was the fact that from early doors he recognised the power and the value of thinking like a network; that ChicagoCrime.org morphed into something that was of the web, not just on it. It became EveryBlock; that worked on AnyBlock. Adrian thought like a network, not a single city silo… He didn’t pin all his hopes on just making Chicago work. Therein might lie a lesson for one or two in this LocalTV space. Think like a silo and you will be building a coffin, not a TV station.
… which is excatly why I’m delighted that Jamie Conway is joining us too… fresh from winning the gig to do Local TV in Leeds.
As well as in Newcastle, Cardiff and Bristol.
Because he’s thinking like a network; from the start. Just as the Bishop does here in Norfolk. He builds a network, not a silo.
And, again, go back to the success of the Evening Standard in winning the LocalTV licence for London; what under-pinned that award? The commitment to deliver content through a pan-London network of 33 IPTV sites – one for every London borough. In doing that, they were not pinning all their hopes on whoever happened to sit beneath the Crystal Palace TV transmitter.
They were turning that old broadcast model upside down.. and offering a platform of engagement that was from the ‘bottom up’.
And this is what #1000flowers is all about; it is about people building networks. Of data, of course. But both Jonathan and Nick get that their neighborhood-level data needs a route to money.
Something, alas, that Adrian never quite reached with his EveryBlock. But, boy, did he ever break the mould.
All the details for #1000flowers are here… Come and join us in Newcastle on March 5.
I have long been a fan of the works of Alan Mutter, @newsosaur.
In fact he first graced these pages way back in September, 2008, as Brian P Tierney and the fate of the Philly Inquirer caught the attention.
This week and he was casting his eye over another famed metro newspaper now in straitened circumstances – The Boston Globe. Cast adrift by the NYT as it, in turn, sought to establish itself ever more as a global recorder of note.
The piece is here. It is another great read.
There was one line, however, that stood out for me; it was a new metric that Mutter turned to to demonstrate the Globe’s relevancy – or otherwise – to the sprawling metro community that it served.
‘…the Globe is trying to remain relevant to a dwindling number of readers and advertisers in a 1,422-square-mile metro area that includes 22 cities and 79 towns inhabited by 3,067,000 people,’ he notes.
What he then did was very interesting; he injected a new metric into this debate.
‘With circulation today of 225,482 on weekdays and 365,512 on Sunday – or less than half the audience that NYT Co. bought in 1993 – the paper is purchased by barely 7% of the population in its primary market area.’
The Newspaper Society would already be crying foul at this point; ‘relevancy’ is but a poor cousin to ‘reach…’ , their long-favoured word of choice. And, besides, every paper is – of course – read by every member of a household, shared three or four times; the readership – as opposed to the physical circulation number is clearly three or four times the figure that Mutter cites. The implication being that The Globe is irrelevant to 93% of people in the greater Boston metropolitan area.
But it was actually one of their own that threw the term into the pot this week… regional newspapers were engaged in a ’stampede to irrelevance’, claimed former Newspaper Society President, Chris Oakley.
Today and the latest Regional ABC circulation figures were released; Press Gazette reported them in full. The story of the UK’s ‘metro dailies’ makes for a grim read; particularly for a one-time Evening News (Norwich) football reporter. Down 19.2% year-on-year to 13,322.
The population of the Norwich ‘Travel To Work’ area is… 376,500. The area is ‘the area of Norwich in which most people both live and work…
‘The paper is purchased by 3.5% of the population in its primary market area…’ to re-quote Mutter.
If we narrow ‘Norwich’ down to that controlled by Norwich City Council, the figure is almost exactly 10% (13,322/132,200)
The Brighton Argus is now purchased by 19,199; the local authority covers a population of 273,000.
‘The paper is purchased by barely 7% of the population (7.03%) in its primary market area…’
Liverpool fares better at 16.7% (77,849 circ Echo/466,400 pop); Leeds is 4.8% (35,940 circ YEP/751,500).
Even if we allowed for babes in arms and the infirm being whipped out of the population figures, the 320,600 households in Leeds still returns a ‘Mutter relevancy’ figure of 11%.
Birmingham has a population of 1.1 million; the largest local authority in Britain. The average circulation for The Birmingham Mail was 40,004. That puts the Mutter figure at 3.6%.
Manchester is 14.9% (74,702 circ MEN/502,900)
Greater Manchester has a population of 2,682,500. That comes out at 2.8%.
The counter-argument is clearly the new-found ‘reach’ of everyone’s digital and mobile property portfolios… Then, of course, the numbers will rise again. That’s where the new relevancy lies; just not yet the new revenues.
The problem comes with brand; that if awareness of said mobile and digital apps rests over-long on the residual resonance of the paper brand, then there is every chance that the brand itself is becoming ever less relevant to the lives of those within their target markets.
It is a situation that vexed Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger… in 2009.
‘…that for the first time since the Enlightenment you are going to have major cities in the UK and western democracies without any verifiable news…” he opined. The interesting point now being whether the likes of MadeInLeeds ‘TV’ or YourTV Manchester can bring ‘verifiable news’ to the metropolitan masses in a manner that can prove more relevant to that urban audience.
Hopefully, Jamie (Conway), the CEO of Made TV, can shed a little more light on that front when he speaks to David Hayward at #1000flowers next week.
And here’s the other interesting point; why the UK’s ‘metro daily’ market is about to find itself with a new challenge in the sense of their relevancy to their metro audiences.
As Jeremy Hunt was always swift to point out, why was it that Birmingham, Alabama, had eight ‘local’ TV stations and Birmingham, UK, none?
The Boston Globe has had to compete with 17 ‘full-power TV stations’ in the Boston market for years – and yet it has remained twice (3.5% vs 7%) as relevant to its audience than the metro daily newspaper in Birmingham, UK, who has never before had to fight for eye-balls and ad dollars with a single city TV station.
The like of which is arriving in the next 12 months.
One might, therefore, suggest that the fight for newspaper brand relevancy in the metropolitan areas of the UK has only just begun. And I haven’t even mentioned this…
I’m just going to chop a big quote out of this piece The headline itself – ‘Facebook experiments with free wifi…’ – was enough to capture my attention.
For what then followed was utterly fascinating. Not just for anyone seeking free wifi in the Coupa Cafe in downtown Palo Alto; a popular hang-out for Stanford tecchies…
‘…when I get to my table, turn on my phone and open my browser, it takes me to Facebook. It instructs me to log in to get free Wi-Fi. (You can bypass the sign-in but that wasn’t totally apparent to me.)
Facebook says its experimenting with a few local businesses to “offer a quick and easy way to access free Wi-Fi after checking in on Facebook.”
Rocky Agrawal, a consultant at reDesign mobile, suspects there’s more to this than good will.
“It’s a good way for Facebook to know where you’re at, they can deliver all sorts of new offers,” Agrawal says.
Companies are banking on location based advertising to bring in big money for mobile, but there are a lot of hurdles to clear before companies like Facebook can target your location precisely…’
The big money the piece refers to is, for example, the $5.8bn BIA/Kelsey forecast the mobile-local ad space to be worth in the US by 2016. That figure was the one that I quoted in my opening presentation at #1000flowers in Newcastle on Tuesday. It was also quoted by our Ian as he offered his own presentation later that afternoon.
Linking mobile advertising to locality/location/local is clearly a hot space right now on the streets of Palo Alto. Relying on GPS or ‘cell towers’ to offer a user’s location is problematic, apparently.
“It all depends on where you’re at, are you in a parking lot, are you around tall buildings or trees, basically do you have a clear view of the sky,” Groves says.
“Using location data from cell towers is another option, but Groves says that’s less accurate because there aren’t enough of them…”
So Facebook have come up with a cunning plan… ‘It gave the Coupa a wireless router, which can be tied to a location…
“So all of the sudden you have precise locations on every business you’ve shipped that too,” Agrawal says.
The picture at the top of the page is of the WiSpire broadband ‘mast’ that between me and NESTA we shipped to the top of Holy Trinity Church, Loddon, earlier this morning. For the record, we have also shipped one of those to the towers of Bergh Apton church tower and that of Ashby St Mary. Its how our back-haul ‘hopped’ into the heart of Loddon. It is what #21VC is all about.
What we then do is ship in, say, a dozen wireless relays into the village that will then enable us to ‘locate’ individual users as they log onto the public wifi space that will sit over one, small rural community in Norfolk. And via Addiply we can then empower local businesses to target the users within that wifi-defined space.
Say, Rosie Lee’s Tea Room – popular not with Stanford tecchies, but walkers ambling along the Wherrymans Way; or cyclists cutting through the back roads en route to the coast. And we can start to tap into the same $5.8bn market that Facebook and Google are now eyeing.
One final thought.
Way back in 2009-2010, at the behest of the then MP for Norwich South, we started to look at a metro wifi solution for the city of Norwich. It involved working with a huge communications infrastructure company whose name I probably shouldn’t repeat. It ended with ‘…cock’ Which says it all, in fairness.
It never happened. Why?
Because said kit people came into this space with a tech answer, not a consumer one.
One of the tricks to this game is gaining height; for the most effective wifi provision you need ‘masts’ of a certain height – ie on top of your nearest department store. Or church tower.
‘Knock, knock…’ went the man from ‘…cock’ on the door of, say, Jarrolds Department Store. ‘Can we acquire some space on your roof top to deliver our wifi solution?’
‘OK – and what will it actually do?’ was the standard question.
And the answer was crucial. Because the kit boys always give the wrong one. They talk in tech speak; which no-one understands; they offer uploads and download speeds; mention of megabits has the eyes glazing over…’
‘500 notes a month; and put it next to the one the fella from Orange put up last week…’
And suddenly £6,000-a-year in simply acquiring an appropriate roof space rips your business model apart.
The answer? ‘Well, put my mast on top of your shop and you can live-stream your autumn fashion show to everyone on a mobile device within 500-yards of your front door… Fancy that? Think of it as Jarrolds ‘TV’…
‘Really? That is interesting… Tell us more…
Tonight we have the cornerstone of parish ‘TV’ in place. And what Facebook are doing in Palo Alto, me, Ben, Harry, Neil, Addiply, NESTA and #21VC are doing on the streets of Loddon.
This made for an interesting read. ‘The Rise of Ghosts Sites, where Traffic is Huge but Humans are Few…’
It tells of the growing concern within the online advertising industry at the ‘dark underbelly’ that lies beneath the surface of online AdLand.
‘If you spend enough time in the murky world of ad exchanges, ad tech middlemen and real-time bidding software, you might come away wondering why any major brand even bothers with online advertising…’ the author opens.
‘Ghost publishers’ are the latest spanners in the works; pulling advertisers away from genuine, audience-owning publishers to those for whom cheating the system has become another branch of the algorithmic dark arts.
Banking already has its own ‘dark pools’ of all-but impeneterable trading behaviour; the argument here would suggest that online advertising has something similar – to the cost of genuine publishers seeking genuine advertisers for their audience.
It should, after all, be so simple. I, the advertiser, want to place my ad right there…
“The growth of online dollars has been slow all things considered, completely because from the beginning, there has been this dark underbelly,” said Yieldbot CEO Jonathan Mendez…
Taking the person out of the loop and letting an algorithm do its own things has long been a favourite subject in these parts – be it taking the human out of the cockpit or the trading pit, there are consequences to letting a computer run riot.
Things get skewed; abused. People get misled. Where there should be transparency and simplicity, we get complexity and duplicity.
How that happens in the online advertising space is not too hard to imagine if you study the chart at the top of this piece.
It is from Luma Partners in the US; the ‘LumaScape’. Much viewed and much discussed, it makes for a fascinating study in the ‘journey’ any ad potentially has to make when travelling from left to right across that Snakes & Ladders board of DSPs, trading desks, ad networks, AMPs, etc etc…
When all many an advertiser wants to do is to place their ad just there…
Instead, the world and his algorithmic wife take a slice of the action; with the kind of milli-second speed that now is the hallmark of the great trading desks of Wall Street and The City. The geeks, the wonks, the wants and the quonts have taken the human out of the loop. The decision to place an ad there or to invest in a stock here are now the sole preserve of those with the biggest servers; the smartest tech – the all-seeing, algorithmic eye that knows that I booked a room off LateRooms last week and will, therefore, clearly want to do it again. And again.
One of the pieces that underpins so much of our thinking within the Addiply platform is Clay Shirky’s tome on the Collapse of Complex Business models. Of which the ‘LumaScape’ is a classic example.
If you have never read it, do so again. It is a classic.
There are passages therein which when applied to the rise of ‘ghost publishers’ within the complexity evidenced above make perfect sense. For if Shirky was talking originally how the complexity inherent to the publication and distribution of a newspaper is driving many to distraction and beyond, so the thinking – based on Joseph Tainter’s thoughts on the collapse of complex societies – are wholly applicable to the online advertising space.
‘Complex societies collapse because, when some stress comes, those societies have become too inflexible to respond. In retrospect, this can seem mystifying. Why didn’t these societies just re-tool in less complex ways? The answer Tainter gives is the simplest one: When societies fail to respond to reduced circumstances through orderly downsizing, it isn’t because they don’t want to, it’s because they can’t.
In such systems, there is no way to make things a little bit simpler – the whole edifice becomes a huge, interlocking system not readily amenable to change…’
That’s all Addiply sets out to do; to re-tool the online ad sales space ‘in less complex ways…’
Either I can buy that online ad space just there myself; or else I can out-source that function to a third party in a clear and transparent manner.
Not doubt such simplification will ‘discomfort elites’ - if, for example, the Welsh Assembly can place an ad themselves into any postcode district they fancy across Wales. In Welsh. Without the need of a DSP, an ASP or whatever else lies in between a ‘Troubled Families’ campaign being placed, say, in the Ely area of Cardiff (CF5).
It is the final line of Shirky’s essay that I have carried around with me for a long, long while.
‘When the ecosystem stops rewarding complexity, it is the people who figure out how to work simply in the present, rather than the people who mastered the complexities of the past, who get to say what happens in the future…’
In the meantime, however, the current system of complexity is starting to show signs of strain; the rewards are being leeched out of the system as ‘…the whole edifice becomes a huge, interlocking system not readily amenable to change.
With an hour to kill in Dubai Airport en route home from doing the Tokyo thing with our new best friends at Recruit – and, more importantly, my body not knowing whether it is morning, noon or night – I caught up with a piece in The Guardian on the state of the JP nation.
It makes for an interesting read; if only for the fact that the tone would appear one of mild relief that the worst of Ashley Highfield’s opening year at the helm was over.
The bitterest of the pills had been swallowed; he had had an ‘outstanding’ year on the cost-cutting front and with a leaner, meaner, digitally-focused machine now emerging, he could see a point where his enslavement to the banks eases. Slightly.
The possibility that, say, the Sheffield Star could one day become a bauble of the Royal Bank of Scotland has been discussed here before; as has the ‘Mutter Metric‘ – the rather telling mathematics when it comes to the percentage of metropolitan populations still buying the print editions of Ashley’s empire.
And whilst he may still be making better strides than most in making those digital dimes stack when compared to his ever declining print ad dollars, he has the ‘relevancy’ issue to address – in particular the way that we all, increasingly, live our lives on mobile.
And, yes, there are strides being made there; no-one is suggesting that in the most testing of *structural* times, Highfield isn’t making a half decent fist of an awful hand.
Hence, his guarded optimism that some of the worst might be over for his hard-pressed staff and his ever-demanding investors.
“I don’t need to make such big cuts again,” he says.
“I wanted to get most of the pain over as quickly as possible. News International [which paid £30m to partially terminate a printing contract] funded a quicker restructure than we would have been allowed. We don’t need to go at the same rate over the next couple of years.”
But here’s my problem with the apparent sighs of relief coming out of the City – with it’s vast knowledge of that local media landscape to tap into – and Ashley’s own fond hope that come the end of 2014 JP will be in rather ruder health financially.
Because the *assumption* – certainly with our friends in the City; be they financial or meeja – is that nothing substantive is going to happen within those local spaces to challenge the local hegemony a JP has always enjoyed in a Leeds or a Sheffield; in the same way that Archant does in Norwich or TM in a Cardiff or a Newcastle.
That has always been the foundation of their ad success; as ITV went ever more regional and the local commercial radio stations ever more national, so on the streets of a Leeds or a Newcastle, a Sunderland or a Cardiff, the local newspaper ad sales reps were kings and queens of the hill. They mopped up.
But that is all about to change – and well within the next couple of years, to boot.
If we ignore, for a moment, the likes of a LeedsOnline and concentrate on more ‘established’ local media entities that even the analyst from RBS might recognise, so JP are about to come under unprecedented local commercial assault from the new ‘Local TV’ stations that will spring up on his front lawn within the next 12 months.
All of whom – one can only presume – will be putting local ad reps into the field in opposition to their newspaper rivals.
And having listened to Jamie Conway speak at #1000flowers last month and if I were any of the regional newspaper ‘barons’ I wouldn’t take the threat posed by the bright, ambitious CEO of MadeTV too lightly.
Because he thinks – and sells – like a proper network and with licences granted to Made for Cardiff (TM), Bristol (Local World), Newcastle (TM) and Leeds (JP) he is about to ruffle a few feathers. For now, he might claim that there is enough ad dollars for all to share; in the current financial climate, I’m not so sure.
If I am the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, I might be tempted to give this new local TV thing a go; my extra commercial spend I will take out of the Newcastle Chron – with it’s declining relevance to my target audience.
And the response of the TM ad rep? Will be the traditional one; to cut my ad rates ever further in a bid to keep the Theatre Royal ‘loyal’ to the Chron ‘brand’.
And here is the other straw that the provincial newspaper groups will cling to – ‘brand’. They are the most recognisable local media ‘brand’ in their individual cities. Everyone knows the Chron, the Echo, the Mail and the Star. That’s where their value still lingers in that local advertising market…Made? Made who?
Which – might – persuade my investors that the worst is over; that the JPs and the TMs of this world can see of any challenge that a Jamie Conway might offer. And still ‘own’ audience, brand, traffic and advertiser loyalty – whether that be on a print or a digital platform.
There is, however, one beast in this local jungle that – wilfully or otherwise – the whole London meeja circus appears to be blissfully ignorant of. Or simply can’t fathom given its distance from either Upper Street or Charlotte Street.
Given the audience it has already established and the fact that it’s broadcast platform of choice is the little black box that sits in the corner of every Costa and every Wetherspoons pub on the banks of the Tyne and the Wear – aka The Cloud – it is an act of local media genius that the Murdochs have slipped that vehicle so far under everyone’s radar.
Because, for now, they run house ads through that platform; pushing subscriptions and the like.
But if they decide that the audience they have built can command the attention of local advertisers – to mobile, to tablet and to all those other sexy places 21st Century 20-somethings hang out these days – then it will rip Ashley’s advertising numbers apart long before he ever gets to see the calmer waters at the end of 2014.
Brand? Who on earth has ever heard of ‘Sky’ in the cities of Newcastle and Leeds, Cardiff and Sheffield.
For now Sky sits and toys with its new platform far from those madding London meeja crowds; those that deem the worst is now behind Ashley and Co.
It makes one move out of the North-East; switches from house ads to local ads and it has the ability to kill local newspapers of the ilk of the Yorkshire Evening Post and the Newcastle Chronicle.
To my mind, Ashley, I think the fun has only just begun.
Last week I was in Tokyo to meet our two, new investors on their ‘home’ patch – the ‘international super angel’ (as billed by UKTI VC) Shozo Nakajima of SystemSoft and his JV partners, Recruit Inc. The same Recruit Inc that last autumn bought the US classfied jobs site Indeed Inc for $1 billion. Them.
This was our news from just before December. Them.
It was a fascinating trip; an eye-opener in many regards.
Not least in the way that they appear to embrace the notion of open and collaborative working that has long lain at the heart of Addiply’s thinking; be it in the new, enhanced third-party sales functionality that we will launch in the next 4-6 weeks or this whole notion of a Public API… that we can arm hosts of programmers and developers across the globe with a new building tool that might help monetise their web or mobile offerings.
It is what our Technology Strategy Board funding was all about – let nations go build. Wales being the first amongst them.
Second, of course, was Japan. They, too, have a new toy to play with in the local advertising space.
Recruit are not just one of the world’s leading recruitment and HR agencies; they also have a rich history in publishing. In local coupon magazines, funnily enough.
Pages and pages of 2×3 inch print coupons for the local nail bar, beauty salon and dog grooming parlour. Hot Pepper. Worth a nose. That, I think, is where the ‘fit’ is.
More interestingly still, they also have a rich and supportive heritage in supporting the developer community via sponsored hack days. This was their last big gig – MasupAwards8 in Tokyo last August.
<Its in Japanese, I know. What I also know now is that MashupAwards9 is in Tokyo this August. It will again feature a raft of national sponsors, will include the good people of GitHub who I met at Collab2012 in Berkeley last year and will also find 500 of Japan's smartest developers, hackers and coders housed under one roof for a day to go build new, mobile and web tools.
How do I know all that? Because we have the invite to be part of that Mashup party; our investors are happy for our Public API to be showcased at their event; see what people can build with that TSB-funded open platform. We have, already, built a v1 Japanese version of the platform. Who knows what v23(b) and v418(d) might look like if you let 500 coders rip for a day in the search for a monetisation model to sit behind their app or mobile coupon messaging service.
Last time I looked, GitHub had 3,000,000 ’social coders’ looking for something new to play with. Something to build on, polish up and improve. People like to build. In an open and collaborative manner. From the bottom up…
The contrast, of course, is with Google for whom being open and collaborative has always been something of a struggle. Particularly for anyone who has aspirations to be the third half of the world’s brain and who has spent nigh on ten years building the world’s greatest-ever algorithm – the secrets of which you are never going to give up lightly. If at all.
Its not hot-wired into the DNA of a Larry or a Sergey to give up their life’s work so freely.
We have no algorithm; we have no, huge secret sauce. F*ck it, go build. See what you can do; pass it on to your friends; ask them. Does this work? Nah… OK, lets try this… Have you seen what she’s done? Hey, that’s cool. I could bolt that onto this… make that…
Those are the kind of conversations we wish to inspire.
I’ve watched from afar the kind of hack days that The Guardian offers; all very well-meaning, but not a whole lot to do with monetising local spaces on a global scale. Besides, why would they want to ruffle Google’s feathers when the great algorithm can deliver DD bra ads in such volumes to such 40-something fellas as me?
The point about working with the likes of Mashup9, with GitHub and OpenStack is many-fold; empowerment clearly to the individual hackers, programmers and coders involved, but more selfishly from an Addiply perspective this is a free developer resource. Great developers are gold dust; we have been so fortunate to have had two of the greater ones as part of the family for a while now.
But there are others as yet unknown to us out there; perhaps we will never know them.
And here’s the other key point to this exercise. That same world-wide social coder community is also our route to market; it is a free, global distribution platform for Addiply now that we can localise by both long-lat and language.
That’s what makes this one invite back to Tokyo later this summer so special. Go East, not West, young man and go build…
Yesterday I was in deepest Newport; at the ONS; speaking to the spring conference of CommsCymru.
The Slideshare presentation is here. More information on the organisation playing host can be found here.
Gathered in the room were 100-odd senior comms professionals from both the public and the third sector; the event kicked off with a message of support from the Finance Minister for Wales, Jane Hutt AM; it ended with a keynote address from Alex Aiken, on the first day of his new role as the Executive Director of Government Communication for HM Government.
So, no slouches in the PR field; not when it came to Wales. Or, indeed, the UK.
Which is why I need to offer my thanks – in public – to Sara Moseley, the conference chair and now on secondment to Cardiff University’s new-launched Centre for Community Journalism, for the invite to speak.
The challenge for all those gathered in that room was fairly plain. In times of huge social and economic upheaval – with the biggest change to welfare in a generation kicking in that day alongside a national comms budget that has shrunk from north of £1 billion from 2010 to the £300 million of today – how does ‘government’, national or local, ‘reach out’ and engage with the kind of embattled communities that inhabit, say, the Gurnos Estate in Merthyr Tydfil.
Aiken was interesting in the priorities he was setting for his comms community on his first day proper in the job.
He wanted them to be ‘Germans’, quote. Brutally effective and efficient in their delivery of whatever was left of their comms spend; gone were the days of the Mediterranean excesses and inefficiencies that came with a £1 billion marketing budget.
Those happy days were gone; everyone would have to deal with the new, straitened times; a leaner, meaner, more effective mobile machine was what the nation’s lead marketing mandarin was advocating as those listening grappled with ever properly ‘finding’ let alone then engaging with communities wrestling with saythe onslaught of a measles epidemic - or, of course, what the ‘bedroom tax’ might actually mean for the already hard-pressed residents of CF47, the Gurnos.
The picture above is one of a little hack that James Rutherford performed last Friday.
It is what you can get if you ‘mash’ Addiply’s forthcoming Public API – one that, via the Technology Strategy Board funding, is already localised by language to Welsh – to that of Jonathan Raper and Placr’s Open Transport Data API… to the 1km radius weather app that already sits on the S4C’s website, courtesy of Tinopolis.
And re-housed them all on a new, layered mobile app. As in here.
One that was ubiquitous across the whole nation of Wales.
And that’s a key component to making anything work in this space. Content – and advertising – have to be able to go anywhere… into any bus-stop in Wales.
It goes back to Ms Enders. And her comments on the back of Jeremy Hunt’s vision for Local TV in the UK – one that is now scheduled to deliver a ‘Local’ TV station for Cardiff and, er, Mold… but not for the likes of Swansea or Newport, Wrexham or Merthyr.
“He is not understanding that there will be a deficit [in content] at a regional level that cannot be filled by his local plans as they don’t deliver ubiquitous coverage,” said Ms Enders.
This is the point.
For Welsh comms professionals trying to match urgent message and fast-diminishing marketing spend to the fractured local media landscape that now exists in Wales – including the total market failure newspaper-wise that is Port Talbot and the fact that Crispin Odey, the hedge fund manager, is now in play in Swansea via David Montgomery’s LocalWorld consortium – so the situation demands a blank piece of paper. And something that works ‘from the bottom up’. With a ubiquity that the web delights in.
We have a go anywhere network… https://live.addiply.com/cy/network …for now centred around the AboutMyArea platform. Including one for the Gurnos… www.aboutmyarea.co.uk/cf47/
But we can drill ever deeper down; to the 1km ‘radius’ of S4C’s weather app which – in effect – is data drilling to bus-stop level accuracy. Give Addiply 362,000 long-lats of bus-stops across the UK and, in effect, we now have 362,000 hyper-hyper-local ‘publishers’… aka, individual points of data.
But the piece of the puzzle that is of real interest round here is that ad for 30% off fresh vegetables.
Drilled right into one bus-stop ‘app’; for the 27 bus; at the Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr. In the heart of the Gurnos.
An ad that comes down from on high; from, say, Public Health Wales as they look to work with local supermarkets to re-educate the people of that challenged estate in terms of their diet and general well-being.
Because you know their medical make-up from the data sat in the ONS; you know the likelihood of a 15-year-old falling pregnant on that estate; you equally now know the prevalance of measles in various challenged communities in Swansea.
So, Public Health Wales, drill your message into those communities on a platform that they all increasingly live by – their smartphone.
That was the ‘takeaway’ from Tokyo; that the market is exploding in terms of that mobile-local-coupon space.
And whilst most would prefer the term ‘voucher’ when it came to free dental check-ups, childcare provision or a diabetes test, there is growing evidence that in an age of such damning austerity for those long-locked in such challenged communities, a new era food coupons might soon be upon us – and not just on the streets of the Gurnos, either.
How do you deliver those in a truly, Germanic fashion Alex?
I’ve never really bought into this idea that the world of digital technology – or, more particularly, the understanding of where that digital technology is taking us – is a man’s world.
I can think of at least three women whose thinking in this space is up there with any man’s; and whose opinions help shape the direction of travel for Addiply.
One is up in Newcastle right now, over-seeing the birth of our new enhanced platform; one that, we hope, will – alongside our soon-to-be-public API – prove to be a cornerstone of our contribution to this whole local-mobile space.
Two others have been mentioned before here; but time and again, it is to their thinking that I return.
One is Claire Enders. And her use of the word ‘ubiquitous’.
With one single word she drove a coach and horses through Jeremy Hunt’s vision for ‘Local TV’ in the UK; one that is now – slowly – start to take shape with the award of those first 20-odd local TV licences to anyone with decent access to a hill and a TV transmitter mast.
“He is not understanding that there will be a deficit [in content] at a regional level that cannot be filled by his local plans as they don’t deliver ubiquitous coverage,” she noted.
In that Mold can get a TV station, but an Ipswich or a Sunderland can’t. You need a hill and a TV transmitter mast to make it work; that and a prayer that said mast is pointing in the right direction.
But ‘ubiquitous coverage’ is a challenge not just confronting the whole OfCom/DCMS vision as laid down by the now-departed Minister; the local newspaper groups – confined in their own medieval circulation fiefdoms – can likewise not deliver ‘ubiquitous coverage’ of the UK in terms of either editorial content or advertising opportunity. Some can do Manchester, but not Sheffield. Others can do Norwich, but not Peterborough.
And that’s what people still don’t seem to get about Sky/Tyne&Wear.
Not just the fact that they have a network model that could – if they so chose – do Sky/Manchester, Sky/Leeds and Sky/Cardiff tomorrow and offer editorial and ‘local’ advertising ubiquity across the major metropolitan centres of the UK, but in utilising the services of the Sky-owned Cloud to deliver said platform, they are getting ever nearer a ‘ubiquitous coverage’ in terms of a broadcast platform.
Their content is being pumped out – to mobile and tablet – by the little black box sat in the corner of every Wetherspoons pub and Costa coffee shop in the country. They have no need of a hill or a mast. Or of OfCom and the DCMS.
They are ubiquitous in their potential scale and their reach… and, indeed, in their ambition. They can monster the local media space in this country should that first pilot lead to a second and a third…
The other thought-leader female-wise, for me, is Cindy Gallop.
Her proposition that the whole advertising industry needs to revolutionise its thinking and replace ‘good advertising with advertising for good…’ remains another fundamental tenet and hope within Addiply’s thinking going forward.
This line: ‘Brands and consumers micro-acting together to create impacts in the real world that benefit consumers, benefit society and benefit the brand and its business…’
The picture at the top is of a product and a thought process that is coming down the Addiply pipeline this summer; that it is Tescos punting out a ‘local coupon’ is down to Beccles/Loddon connections; it could be anyone.
Why be so open? Well, there is a Technology Strategy Board competition underway that demands a YouTube ‘pitch’ be made public.
On it, we demo how we might deliver food vouchers, offer coupons, targeted ‘messages’ down to a bus-stop level.
The thinking was evident in the presentation I gave to the CommsCymru conference last month; thats on SlideShare here. It was also a takeaway from our Easter trip to Tokyo – that the local coupon/offer market-place was a hot one to play in if you could geo-locate both user and advertiser and deliver into that mobile app space.
But the point is that what we’re aspiring to be is a vehicle for ‘advertising for good’.
That there are, right now, hugely challenged communities in this country for whom the only readily available means of connection is via their SmartPhone. And they will download the latest apps and games onto their mobis off the nearest available free wifi.
Thats where they live their lives. They are not – Martha Lane Fox please note – at the end of any ‘line’ be it fibre, copper or cable; sat at their PCs waiting for an email to arrive from the local council inviting them to partake of free dental care.
They are on their mobiles. And how you locate them is their proximity to the nearest wifi access point.
I’ve been pondering hospitals of late. And out-patients departments. I’ve sat in enough of them over the last four years with the Old Dear. Oncology, Radiology – all the ologies; ITU and HDU. So I know the most useful thing you can deliver me is free wifi. As I and thousands of others sit and wait. Captive in that one, out-patient department space.
Now whack an access point in. And locate the mobile user by department.
Now deliver childcare vouchers to the new mums and babies waiting for their post-natals; winter fuel allowance offers/reminders to those in geriatrics; 20% off fresh vegetables to all those concerned.
For me that is hyper-local advertising being a real force for good; advertising that is of benefit to society; that ticks Ms Gallop’s boxes as she seeks to turn the advertising industry upside down…
Not for the first time – or, indeed, the last – we have Damian Radcliffe to thank for a great overview of the state of the UK ‘hyperlocal nation’.
It is here. Therein lies many a compelling point; as ever, there are plenty more questions arising from some of the answers.
First, a card on the table. We’re late delivering our own contribution to NESTA’s DestinationLocal project. Hands up, there’s 201 things going on my life – and that of Addiply – that doesn’t always keep my eye on that #21VC ball.
But we’re not far away now.
In part, our delay is down to that fact that alone in those ten winners, we are an infrastructure project. And we have two pieces of hardware ‘kit’ to install and integrate into our thinking pre-launch. One is already there. The broadband ‘pipe’ that sits atop Holy Trinity Church Tower. Thats it there. Been there for about six weeks now.
It delivers ‘backhaul’. And if you, as a journalist, don’t know what ‘backhaul’ is, look it up. To my mind, its a rather more important tecchie term than, say, ’scraping’. Without one, you have absolutely no chance of doing the other.
Off that backhaul, we then run an AP – an ‘access point’; the thing you log into when seeking a wifi connection in a Starbucks. One has to be in line of sight of the other; which is why WiSpire is an act of genius. Who owns the highest roof space in any medieval village in England… And who has a network of such ‘masts’?
But to get thus far, we have to go through planning – with the English Heritage, the revelant PCCs (Parochical Church Councils) and, in our case, we had to ‘hop’ into Loddon via two more church towers – Burgh Apton and Ashby St Mary.
But now you have a connection. Or, look at it another way, you have a hyperlocal print press for mobile…
Go back to Damian’s piece and one of the trends he sees for 2013 is of hyperlocal publishers going back into print… BrixtonBlog, TheCityTalking, CaerphillyObserver… all are going back into that tried and tested format that is print. Their ‘distribution’ platform is leaving free copies in bars, clubs, pubs, restaurants, etc etc.
Where the Newspaper Society awaits. With a warning.
Park yourself back on our print lawn and you will play by the same rules of the Leveson game as us… with all the cost and legal implications that entails.
The fact that, commercially, you are also playing in the same ball park as their own print ad reps is also good news. The local newspaper groups have been in a state of ‘aggressive defence’ for a decade; you’re playing by their rules… and if you are not very careful, they’ll whack you with all the tricks of the trade – as they have been doing to upstart free-sheets for years.
But the Leveson ‘reminder’ is interesting; and telling.
“Exempting competing council papers from the proposed scheme flies in the face of Lord Justice Leveson’s stated recommendation that it ’should not provide an added burden to the regional and local press.’
“It is surely wrong in principle and unworkable in practice for a local paper to be put at a disadvantage to a council paper covering the same news in the same area… “, they ‘roar’.
The implication being obvious. They will run to their nearest MP if Leveson is not applied to (a) the local council paper and, potentially, (b) a print version of a local blogging ‘micro-business’.
See the local Dagenham MP dancing on a local council newspaper’s grave. The same MP who will, no doubt, be cheering in the streets when 15,000 lamp-posts in Barking & Dagenham are wifi enabled under Boris’ bold vision.
Local authorities are getting out of print; their getting into the connection game. ‘Print presses’ on every lamp-post, if you will.
So stepping back into print, for me, plays straight into the hands of the Newspaper Society; despite the fact that by their ‘Mutter Metric’ their relevance to anyone’s daily lives is on the wane like never before. They are embarked on a ’stampede to irrelevance’ according to one of their own.
Play in the print space and their arguments – and that of Leveson and Co who, to this day, likewise only view the world through the prism of the printed press – still have some relevance and bearing. Just.
So make them irrelevant.
#21VC is not about to become a print product. We’re not about to play to the rules of their game.
Nor for that matter are Sky. Without banging on and on about them, they have their own ‘print press’ in the shape of TheCloud. Just as I have mine atop Holy Trinity Church tower.
Leveson and the position of the local TV transmitter mast is of no relevance to them; nor is a distribution model based either on good will and space in the window of the local hairdressers or a 14-year-old on a bike.
Lets pull a figure out of the ’sky’ and say that Sky/Tyne&Wear has up to 500,000 monthly uniques. Switch on a local ad model and watch the Newspaper Society squeal like a stuck pig… because they are what? Publically funded? Because they’re untouched by Leveson? Sky/Tyne&Wear I suspect have no intention whatsoever to go into print… James is getting out of the tree-staining business; if Murdoch Jnr was ever in it in the first place.
But the really interesting people are the ‘kit’ guys; the Ruckus’ of this world… and a certain huge defence contractor who once claimed to be delivering a metro wifi solution for Norwich.
Because these boys know they need to be in the content game; and the local authorities know they need to be in the connection game. Lighting up their lamposts. Because if they are ever to engage with their residents, they have to find them on mobile. And that penny has dropped at the highest level of Government Comms.
I know. I listened – and learned - from Alex Aiken.
And whatever is left of their comms spend is not going into print. Its going into mobile.
I know why hyperlocals turn to print; its familiar and safe for local advertisers; whilst we still work on monetising this mobile space and find new, compelling local ad formats that usurp the old quarter-page ads of old, thatway lies a short-term commercial fix.
But thataway also lies the local newspapers; defending their medieval print fiefdoms as if their very lives depend on it…
Step forward people… keep your foot on the digital gas. And let the arguments of the flailing newspaper barons slide ever more into irrelevance.