I’ve quoted from the good book before. But as the dust starts to settle on today’s TalkAboutLocal conference and the takeaways start, so it might be worth re-visiting Hill’s masterpiece, ‘The World Turned Upside Down.’
His seminal work is the story of the last great English Revolution; the one in which a king lost his head and for a few, glorious years the world threatened to turn upside down.
Localism gained the upper hand over London as a nation of itinerant pamphleteers and soldiers shone new thinking into even the darkest corners of the land.
It was a triumph of hyperlocalism that proved all-too short-lived as the established order was restored with a vengeance in 1660.
Hill’s conclusions are as true today in the field of hyperlocalism as they were then.
“There was inevitable pressure on all sects to seek some support from some men of property: and this in time exacted a price,” he wrote (p374).
“The insidious pressures of the world bore down on the children of light even as they organised to turn the world upside down.”
Put into a 2015 context and those ‘insidious pressures’ are what, I suspect, the likes of BrixtonBlog and BitOfStone have felt as they look to the crowd to fund their hyperlocal publishing efforts.
Journalism comes with a price tag. It costs. In time, effort and hosting.
As much as everyone can set out with the noble intention of this all being free and volunteer led, it still costs. And people have little or no alternative but to turn to ‘the men of property’. Be they the good, generous people of Brixton or Stone. Or the likes of a Carnegie Trust.
There are, of course, other ‘men of property‘ out there. Whose role within the hyperlocal space continues to ‘bear down on the children of light‘ be they Facebook and it’s current stranglehold on local audiences and, via WhatsApp, their conversations the world over or, of course, Google whose search and advertising tools are, in theory, there to help the children of light become at least not-for-loss.
Those same tools are also, in theory, there to let local men with property to sell to access local audiences in Brixton and Stone.
But having been there and tried that on MyFootballWriter, AdSense offers little return or release from the insidious pressures everyone currently faces in this space.
One of the frequent assertions at such gatherings is how one size doesn’t fit all; how selling tote bags might work for a KentishTowner, but probably not for a Magnet in Port Talbot. Just as the crowd’s pockets of the more well-heeled ends of Brixton are likely to have a different view on the depth of their support than a more challenged demographic in Staffordshire.
Is it going to be the gift that keeps on giving? And giving? The US experience suggests the well of goodwill has its limits. In roughly two-thirds of cases.
But the differing ways communities align and engage locally is as true now as it was then; back in the heady days of the 1640s, this nation was awash with local sects and sub-sects of sects; one man’s Ranter was another woman’s Raver. There was no guiding principle or structure to make sure that such diverse communities could stand alone, together.
Or rather, there was – briefly – in the guise of the New Model Army.
But it lost. The guiding framework that again came to bind local communities together belonged to the ‘men of property’. Be they of the Church. Or of the State.
Once upon a time I owned the URL to MyLocalWriter. As in MyLocalWriter.com/nr14. Or MyLocalWriter.com/mk17. But what you came to swiftly realise was that in the field of local, people’s tastes varied. They did not want to be tied to one name. Have someone else’s construct imposed upon them.
It is like the US craft brewing industry. Now serving more beer than Budweiser.
For each craft brewer appeals to its local ’audience’ – be it in terms of taste or price. That’s their USP. Local flavour. Sold hyperlocally.
Here’s the interesting bit for me. And, OK, Addiply. Particularly in our mobile Message thinking.
For while the pints that the local craft brewers pull across their network of micro-breweries might be hugely different from one small town the next, the pipes and pumps through which they pull those pints are, in every likelihood, going to be the same.
They will turn to only a small number of ‘men of property’ through whose uniform and standardised kit and technology they will serve their local customer base. Be they Facebook, Google, WordPress or whoever.
But that way they can stand alone, together.
A pipe is a pipe; a pump is a pump. What liquid (news) flows through it is no business of mine.
All I can do – for now, in theory – is say that my simple pipework can ‘advertise’ a planning application in Brixton, a rising river in Stone and a cheap curry in Port Talbot. And for publishers – be they web or app facing – it’s free.
Because you think and scale like a uniform and ubiquitous global network. And see long-term value in acting like a simple, pipe and pump provider to a local craft brew industry that now out-performs a Budweiser.
That way, to my mind, the children of light can, finally, stand alone together.
For anyone who spent their formative years as a teenager in a household of a pipe-smoking, jazz-loving, SDP stalwart whose daily read of choice was The Guardian, this spring promises to be something of a defining moment for what remains a unique media institution.
It is all change at the top as both Alan Rusbridger and CEO Andrew Miller prepare to pursue pastures new.
Today four of the leading cardinals in the race for the papal succession at Kings Place issued their individual manifestos. It made for a fascinating read as each of the four sketched out the vision thing for their NUJ colleagues.
It is here.
Having read all four, there was one line that stood out. And it came in the piece by Janine Gibson.
“In the UK, we are too London-centric. We’re underrepresented in Manchester, Scotland and the major British cities. Work harder to diversify our staff – can only report from and reach new communities and readers if we are like them and understand them.”
Someone, say, in the mould of a John Baron. Who is about as Leeds as you get. But was deemed surplus to requirements when GuardianLeeds was shuttered alongside their GuardianLocal pilots in Edinburgh and Cardiff. Because they were deemed commercially ‘unsustainable’.
And yet the following summer there was Eric Schmidt delivering his key-note to DreamForce 11 and foretelling that the winning platforms of the future would be something that involved ‘mobile, social and local…’
Not global. But local.
For me, it identifies a fault line that lies at the heart of the Guardian’s future. Do they go back into that local UK space they left in 2010-11 – or do they push on into Mumbai and Lagos ahead of a return to Manchester and Leeds?
Maybe they do both. Be both global and local. But to do that will require the next incumbent to turn Guardian Commercial’s world view upside down. A feat of arms which won’t be for the faint of heart.
Addiply ran on those three GuardianLocal platforms; at the invite of Emily Bell. In text ad only form. A tenner a week or some such figure to place a postcard in the window of a GuardianLeeds, Cardiff or Edinburgh. We weren’t about to rewrite GMG’s commercial fortunes overnight.
By the end they were driving 50,000 monthly uniques apiece. A concentrated clutch of local-facing Guardianistas with their enduring appeal to a certain class of advertiser. Like, say, Alfa (Headingley).
Who were starting to express an interest in that audience. As you would. Selling Alfas. In Leeds. And, I suspect, they would have paid more than a tenner a week to access said eyeballs.
More than, say, the Eurostar ad for London-Paris train fares returned as it cascaded down into that local space off an algorithm from on high. Or, indeed, a bra ad.
Move the debate on five years and The Guardian’s next trick is to try and crack mobile. Where revenue build remains a Wild West. They don’t have to make a profit; maybe just aspire to being not for as great a loss as last year.
Eric Schmidt’s interest in ‘local’ isn’t in keeping the local burghers of Manchester under surveillance; it is more about recognising and exploiting the exploding value in location. As you would if you ran the world’s pre-eminent local advertising algorithm.
Mobile, social and location.
Given that iPass predict there will a wifi hotspot for nigh-on every 20 people on the planet by 2018, the incoming regime needs to be thinking long and hard about location. If you now know where your audience is accessing your Guardian App. To the nearest 250m. Be it in Manchester or Mumbai.
The challenge then, of course, is one of world view. And advertising technology. Because if I have tied my colours firmly to a future enslaved to an RTB programmatic interface as beloved by an Omnicom or a Publicis, then I have got to fervently hope that the Flash Boys don’t crash my Guardian App party. And rip value and return out of my long-cultivated and now locatable audience.
Give me another ad for the Eurostar leaving London on my mobile when I am stood 250m away from Alfa (Headingley).
Let’s do the user journey. From Islington to Southwold on a Friday night. As they do.
Rock up on the Suffolk Gold Coast, open up my GuardianApp because Adnams have seen fit to put a wifi hot-spot atop the lighthouse and what can happen? If I see the world through a local-global lens?
I get an offer for the last free table at the Crown Hotel; or 25% off a case of Cloudy Bay at the Adnams Wine Shop.
For which Adnams would pay a pretty penny – more than a Vodafone, a Santander or a Eurostar would for a mobile message that is of no immediate contextual relevance to me. In Southwold. On a Friday night.
It’s there because they have the biggest budget and the sharpest agency to win the RTB race for that slot on a Guardian mobile app.
Something that is way, way beyond the reach of an Adnams. Or an independent coffee shop. In Manchester. Or Mumbai.
So, for me, this is the Guardian’s crossroads moment. The big challenge anyone needs to address, commercially. How to have a global footprint and yet be able to reap best value out of knowing where your mobile audience is, locally.
Janine is right. ‘We are too London-centric…’
The foundation stones financially of the Guardian Media Group were laid by the butcher, baker and candlestick maker in the small ads of the Manchester Guardian.
It is to them that you should now look for a mobile salvation – and not to the Ted Bakers of that London town.
I’m going to quote at length from this piece; I missed it last month.
MediaBriefing ’sponsored’ content talking to a Dan Wilson of PubMatic on the rise and rise of programmatic and, in particular, how all eyes are now focussing on mobile.
The real interest, for me, is in the last few paragraphs and the cloud on the horizon. The Flash Boys, it appears, are in danger of crashing this particular programmatic party.
‘High frequency traders – the Flash Boys mentioned in Michael Lewis’ book of the same name, published this year – have got wind of programmatic advertising.
‘To avoid being left in the cold as automation of trades takes over, the Flash Boys have jammed themselves between the seller and buyer. In an activity known as “front running”, they use algorithms to buy and sell mobile ads at a similarly fast pace as seen in RTB.
Is Wilson concerned about their involvement in his market? “Yes in the short term, no in the longer term,” he says:
“The programmatic industry is evolving at such a rapid pace, the trade times for ads will only get shorter. We process transactions at around 120 milliseconds.
“The rising popularity of private marketplaces will also reduce the opportunity for front running. This is because PMPs actually bring sellers and buyers closer together with tailored marketplaces, making it more difficult for the Flash Boys to force their way in.”
The Flash Boys we have come across before. On Wall Street. They swim in the toxic dark pools – deploying the biggest, smartest and, above all, quickest algorithms to stay one, millisecond ahead of the market. And work their margins where few others have the wherewithal to shine any light on their dealings.
And now, it seems, they are looking to extend their reach into the world of programmatic advertising where, it would appear, one man’s front running can be another man’s arbitrage. Or at least this was one ‘take away’ from a piece on BusinessInsider last year.
Through which you can then read a piece on AdAge where the debate continued to rage.
And it is important to follow the thread. Because you get to this quote, on the back of a question to Irwin Gotlieb, Chairman-CEO of Group M, with regard to transparency. What to tell the client when it comes to the price you paid for that particular audience when – as Wall Street discovered – there is money in the millisecond margins.
“His reasoning? Media shops must find ways to make more money to reinvest in technology — all for the benefit of clients. And, Mr. Gotlieb said, arbitrage helps fund those massive investments, which “don’t lend themselves to overhead charges of 200% to 300%.”
Go back a step.
What, in effect, is happening here is that a piece of ad inventory aka audience is being sold twice within that 120 millisecond window.
Once by the agency trading desk at X and then on to the client for Y. Or X if you are ’squeaky clean’ and not looking to add a little, or a lot, extra to your bottom line on the basis of the extra layer of data and reporting you take back to your client.
The unique ‘value add’ that allows the price of the second sale to be jacked up by the extra-smart agency.
OK. All of which brings us back to Dan Wilson and how PubMatic plan to squeeze the Flash Boys out of their programmatic space and make the relationship between seller (publisher) and buyer (advertiser) squeaky clean.
They are going to make the whole buy process even quicker. That in turning an auction around in, say, 80 milliseconds will not give the Flash Boys the chance to buy and then sell on, at a profit, that same audience opportunity.
Equally, they will create tighter PMPs – private market places – to ensure the wilder bots out there on the public trading desks don’t get a sniff of the premium audiences available to their exclusive private auction houses.
But here’s the rub. The bit where we return to Joseph Tainter and the cost – and the consequences – of layering on one complexity after another.
Because enhanced auction speed comes at a cost; as does instigating and defending a private market-place.
It comes in the cost of energy to drive such enhanced computational power; it comes in the cost of hiring the ‘talent’ in terms of ‘Math Men’ to deliver on both code-wise; the next generation of Jeff Hammerbachers; it also comes at the expense of every small and medium enterprise looking to market their wares to a mobile audience who simply cannot shoulder such additional costs.
It is also exactly what Gotlieb was trying to explain; that without finding an extra margin somewhere in this business, they cannot hope to win the arms race that is programmatic advertising.
They have to ‘re-invest in technology’ – or risk being out-bought in that millisecond market-place.
Maybe I’m the only one that thinks this isn’t sustainable; that trying to pull one ‘tribute’ to many out of such a complex system as programmatic ad tech merely hastens the kind of collapse that Joseph Tainter explains so clearly when it comes to the fate of the Aztecs or the Romans.
In particular, this notion that the final act of complexity is a sudden and dramatic shift to simplicity. And how the world rebuilds itself, locally.
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.
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 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.
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…
Last week I wrote a piece about Sky, about today’s Westminster Media Forum and how any discussion of the future shape of the local media landscape in the United Kingdom cannot afford to ignore events and audiences unfolding on the banks of the Tyne and the Wear.
I tweeted the link to the piece and a Sunderland student – Sam Jermy – tweeted a reply…
‘@RickJWaghorn @ashleyhi Good read mate. Sky T & W are literally everywhere, even filmed my local rugby team for their website!
Its one tweet; one student; one opinion. But on the basis that Sky/TyneWear is driving 500,000 *plus* monthly uniques off that one, *local* news platform, I would have thought that someone, somewhere would sit up and take notice.
Particularly given the fact that their broadcast platform of choice is TheCloud; that it all comes onto my mobile… via ‘mobile journalists’ rocking up at Sam Jermy’s local rugby club – and, one presumes, winning the hearts and minds of all there. ‘Hey, we’ve got Sky covering the game here today…’
The fact that they are delivering such engaging local content onto a mobile platform would be music to the ears of at least two of the days speakers – Douglas McCabe of EndersAnalysis who opened the show with bar after bar chart demonstrating the explosive growth in terms of SmartPhone and tablet uptake in the UK and Thomas Laranjo, MD of Total Media.
The message from the agency was simple enough – its all about data; of channel shifts, lifestyle choices and outcome measurements. And location. Show me where you are. Where *exactly* are you when you access this content on your mobile or tablet device?
It is why Google and Facebook are giving away wifi access points to the coffee shops of Palo Alto; and why we – via NESTA – have done the same to the people of Loddon, Norfolk. To do ‘the deal’ – connection for location.
There are $10.3bn reasons why mobile-location matters. And why ownership of TheCloud is an act of broadcasting genius.
‘Get closer to your customers with The Cloud WiFi,’ runs the pitch on their own website. ‘The Cloud can provide you with valuable customer data and insight whilst giving you a platform to send targeted messages and promotions, direct to customers in your venue…
‘Targeted messages…that underpin that $10.3bn marketplace.
‘Targeted messages…that can also underpin a new, sustainable and networked platform for local news in the UK if the powers that be decide to roll Sky/TyneWear out of that North-East fastness and into Leeds, into Manchester, into Birmingham and on even into Kent, where KM Group chairman Geraldine Allinson confirmed that she would welcome another commercial player into her patch – after all, we’re all for plurality in the regional newspaper business; it makes discussions with the OFT so much easier if there is genuine competition for local ad spend.
Far better, clearly, to have Sky/Kent on your doorstep than a council newspaper nicking your ads or the BBC nicking your stories.
Personally, if I was Ms Allinson I’d want Sky knocking on my local advertisers door about as much as I’d like a hole in the head. In fact, I’d rather take my chances with the local council and Auntie.
If I was Kent punter? Well, on the basis of the 500,000-plus monthly audience currently accessing their pilot platform in the North-East, Sky must be doing something right content-wise. And if it works on the banks of the Tyne and the Wear, it must have every chance of working on the banks of the Medway.
But here’s the point.
No-one appears to be getting the message that Sky are on the cusp of delivering something remarkable in the local media space. Not The Guardian – for whom the BBC is still the prime villain of the piece. And in dismantling the current Local ‘TV’ framework and questioning the level of engagement there is between local consumer and local media outlets, Roy Greenslade appears to ignore the numbers that Sky are pulling. Out of *one* local patch.
This line stands out – albeit in reference to Local World’s valiant efforts to pull together enough of the regional newspaper groups print ad inventory to ’sell’ into the national brands and their agency brokers on a unified basis.
‘This commendable effort by those publishers has to be seen in context: they are selling space in traditional print brands that are household names within their communities. Local TV channels will not have that benefit.
‘In the end, advertisers will spend money only if they can be assured of good ratings. Audiences and advertising go hand in hand. If the former is not there, the latter will not be interested.’
Who is the bigger ‘household name’ in Kent? KM Group… or Sky? And who is pulling the audience that national advertisers so love?
Of course, the irony for GNM is that they got their first – they were in local; in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Leeds, before deciding that their commercial future was in Manhattan and Melbourne. They bugged out – only to leave the way wide open for the Murdochs to pile into that $10.3bn mobile-local marketplace and potentially re-invent the UK local media landscape in a manner wholly befitting the ’social, local and mobile’ world envisioned by Google’s exec chairman, Eric Schmidt.
To abandon 500,000-plus Sky local fans in Tyne & Wear now would be a huge disservice to the future of local media in the UK; The Guardian have alreday done that once – and set the cause of hyperlocal journalism back by at least two years as they headed across the Pond.
Sky are so close to cracking this nut. They have the content, they have the connection, they have that initial audience… work out the commercials locally, and they have every chance of being the player in this space.
And what of OfCom?
Well, in his opening remarks, Director of Content Policy Peter Davies made it clear that any discussion of SmartPhones, of mobile technology and connected TVs was for another day.
Today was about local radio and local TV; of the type that was broadcast from the top down; off a TV or radio transmitter mast. As in the one on a hill above Mold.
A world not so much turned upside down… as stood still.
I’ve never met the luckless Ms Miller, for whom the knives appear to be well and truly out.
She is, it appears, not flavour of the month with either the Daily Telegraph or the Daily Mail right now; which given their leverage with the grass-roots Tory faithful doesn’t bode well for the Minister’s future.
The Telegraph were busily ushering not just her, but her whole department out of the door this week. Across at The Mail, and another kicking was being delivered.
‘What is the point of Maria Miller?’ asked Quentin Letts.
I’ve never met the good lady and, if both papers have their way, am never likely to.
But I have to say, I feel slightly sorry for her – if we deem the games people play around that Cabinet table to be poker-esque in nature, she hasn’t exactly inherited the strongest of hands. In fact, minus the full house that was over-seeing the Olympics, Jeremy Hunt’s bequest policy-wise would stretch even the fiendiest of political minds.
The Chancellor, apparently, is giving her short shrift on the basis of ‘her department’s failure to swiftly roll out a high-speed broadband network…’
That would be the same BDUK/broadband roll-out that demands local authorities and the incumbent provider, BT, working hand-in-hand to deliver on HM Government’s ’super-fast’ promises when – in every reality – we will all be left dangling at the end of a 19th Century copper wire for the forseeable future? It is FTTC, not FTTH. Wherein lies a whole heap of difference.
And besides, BT have more on their mind than delivering FTTH to the furthest, marginal constituencies of the kingdom; they have live Premier League football to squeeze down those copper wires – if the kids aren’t upstairs on their Facebook page and Mum is on Skype to her sister…
Nor is the EU about to ride to Ms Miller’s rescue as £7bn worth of broadband infrastructure funding disappears over the nearest austerity horizon in a triumph for joined up thinking on the European stage.
Thank heavens for the good Bishop of Norwich who at least is ploughing his own course on this one. He is not waiting for the men – and women – from the DCMS, BT or Norfolk County Council to light up the digital lives of those in rural Norfolk any time soon.
#jfdi says the Bishop.
Then, of course, there is the fate of the UK provincial newspaper industry; sat somewhere near the bottom of the Minister’s in-tray must be various exhortations from the Newspaper Society to try and stem ‘the stampede to irrelevance’ that one of their own now forsees for them. Best of luck, Maria…
And then there is the other ‘crown jewel’ of DCMS policy – if we lay aside the London meeeja morass that is the enaction of Leveson – which is, of course, Jeremy’s pet baby, Local TV. All of which is now due on Ms Miller’s ‘watch’ – and not his.
Which must be a b*stard child to inherit, if ever there was one.
And if I was one of Ms Miller’s people sat listening to the latest ‘informed’ debate that provided the bulk of the conversation at the recent Westminster Media Forum, I would have found nothing to convince me that a huge policy success awaited later this autumn.
In fact, I would start to get a chill in my bones – and seek a swift exit out of there.
Given the level of BBC (aka UK tax-payer) funding that now rides on those initial 20-odd Local TV licencees delivering – as well as the technical infrastructure capabilities demanded of Comux in terms of delivering the right masts pointing in the right direction at the right price – the lack of scrutiny as to who, exactly, might make the starting line on time appears to bode very ill.
Talk to one or two and my sense would be that may be less than half of those funded to launch a new ‘Local TV’ station will actually take to the airwaves. Many can’t make the numbers stack; even less would appear to understand what the word ‘ubiquitous’ means and how it is fundamental to what will, and won’t, work in this digital space.
And certainly when it comes to attracting the national ad bucks seeking such local spaces, one size has to fit all if the agencies and their trading desks are ever going to get into this to a meaningful and sustainable degree.
But there is another ticking time-bomb which Ms Miller has – you hope – to be aware of. And it one that is not going to make her life any easier.
Because as we’ve muttered countless times before, the people making the most sense in this whole local space are Sky.
They have 500,000-plus ‘locals’ voting with their fingers mobile and web-wise on the banks of the Tyne and the Wear; numbers that do little to support Roy Greenslade’s contention that the demise of local media was, in part, a reflection of a disengagement from the whole ‘local’ concept – a ‘fact’ underlined by the lack of numbers engaging with the democratic process at a local level.
I disagree – I sense no disillusion with the forces of ‘local’; far more a disengagement with the forces of a centralised, ‘top down’ and London-centric world who – even in 2013 – are asserting a media policy down from ‘on high’. And the politicians and the policies to match.
Stand back from the Westminster froth and fray and if I was Ms Miller, I’d happily let someone else step up to the plate…
Michael Gove, ideally. Let his lips wrap round this particular poisoned chalice…
The best piece that I have read of late concerning the young man holed up in Hong Kong came from Mathew Ingram in PaidContent.
In essense, it goes back to this sense that journalism in the Digital Age is now a process, not a single product; a never-ending story that might start with an old-fashioned ’scoop’ – to which all concerned deserve the usual credit – but, thereafter, assumes a life of its own; one that, invariably, takes twists and turns beyond the ken and control of its original authors.
They merely gave the roller-coaster wheels. And are left to ride – and report - the backlash and the questions as they both inevitably follow.
Or as Ingram describes it: ‘The reality is that some or all of the stories we’ve seen about PRISM and the NSA would likely never have seen the light of day if it wasn’t for the Guardian and Post reports.
‘Does this qualify as “journalistic malfeasance?” Hardly. In some ways, it’s a perfect example of the idea of news as a process rather than a finished product — reports about a secret document trigger a host of other reports, and eventually more of the truth emerges…
Which pretty much sums up where serious journalism is these days; you have one, fleeting moment when you ‘own’ a story and then it belongs to the crowd.
Unless, of course, you continue to ‘own’ the source. In this case Mr Snowden whose precise whereabouts I’ve lost track of. Other than that he’s in Hong Kong (aka China). Somewhere. Holed up in a hotel room or a ’safe house’; safe, presumeably, from prying PRISMs.
There was one line that revealed more of his whereabouts in Ewan MacAskill’s piece about ‘How the spy story of the age leaked out…’ and how the story as a process was now in full flood.
‘He has gone underground for now. But this saga is far from over…’
Clearly not; ‘brand’ Snowden will join those of Assange and Manning as the heroes and/or villains of our time; depending on which way your world view bends.
But what intrigues me is how this will all play out for the other ‘brand’ central to the telling of this tale; that of GuardianUS – upon which something akin to the farm has been bet; 57 staff and counting according to the NYTimes piece that re-told the story of the ’scoop’ and the motivations to make a ’splash’ that drove it on. And they turned to Charlie Beckett of Polis for a quote:
“The Guardian is desperately trying to become globally recognized. They do it because they care,” Mr. Beckett said. “But it’s also part of their global business strategy.”
Their splash they have; now they are making big waves in Washington.
Whether, however, they are winning the hearts and minds of their new audience and establishing the kind of ‘brand’ presence that the volume ad guys along Madison Avenue will demand of them is another matter. Finding real, lasting commercial value out of the Snowden scoop is a big, big challenge – particularly when the very nature of the top down, algorithmic ad beast is ripping value out of that eco-system at every turn.
The LumaScape doesn’t make for quick wins. Complexity still reigns.
The sheer cultural challenges that face the Guardian in attempting to ‘crack’ the riches that it perceives lie across the Pond were summed neatly by one of its very own:
Charles Arthur @charlesarthur11 Jun
(It’s almost criminal that @GuardianUS has only 56K followers. US people, pls fix.)
Though it has now added another 2,000 followers since Arthur’s plea, if we view Twitter numbers as an albeit very crude judge of ‘brand’ following, it still pales into insignificance compared to the @NYTimes .
It has a way to go to overtake the @BostonGlobe and the @MiamiHerald
Two years old, a staff of 57… why should anyone expect any different when faced with the might of US print behemoths with 150-years plus of brand build and audience awareness behind them?
But those numbers have to change if the ‘brand’ is to drive the big bucks it needs back at King’s Place.
And here would be my other concern; 150-years worth of audience awareness – in every likelihood – gives their US conterparts a far cuter sense of what does – and doesn’t – play well with their own audiences.
Meddlesome Brits replete with a liberal ideology born out of Islington and not Arlington could yet prove to be a tough ’sell’. Particularly, I’m guessing, if the perception emerges that you know where the star of the show is, but the US authorities don’t.
As the whole Assange saga only proves, fugitives from ‘justice’ – however right or wrong that justice is deemed – can prove to have very messy endings months further down the line when the story ‘as a process’ has long ago run its course. In the sense of any on-going commercial worth.
And it also assumes that ‘brand’ Snowden keeps its current shiny lustre; that it doesn’t become tainted by new and fresh revelations unearthed by the masses. At which point, being a mere second to such a scoop might look rather more attractive; the cost – both financial and reputational – of such a high profile story and the single individual at the heart of it that then, together, go sour on you might prove to be something you didn’t immediately bargain for when trying to crack that US nut.
The nut upon which your commercial future as a global voice of conscience hangs.
This made for a very interesting read.
It is a blog piece by Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-Operatives UK, of a new initiative they are running with Carnegie Trust UK to try and stimulate new, sustainable thinking with regard to the future of local news in the UK.
Much as NESTA have done with their DestinationLocal programme, of which #21VC was a part.
Roadshows up and down the country are encouraging people to come forward with new models for local news; fresh thinking and innovation in the local space… it is, ‘an opportunity to make local media work as a sustainable business and help to protect our democracy through local accountability.’
In other words, how do we keep our Ben reporting on the affairs of Loddon Parish Council in a sustainable fashion?
Well, by empowering the likes of Co-Operatives UK to advertise and ‘message’ around the likes of LoddonEye.
Financial sustainability for such ’21st Century Village Correspondents’ as Ben Olive will come via unlocking the door to a ubiquitous, local advertising platform for each and every branch of the ‘Co-Operative’ family to deliver highly-targeted and wholly relevant advertising spend into such prime, local spaces as that which surrounds LoddonEye.
As the only local store in the village of Loddon, why wouldn’t I want to place my ‘message’ here? Simple, transparent and serving the needs of a local community – keeping democracy alive at that parish council level.
But we can do more than that. Why not ‘walk through’ your local village Co-Op? Just as we can with the local pub and arts centre.
Above all, now we have your location fixed via connection to the nearest wifi portal – one sat little more than 150-metres away from Co-Op (Loddon) – why don’t we tap straight into that exploding local-mobile market-place and ride to the rescue of local accountability?
Because why wouldn’t I want to deliver local vouchers and coupons to anyone within walking distance of my local Co-Op? An idea that we have already punted out to their Loddon customer base… here.
The picture at the top of this page is what happens when you look for ‘Lichfield, Staffordshire, UK’ here.
What is fascinating for me is just what combined local ad spend those dozens of local businesses have at their command.
That if you added the ad spend of the Britannia on Market Street to the Co-Operative Food Store on the Square to the Midcounties Co-Operative Funeral Service on Birmingham Road to the Co-Operative Pharmacy at the Greenhill Health Centre to the Co-Operative Travel Shop at Boley Park… whether you have enough enough local, marketing muscle financially to offer a sustainable way foward for our long-time friends at LichfieldLive.
By exactly the same token, could not the various branches of the Co-Op family in Newcastle, breathe new life and fresh vitality into JesmondLocal?
Particularly if each and every local Co-Op therein was empowered to pump out local offers and coupons into those in the vicinity.. perishable goods offers to mobile devices at 7pm of an evening to anyone within walking distance of that particular store?
Sure, there’s a lot of talk. No sign yet of anyone being able to walk this walk.
But we’re close to a re-launch; close to giving Co-Operatives UK one single, console from which they and their marketing agencies can direct their local ad spend into each and every nook and distant crannie of the local news landscape in the UK – in a ‘ubiquitous’ manner that is way beyond the ability of the regional newspaper groups to offer, fractured as they are by their medieval print circulation fiefdoms.
It is also beyond the wit of the ‘top down’ ad networks for whom the term ‘local’ remains something of a mystery; their models are bust and broken. Value is wholly lost in the LumaScape – a total ‘clusterf*ck’ as one leading media analyst recently described it. The ad industry has to turn itself upside down to get this space to work for them.
The future is ‘bottom up, not top down’; it is ‘collaborative, not hierachical’ - so Cindy Gallop told GMG’s ‘Changing Advertising Summit’. I suspect for collaborative, we could equally read ‘Co-Operative…’
And if we don’t offer the precise solution for Co-Operatives UK, then – courtesy of the Technology Strategy Board – we can let them help themselves to our forthcoming Public API; give it to their own, in-house developers and build a new, programmable interface upon which they can then start to service the needs of both their own local, marketing teams and those of the local news platforms seeking survival in this new digital landscape.
But to find Mr Mayo and the Carnegie Trust reaching out for new models to save local news is, for me, a hugely significant moment in the history of the UK #hyperlocal space.
Because the Co-Op still have a heart that beats local; and maybe, just maybe, we have a key that can enable Mr Mayo to put his money where his mouth is… and deliver a sustainable future for local news in UK.
For a while now, this has been getting on my nerves.
It is an invite from BT to have unlimited access to their wifi… from £3.50 per hour. Maybe if I was a customer, the story would be different. But I’m not. So I’m left to ponder paying £3.50 for an hour of BT’s time.
The screen pops up all over the place; as I’m trying to find the free wifi in a Starbucks; or the free wifi that The Cloud offer in any Costa, LittleChef or Wetherspoons; or, of course, the free wifi that the #21VC project now delivers to the good folk of Loddon, Norfolk. We are, after all, now also in the connection business.
So I am, in short, not about to cough £3.50 for an hour of someone’s wifi time. And nor will I be alone.
In fact, I strongly suspect that on those more challenged of estates the length and breadth of the country – containing the kind of hard-pressed communities that local authorities are desperate to engage with – none of those b*ggers will be lining BT’s pockets either. They will, however, have a SmartPhone somewhere close to hand.
As Alex Aiken, HM Government’s in-coming head of comms knows all-too well – the place to ‘message’ people facing the deepest of welfare cuts and reforms this summer is on their mobile phone.
A fact not lost on, say, Cardiff City Council who last week – in time for the DigitalCardiff week – announced that they, too, would be joining the free wifi revolution.
I could get ‘free’ wifi off BT; I just have to pay for one of their broadband packages first.
Which I won’t do… whilst my connection to the Digital Revolution is left to hang by a copper wire.
There is a number of reasons why BT's policy with regard to wifi looks wholly misplaced in terms of the #SoLoMo world imagined by Google's exec chairman Eric Schmidt, but one is about to be given a full and nasty public airing this month as the National Audit Office runs the rule over the whole BT/BDUK roll-out process.
It has already been trailed heavily by The Telegraph; who have an easy bedfellow in the shape of The Countryside Alliance for whom the whole, BDUK process has become something of a mainstream passion. Ruddy-faced English squires – in shires up and down the land – can’t process their DEFRA paperwork off a copper wire.
They are looking to give someone a good kicking…. And serving FOI requests is them getting political.
“It has been three years since the Chancellor announced the project and yet only £3million of government money has been spent,” said the CA’s exec chairman Sir Barney White-Spunner.
“For rural people still struggling with no or an unreliable internet connection, this is simply not good enough. Unless there is a rapid rollout we are in danger of the digital divide growing even wider and the economic recovery of the country being held back.”
BT aren’t short of coppers when it comes to securing the rights to Premier League football; they have splashed £1bn on the beast; and all with the promise of ‘Free footie!’ – or at least for those that pay for their broadband services.
All of which will do even less to endear themselves to The Countryside Alliance and dozens of rural MPs who will have had their ear bent on all-too many an occasion by constituents unable to access the Digital Revolution through a copper wire.
It is a huge policy failure at the heart of Government; with fingers likely to point in many a direction – not least at BT.
This is not a good line from that Telegraph piece; the BDUK roll-out programme is: ‘…a train crash waiting to happen and the train appears to be accelerating rather than slowing down at the moment…’
It will, inevitably, find people casting around for alternatives that are working; at which point the Bishop of Norwich might need to stand up and take a bow.
It remains no coincidence that one of the authors of the House Of Lords Select Committee Report on broadband delivery is fast building a broadband network of his own in Norfolk.
Upon which we have then hooked our first rural, wifi portal.
And offered a free, public wifi service off his nearest church tower.
So, for me, this is the challenge that is now facing BT.
The world is going free. Free apps, free wifi, if not wholly ‘free’ footie.
The world is also going mobile. Every last survey screams out the fact that we will live our lives off a mobile device; we will not be tethered to a copper wire.
And yet they insist we do both. That’s what their current commercial models demand; principally because that’s what their infrastructure commands – that connection comes from out of their duct; it doesn’t come down, for free, from on high.
I and the Bishop would beg to differ. As might the Countryside Alliance. As might dozens of rural MPs.
There could be blood on the walls once the NAO’s damning report goes public.
A quick, tea-time poser: what have Julian Assange, Lord Leveson and Edward Snowden all got in common?
Answer? They’re all a f*cking mess.
As far as I’m aware, Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy, Leveson is holed up in the House of Lords and Snowden is holed up in a Moscow Airport. Apparently. If he’s not on a flight to Bolivia. Via Austria. Or wherever.
Stateless. Or not, as the case may be.
Leveson is, of course, deep in the political long grass, aka a royal charter and the Privvy Council. Plans to bring him back out into the limelight again on July 24th have been put on hold. Apparently not enough Select Committee MPs can be found to quiz the good lord on the future of Press regulation. They’re off on their hols, presumeably.
As for Assange, I have this image of him on a camp bed in the Ambassador’s study; still able, however, to take the luckless Mr Snowden under his Wikileaky wing.
Today and it was the turn of Latin America to rail against the Yankee imperial yoke as fingers pointed at Uncle Sam with regard to re-routing certain flight plans.
‘The United States has yet to comment, but the longer it remains silent, the stronger will be the suspicions that it leaned on France, Spain, Portugal and Italy to deny permission for Morales’s plane to fly through their airspace, in effect putting the hunt for a US whistleblower above international law and the rights of a president of a sovereign nation.’
Wrote The Guardian. For whom Snowden, alongside Assange and Leveson, are something of cause celebres… if not book opportunities.
The Guardian’s Snowden man – Glenn Greenwald – could be found fulminating over the fact that everyone was losing sight of the ‘real’ crime here…. whilst a Guardian editorial continued with the high moral tone that was injected into the piece above, albeit admitting that his current residence in a Moscow airport led to a clouding of the story.
Snowden was a whistleblower, not a spy. And as such should not be charged under the Espionage Act.
‘It must be for a civilian jury to decide whether Mr Snowden’s actions are more troubling and significant than the documents and practices which he has exposed. Mr Snowden must be able to come in from the cold. And America must do more to help make that happen…’
Greenwald’s accusation that EU leaders could be found ‘play acting’is a classic of the ‘No shit…’ genre that bedevils the Guardian’s best intentions to re-write the world’s rule book to their way of thinking.
That’s what European political leaders do. Play act. They’ve been hamming it up for 1,000 years; be it the Dukes of Savoy or Viscount Rothermere – all know what the long grass looks like and how to cloud any seemingly, straight-forward moral issue overnight.
People in GCHQ spy. Really? Maybe if they had spied that little bit harder, then maybe Martine Wright might have both her legs today.
That’s the moral maze you enter into; the ambiguities that ‘cloud’ the whole, privacy debate; there are no certainties.
And equally people appear to forget that being lectured to from the smart, media salons of London is not something that America takes kindly to. They went to war over it at least twice, fought a revolution and forged a nation out of saying ‘F*ck you!’ to English interference in their domestic affairs.
I suspect Washington is not about to overturn 250-years worth of history on the back of another liberal lecture from The Guardian.
And here’s the other problem. Whether you view Snowden as a spy or a whistleblower becomes almost by the by; what he then becomes is a fugitive from ‘justice’ – whatever your view of that ‘justice’ is.
And it is never about the reality; it is the perception here that is key – certainly to unlocking the commercial doors of the US. Upon which rock, of course, the Guardian’s long-term commercial survival is pretty much founded.
If the perception Stateside is that they are siding with a fugitive from US law and lecturing the President into the bargain is this going to win them any more favours with Madison Avenue Adland?
Upon whose favour Glenn Greenwald’s long-term employment prospects with The Guardian depends. As does David Leigh’s. And Janine Gibson’s.
Because I want them to be there watching over authority in five, ten years time. To make the globe a better, more liberal world for my 13-year-old son to enter into as an adult
But as you watch the stories of first Assange, then Leveson and now Snowden unfold and watch how the real world muddies the waters in an Internet instant, you fear that The Guardian is even further away from finding a secure, commercial footing in a world long peopled by hoods, sharks, spooks, pimps, Press barons and politicians.
All of whom will take great delight in screwing Snow White.
The above is a map of the Tyne & Wear Metro – a ‘network’ of 60 #hyperlocal stations that stretch from Newcastle Airport in the west to the mouths of the Tyne and the Wear in the east.
With funding now announced to drive enhanced wifi and wireless function through its entire length, between the operator Nexus, and the relevant local authorities, they now have a network of 60, super-connected ‘hubs’ through which they can engage with their local community as they travel around the region.
Because overnight they will become location-aware of anyone utilising that free wifi – as opposed to paying BT the privilege of £3.50 an hour for a FON hotspot that doesn’t travel with me through that tunnel or over that bridge.
With such location-awareness comes a $10.3bn opportunity – to deliver highly-targetted mobile and tablet ads to within one Metro carriage.
Equally, arrive at a wifi-enabled Metro station and I – the local business – will know where you are too. Have a coupon for the local, independent coffee shop in Whitley Bay; get 25% the tanning shop on Jesmond Hight Street… both of whom are now armed with the knowledge that you are, say, 250-metres from their front door.
And, equally, when you’re there… So I have a table free at 10.30 at the local curry house in Gateshead; ping me an offer on my mobile as I stumble out of the Metro…
Put another way, that network of #hyperlocal advertising opportunities stretches right across Trinity’s Newcastle Chron ‘patch’ to the north; JP’s Sunderland Echo patch to the south.
Nexus and NewcastleCC have access to a network and not a silo… and that is crucial to understanding what may or may not work in this Digital Age.
The guy from Nexus was duly more than happy with today’s announcement as his services become super-enabled connection-wise.
‘This funding commitment will let us develop proposals for improved wireless and Wi-Fi connectivity allowing much faster internet connections for passengers throughout their journey,’ said Tobyn Hughes, deputy director general of Nexus, as the official statement was released across the North-East.
But more telling was the comments from the local council; what ‘benefits’ it can bring to their service delivery. It can, quite literally, deliver benefits right into the palm of their residents hand. They can ’shift channels’.
‘Having wi-fi on the Tyne and Wear Metro brings 21st Century services to our transport infrastructure,’ said the leader of Newcastle City Council, Cllr Nick Forbes.
‘Getting everyone connected is a real challenge but it is something we are determined to do – not through coercion but – by demonstrating the benefits.’
He is talking the language of local authorities up and down the land – of delivering services and benefits to where people actually live their lives, on their SmartPhones.
Particularly as a local authority like Newcastle seek to connect with their more disadvantaged and challenged residents in these increasingly harsh, economic times. Where are they? OK, they’re there… Playing on a mobile games app courtesy of the free wifi on the Metro…
Right, have a message… a coupon… a voucher. For free dental care; fresh vegetables; childcare vouchers; MMR jab reminders. And whilst I’ve got your attention, pay this… remember that… join this.
This is the deal here. The most useful thing we can do as a local authority is deliver you free wifi. That’s the point at which you, hard-pressed resident, engage with us. But delivering such usefulness for nothing comes at a price – and the price is your location.
And if Newcastle (and Sunderland) can ‘find’ folk on each Metro train and at each Metro train station, so Cardiff will do it off every bus and bus-stop. That’s where their cash is being splashed.
<Courtesy of NESTA's DestinationLocal programme we, of course, have one wifi access point in one Norfolk village. Nexus will have 00s. As will the council.
But if you build a portal into your thinking so you can start to weave council services into the proposition that greets those logging in…
Or else build yourself a transport or local news app that allows for a local authority ‘message’ to be delivered into that #hyperlocal space with the kind of ‘Germanic’ efficiency that HM Govt’s new head of comms, Alex Aiken, was demanding of his Welsh brethren.
And it is in that whole, ‘Go build!’ mobile app space that we hope the new Addiply platform can play its part in making ever greater use of the equally new, wifi network about to unfurl itself on the banks of the Tyne and the Wear.
Because we have an API that is due to be made public this summer; free and open; it will sit here… http://www.3scale.net/
Free and open for any local app or mobile developer to weave into his or her own application, all the time tapping into that $10.3bn market-place for mobile-location advertising that is about to blossom in their own back-yard.
That is what is really exciting, for me, about today’s announcement.
People have the chance to build here; new tools that can help a city’s socially and economically challenged communities re-engage with their local authority, while local SMEs have the chance to re-vitalise their own commercial fortunes by directing their precious local ad spend in an ever-more targetted and smarter way…
That, at least, would be my hope.
I’m late to this. It was John Paton’s keynote to the Global Editors Network News Summit in Paris last month.
‘The Past Can’t Buy The Future’ is typically forthright; typically straight; typically blunt. And all the more brilliant for it.
I get the sense that people dismiss Paton as some Harbinger of Doom; the First Officer on the SS Titanic; the one that actually recognises that the old fashioned newspaper model is fatally holed beneath the waterline. Others, of course, let the band play on in the ballroom…
But there are some great lines in there.
‘Those editors resisting change are aided and abetted by lousy CEOs and news executives who refuse to take the necessary risks to build this industry’s future.
‘Why? Because the past is safe. The past is known. And while holding onto the past will surely kill our future, for many executives it is still a great way to earn a living – just as long as it lasts…’
How long will it last? Paton throws some numbers out there. And a timescale. Of five years.
‘For every $1 of operating profit today:
– If what happened in the past
– Happens in the future
– And we don’t do anything to change that future
It says that $1 of operating profit will turn into $0.56 of loss in 5 years.
That’s what no risk taking will get us.’
The message is simple. Doing nothing is not an option. And there is no hope, no future in looking back over your shoulder at past glories revenue-wise.
‘We can no longer treat digital as a bolt-on to our strategy and protect the legacy business. The past doesn’t buy our future…’
All these thoughts came to mind this week with the news that Marc Reeves is returning to his old haunts and taking up the role of ‘Publishing Director’ for Trinity Mirror’s Midlands Division.
It is a fascinating move – and may have many motives.
But having met Marc on a number of occasions and thoroughly enjoyed his company and his conversation, I wonder whether he has a Paton in him.
Because he ‘gets’ the new world order.
Go back to the ill-fated IFNC process and he – alongside another champion of hyperlocal, Will Perrin – were sat in the bowels of OfCom working out which new models of local ‘TV’ might work. For Wales, for Scotland and for the North-East. This, of course, was all under the last Labour government. Before Jeremy arrived with his ‘vision’.
And one of those winning propositions was for WalesLive. A partnership between UTV and NWN Media, somewhere in the small print of that bid document was a hyper-local ad platform called Addiply.
What wasn’t in that bid document was a TV transmitter mast that would broadcast to the people of Mold, but not of Swansea. And nor did the PA/TenAlps/TrinityMirror model for the North-East rely on a TV mast. They were all digitally led.
He is, in short, a man who would see virtue in Paton’s call to digital arms. And would equally get the urgency of his task. The clock is ticking.
By the ‘Mutter Metric’, the Birmingham papers are leading the regional newspaper industry’s ’stampede to irrelevance’.
And, of course, they will – in theory – face a new commercial challenge locally this winter with the launch of CityTV Birmingham; winners of the OfCom Local TV licence for Britain’s second city. I presume everything is still firmly on course for that January 1, 2014, launch – it’s hard to tell off a CityTV website that hasn’t been updated since last November.
But it is a ‘game changing’ event for Birmingham. As are the other 18 ‘Local TV’ stations that are due on air in the next 6-9 months; transmitter direction and weather permitting.
So, here’s the thing…
I wonder what remit Marc has been granted as the in-coming ‘Publishing Director’. Marc ‘will have responsibility for all publishing activity across the Midlands…’ appears to be the quote; with the commercial teams also working closely with the returning Post editor.
But does he arrive with a blank piece of paper? A kind of ‘Do whatever it takes!’ brief to keep TM’s Midlands titles afloat – in whatever shape and guise he can. In which all bets are off; all options open?
What do we actually know about the media landscape that he returns to after four years out in the ‘real world’ bereft of tree-stainers? That SmartPhones are ever more prevalent; that the mobile-location market-place is exploding; that Birmingham City Council is – in common with Newcastle, Cardiff, Carlisle, etc etc – is about to roll-out free city centre wifi and that CityTV Birmingham won’t cover Coventry. And kind of peters out around Birmingham Airport.
But, as we know, you deliver free wifi to every city centre lamp post, bus stop or Metro station and a whole new world of location awareness opens up.
I am, by contrast, not aware of your location when you’re either reading the Birmingham Post newspaper or watching CityTV Birmingham. I can only guess that you’re somewhere ‘local’.
I can’t pin you down to the nearest bus-stop; to the nearest 50 metres.
So, here’s the thing. What’s left to cut within TrinityMirror (Midlands)? What extra shave revenue-wise can Marc make that hasn’t already been made? Just how radical does he want to get?
OK, here we go… a Paton moment for Marc to ponder.
Switch off the print presses as and when that metro wifi platform allows; deliver your Mail and Post content around a channel-driven portal play that covers the whole of Birmingham city centre – and locates your audience to the nearest 50 metres. And repeat in Coventry.
By offering free wifi, you have a captive audience for your content the moment that they log into that landing page – use it. Grab their attention then… and offer your advertisers the chance to deliver highly-targetted, mobile-led messages and offers into that space. Into the palm of their hands.
If you prefer, swap one ‘print press’ for 00s. Rip that cost base out of your numbers and concentrate on delivering great journalism to where people actually live their lives.
‘I have no doubt about a bright future for journalism,’ concludes Paton. ‘And I have few doubts that smart, risk-taking legacy news organizations will be successful in the future. But only if the tough decisions on current costs and the necessary investment risks are taken now…
All yours, Marc. Change the game.
It must have been four or five years ago that I first trooped up the A14 to visit Birmingham without my football writer hat on; in fact OutWithABang was all but born after one of Paul Bradshaw’s early JEECamps.
Since then I’ve been back a number of times; most recently to speak at Birmingham’s Digital Newsday at the BBC’s Mailbox some six months ago.
The Slideshare I delivered that day is here.
Slide 9 is the interesting one; its the one re-printed above. Its where we start to talk about how much mobile location matters; why there are $10.3bn worth of reasons why Birmingham City Council and VirginMedia might be getting this very right.
So tonight’s news that the pair are going to roll-out free and unlimited wifi across the heart of the city is, funnily enough, of huge interest in these parts. It could yet be a game changer in the delivery of local news.
Something that we’ve muttered about before…
Just the other day, in fact.
‘The WiFi service will roll out for residents and visitors to Birmingham from September and will be completely free of charge,’ said the VirginMedia release, in an instant rolling a huge tank right across BT’s front lawn with their paid-for BTFon wifi hot-spots.
‘There will be no usage limits so people can use the service for as long as they need to and will support high bandwidth services like video streaming or online gaming…
Double doh, BT…
But there was another line in the release that caught my eye: ‘Small cells are miniature base stations that allow mobile operators to precisely target where additional coverage and capacity is required…
I presume small cells are also miniature base stations that allow mobile operators to precisely target where local advertising is required…
Down to, say, the nearest lamp-post. A possibility that has already been discussed with the good comms folk of Wales. Only in their case it was bus-stops. And how we ‘message’ such challenged communities as that which sits on the Gurnos Estate and might be found playing on their mobile games apps downloaded off the nearest free wifi.
<We have a Public API that goes live later this summer; we can now empower mobile app developers to integrate such lamp-post level 'messages' as we demo'd to CommsCymru into their own games apps. And, in so doing, enable Birmingham City Council to channel shift their own 'messages' to the more challenged communities of the West Midlands.
Off the nearest, VirginMedia-powered wifi'd lampost.
And thereby deliver both a new ROI on their decision to ensure that Birmingham will ‘be ready to lead in the rollout of the latest wireless technologies.’
Tonight’s news – in my opinion – isn’t all good news. Not if you own either a print press or, indeed, say the Sutton Coldfield TV transmitter upon which the likes of OfCom, DCMS and a Canadian TV entreprenuer are pinning such hopes.
In fact, if I was one of those charged within OfCom/DCMS in delivering Jeremy Hunt’s ‘vision’ for the future of ‘Local TV’ in the UK, I would be getting quite queasy – knowing that VirginMedia can shortly ‘broadcast’ live video into the palm of people’s hands.
And all off a timetable that could yet trump the arrival of Birmingham’s own contribution to the new ‘Local TV’ roll-out, CityTV Birmingham. Another call from Margaret Hodge and her Public Accounts Committee could yet await.
‘This is game changing for Birmingham…’ said Debra Davis, the chief executive of CityTV Broadcasting.
No, I think the real game changer here is unlimited free wifi off your nearest lamp-post. Not what comes down from on high off Sutton Coldfield TV transmitter and sits there in the corner of your lounge of an evening.
Because this would be my fear; sat in the bowels of the DCMS; charged with delivering 19 local TV stations over the next 6-18 months.
They could be dead in the water before they even take to the air; the audience will have moved on… as will the local advertisers. Both playing in the mobile space; newly enabled by VirginMedia and Co.
And Co? Here comes the Big G, according to the Wall Street Journal. And they are looking for lamp-posts, not TV transmitters. And they do location-based local ads, too.
As for Canada, well according to the Toronto Star, they have an interest in all things Brum and TV.
All yours, Mr Podzyhun.
In the summer of, I think, 2010 – and one Chris Condron will be able to confirm as he, too, was in the room – I essentially facilitated a meeting in Victoria between a certain, very large infrastructure company and the Press Association.
At the time, there was a plan afoot to deliver a metro wifi solution for the centre of Norwich.
It would have been three years ahead of the game now being played out by the likes of Birmingham, Newcastle and Cardiff – all of whom are now flush with the cash that would have gone into high-speed broadband but for intervention from the EU.
So the Super-Connected Cities programme with its Urban Broadband Fund has – in effect – become the ‘Urban Wifi Fund’. And off each council goes, ‘lighting up’ every bus stop and lamp-post it can find.
In many senses, they are playing to the rules of Eric Schmidt’s game at Google; building platforms that are ‘Social, Local and Mobile…’ and not ‘Social, Local and PC…’ And they are also all going down the free route. Which as we have muttered before, causes BT a problem metro wifi-wise.
But, anyway, this is all sooooooo 2013. Back in 2010 and I was delivering presentations at junior board level as to how channels of local content – supported by local ads – could help deliver a new, ROI for those seeking to ‘light up’ such city centres as Norwich. And credit where credit is due; the then MP for Norwich (South) was instrumental in making the original connections.
One of those portal ‘channels’ could, of course, have been a national and international news channel; as delivered by the Press Association. They could deliver weather; and show biz – videos from last night’s red carpet; Cheryl in her new dress.
Sticky, engaging content that would drive audience and eye-balls before everyone disappeared off into the depths of the mobile web via that free wifi connection.
It was – looking back – one of the more bizarre meetings of my time in this space as two, wholly different cultures collided over a PA boardroom table.
Not in any fraught way; just in a total ‘Do not compute, do not compute…’ way from the tech and infrastructure side of the table. They could not get their heads round the idea that it was content that was going to sell their connection.
Instead, we were left to discuss the technical specifications of the Nokia 2347 hand-set that was sat on the table between us. Its a telephone. And as long as I can hear the other person at the other end of the line, it works. It delivers content into my ear. How it gets there, I’ve no idea. Nor do I care at what speed and at what frequency.
Its a phone. That delivers audio content.
Which is where it all went wrong in Norwich. Said large infrastructure company went on the hunt for sites for their new little masts and tried to ’sell’ tech to those Norwich department stores whose roof space overlooked the central areas of the city. And they got nowhere. Or if they did, it was at a price that blew their business plan apart.
They disappeared citing acquisition costs as the stumbling block. To this day there is probably a warehouse somewhere still full of wifi crates with ‘Norwich’ printed on the side.
Because they didn’t tell the MD of Jarrolds that off this little mast he could live-stream his autumn fashion show straight into everyone’s mobile device… that via new forms of mobile-led content he could drive fresh footfall into his store.
Three years on and the boys playing in the wifi connection space – the likes of Virgin, BT and the Sky-owned Cloud – now get that it is content that sells their kit. And all are playing at being big media.
Playing to the tune of £1.4bn in the case of BT who are using Premier League football as the bait to dangle at the end of mile-upon-mile of copper wire.
Because that it was struck me about the Press release Virgin and Birmingham City Council jointly issued last night.
Bar the ’small cell’ stuff that no-one will give a toss about as long as it works, the ‘hook’ was pure content…
‘There will be no usage limits so people can use the service for as long as they need to and will support high bandwidth services like video streaming or online gaming…’
Videos and games, people. For free. As much as you want.
To free content.
Which will then drive an audience. Which can then attract advertisers.
And around which Birmingham City Council can then drive services and engagement… ‘tackling digital inclusion for over a million citizens.’
For a brief second you have their attention; captive in that portal doorway, before they are off downloading their next free app; watching their next free YouTube clip.
What this means for TrinityMirror newspapers and CityTV Birmingham is, of course, a huge challenge given both are in the same, local market for eyeballs and attention.
Only their means of delivery – and the business model it dictates – are of different centuries; 17th Century in the case of a newspaper print press; 20th in the case of a TV transmitter mast – neither of whom, it would be fair to suggest, will make it to the 22nd Century.
Trawl through the media news and journalism sites and very few will mention the fact that from September, Birmingham will have a mobile ‘print press’ hanging off every lamp-post through which they and their media partners can stream as much video as anyone wants to mobile.
Little wonder that neither the Birmingham Mail nor Post – as far as I could discover – greeted last night’s announcement with little or no fanfare. In fairness, mention was made of an ‘unnamed bidder’ at the start of the month.
Me? I’d be banging long and loud on VirginMedia’s door to be the local news content provider for that portal play.
And at the same time, quietly counting down the days until I could switch off the printing press and finally enter the 21st Century.
I’ve reprinted the slide from Business- Insider via BIA/Kelsey for a reason. More of which later.
But it is worth keeping somewhere close to hand as we ponder the on-going struggles of two, US news organisations to do the math when it comes to making local news work in the 21st Century.
The fates of the much-debated Patch project out of AOL and that of the new owners of the OC Register are interesting for a number of reasons – not least the fact that for those that believe in #hyperlocal, Patch has long been something of a poster child; the corporate ‘litmus test’ of whether this thing could every work on a networked and sustainable basis.
To say that AOL ceo Tim Armstrong has bet the house on Patch working is probably over-stating it; but reputationally, he has much to lose if his baby fails to deliver.
I know next to nothing about the new owners of the Register; other than that provided by an in-depth interview with the pair on the first anniversary of their arrival… It makes for an interesting read as local commentators start to pick up on their travails revenue-wise.
The point here being that Patch have been bullish – over-bullish, some might claim – in driving on into local and digital; while the OC Register have slammed the model into reverse. Staining more trees; hiring more staff; re-bundling bigger newspapers up around a 400-year-old premise.
But neither appear to have cracked it yet – as Armstrong, no doubt, faces another round of inquests following the loss of one of his chief lieutenants, Mark Josephson.
OC Register first; and the thoughts of Eric Spitz, of owners Freedom Communications Inc.
Quizzed as to why print first – and not Digital First as preached from the nearest pulpit by John Paton – his answer was intriguing in a dismissive, debunking of the digital ‘opportunity’. In fact it is about as contrary a position to Paton’s ‘The Past Can’t Buy The Future’ positioning as you could get from a fellow news exec.
‘I understand we are a digital society, and it looks like you’ve got to plan for the digital future, but size it according to the opportunity.
‘So I’m not saying dig your head in the sand and we’re not doing anything digitally. We’re doing a lot of really cool digital stuff. But there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
‘I’ve been in digital media since ‘96, ‘97, ‘98 planning media, designing media, using media, encouraging media. I don’t need to go down that rathole. They are chasing digital ghosts for today’s revenue stream…’
Point being that if 50-60% of your revenue still derives from the old complexities of staining trees, don’t bite the hand that, to this day, still feeds you; devote your time and resource according to that mother lode.
The line, of course, that stands out is ‘there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…’
Which takes us back to the graph at the top of this piece; the one that forecasts a $16.5bn market-place in mobile-local by 2017. Or the $10.3bn market for location-based services and apps that YP are forecasting for a year earlier.
Both reports suggest that something seismic ad value-wise is happening in that mobile-local space; the one that offers location as ‘the new cookie’.
‘Retailers, brands, and agencies are scrambling to hone their location-based approaches. These encompass everything from “geo-aware” and “geo-fenced” ad campaigns, to hyper-local efforts keyed to Wi-Fi hotspots…’
The last line re wifi hot-spots has long been of interest around here; this piece hit many a nail on the head overnight.
But the point, for me, is that there appears to be at least one, small pot of potential gold sat in that local market-place; Google are not slamming $600,000 of free wifi over SF parks purely through the goodness of their own hearts.
Because the Big G will now know whether you are sat in Crocker Amazon Playground or Duboce Park - and will tailor its ads and offers accordingly.
It’s all we’re doing in Loddon, Norfolk, UK (pop 3,000); same as the Big G; free wifi for your location…
So, no pot of gold?
As for Patch, I wonder whether Armstrong’s best-laid plans aren’t getting lost in the long grass of the LumaScape.
That whilst he has boots on the ground in a networked fashion and is nearer that mobile-local playground than most, the current ad tech and thinking at his disposal continues to rip value out from under him. He is not getting the return on his #hyperlocal bet he deserves.
The future is out there; and remains out there for the ‘legacy’ media companies to grab. Albeit with one, challenging proviso.
‘The winning platforms will be… social, local and mobile’. #SoLoMo.
All you have to do is to put Eric Schmidt’s words into digital deeds.
‘The Fifth Monarchist John Rogers forbade men to despise women ‘or wrong them of their liberty of voting and speaking in common affairs.
‘To woman I say, I wish you be not too forward (as, by all accounts, his own wife was); ‘and yet not too backward, but hold fast your liberty… Ye ought not by your silence to betray your liberty.’
‘Life and Opinions of a Fifth Monarchy Man’, E Rogers; as quoted by Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down, p312.
(The image above – an engraving by Bernard Picard – is of a Quaker Assembly, c1723. It is a woman that preaches from the upper balcony.)
Maybe I should preface that quote and all that follows with a brief piece of background.
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago I was the Modern History Scholar at University College, Oxford; same year, same college as a PPE Scholar called Nick Denton. Often wondered what became of old Dents… whether he did anything of note.
So my natural instinct is to take delight in people and stories; algorithms I’ll leave to the Harvard mathematicians of this world.
But on a weekend when the Sisterhood are in full and empassioned voice across Twitter – and with every good reason – it seemed timely to revisit those brief, 20-odd years in English history between, say, 1640 and 1660 when the ‘teeming freedom’ the masses enjoyed via ‘the liberty of printing’ saw an explosion in feminist thought and deed.
Because, for me, the parallels are fascinating with events some 400 years later; that within, say, the whole Leveller movement of those turbulent times was an equal commitment to levelling the playing fields between man and woman; husband and wife.
Such a thesis has to be based on accepting one of Hill’s core claims – that as society’s rules relaxed in those years of revolution and tumult, ‘it may have been easier for eccentrics to get into print than ever before.’
And in the context of events of late, let us assume we can also swap ‘eccentrics’ for ‘trolls’.
‘Before 1641, and after 1660, there was a strict censorship,’ Hill contends (P17). ‘In the intervening years of freedom, a printing press was a relatively cheap and portable piece of equipment. Publishing had yet not developed as a capitalist industry.’
Its my highlight on ‘portable’; Hill’s masterpiece was written 20-odd years before the mobile phone set us free – free to broadcast our thoughts and deeds across new, like-minded communities without – in theory – interdiction by higher authorities, secular or religious.
Legally, this was a society still divided on the grounds of sex; murder your husband, you got to be burned; murder your wife, you got off with a hanging.
But start to level that thinking through the radicalism that engulfed nigh-on every class of man and woman and women surged to the fore. And found encouragement and welcome from the likes of such radicals as George Fox and James Naylor.
‘May not the spirit of Christ speak in the female as well as in the male?’ asked Fox, as women took to the pulpit for the first time – again the parallels with the modern schisms on the ordination of female clergy are striking. As are questions surrounding marriage and monogamy. See Mrs Rogers, in the quote above.
In the glorious – and communicable – chaos of those times, everything was up for grabs.
The early Quaker convert James Naylor was the cause celebre - the one who pushed his luck too far with those seeking to retain some semblance of order over a restive, king-less nation. For riding into Bristol on the back of a donkey in a bid to prove all men were equal – even to the Son of God – Naylor was pilloried and whipped through the streets of London, had the letter B branded on his forehead, his tongue pierced with a hot iron and all before being returned to Bristol to be pilloried and whipped all over again. He would never recover from his ordeal.
Greeting him that day were the women of Bristol, strewing palms in his path; the London preacher and pamphleteer Martha Simmonds among those who championed his corner. Martha was on 17th Century Twitter.
As, you suspect, would have been Mary Gadbury, Jane Stratton, Margaret Fell, Joan Hoby, Mary Adams…
The restoration of order came in 1660; the ‘intoxicating’ freedoms inspired by a liberty of printing would be no more; it was only when broadcasting was returned to the teeming masses after being wrested out of the hands of the capitalist media barons by the liberating power of the web that opportunity knocked once more; to rally and organise around a global or national cause – feminism or otherwise.
Restoration of the old order came as the middle and now governing classes feared the ‘rabble rout’ were gaining too much ground; that the vulgar masses had been too emboldened and too empowered by both an unprecedented freedom of movement and a previously unbeknown access to cheap and portable printing devices.
Censorship descended; petitioners were rebuked and restrained; laws against vagrancy were followed with new vigour; gamekeepers had the legal right to search private properties to ensure that God’s ‘commonwealth’ wasn’t being evenly distributed. The Men of Property were back in command. The Lady of the House put down her palm and picked up her pinnie.
As the battle rages tonight to control the ‘teeming freedom’ and the ‘liberty of (instant) printing’ that Twitter uniquely delivers, one solution doing the rounds is a ‘paid-for’ version – that then covers the costs of moderating the trolls out of the conversation. In effect, retreating from the great ‘leveller’ that is the Web. Make a less-than-level playing field.
And hand Twitter with a new revenue stream as a consequence.
‘The insidious pressures of the world bore down on the children of light even as they organized to turn the world upside down…’ (P374, The World Turned Upside Down).
History. Merely repeating itself.
My knowledge of the inner workings of ad agencies is pretty much zilch.
My knowledge of who buys what off whom – and how – is likewise pretty near nil.
Time and again I’ve looked at the LumaScape – as did BusinessInsider recently - and tried to work out where Addiply might ‘fit’. Again, without much success.
And I know of at least one, senior media analyst who describes said LumaScape as a ‘a total clusterf*ck’ when it comes to helping traditional media companies turn those print dollars into anything more than digital dimes. Insane, was the comment from BusinessInsider.
So I was, therefore, intrigued as to what this weekend’s merger of Publicis and Omnicom might mean for said landscape; in particular, whether the ‘Collapse of Complex Business Models’ as applied to the newspaper industry by one C Shirky could prove equally applicable to the simple task of buying an ad just there…
Just as it has for any Middle American or English suburban stock broker charged with simply buying a local client a share or two in that traded company.
So, this piece in the Wall Street Journal made for a very interesting read – particularly given the fact that hard-pressed advertisers have already started to sniff somethign fishy going on; that the complexities of simply placing an appropriate ad in front of an appropriate audience are leading to a ‘dark underbelly’ of ‘ghost publishers’.
Not wholly unlike the flash crashes and the ‘toxic dark pools’ that have raised a stink around Wall St before.
This remains well worth a read… ‘Joe Saluzzi on High-Frequency Trading: The Equity Market Is Now Controlled By The Machines…’
And keep this quote close: ‘It’s all about technology with these guys. It is an arms race when it comes to who has the best speed and they used to talk about milliseconds up to two years ago–now they talk about microseconds, which are a millionth of a second… Whoever has the fastest speed computer will beat the other guy…
Or this one: ‘You have to be very very careful as an institution where you’re sending your order. Where is it going and how is it being routed? This is really deep into the microstructural world of markets, but you have to be careful…’
And now back to the Wall Street Journal and what that might mean for the ‘arms race’ that is the programmatic buying of ad space.
It appears that the biggest ad agency in the world wants to take a leaf straight out of the biggest banks in the world; that Wall St offers the way forward.
“There has been a huge shift in the way we do business,” said Jonathan Nelson, chief executive of Omnicom’s digital business, in a recent interview.
Algorithms, artificial intelligence, black-boxes – the gang was all there.
“We are borrowing black-box trading techniques out of Wall Street; we are looking at genetic algorithms; we are looking at artificial intelligence; we are looking at predictive models; we are looking for anything that might give marketers an edge.”
Omnicom even had its very own ‘quant’ – Amit Bhattacharyya. A former ‘quantitative analyst’ on… Wall Street.
Quants we have done before… only this one was a Jeff Hammerbacher.
‘On Wall Street, the math geeks are known as quants. They’re the ones who create sophisticated trading algorithms that can ingest vast amounts of market data and then form buy and sell decisions in milliseconds. Hammerbacher was a quant…’
Exactly the same principles of the buying and selling of stocks and shares on Wall St are now being applied to the buying of digital advertising space; a trend that is only going to hasten and deepen with the emergence of a new behemoth – those are the guys that will have the biggest computers, the smartest quants and the slickest algorithms.
And access to which will come at a price; the biggest clients with the deepest pockets will get first dibs at the new toys; they will be first in the queue for the sharpest new piece of targetting software; everyone else – ‘when sending an order… - will have to be ‘very, very careful…’ that their ad doesn’t end up swimming in some toxic dark pool in an some unseen underbelly.
Within the next quarter, Addiply’s API will be made Public; as funded by the Technology Strategy Board.
We – clearly – do not have the funds to hire a Hammerbacher or a Bhattacharyya; nor will we be calling upon artificial intelligences to design the next generation of ‘genetic algorithms’ to beat someone to the audience punch.
Instead, will put a free API out there and invite the 3,000,000 army of social coders that sit on GitHub alone to go build… go play.
In every likelihood, 99.9% of them will never hit the heights of a Hammerbacher or a Bhattacharyya; but who knows? Someone might have a bright idea; someone might come up with a solution to make the placement of digital advertising more simple, more transparent and more rewarding – for both straitened publisher and confused advertiser alike.
An idea that they are happy to share.
One that may even enable us all to swim in a clear, blue pond – as opposed to sinking in a toxic, dark pool of Wall Street’s contorted imaginings.
For obvious reasons, I’ve long kept an interested eye on Patch – AOL’s venture into hyperlocal.
Or rather Tim Armstrong’s venture into hyperlocal.
This week, news emerged that Armstrong and AOL were having a re-think; or rather a retraction. From going boldly forth, they were folding back in; trying to work out which of their numbers made sense.
The reaction to the news has been equalling interesting. This was good. As was Jeff Jarvis’ call for Armstrong and Co to drive on… to not waver now.
The Forbes piece suggests that Armstrong has found a new love in the shape of $405m worth of ‘programmatic’ video ad tech that is Adap.TV. Interesting that the piece quoted the ‘insanely complex’ nature of the display ad business, citing our old friend the LumaScape by way of example.
Armstrong is banking on there being massive ‘consolidation’ in that programmatic ad tech space; the merger of Omnicom and Publicis is likely to merely fuel that process as they gun to deliver ‘black box trading techniques’ honed on Wall Street into this space – alongside genetic algorithms and artificial intelligence when it comes to placing an ad just there…
AOL clearly want a stake in that complex game of algorithmic hide and seek.
For 300 of Patch’s hyperlocal out-posts, the future is a little less certain. The Patch ‘network’ is about to become less ubiquitous, not more.
A fact not lost on one of Jeff’s commenters…
‘The brand, of course, has value once it becomes ubiquitous (900 towns, spread around a few score metro areas is not ubiquitous)…’ says Tim Windsor.
Ask Claire Enders and she’ll tell you - ubiquity is everything. You have to be able to go anywhere; a fact lost on the powers that be at OfCom/DCMS re local TV.
What’s interesting when you dig a little deeper into the current ad mechanics that sit behind an individual Patch site -Maplewood being my example – and to take out an ad on that site requires someone to fill out a form in order that a Patch sales rep calls you back…
It’s here. And this is 2013. That’s Stone Age ad selling; at Stone Age expense.
In fairness, they are no different in that to to LocalWorld’s Local People solution – arguably the nearest the UK has to a Patch-type proposition. That again requires the cost of a ’sales consultation’
Go on to an individual site – say, Bedlington People - and the failure of the existing ad tech to deliver appropriate advertising into such local spaces becomes ever more apparent.
The choice that greets me is overwhelming – I can discover the shocking secret to a new diet, a controversy over a new steroid alternative or a woman who is 53, but looks 27. It doesn’t actually say whether she’s from Bedlington or not.
This is the big, big challenge that faces all the big media groups trying to crack hyperlocal. And this includes Guardian Media Group and their short-lived foray into all things local.
Their current ad kit isn’t fit for local purpose.
The challenge – amongst many – is for the various commercial and marketing heads within such organisations to stick their hands in the air and admit as much to the board; that their efforts at cracking local are getting lost in the LumaScape.
‘National to local only works in a top-down model…’ was mighty AdLand’s claim.
Your current kit doesn’t work. And how many national brands seeking local advertising opportunities would place their faith and their ad spend on the LumaScape delivering any better?
There was an interesting line in that piece from NetNewsCheck.
Asked how Armstrong still intends for Patch to turn a profit by the final quarter of the year, he insisted that they still had a clear focus:
‘…the Patch platform needs to allow people to get high quality local information, upload and share information and allow for people to transact advertising and commerce using online tools. Armstrong said all investment in Patch will be focused on those areas.’
It needs to allow for people to transact advertising using online tools…
Which is all-but admitting that the kit AOL currently has at its disposal… isn’t fit for local purpose.
The question is whether Armstrong seeks a programmatic solution to his local ad woes… or allows people to place ads themselves. And takes that algorithmic element of chance out of the Maplewood equation.
And to improve his chances of national and regional brands buying into that Maplewood audience, he has to find a new way to gain ubiquity; or at least pick a patch and demonstrate what can be achieved within that local construct first.
Which is Mr Windsor’s suggestion…
‘[I suggest...] Patch learn from its own example and not try to do it everywhere, but pick one geographic cluster as a laboratory and work out the kinks before trying to scale it large.’
Good thinking. And you know what, we might even be able to help…
Today we officially unveiled our new website.
It is here.
I am not about to extoll all its virtues; rather just offer an open invite to go explore. Have a rummage. See if there is something in there that works for you – be you an advertiser, a publisher, a re-seller or an ad agency.
The latter two are, to my mind, key to making local work.
Because – as has been mentioned before – we can’t all be a Howard Owens.
We can’t all be the master of every trade – selling ads included.
Most of us are merely mortal – and need help when it comes to selling our own advertising space.
It is hard, hard work. And requires a wholly different skill set to that usually demanded of a journalist.
Previously, we’ve looked at an automated commission model ‘I will give you 40% of my £50-a-week banner ad if you will sell that ad space for me…’ was the line that we encouraged and enabled.
But that didn’t work – and here’s one of the key pivots to the v4.
Most agencies and re-sellers won’t get out of bed for 40% of £50-a-week. And it presumes another thing – that the local journalist-turned-publisher actually knows what his audience is worth. Most haven’t a clue. Most pick a number; any number. And then see if anyone will sell that space for a 40% take.
Now we take the cap off; let the publisher still set his or her rate for that ad spot, but empower third parties to sell that space for what they know they can get for it… how much Client A would value getting in front of Audience B. Knowledge that is beyond most hyperlocal publishers.
So what premium would, say, Co-Op (Loddon) pay for targetting their ad spend directly at their Loddon customers reading their LoddonEye?
Because every forecast and measurement we see and read suggests that there is still huge value to be had in delivering a local message to such a local audience.
It is, after all, what is underpinning every move that Google make of late; their latest is to move their local ad inventory into that map space – the implications of which MediaBriefing discussed today.
Hence we were are looking to focus ever more into location awareness; something that we will only accelerate with a forthcoming move into mobile.
But for the first time we have a profile page; let’s build up a better picture of who you are, where you are, what your interests are and who your audience is. Let’s see if we can’t better marry up the right publisher to the right advertiser; make you ad buck go that much further – by connecting you directly to the appropriate audience and not leaving that to algorithmic chance.
And that for me is the big point – something that we have long muttered about here.
That as the big ad boys get ever bigger and their toys get ever more complex, full of dark under-bellies and ghost publishers, so we have to make our digital lives ever more simple, ever more open and collaborative.
Because if advertising technology follows the ways of Wall Street, so local, independent publishers will find themselves enslaved ever more to the machine; ever more unable to control the nature and the price of their own adverts; forced to accept whatever they are given.
And it has to be part of a network. National brands now ‘get’ that something is going on in local; that their ‘message’ needs to be delivered locally – whether to web or, increasingly, to mobile.
But they cannot manage individual relationships with 000s of local publishers; there has to be a simple, ‘control console’ from which they can seek out and find appropriate local advertising opportunities. That we continue to strive towards – to put a Co-Op (Loddon) ad within reach of a LoddonEye. And then repeat. Across the nation.
We will never be the one-stop shop; we will never deliver the solution that fits all publishers for all audiences across all devices.
Which is why, in part, our API will be made Public; to empower third parties to build their own bespoke solutions.
That is for another week; this week and it is a gentle launch of our web platform; building on both the good and the bad of the last few years in this #hyperlocal space; trying to make the numbers work for publishers, advertisers, re-sellers and agencies alike in a simple and transparent manner.
It won’t be bug-free; hopefully, it might be bug-lite. But again, help us – there will, inevitably, be the odd early tweak and twiddle.
And I’m going to spare everyone the Oscar’s Speech. Those responsible know exactly how grateful I am.
It occured to me yesterday as I was ‘penning’ a match report for MyFootballWriter that I have now ‘covered’ Norwich City Football Club’s opening fixture of the season for exactly 20 years.
My first, official season as the Norwich City writer for the Evening News was in 1993-94. They lost 2-0 at home to Manchester United that season; I can’t remember much about it. I do, however, remember the next game – a 3-2 midweek away win at Blackburn Rovers after which Chris Sutton refused to speak to me.
My sin? To have not included him in my predicted starting line-up for the United game. His big mate Ruel Fox poked his head round the dressing room door to tell me the ‘good’ news; ‘Sutty’s not speaking to you…’
Which left me with a hole to fill and some explaining to do when it came to the back page lead of the next night’s Evening News.
Because that was 1993. My final print deadline for the following day’s Evening News was about 3.15pm, if memory serves. So a Tuesday night game would find its way onto an average Evening News readers’ lap at about 5.30pm. On the Wednesday.
Today, a ‘Wednesday’ Evening News is printed overnight on the Tuesday; you can have it delivered at the same time as the morning paper, the Eastern Daily Press. The Evening News no longer has its own City football reporter. He left this summer. After more than 30 years on one of the two sports desks. Now the two papers share one ‘beat’ reporter.
When last I looked or heard, the Evening News now also shares all but six change pages with its morning sister paper.
That United game being on a Saturday, I would have done a ‘runner’ on the phone for the evening football paper, The PinkUn. Punters used to be able to pick up a copy at Thorpe Station by 5.30pm. That’s long gone; albeit if it now has an online successor.
Complete with Google’s AdChoices; little or no sign of a local business advertising around a local football website. We digress.
For that United game, I would have sat in the Press Box; then located in the old South Stand. Or maybe that was the year we all switched across to the main City Stand. The memory fades.
Twenty years on, I can ‘watch’ the game wherever I am in the world as the Premier League fail to police the Internet and the match is livestreamed for free onto my nearest mobile or tablet device. Saves me a bill for public liability insurance and endless hours trying to justify my inclusion in a Premier League Press box to FootballDataCo; preference is still given to those publications that stain trees.
But everyone is now publishing a report at the final whistle; everyone, but everyone has their own opinion on the game and the means to publish it. Including the football club themselves. They, too, are in the publishing game now. They ‘own’ that media content.
And having long erected a ‘pay wall’ around their premium content, long, long gone are the days of me ever having a quiet word with Sutty to myself. For the next night’s Evening News.
A match report can, of course, now be just 140 characters long. And by adding a hash-tag, #ncfc, I can now broadcast my own opinion to a channel of like-minds. For MFW, it delivers a constant – and free – stream of fresh UGC; ‘user generated content’ that was the PinkUn letters page the following Saturday way back in the day.
We never invented Twitter; never invented the hash-tag. But courtesy of the long-gone 4iP, MyFootballWriter was an early convert to the conversational cause. Short-form journalism sat next to the long-form journalism of the 800-word comment or thought piece.
For that #ncfc ‘conversation’ feed was the first project to win funding from T Loosemore and Co in December, 2008. ‘Backchat’, we called it.
That #ncfc Twitter feed remains the eyes and ears of the site; an early warning radar for any piece of breaking news.
News, inevitably, broken by the football club first. But much of the hash-tag theory we talked of then (Jan 09) is standard practice now. Linking to third party content… who’d have thought?
I left the world of the tree-stainers in 2006; MFW/NorwichCity would launch that summer. It came complete with a former Archant ad sales rep; freshly deemed surplus to their ad sales requirements after 25-odd years working that patch. To date we have probably taken in the region of £118,000 worth of local display ads on a 60:40 commission split. On c£150/mth tenancy basis.
In the summer of 2007, we did 400,000 page impressions over the space of 2-3 months; seven and a bit minutes of engagement time. And earned $140 off Google AdSense.
By then I had met a mate of a lad I used to sit next to on the bus into Norwich. His name was Ian Thurbon. He had already built his own, DIY text ad system on his racing tipster site, TipExchange.
He built a simple, banner ad management system to allow our Kev to show his local advertisers what they were getting for the local ad buck; simple, transparent, uncomplicated.
From there it was an easy step to build our own, standalone ad system, the latest version of which launched last week.
Means someone can click on that text ad spot on MFW and see both the ad opportunity and the numbers we continue to drive through that Norwich City platform.
Open and transparent. Simple. And all born from 20 years on that local sportswriter ‘beat’.
What next for MFW? Who knows. Perhaps we build ourselves an app; with our forthcoming Public API, perhaps our Ian can help himself to Addiply’s own SDK for mobile app developers and deliver local-mobile ads and offers – at the time and design of our choosing – into that MFW app experience. We’ll see.
But the last 20 years has been quite a journey. For both me and an industry.
They may be no more than small straws in the wind, but the sudden move to extoll the benefits of a ‘private’ advertising exchange make for an interesting read right now.
Particularly when you find someone of the ilk of John Barnes, chairman of the AOP, explaining why such a move might make ever more sense to hard-pressed publishers seeking to get a meaningful return on their content.
The News Corp example is slightly skewed by the fact that they have that much of a harder ’sell’ given they are now locked away behind a paywall. But there is still a sense that the major publishing houses are now trying to wrest control of their own advertising space back out of the hands of the agencies and the open ad exchanges.
Why? As Barnes explained in a fascinating piece to The Drum, programmatic ad buying so beloved by the likes of Omnicom-Publicis is not to everyone’s taste; in particular, those genetic algorithms refined to a fine art on the trading desks of Wall Street are not designed to help publishers gain their rightful reward revenue-wise.
‘Barnes said the rise of programmatic trading, facilitated through open ad exchanges, has tipped the balance of power from publishers to advertisers when it comes to assigning value to media…’
And there’s more; much more – as publishers start to react against the ‘dark underbelly’ at work within ad tech land and the deflationary effect bulk and open buying is having on the digital landscape.
“One of the big problems in the market has been down to the fact advertisers, ad agencies and ad networks are trying to get better prices, which means they start losing sight of the value quality content brings.
“It is not sustainable for any publisher to have a valuable audience if the advertisers or agencies continue to drive the price down,”he told The Drum.
Hence why Incisive set a precedent for NewsCorp and took control back off the open ad networks and went ‘private’ last year.
Murdoch – Snr or Jnr – may be many things, but he’s no fool. And knows when people are starting to take advantage of his audience.
“News Corp has locked its sites down and put a wall around them so it can trade on its own terms and control what cookies are going onto its machines,” said Barnes.
And that’s the killer line.
News Corp ‘can trade on its own terms’. It can set its own ad rates; it can now approve or disapprove any advert; not be wholly beholden to whatever ad the machines serve up.
And if it starts taking those cookies out of its inventory, then programmatic buying on an industrial scale starts to get rather more difficult; the ad trading desks can’t flood the market with cheap ads – at the expense of publishers of the ilk of NewsCorp and Incisive.
Where does Addiply fit in to this potential new world order?
Well, Addiply is essentially a private ad exchange that is about to be made public…
Of course, the likes of a NewsCorp or an Incisive have the cash and developer resource to manage their own advertising exchange privately.
But why should that ability be solely on offer to publishing houses of their ilk?
Why can’t the local village blog also be given the opportunity to manage its own advertising affairs, free from the machines and cheap ads that flood and floor the market? Particularly when real value still resides in that local space.
Barnes talks about his website for the central bankers of this world; and the value that niche audience commands.
“So why would I want to let an ad network or exchange buy that for a poor rate when no other publisher can claim that same audience? That’s where the private exchange comes into play,” he told The Drum.
No other publisher can claim that same audience…
No other publisher can claim the same audience that visits a LoddonEye or a JesmondLocal… So why would I let a public ad exchange buy that for a poor rate?
The logic applies just as much to access to an audience that gathers around a postcode or a bus-stop as that which gathers around a bank boardroom. Location can be the new cookie; and people need to start paying for the privilege of claiming ‘that same audience…’
Point being that once our API is made Public courtesy of the Technology Strategy Board now everyone can have a ‘private’ ad exchange to call their own.
To build something bespoke for their own platform and audience; to get up off their knees and not take anything that the open ad networks serve up – for their usual digital dimes.
Maybe that’s the way we should ’sell’ ourselves going forward.
‘Addiply: A Private Ad Exchange Made Public.’
Next week I will be in Tokyo. It is my third trip this year.
Addiply is part of the official UKTI Digital Mission team to Ad:Tech (Tokyo). Reception lunches at the British Embassy. That kind of thing.
Suffice it to say, it is a long, long way from two villages in Norfolk where Addiply was first born and raised; raised on the back of Google AdSense making no sense to the local advertisers wishing to place their brand in front of the audience that gathered around MyFootballWriter.
We were, of course, hugely fortunate to take a small Japanese investment round last December – as facilitated by UKTI VC. Hence why we have new and powerful friends on the streets of Tokyo.
Recruit Inc have an annual online ad spend of $300 million. They have thousand upon thousand of local coupon ads gathered beneath the HotPepper banner. Everyone from the local nail bar to the neighbourhood dog groomer is looking to get into that mobile-local space.
But on the eve of networking, show-case battle – with two, new products to demo in this whole mobile-local space – it was kind of heartening to read this piece in Poynter.org.
‘5 reasons mobile will disrupt journalism like the Internet did a decade ago…’
It bangs many a nail on the head. And ought to give everyone much food for thought at another crossroads moment in journalism time.
The future is mobile; is social; is local… who are any of us to argue with Eric Schmidt on this matter? Its just how we enact said vision for winning platforms of the future in a simple, transparent and a collaborative fashion that is the challenge.
But the Poynter piece is very good. And the temptation is to quote it at length as they talk of a ‘tidal wave of change’ about to engulf the news industry for a second time.
And what lies at the leading edge of this new disruption? Geolocation and mobile payments.
‘Taken together, they have the capability to disrupt local advertising all over again.
‘The right technology with the right execution will be able to drive nearby consumers into local businesses and anonymously track their actual purchases at scale, closing the loop like never before.
‘No more guessing about ad effectiveness. For local media organizations, that has the potential to destroy your business.
‘There’s a narrow window of opportunity to invent — or invest and acquire — disruptive mobile technologies and business models that could eventually sustain, grow or even multiply your revenue…
There is a gold rush afoot; a charge to find a way of unlocking the $9.1bn business BIA/Kelsey see in mobile-local advertising by 2017; a figure that is for the US alone.
Location is the new cookie; I give you free wifi, in return you give me your location… now have a local offer; a coupon delivered direct into your mobile app experience. Mobile location matters.
And just when you think you might be starting to crack the desk-top nut, here comes the challenge of mobile – setting news organisations another huge hurdle to climb in terms of re-inventing their business models in time for the 21st Century.
As Google knows. As Eric foretold. The future is mobile.
‘Google recently rolled out a new product that enables advertisers to bid on mobile searches that happen physically near their businesses (i.e. target your restaurant ad to anyone within a mile radius who searches for “restaurant” during evening hours.)
‘It’s hard to compete with such targeted products with traditional banner ads…’
Location is the new cookie.
‘Advertisers will also be able to bid on keywords based on the time of day and location the search is coming from…’ notes the AdAge piece.
I know where you are, now have an offer… to your mobile; on your app.
It is no secret that we have a Public API en route. Funded by the Technology Strategy Board, at its heart lies our intention to deliver new tools for mobile app developers to start to tap into this whole mobile-local space.
Less well known is the fact that my co-founder and Addiply CTO has always been an Apple iPhone app developer; someone well-versed in the challenge of making an AdMob or an iAds work revenue-wise.
A challenge that becomes ever more pressing as the app market gets ever more free… and ever more crowded. How do mobile app developers the world over ever get their own numbers to stack? To find due and rightful reward for their own development time?
So it is a problem that our Ian has had for a long time in his day job. How to make his app development work pay.
Which makes this line from the Poynter piece very relevant…
“The way to get start-up ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It’s to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself,” explains Y Combinator’s Paul Graham here.
“By far the most common mistake startups make is to solve problems no one has.”
‘The very best start-up ideas tend to have three things in common: they’re something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing…’
Which sums up our Ian’s predicament – and opportunity – to a T.
As some people may be aware, much of my life of late has been dominated by all things Japan.
A week ago I was out with the official UKTI ‘Digital Mission’ team to Ad:Tech (Tokyo) with two new toys to demo… our now Public API and from that, our ‘Addiply Messages’ platform.
Here’s the video.
So, within our API lies SDKs for both iOS and Android.
App developers can now start to build bespoke ad solutions within their own app experience that taps into the exploding mobile-local ad space. And given that mobile advertising spend in the US grew by 81% last year, I think the use of the word ‘exploding’ is reasonable.
Our Ian insists that our new SDKs will take an app developer little more than ten minutes to install. And, suddenly, they have their own, private ad exchange. They are back in charge of their own ad destiny; able to insert ads into their own apps as and when they like. They are not forced to give away precious small screen space to an ugly banner ad at the command of a ‘top down’ ad network.
A developer has looked at this issue from a developer’s perspective – and delivered his own solution.
Which is why I loved the quote from Paul Graham from Y Combinator.
‘The very best start-up ideas tend to have three things in common: they’re something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing…’
The challenge thereafter, of course, is the same one everyone faces – be they paper/print, web or mobile-based.
Finding the appropriate local ads and offers – something ever more true as we drill into neighbourhood spaces potentially defined as tightly as one wifi ‘cloud’, off one bus-stop. Or one Metro station. All via the kind of ’small cell’ technology the likes of VirginMedia are installing across the centre of Birmingham.
One of the more significant points of the YouTube video is the nature of that ad; or rather, where we got it from.
It is from Recruit’s HotPepper stable of local coupons. They have 000s of those local coupon advertisers within that long-established brand; you can pick up a free copy of your local HotPepper magazine at every Tokyo Metro station.
Recruit, of course, were part of our original JV last December.
The point being that they can now leverage their long-standing relationship with those 000s of local advertisers and extend the reach of their existing advertising inventory right across the localised app landscape.
I can be on a games app, a transport app or a dictionary app and within each a developer can now access that huge bank of local offers and coupons and weave them into his or her app experience at a moment of their choosing – and not someone else’s demanding.
Put this into a UK and a US context and I think the lessons are very interesting.
Because – right now – this would be our challenge within, say, the London mobile app space.
That we couldn’t call upon a HotPepper type stable of local ads to instantly fill a location-specific app ad space.
But there are clearly people who have such inventory; sat there looking for new homes, new audiences and new levels of interaction and engagement.
TimeOut would be one; ArchantLondon another. Or, an existing ‘deals’ provider. And, of course, all the Yell-type business listings folk whose businesses remain distinctly challenged. All of whom twig that the future is ever more local… and mobile, natch.
And this is where, IMHO, it gets interesting for the hard-pressed local newspaper groups.
Who – or what – is of enduring value within their buildings? It is not the printers. Or the type-setters. Or the proof readers. And – hard as this is for an ex-journalist to admit – I’m not sure it is even the news gatherers.
That is being ‘out-sourced’ by the likes of the Guardian’s Witness platform. We can all add to the news experience.
Yes, there are still certain places where we can’t all go… the locker room or the court room remain two of the last bastions of ‘proper’ journalism; but otherwise, we increasingly all have a SmartPhone and ever more access to platforms upon which we can tell our stories. Be it individually or collaboratively.
No, the enduring people of value within that newspaper building are those that can sell; those that can, in particular, bring 20 or 30 years worth of local client relationships into that digital advertising space.
Addiply has an API for resellers. It allows third parties with long established sales relationships and experiences to sell across multiple platforms, multiple geographies and – in theory – across multiple publishers.
And here’s the *big* challenge for the local newspaper groups whose whole DNA, to this day, remains wedded to a silo.
Are they willing to leverage those local sales relationships and sell across local platforms on behalf of local, independent publishers – be they village websites or local tourist apps?
Because there is no cap now on the earning potential of re-sellers; I can set a rate as the publisher; as the re-seller I can sell that same space for what I can get for it… And pocket 90% of the mark-up. I can bundle it all up in the same sales conversation; a Page 14 ad as per usual… and how about this popular local community blog? Or drop your offer to anyone on an Addiply-powered app within 1km or 20 minutes of my business?
That’s the challenge for them; can they be open and inclusive; networked and collaborative? Can they sell on all our behalfs?
This was an interesting piece; though it probably gained more attention for what the soon-to-be-outed Steve Auckland didn’t say, rather than what he did.
But for me, what he did say is worth airing. And repeating. Because he’s bang on the money.
Or rather would be – if anyone can ever work out how local newspaper groups can start to monetise mobile.
And that’s the key here – how the local newspaper groups survive is by finding a route into mobile that rewards them both for the content efforts and, more importantly, their local sales efforts within that local-mobile space.
Poynter made the point very clearly recently – that a second, tidal wave of disruption was about to overtake the local newspaper business model by the onset of mobile; Borrell Associates continue to produce chart after chart that mobile advertising is exploding.
I’ve reproduced one at the top; the level of disruption – and challenge – is huge. There is, in short, a mobile mountain to climb; the time for rapid re-invention is now.
And get that top figure – ‘By 2016 88 per cent of all local online advertising will be served up on a mobile device…
‘There’s a narrow window of opportunity to invent — or invest and acquire — disruptive mobile technologies and business models that could eventually sustain, grow or even multiply your revenue…’ is a great line from that Poynter piece.
But there’s also a line in that 2012 Borrell Report that ought to give real hope here: ‘Legacy local media companies still control 92% of all advertising, including half of all locally spent online advertising…
Point being that their destinies remain firmly in their own hands. As we have muttered before, no-one else can leverage 350 years of local advertising sales experience like the local newspapers can. To all our benefit, ideally.
So, 88% of all local online advertising will be served up on a mobile device; the local media groups – in 2012; in the US – still control 92% of all advertising… Somewhere there’s a fit, right?
It was clearly taxing Auckland’s mind as he prepared to exit LocalWorld within the next 24 hours.
‘He [Auckland] said a great challenge for all media organisations was the method they were going to use to make money from mobile.
“Online, some 50 percent of our traffic is from mobile devices.”
What is equally relevant here is Ashley Highfield’s remarks; when not wrestling with the bankers and the lenders over that £300m debt mountain he was bequeathed, he has clearly been pushing JP to become the one-stop shop for local SMEs in terms of their local marketing campaigns.
And to that end… JP was teaching them how to use AdWords. Acting as a Google re-seller.
‘He said Johnston Press was the only regional publisher reselling Google ads and helping local businesses with their Google Adwords campaigns.
“We are now building websites for businesses and providing digital marketing services for SMEs.”
Google AdWords campaigns that have first to go to California and back – in the hope that a distant algorithm can drop that local marketing message somewhere locally.
But what if said local SME also wanted to hit that local, mobile market-place? That the butcher, the baker and the candlestick-maker – under the marketing guidance of a JP or a LocalWorld – quite fancied being on someone’s mobile app, 150-metres from their front door?
As a local SME, what’s not to love about that?
And this is where the great migration of local newspaper ad sales into local mobile ad spaces has to include the guys who deliver said local connection – to said mobiles.
Its the wifi and wireless infrastructure companies that can facilitate this new relationship; because they can pin-point where you are like never before – ‘My free wifi for your location: now have a local offer…
That’s the deal here. And who has the local offers to service that arrangement? Those with a Wowcher or a Tickles up their sleeve; those that can bundle sell a print ad, with a web banner with a local, mobile offer… Only now they need to sell mobile first and print last.
And they have the chance to charge premium rates for that mobile space; the mistake all-too many made with their web offerings was that it was a throw-away bolt-on to the print ad. The perception was instilled – and remains – that a digital display ad is worth peanuts; because that’s how you have always sold it to me.
The local butcher, baker and candlestick-maker – let alone the more savvy national brands seeking those same, prized local-mobile spaces – have yet to encounter a local newspaper sales rep selling them an offer deal into a mobile app space that is 150-metres from their door.
And that is gold dust. Certainly to the local retailer. He or she will ‘get’ that; that’s foot-fall; give them the right coupon or offer. Can do it in real-time too if I have a table going spare at 10.15…
So, this is the chance for the local newspaper groups to make amends for their mistakes on the web; they get it right in that whole mobile-local space; come to ever greater understanding with the wifi-wireless providers that are opening up these new publishing spaces at a rapid rate of knots and hope can spring eternal.
Neither Facebook not Google are daft; one’s installing free wifi into Palo Alto coffee shops; the other into 7,500 Starbucks across the US.
Why? Because that’s where they will drive their localised ads… local ads that, by rights, remain the last, great preserve of the local newspaper groups.
What follows takes two assumptions as read. And if you disagree with either, then bow out now.
The first is that all our futures are mobile.
The second is that Google aren’t daft.
That when Eric Schmidt tells DreamForce in 2011 that the winning platforms of the future will be something around ‘mobile, local and social’, that the executive chairman of Google knows which way the cookie is going to crumble…
Or rather that location might be the new cookie.
The latest IAB ad revenue report confirmed again that mobile is the place to play right now; see above for one graph, see here for an extraordinary figure in these ‘What works?’ times – mobile advertising growing by 145% on the same period last year.
Ally that to the premium-value context that local still delivers and those with access to large and long-standing banks of local advertisers ought to be sitting pretty. In particular, the local newspaper groups.
But there is an aspect to this mobile movement that, to my mind, tends to be under-regarded; over-looked; almost ignored.
Because if the future is, indeed, mobile; be it for the delivery of both content and ads – and, in particular, in the premium-value context that comes with a specific locality – then there are other people with a stake in this game. And that’s the wifi-wireless infrastructure providers who, likewise, sniff a ROI, on location-aware advertising.
This is worth a longer read; particularly if I am a local newspaper executive eyeing up a move into mobile.
The clue is in the headline; and how Google lured Starbucks to dump AT&T out of its 7,000 coffee shops across the US – and what could be more ‘mobile, local and social’ than your local Starbucks? – not just via enhanced wifi speed but by the prospect of ‘unique content’.
As Starbucks spokesperson Linda Mills explained: ‘Google offered “a unique opportunity to co-develop the next generation of the Starbucks Digital Network,” which refers to the landing page customers reach when they log onto Starbucks’ Wi-Fi service. The page provides a curated content experience that includes items such as music, news and local events.
“Google brought “unique ideas and proposals for making that even bigger,” Mills said.
The infrastructure provider added the other, obvious string to Google’s local bow.
‘Google will use its Starbucks partnership as a new channel through which it can sell advertising and promotions, said Level 3 CEO and President Jeff Storey, according to the Wall Street Journal.’
On the basis that the landing page to each of those 7,000, individual local Starbucks portals will include both content and ads that are local to each of those Starbucks, it begs several, big questions of those in a position to deliver a similar service – the local newspaper groups.
For will Google’s ‘unique content’ locally actually be Google’s at all? Or will it be local newspaper groups content aggregated once more onto a new publishing platform – as it has been on the web.
And all to the far greater benefit of Google’s data collection – be it for the delivery of every more contextualised ads or the collection of ever more individual pieces of user data – than it will be to the local newspaper groups having their content re-routed into a Google-powered local wifi space.
In short, the danger is here that you – local newspapers – will be short-changed again when the next generation of Starbucks’ Digital Network makes it across the Pond. And comes to a Starbucks in Preston or Norwich; Newcastle or Brighton.
Perhaps the deal Google engineered for your content on the web is one you will happily continue with on mobile; on tablet.
But if the first piece of ‘local news’ that a user encounters on that wifi landing page isn’t yours, then eyeballs will be dragged elsewhere – away from your still-famed local brand. Google will have put themselves between you and your local audience.
For the second time in a decade they will be the gatekeepers to your commercial fate. And all on a platform that can, actually, command mobile dollars and not web dimes – *if* the mobile ad concerned can be delivered in a sufficiently engaging context.
You have the first context – local. I’m in a local coffee shop. I know. Because you have just signed up to a local wifi landing page. Or the kit that sits behind it.
The next, great context question is how that ad is actually delivered within the context of the app itself.
Because as things currently stand, a nasty little mobile banner ad proves an unwelcome intrusion – both to the app user and the app developer, forced to turn to mobile ads to try and make his or her app pay.
‘People have long described the price difference between print and Web ads as moving from analog dollars to digital dimes. Cellphone ads could be described as trading those dimes for mobile pennies,’ was a decent line from the NYT piece by Claire Cain Miller.
‘Clicks on mobile ads cost about 40 percent of the price of desktop ads, according to Stifel Nicolaus.’
In what way, therefore, can mobile-local be seen as a potential salvation for the local newspaper groups? Are you not swapping web dimes for mobile pennies?
According to the Washington Post, there is ‘an arms race on to create less obtrusive ways of integrating advertising into applications…’
So, what if you left a developer to develop a way in which local ads could be served on a mobile app? That a developer could be left to weave a second, deeper layer of context within which that ad, offer or coupon appears – over and above the fact that it was already local to that coffee shop?
That the ad would appear in a context within that app that was far less intrusive to the individual app user? That it arrived at both an appropriate time and an appropriate place (local) as opposed to a moment imposed on both developer and user by a distant, top-down ad network?
For that, we might start to have an answer.
‘The Technology Strategy Board and Nesta have worked together to develop the Hyperlocal Media for collaborative research and development of information, news and commerical services for geographical communities.
‘The aim of the £2.5m competition will be to invest in several significant projects across the UK.
‘A mix of project ideas that target rural and urban areas are anticipated, but all are intended to develop the kinds of enabling technologies, platforms and services which build up the businesses of the future and help the UK to become a world-centre for hyperlocal media.’
For those of us who have long laboured in this #hyperlocal space, this is a big deal.
News that between the TSB and NESTA they have £2.5 million to invest in several ‘Hyperlocal Media Demonstrators’ across the UK; the remit for one likely to be something in rural.
How that cake is actually split is for another time; be it four projects or five, £500,000-£600,000 to put into this space is a huge opportunity to go build. To find out what *might* work, if nothing right now does. To misquote Mr Shirky.
Why the pair are so keen to find out what else might work when the DCMS have their own ‘Local TV’ initiative due to go live through the course of 2014 is, likewise, something for another day.
And there is, of course, no reason why the two models can’t complement eachother; certainly in the rural vs urban setting. For where a TV transmitter mast fails to go… what next?
It will be fascinating to see what models emerge; I’ve long scribbled on the back of a fag-packet the model I’d build given half a chance and a bag-load of someone else’s tenners.
And it wouldn’t sit in a silo.
Nor come from the ‘top down’.
Even if some of the ads might.
It would be elegant; simple; obvious.
Ubiquitous, to quote her ladyship.
It would be open, collaborative; it would have been of the web and not on it.
Now it will be mobile; mobile is the only thing that matters right now. That and location.
It will be data-driven; weaving in APIs from across that community – be it bus times or time to travel maps, we will weave in the best that is out there; to mobile; to where and when the user wants it.
We will swap free wifi for their location; and, by way of return, deliver ads, offers and localised coupons that are contextualised to both their physical loaction and their position within a mobile app experience.
The ad will be delivered at a time of a developer’s choosing and not, say, AdMob’s making.
And we will seek partnerships with those who know these local, commercial spaces better than anyone; people who have been pounding the streets of their local communities for the last 250 years; making a local media model work.
For me, this funding call is a huge opportunity for the local newspaper groups to re-tool, re-focus and re-group in face of the second wave of disruption now amongst them – mobile.
That tidal wave that threatens to engulf all too many of us. As Poynter pointed out.
Both in terms of the threat – and the opportunity; for those that moved with speed.
‘There’s a narrow window of opportunity to invent — or invest and acquire — disruptive mobile technologies and business models that could eventually sustain, grow or even multiply your revenue…
The beauty here being that you’re playing with someone else’s money to try and see what works on mobile, in local.
The reward? Well, every graph and bar chart you see right now has mobile ad revenues pointing north – 145% year-on-year growth in the case of the US right now.
Is that not worth chasing?
We live in a world that is ever more networked; ever more connected. And yet one that still cries out for a human to intervene occasionally – particularly in the field of local ad sales. That space where the premium ad rates are still to be found.
And there has to be video; into mobile. The kids will expect nothing less. Only we have to have the connection to deliver it.
And I strongly suspect that – in rural areas – that level of connection is not going to come off the back of a copper wire; as and when BT ever roll up at the nearest cabinet.
I remain wedded to the hope that part of the answer will come from on high…
Certainly here in Norfolk; blessed with a Bishop with an interest in all things local and media; a man who wishes to see his churches restored to their place as the central hub of any community.
Off which you can then build a network. Of connection. Of content. And commercial opportunity.
But, that’s all for the future; hopefully. We have teams to find; partnerships to build.
For now, all credit to the TSB and NESTA; they have kept the faith that there is something afoot in hyperlocal. Just as Eric Schmidt does – and who are any of us to doubt Mr G?
There are, I guess, three ways we can conceive of delivering local news/media in the 21st Century.
One is to a newspaper; off a print press. The same way it was done in, say, 1727.
Another is to a TV. A box like object still sat in the corner of most lounges.
And the third is to a mobile device.
Between numbers two and three there was, of course, a halfway house. There was the web. The thing that came to the desktop PC; the thing that sat in the corner of every study. For those who had a study.
But to my mind – and that of the ex-CEO of Local World, Steve Auckland – the web bit is all a bit 2008. In one of his farewell utterances the other week, he noted how over 50% of their online content is now accessed via mobile.
The ’second tidal wave of disruption’ to engulf the news industry is already upon us. Mobile is now the only thing that matters… To quote that Poynter piece.
So thems the choices; and still people can’t make up their mind which horse to back.
Johnston Press are still experimenting with staining trees. Or rather getting new people to stain their trees for them; in this case the good people of Bourne, Lincs.
DCMS, of course, still believe that the future provision of local news will come down from the nearest TV transmitter mast. And at some stage next year, 19 new Local TV stations will proudly take to the airwaves and beam all the news that is fit for, say, Birmingham into homes beneath the appropriate TV transmitter. Somewhere between ITV2 and BBC3, if memory serves.
Just as it will for the good people of Mold when the next tranche of Local TV licences come on stream.
Just not for the people of Coventry or Sunderland, Ipswich or Peterborough.
We have talked before about this forthcoming NESTA/TSB competition; fresh details can now be found here: https://www.innovateuk.org/-/destination-local-demonstrators
The competition opens, officially, on Monday with prize pots of up to £1.4m available to the successful consortia that make it through to next spring. £1.4m might not get you much of a printing press; nor too high a TV transmitter mast.
What it does get you, however, is an awful lot of mobile antennae. In Norfolk it also gets you a back haul connection into about 400 church towers. I should know; I’ve already paid for three of them.
But if you read through the wording of that scope, it is fairly clear upon which horse NESTA/TSB are betting the house on.
‘Successful projects will lead to, or focus on, one or more of the following:
• connected devices that enable geographical technologies to deliver content across devices, platforms and environments;
• mobile access technologies that support hyperlocal urban media services and provide alternatives to local digital television;
• services that deliver valuable hyperlocal services to rural areas, especially where internet access or digital television provision is weak…’
The last one is of particular interest in this, rural neck of the woods.
‘Where internet access is weak…’ The final third. Where BT/BDUK can’t be a*sed to come, in short. But where, thankfully, the good Bishop will.
Equally it is something of a moot point right now how far the service from Mustard TV will stretch; that digital television provision in such a rural context might be equally as weak.
But there is a further point to emerge from the new details – and the new numbers.
Because, to my mind, handing any of us that have sat in this UK hyperlocal space for a while now £1.4m of the state purse to go play is a daunting prospect; its a carrot, I strongly suspect, that is not designed to entice me or, say, a Simon out of OnTheWight to go build.
It is designed for the incumbent local news providers to re-focus their thoughts and their thinking into this whole mobile-local space.
And maybe some of the infrastructure guys.
This line: ‘mobile access technologies that support hyperlocal urban media services…’
That, to me, ought to perk up the ears of, say, a VirginMedia busily delivering ’small cell’ mobile technology right across the heart of Birmingham.
These are the guys building the new ‘print presses’ of the 21st Century; off the nearest lamp-post or bus-stop. Or the 4G providers; now openly courting government to allow them to address the issues of those left in the final third connection-wise. That maybe for them the answer, strangely enough, is not a copper wire… connected to some distant cabinet, mile upon mile away.
Both, of course, can increasingly deliver streaming video into mobile phones; so just as much as they might serve as the new print press, they can also double as the new ‘TV’ transmitter mast. Which is fascinating. Mobile-local-video.
Inevitably, this line from the scope caught my eye: ‘…platforms that lower the transaction costs of personalised and consumption-based advertising, or that develop geo-targeted, cross-device tracking and reporting technologies…’
But that is only one part of the greater jigsaw here; one part that we might be able to help with.
Otherwise, I continue to think that is a huge opportunity for those with an on-going interest in the provision of local news to try and get something that works on a sustainable basis off the ground.
It’s not too often that anyone comes a-calling with up to £1.4m of someone else’s money to go build something that works for a postcode near you.
Yesterday I was in London for the first of four planned regional briefings with regards to the forthcoming NESTA/TSB ‘Destination Local Demonstrators’ competition with ’several’ prize pots worth ‘up to £1.4m’ available to the eventual winning consortia.
The official details can be found here, on the NESTA website. Or here for the TSB information sheet.
To throw £2.5m at a sector of the news economy that essentially scrapes a living off little more than goodwill – and all off the back of the sheer, unrelenting graft that any successful hyperlocal site can become – remains a real act of faith amongst certain of the powers that be.
It can also be viewed as an act of increasing desperation policy-wise if some Whitehall wonk within the bowels of DCMS is finally twigging that the answer to our local media needs won’t be found hanging off either a print press or a TV transmitter mast. However much the people of Mold might yearn for their very own TV station off that thing on top of their hill…
To misquote Mr Shirky again, ‘Right now nothing in (local) media works, what the f*ck might…?’
That real fear, in part, underpins why the numbers are where they are.
Both the NUJ and Roy Greenslade have returned to the whole question of public subsidies of late for the local newspapers.
The UK tax-payer subsidising the likes of Crispin Odey’s hedge fund; they who now part own LocalWorld.
Or are they expecting Crispin to take a hair-cut on his investment?
The answer has to be something new, self-sustaining and fit for 21st Century purpose.
And that can’t include buying the newspaper groups another five years of staining trees whilst they finally think of a plan…
But clearly giving the vast majority of hyperlocal activists £750,000 to spend on the back of three years of living off peanuts running a Parwich.org or whatever is all-but a non-starter…
What on earth would anyone do with that – when, basically, £25,000 would be a huge God-send; it would, I’m sure, make all the difference.
And given that the TSB’s funding mechanism is quarterly in arrears and is only 60% of the project costs to boot, the working capital requirements and match-funding aspects would demand a Parwich.org finds £250,000 up front.
Wherein lies the biggest disconnect thus far – that level of finance is NOT available to anyone, at a grass roots level, off a High Street bank.
Which, in turn, demands players of larger pockets find their way to the consortia-building ’sand pit’ come February.
Again, wherein lies another problem. Four-day residentials to play and partner-make is going to be a challenge for any SME; let alone any major media player exec asked to justify his time that week…
‘I’m off to play in the sand pit,’ the digital director of LocalWorld tells David Montgomery…
And, for the record, whilst the EU might classify an SME as any company with less than 250 employees, out there in hyperlocal land anyone who ‘employs’ two people is a bleedin’ miracle.
Learning has to come from what can scale. Quickly. If the bottom falls out of the print press and Local TV transmitter market next autumn.
100 x £25,000 pots doesn’t work.
And yet – somehow – we have to get the Parwichs of this world into the trough of TSB cash.
It IS designed for them. Even if the TSB isn’t.
At the top of this piece, I’ve dropped a model. It is a model rather than the model because there could be other ways of doing this; other platforms, players, individuals, etc etc who can acheive the same ends in the same period of time.
By December 18 for that first Expression of Interest.
And, clearly, Addiply’s role as a ‘facilitator’ isn’t without a commercial interest. We have never been a charity; even if we all-but feel like one.
I couldn’t fit the assumption bit on the pic; here it is…
‘On the basis that the future we’re looking for involves something that is mobile, is local (geo-localised), video led and monetised. And, above all, connected. That *the* most useful thing anyone can give me locally is reliable, free wifi/4G…’
That’s how I would construct this; to *try* and crack this £2.5m nut and bring something back to the hyperlocal fold – not by way of straight, grant gold. But something – hopefully – more useful.
A sustainable way of starting to fund themselves by gaining access to national advertisers seeking their local audiences.
And, in particular, their local audiences that will ever increasingly be accessing their local content on mobile platforms, apps and devices.
Its how we get an offer from Co-Op (Parwich) onto a Parwich mobile website, portal or app that may yet get Parwich.org to a position of ‘not-for-loss’.
[And apologies to Parwich.org; you might be perfectly happy just as you are... a great example of an ad-lite community site.]
Now, who fills the roles earmarked by the other slices of the consortia pie is, clearly, open to discussion. I have a fair idea of who could deliver each; likewise, I have a sense of who might be able to match fund this if the pitch and, above all, the extent of the opportunity was clear.
Because that’s the other point here; the bigger the network of available local ad inventory, the more chance any of us have of pulling in the national brand advertisers seeking our local – and localised – audiences.
The pot of gold at the end of every little hyperlocalist’s rainbow is the exploding value of that mobile-local market-place.
$15.2bn by 2017; or whatever the latest chart shows. They are always heading north at a frightening rate.
So, everyone is in the right space – at almost the right time. And the TSB are heading into the right space with almost the right attitude and opportunity. We just need to start to finesse the model around the realities of the market-place and the practitioners therein that it is seeking to help.
But, this is our contribution to this debate. I think it can be done.
For reasons that have always escaped me, events in the US local media space are always somehow deemed to have little bearing or relevance to what may – or may not – be happening here in the UK.
Personally, I always tend to think that the US is some two or three years ahead of us; that by looking across the Pond we might begin to see what is coming down the line here.
For those in the world of local newspapers, watching someone like John Paton wrestle with making anything work for DigitalFirstMedia must be a sobering exercise. This month and it was needs must when it came to subscription models and paywalls. Is the destiny of the Sheffield Star, therefore, to lie behind a Sun-style wall?
Its tricky; hugely tricky. And for those getting set to launch Local TV onto our screens next summer, Business Insider won’t have made for great reading either.
‘TV is Dying, and Here Are The Stats That Prove It’
The bit that interested me as NESTA, TSB and Co start to look towards what else might work in local was the part that metro wifi was deemed to be having in all this; the graph charting the rise of mobile-video was telling.
More so, however, was the map of free wifi coverage in Jersey City.
And Jersey City is clearly not alone in starting to deliver ever more ubiquitous connection.
‘Facebook’s original free wifi test included just 25 stores in the Bay Area. The company has now expanded it to 1,000.
‘For some people, there is just no need for a cable or pipe to deliver the internet or TV to their residence specifically, as long as they are within range of a free wifi hotspot.’
That Facebook ‘pilot’ has been mentioned before around here. Its what Palo Alto had in common with Loddon, Norfolk.
So the picture at the top of this piece is taken from a search off here. And it gives a sense of the increasing ubiquity of free, metro wifi across the centre of Boston.
Free wifi is replacing both the cable and the TV aerial as the video delivery vehicle of choice.
Which, for me, is fascinating.
For any number of reasons. One of which is that something very similar is happening to a metro centre near you. Or, indeed, a Metro full stop.
Another of which is the implication of anything so ubiquitous.
And a third is what new mobile apps and services people can hang off such connection – particularly given the new context that such precise location can bring.
This is smart. And hangs out around Boston.
Empowers people to build their own maps of hyperlocal interests. Mobile, local and social all rolled into one.
Whether anyone planning to build a new Local TV station off a TV transmitter mast will like the on-rush of wifi quite so much is, I suspect, becoming ever more a moot point.
Mobile is the only thing that matters.
Its the ’second wave of disruption’. The thing that makes every lamp-post a ‘TV’ transmitter. No-one need worry whether or not you own a hill.
‘Free wifi — at work, in coffee shops, and on campuses — is making it easier for consumers to get the shows, movies and videos they want without subscribing to any kind of cable or broadband service…’ says the BusinessInsider piece.
What is interesting too is the way that wifi has won the ‘brand’ war – people look for the sign; ask the question: ‘Have you got free wifi here?’ There is now a whole consumer expectation built around that proposition.
That (a) the premises concerned has, indeed, got wifi and (b) it is free.
And if the answer to (a) or (b) is ‘No!’ then consumers will vote with their feet. And find somewhere else where the answer is ‘Yes!’ to both.
That’s the way the world is increasingly working.
All of which then poses huge new challenges to the way in which media is being consumed (mobile) and, invariably, not paid for (free).
In short, I wouldn’t want to be in the TV transmitter business. The graphs suck.
I have long been a fan of Sky/Tyne&Wear.
For me, it began to break the mould. It began to build a new model for the coverage of local news that came as near as anyone to resting on the three pillars of Eric Schmidt’s wisdom – that any winning platform of the future will be mobile, local and social.
By coining the very term ‘mo-jo’ for a mobile journalist, by being specifically local to the banks of the Tyne and the Wear and by enjoying a social media presence that was 25,000-strong on Twitter, Sky/Tyne&Wear was pushing an awful lot of 21st Century buttons.
Which makes its sudden demise today all the more sad.
Speaking to Press Gazette in the summer, two of its senior staff made it clear that it was fast approaching a crossroads moment; the point when decisions had to be made.
‘The next few months will be critical, but whatever the outcome we believe we have broken the mould, creating something original and compelling which will provide a benchmark for ‘local’ journalism in the future…’
The simple statement that brought the curtain down on a two-year experiment gave no clue as to the decision-making process that lay behind said curtain falling. If it has fallen for good. ‘For now…’
But given the fact that it had barely ever registered on the radar of the London meeja scene, I suspect few there will even notice its passing – let alone ponder the latest lessons to be learned in the realm of local.
After all, Sky are not the first to try and get this local thing to work; the Guardian were there a good two years before them only to turn their attention to the US when they decided that the 50,000-strong audiences that they had built up for the cities of Leeds, Edinburgh and Cardiff were ‘unsustainable’ when it came to make the commercial numbers stack.
When it came to keeping one journalist, with one lap-top, at one desk.
I have not spoken to anyone at Sky/Tyne&Wear since the start of the summer; I am not in any way privvie to the discussions that led to today’s decision.
There was a hint in the Press Gazette piece that the numbers were challenging – making sure the potential commercial returns could cover the costs of a 14-strong Tyne&Wear team; one that between them had build an audience of 600,000-plus monthly uniques.
‘By most definitions the pilot has been a success. But digital advertising remains stubbornly cheap and it is a challenge for any digital platform to be profitable…’
To the end, Sky never actually dipped their toe in the local ad model; instead it was house ads and subscription drives that filled any available inventory – just as Eurostar ads for London to Paris rail fares would fill the richer media ad slots on Guardian Leeds, Edinburgh and Cardiff.
Perhaps someone posed the question to the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, as to what they might pay a month for access to that 600,000-plus local audience; one that was increasingly to be found living their lives on mobile phones – and not reading the middle pages of the Evening Chron or Sunderland Echo.
There would have been other factors at work, too.
Having demonstrated the ability to drive such audience numbers out of one region, there was nothing to suppose that given the wealth of content and new-found knowledge at their disposal they could not have driven similar engagement out of many another region; they had ubiquity on their side – unlike the rival local newspaper groups or, indeed, those in the field of LocalTV who need a hill and a conveniently placed TV transmitter mast to unfurl their wares.
So to roll Sky’s tanks over everyone else’s front lawn could have led to an almightly row with the Newspaper Society; they for one will be breathing a huge sigh of relief tonight that Murdoch Jnr and Co have packed their bags and gone home.
But the demise of Sky/Tyne&Wear still leaves huge questions as to what will work in local.
If anyone knew the answer to that then I suspect neither NESTA or TSB would be throwing £2.5 million at the problem next year.
But I’m increasingly convinced that London won’t solve local.
Because London looks at the world of local from the top down – and for the second time in four years, can’t get the numbers to stack.
This was telling. TrinityMirror’s bold new venture into data story-telling - that was mobile in delivery and social in intention.
Ampp3d – building on the success of its UsVsTh3m site with its 7m users.
The challenge remained the same; the one The Guardian had; the one that Sky had.
‘Coles is unfussed about commercial targets, quipping that the first ad deal, which he struck via a direct message exchange on Twitter, was for a £500 logo sponsorship for sex brand Love Honey. “We’ve not gone out to make money,” he says, taking a leaf out of Mail Online’s book. “It is scale first, revenues later.”
Which is what both the Guardian and Sky did; only to come a-cropper when it came to revenues later.
They couldn’t work it out. It will be interesting to see whether, from their perch atop Canary Wharf, Coles and Co can.
They have mobile; they have social. But on the basis that their new apps are sucking up cloud upon cloud of users’ geographical data, can they be the ones to crack local? As in location, if not local.
I’m guessing it’s a bit early for 2014 predictions.
But for the very little that it is ever worth, in 2014 the media world as we know it in the UK will go one of two ways.
People will either try to go very, very local. Or people will bet the farm on going very, very global.
And for anyone stuck somewhere in the middle, 2014 could prove as bleak and unrewarding as all-too many a year before it. The web really doesn’t care for those that can’t make their mind up.
Given I’m in a heap somewhere trying to recover from herding all-too many a cat through the door marked ‘Destination Local Demonstrators’ in time for today’s noon deadline, if I had a farm – or even the dankest, remotest of upland sheep crofts – it’s not rocket science to work out which way I’d wager it.
I’m with Eric. Mobile, local and social. And if you can somehow conjure up all three, you might have half a chance.
Others, of course, are betting a far bigger farm on their future being global; and making the kind of appointments that step up that ambition after scaling new heights of global renown and respect in terms of bestriding Mount Snowden.
Cue this from Andrew Miller on a re-shuffle at the top: ‘”GNM is really firing on all cylinders, and we are continuing to accelerate the growth of our digital revenues and build our global audience at a pace that outstrips our competitors.
“In order to capitalise on the momentum we have created, now is the right time to integrate our commercial operations across the UK, US and Australia in line with our global strategy and ambitions. I believe David Pemsel will be able to maximise the huge potential we see in both the US and Australia, while Tony Danker will be able to create new opportunities and partnerships for us around the world.
“We’d like to thank and recognise Michael Bloom for successfully steering Guardian US through its first two years. He helped build the business from a start-up operation to a much-respected media brand in the highly-competitive US market, with traffic growth of over 46% and revenue up 75% year-on-year.
“As we continue to grow we will focus on driving one global commercial strategy, to build on our enviable position as the world’s third biggest English-language newspaper website and as one of its most trusted sources of news content.”
Where next is clearly the $64m question; I guess India would make sense; or South Africa. Or push on into Kansas. Or wherever. But the global intent is evident. (My italics)
Which all makes perfect sense; being caught between the two stools of (hyper)local and regional/national isn’t entirely healthy. Nor is being national-in-a-kind-of-global-kind-of-way.
And having bought an early ticket to local and deemed it ‘unsustainable’, volume is now the name of the game. And the pull that a truly ‘global’ audience has for global brands seeking eyeball after international eyeball.
And having long been in the space that is, kind of, the planet’s voice of liberal conscience – pressing the case for both free and freedom – it is a noble quest to seek international pastures new.
The interesting thing for me come 2014 will be the fact that The Guardian won’t have that particular playing field all to themselves. Something Miller himself would appear to acknowledge; growing their global digital revenues… ‘at a pace that outstrips our competitors.’
Because a global audience with a left-leaning sense of conscience/outrage – as opposed to the MailOnline sense of ‘outrage’ – might have more than one choice of destination come the end of next year. And if anyone’s attention span is only finite online, the Guardian’s audience of choice could be splitting their engagement time at least three ways.
Because the star turn of the year in terms of liberal, anti-state outrage has to be Glenn Greenwald. The poster boy of ‘advocacy journalism’.
Who is now to be found team building with $250m worth of Pierre Omidyar’s fortune. For an online only venture. His budget for investigative reporting and exposing more of the globe’s darker underbelly is not going to be tied to the future, or not, of print.
It is a big deal. At least in the eyes of the Columbia Journalism Review - brand Glenn leaving The Guardian building to build something new.
‘What makes this extraordinary is the combination of muckraking—and, dare I say, dissident—journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill with the gargantuan fortune of one of the first internet billionaires.’
So that’s one big tank heading for that particular global lawn.
The other one is the Washington Post; now owned by Jeffrey P Bezos. On the back of building an online empire with annual sales of $61bn, paying $250m for the Post is chicken feed. But the start of his ambitions to deliver a new ‘golden age’ for the publication.
One, you have to presume, not defined by staying ‘local’ to the Beltway.
“We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient,” he said. “If you replace ‘customer’ with ‘reader,’ that approach, that point of view, can be successful at The Post, too.”
Aim high and innovate isn’t the kind of rallying call to take the WaPo local.
So here’s the challenge – particularly to a brand still in its early adolescence in terms of that US audience.
You now have the founders of eBay and Amazon planning on becoming global media moguls; whose pockets dwarf those of the Scott Trust. And both would appear to be of a mind to challenge the existing establishment.
Small ‘e’. Because they have already smashed the retail establishment; why not the media one? Or, indeed, the political one?
And whilst both might be bigger and better than squabbling over the Madison Ave banner ad bucks, they are clearly out to command the attention of a global, online audience.
Mr Greenwald is certainly no stranger to demanding attention. And with attention, somewhere, comes revenue.
And if both Omidyar and Bezos have no need to charge for that attention – to keep the mantra of free alive whilst others ponder following the NYT in terms of a pay wall, metered or otherwise, that too would concern me.
Going global is no less fraught with challenges than going hyperlocal. You just need deeper pockets.
Mr Danker is going to have an interesting New Year.
It is now six years since I sat on a revenue panel at Jeff Jarvis’ NewsInnovation gig at CUNY in the city of New York and talked about ‘bottom up’ advertising models.
It feels a lifetime ago now.
And for anyone who has tried to tie such thinking to the field of hyperlocal media, so the intervening years have brought very little by way of respite or release.
Ask Richard at SaddleworthNews, or Nigel from InsideTheM60, or indeed Tim from BrixtonBlog and they will all I’m sure say the same – you build a beast audience-wise, one that needs constant feeding content-wise and yet offers precious little by way of financial return.
Persuading the Saddleworth butcher, the Manchester baker and the Brixton candlestick maker to part with their ‘digital dimes’ is a huge challenge in these economically straitened times.
And yet – as both the Guardian and Sky have proved with their respective, and abandoned, forays into the field of local – the appetite is there for local news; 50,000 monthly uniques apiece for the cities of Leeds, Edinburgh and Cardiff; 600,000 for the region of Tyne&Wear.
And yet still – commercially – people can’t make the numbers stack. On either side of the Pond as AOL start their weary retreat out of Patch; half the staff cut in the summer. Further proof that, right now, nothing quite works in the realm of hyperlocal media.
Only the one-man bands – led by Howard Owens at The Batavian and our own James Rudd in Towcester – are digging a newsy living out of local advertising.
If the local newspaper groups here in the UK had the answer then I’m guessing that the TSB and Nesta wouldn’t be offering anyone £2.5m to find one. We would all be following the lead of a Newsquest or a Johnston, a LocalWorld or an Archant.
As it is, we’re all in this together – trying to make something, if not anything, sustainable work. Be it for a Hartlepool or a Harpendon. And all the mid-sized market towns in between.
At the top of this post is a picture – of planets aligning. And this, I think, is where we’re at now; starting to recognise which major planets need to align within the hyperlocal solar system for something to work.
And like most planetary alignments, they only happen once in a blue moon – which is why 2014 and that £2.5m of TSB cash could prove of such significance.
The first planet has to be mobile. Be it smartphone or tablet, the answer has to be presented in the palm of my hand. That’s where we all live our lives. You come to me with my news.
The second is content – engaging local content that keeps an audience’s eyeballs fixed long enough on that mobile platform for me to sell advertising.
And that, for me, means video. We are not so much trying to deliver a local news vehicle fit for Generation X as for Generation You. Mobile video is exploding. The kids will expect nothing less.
For mobile and video to align locally, you need connection.
Connection that allows that local, video-led content to be streamed effortlessly onto your mobile device. And that means a wireless/wifi provider has to be in the loop – if content is king and collaboration is queen, then connection is the chessboard. You have neither without the other. And somewhere there has to be a reward mechanism. The wifi boys aren’t turning up locally for nothing.
A combination of mobile and localised wifi gives you another planet – geo-location. Now I know where you are. Have a relevant local offer. And feed me your data while you’re there…
Which brings us to the next planet in line – the national brand advertiser seeking to message an audience in a specific location. A revenue ‘anchor’. From day one. And one that scales with you.
The reality is that the local butcher, baker and candlestick-maker will be the slowest adopters of new, mobile ad tech. First in line will be big brands and their attendant ad agencies – *IF* the proposition is simple and ubiquitous. Made to be a no-brainer.
That the brand message can be delivered into any device in any postcode; off a single, command and reporting console.
Ad networks are named so for a reason; they respond best when matched to other networks, not paired to individuals. A MyWelshpool or a Wrexham.com will only gain Tescos ad spend if they are part of a network. That allows Tescos to do the same in MyHartlepool. In MyHarpendon.
And without national ad campaigns to supplement the income you can derive locally, then a sustainable future might be beyond them.
I would also add a big moon to the anchor advertiser planet – local authorities. They know their message has to be delivered to mobile. Locally.
Marry highly-targeted municipal messaging to the premium value that national brands will continue to pay for increased local footfall via geo-located mobile advertising and you have the basis of funding a part-time occupation – before the butcher, baker and candlestick maker redirect their own ad spend into that town-sized marketing space.
Look around the history of the UK hyperlocal sector and you can see certain planets revolving – the Guardian offered a person at the centre of their worlds; a Hannah in Cardiff and a John in Leeds.
The story-tellers had a human face. They were local. They were flesh and blood, not automated bots. Grunts on the ground, not data drones in the air.
Sky led with video. Onto mobile. Sky Tyne&Wear had VJs; MoJos. Who generated 600,000 plus monthly uniques. How many monthly visitors might a part-time village VJ deliver – and at what cost?
If you can get the appropriate planets to align… find yourself a video-led mobile content platform powered off a localised wifi network with an anchor advertiser delivering relevant local offers, all with a view to scaling across both app and portal plays nationwide?
This was interesting. Ed Walker’s predictions for 2014. Where next for digital journalism?
Content for mobile… Geotargeted content… Video… Lists… Hyperlocal gets serious.
Of his five ‘planets’, four are in our solar system. He’s gazing in the same direction. And coming to the same conclusions.
This was an interesting read – the latest ‘circulation’ figures for TheTab, the student read of choice in 2013.
Given that the above chart stops in November at 1 million monthly uniques, the revelation that December topped that figure again at 1.3 million would suggest a website that knew its audience inside out. It was, in short, giving the punters what they wanted. Something bright and brash.
It isn’t Cherwell. Its a lot smarter than that. It is, after all, also a network.
Pause a moment and ponder the other runaway ‘circulation’ success of this web age – MailOnline. Globally, it was running at 154 million monthly browsers in October, according to Press Gazette.
It is in a class of its own.
Again, part of its success must be down to its intimate knowledge of its audience. It gives the punters what they want; and they keep coming back for more.
Certain news purists might argue that the average punter doesn’t know what they want; that the Mail has somehow manipulated the popular market into accepting the ‘Sidebar of Shame’ as the news that matters to them; that they have led the audience on. Dumbed down on the news that ought to matter to them.
In their opinion.
Increasingly, I would disagree. The web is such a beast that if the content to be found on the MailOnline didn’t hit the engagement spot, then punters would find their entertainment elsewhere.
That it provokes is part of the package.
That it challenges figures of authority – albeit from a certain stance and standpoint – is just part of a popular tradition that stretches back centuries. In a certain sense, it is irreverent, mass entertainment Punch and Judy-style. With added bikini.
The Wikipedia page makes the point; that Punch, ‘is a manifestation of the Lord of Misrule and Trickster figures of deep-rooted mythologies…’
Paul Dacre as a ‘Lord of Misrule…’ If the cap fits. But the gist is pretty simple. Mischief making sells. As, of course, does sex. In the case of both the MailOnline and TheTab, the jury remains firmly out as to whether data sells.
Worthy, but ultimately dull could be one conclusion.
Because for vast swathes of society – and across vaste swathes of history – ‘news’ has never been taken that seriously; given half a chance, punters will flock to scandal – the more titillating the better; they will take delight from those that mock their masters and, generally, find entertainment in baser pleasures of the flesh. That’s how we’re wired; all of us.
That can be all the news that matters to me. Light relief. To coin a phrase.
And there is a whole generation out there now who have been brought up on JackAss and RudeTube; Generation You who are all seeking a little light relief from their studies with content that hits the by now engrained spot.
That is easy on the eye; easy on the brain. Just makes me smile. For when I get a moment.
It is a formula that the Mail have honed to perfection and would, appear, to underpin a little of the thinking at TheTab.
They are giving their audience the news that matters to them – in a manner and a style that they have grown up to embrace and value. However much an older generation might come to wonder at and question said values.
These are their’s; suck it up…
But there is another string to TheTab’s bow that – to my mind – makes it one to watch and must, in part, play a role in that explosive growth.
Because the sprinkle of genius is the fact that they bring those same students the news that matters to them locally…
Be they studying in Warwick or Exeter, Manchester or Norwich
They are building an elegant network. From the bottom up…
Already they are reaping the benefit content-wise. Reporters can be trained up centrally, sent out to bat locally. Their local content can then feed up into a ‘national’ hub and from there syndicated up again – into a MailOnline or a SunOnline for whom charting jolly student japes has long been standard fare. Particularly if they come with pics attached.
The interest round here, of course, is how that lends itself to a local-national ad model – that you can hit both markets. The ‘bottom up’ and the ‘top down’. At scale. And with those kind of audience numbers.
The York curry house and the Exeter letting agency can happily market their wares to a local student audience – just as much as NatWest’s student banking campaign can target kids in Exeter, York, Manchester and Norwich.
Equally, you ought to be able to find kids with a willingness to sell; be it locally – or across that network.
And having hit that niche so well – given your audience the content they want – don’t now sell yourself short with a top down ad network with no knowledge or interest in the York curry house or the Exeter letting agency.
“We know who our readers are and they’re very loyal,” Rivlin said in that Guardian piece.
“They’re clearly defined, as is our site’s identity. That’s really valuable to advertisers.”
What’s equally valuable to local advertisers is the fact that those readers are also ‘clearly defined’ as local to me. Be they in Manchester or Exeter, Norwich or York.
You’ve built the platform – and the punters have come. Now fill yer boots…
I make no apologies for quoting this piece at length.
It was the first time I had ever read the full story of Tim Armstrong’s rise to fame and fortune; I had never twigged that one of his greater claims to fame was the way in which he signed up a local ad sales force for Google.
Nor did I realise that he was deemed to be one of the more personable CEOs out there. A decent guy. Apparently. Who had an idea called Patch. Perhaps the author is his mate; perhaps the piece is slanted favourably.
But his run-in with the ‘active investor’ Jeff Smith – as chronicled here – is what I wish to quote at length.
Because, for me, Armstrong is right; his continuing gut instinct about the way he would take Patch to profit reflects perfectly the crossroads upon which local ad tech stands.
To one side is those that believe the bots will deliver an answer; to the other, those like – I suspect – Armstrong who believe long lasting value and worth comes from the human sales relationships that traditionally have always come to underpin local advertising.
The Mops and Pops for whom Patch was designed ‘from the bottom up’ trust a human with their ad *dollars*; by contrast, they’ll only give a dime to an algorithm.
Anyway, that quote. At length. As Armstrong fought for his future in charge of AOL in the face of the concerned shareholder; the one who couldn’t do the math.
‘…more than any other of Armstrong’s decisions, it was his massive investment in Patch that most perplexed Smith.
‘He and his team had done the math, and they couldn’t figure out how Patch was ever going to be profitable. They had counted all the ads available for sale on Patch and multiplied that number by the rates AOL was charging.
‘The number still fell short of the amount it cost AOL to employ Patch’s 1,000-plus-person workforce.
‘And that was assuming Patch was selling all its ads. Smith estimated it was actually only selling fewer than 20% of them. He didn’t think that number was going to climb higher, mainly because Patch sold ads to local businesses on a flat monthly basis.
‘The price for most online ads is determined by how often they are viewed or clicked-on. Judged by those metrics, the flat rate AOL was charging for Patch ads was insanely high.
‘Smith believed any sophisticated small-to-medium business would never go for AOL’s rate.
‘The kicker was that no business had to pay AOL’s prices, even if they wanted to get on Patch.
‘AOL had sold some of its Patch ad space to Google for re-sale, and, using Google’s ad-buying tools, any small business could buy space on a Patch site at a much cheaper rate.’
In the early spring of 2007, over the course of a couple of months, we did 400,000 impressions on MFW/Norwich. And made $140 off the Google text ads sold on a click basis.
Alongside those AdSense spaces, we sold display ads the old fashioned way. With a shoe-leather salesman. On a commission. To date we have taken c$175,000 worth of local revenue. As sold by a human. Locally.
At a rate of c$250 per month – a flat tenancy rate – our math would, like Armstrong’s, come out at an ‘insanely high rate’ in terms of our average CPM returns compared to letting the bots run riot across our beat audience.
The balancing act is the cost of keeping a human in the sales loop and arming them with a car, a suit and a lap-top as opposed to the returns a machine delivers. Viewed from Wall Street down, the only way to do this was via a machine. After all, that’s how they sold stocks, traded currency and swapped positions in a millionth of a second.
‘What the f*ck are you doing Tim paying a human to do this?’
I suspect Armstrong – sales person extraordinaire – knew the answer. And still knows the answer. That the premium local ad rates he needed to get Patch to turn a profit at the scale of those 900 sites can be driven via a human sales force – if they are given the time and the resource to build online sales relationships that last. Just as they have for 300-odd years in print.
People pay that bit extra because they like the sales person. It’s how humans work. How people sell to eachother. With a smile.
And there is one other line in that piece – witting or not – that merely underlines the fundamental misunderstanding Smith and his cohorts had when it came to local ad selling.
‘Smith believed any sophisticated small-to-medium business would never go for AOL’s rate..’
And just how many ’sophisticated’ SMEs has Smith ever met?
He’s viewing that local ad land from Wall Street down; not Main St up.
Maybe Google and Co are just too sophisticated for the local advertiser; not that they couldn’t eventually get the dark mysteries of the LumaScape, rather they have neither the time nor the energy nor the inclination to engage with a machine.
Armstrong, it would appear, knows his Main St. His ‘Beginnings’ were in Boston; selling ads for a small Boston website. Person to person; P2P.
When he hired for Google, he hired people. He didn’t build machines.
I suspect to carpet the length and the breadth of the US with a complete, Patch-work quilt of local news sites was an impossible dream.
But I have always admired the way that Armstrong stuck to his guns re Patch. Because, in his heart, he knew he was swimming with the ‘bottom up’ tide. And he knows that – over time - a human will always beat a machine in terms of sales.
Particularly in local.
A fact lost on Mr Smith. Who couldn’t do the math.
I read this again yesterday.
It is Clay Shirky’s seminal essay on the Collapse of Complex Business Models. Written in 2010, it is a piece that I have long carried close. For me, the collapse of a complex business model could be anything from a Wall St trading desk to an Air France Airbus. And, of course, the advertising industry enslaved as it is to the bots and the algorithms.
The context of the original essay was, however, the TV industry and how their existing business model might survive the assault of online video.
Not well, was Shirky’s conclusion.
Indeed, in the four years since the piece was written, I strongly suspect that the forces gathering at the door of global TV execs will have only fortified Shirky’s argument; that a collapse to simplicity was nigh.
As if to prove that very point, this was interesting on BusinessInsider.
It heralds the arrival of Hola, a mobile app that ‘Lets You Watch Whatever TV Program You Want, Including The Olympics, Anywhere In The World…’
Anywhere in the world… it is a silo smasher; a ubiquitous solution to my need as a mobile video viewer – to view content when I want, how I want, wherever I want. My viewing habits are not being imposed on me by a broadcaster from the top down…
Once again, their world is being turned upside down.
But if we return to Shirky’s original piece and view the UK TV landscape through the lens of his thinking – in particular with the knowledge that a ‘revolution’ in Local TV is almost upon us – then, for me, people are still missing the point. Or rather, they are merely underlining Shirky’s point.
The question taxing the TV execs was a simple one. ‘When, they asked, would online video generate enough money to cover their current costs?’
And part of the answer is very simple. It depends on how complex-stroke-costly you make that piece of video…
‘Some video still has to be complex to be valuable,’ writes Shirky. ‘But the logic of the old media ecoystem, where video had to be complex simply to be video, is broken. Expensive bits of video made in complex ways now compete with cheap bits made in simple ways.’
Via my moby; slapped onto YouTube. Job done.
‘A world where that is the kind of thing that just happens from time to time is a world where complexity is neither an absolute requirement nor an automatic advantage.’
The picture to the top of this piece is of a TV studio, of 1950s vintage; the picture to the right is of Estuary TV; the first of the 19 ‘Local TV’ stations to launch out of Jeremy Hunt’s vision for the future of local news provision in the UK.
The emergent Local TV landscape also includes a new, Network Operations Centre (NOC) managed by Comux in Birmingham, through which Estuary TV’s content is routed and then broadcast out off Arqiva’s TV transmission masts. As they have been doing for decades. For the same TV exces that came knocking on Shirky’s door seeking answers.
I suspect his answers weren’t wholly re-assuring.
Because if Shirky were here in the UK and casting his academic’s eye over the future of Local TV in the UK – and, in particular, how their business models will respond to the challenge of mobile and video – he might be tempted to point out that you have simply re-wired the complexities of the past into that ‘revolutionary’ vision of the future.
Yes, the staffing levels might be less but you have still built another TV studio answerable to another TV centre off the same TV transmitter masts. The same ones that Hola and Co are driving a horse and cart through in terms of a global-wide distribution network.
‘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…’
If I’m a TV broadcast wonk in the heart of DCMS/OfCom or, indeed, an executive in Arqiva with the services of my TV transmitter mast to flog, then boy, oh boy, do I want the ‘old complexity’ to continue.
And nor do I want anyone suggesting we look at a new simplicity.
There is a locked-down mentality in place; people don’t stray ‘off the television grid’; more than my job is worth to look beyond the constrictive, commercial box that is my broadcast ‘patch’. The town of Mold, for example.
Even a tiny shift to accommodate a new world order comes to be resisted. ‘Even when moderate adjustments could be made, they tend to be resisted, because any simplification discomfits elites…’
I suspect the three words to hang onto here are ‘in the meantime…’; that while we all seek simpler answers to such complex questions as a ubiquitous and sustainable platform for the provision of local news and services in the UK, we will have to trust leaner versions of those complex business models of the past to deliver.
To which you can add the local newspaper groups, who likewise remain locked in a fight to find fresh simplicities.
And I know all-too well, there are-all too many decent and smart people out there in Local TV land busting their proverbials to make their complex, broadcast world work. I wish them all well.
My fear would be the speed of disruption; the tidal wave of mobile re-invention that the likes of a Hola are riding in on.
That’s the real challenge. How long will your audience be there? How long will they wait on the end of a TV transmitter mast if all you’re doing is returning to the complexities of the past?
For the last week I have been locked away in a SandPit. Stuck in a bend of the River Trent, watching how far the rushing waters would rise.
There wasn’t much by way of a mobile phone signal. Instead there were a dozen new toys to potentially play with.
It would be neither fair, nor right, to comment any further. Suffice to say, it was both an interesting and intense five days. Pondering what might – and might not – work in the UK hyperlocal space.
Guidance was out of the top drawer – the thoughts of the likes of Dave Harte, David Milne and Damian Radcliffe were all thrown into the mix. All three added considerably to the event. As did the IAB.
So, in a sense, specific ‘takeaways’ from the last week aren’t going to happen. There is a competitive process at work.
One thought did, however, continue to cross my mind.
And it returned to the original scope set out by the ‘Destination Local Demonstrators’ competition brief. Which is probably worth repeating.
Successful projects will lead to, or focus on, one or more of the following:
* Connected devices that enable geographical technologies to deliver content across devices, platforms and environments…
* Mobile access technologies that support hyperlocal urban media services and provide alternatives to local digital television…
* Services that deliver valuable hyperlocal services to rural areas, especially where internet access or digital television provision is weak…
Because, to my mind, within those lines lies a Holy Trinity; the three Cs.
Connection, content and commerce. As in, commercialising.
It prompted a very simple, circular diagram. Which, circle-wise, can either be of the virtuous or vicious variety.
Because you can have the best content in the world. But if you don’t have the connection required to deliver said content, it is worth diddly squat.
Likewise, we can all produce content. Be it good, bad or indifferent. But there are very few of us that can commercialise it. Certainly in the field of digital.
And some of us can deliver connection. To whatever strength anyone might ever require. But can we commercialise it?
For BT, commercialising their connection comes via content. Premier League content. I would argue at the expense of replacing the copper wires that continue to underpin the delivery of ’super-fast’ broadband to huge swathes of rural UK.
At which point the danger is that said circle becomes more vicious than virtuous. If I don’t have access to the level of connection required to deliver your content in a smooth and friendly stream, then you will struggle to commercialise it.
The three are mutually dependent.
Its equally interesting when you view ‘connection’ through the lens of the three, great ‘transmission’ vehicles of our time.
For the last 400-years, local content has been ‘transmitted’ via a local newspaper. It runs off the nearest print press.
In Sheffield, in the case of the Sunderland Pink.
For the last 50 years, TV content has been transmitted to the box in the corner of the living room via the nearest TV transmitter mast. A model of content and connection that 19 Local TV stations are charged with commercialising over the course of the next year.
A ‘revolution’ in Local TV that – to my mind – is nothing of the sort. You have just moved a TV ‘centre’ to an industrial estate in Birmingham. And rebuilt another collection of regional TV studios whose location is dictated as much by the ownership of a hill as anything. Which you are now charged with commercialising.
And then there is mobile. The second wave of disruption that threatens to swamp the box sat in the corner of the study; the PC whose content is only connected to a commercial model on the strength – or otherwise – of a copper wire.
Few, I sense, would deny that mobile is on the rise. And here to stay. Even if that mobility proves to be a pair of Google Glasses. But even the Big G needs connection to make us see into such a wearable future.
Content looks to be increasingly video-led. We are into Generation You now. The kids – and their parents – have little or no connection with a print press.
The challenge, therefore, is making the circle a virtuous one. In particular, for the mobile connection people – as yet, still struggling to find a sustainable commercial reason to bring their ‘transmission’ platforms into an average market town near you.
Minus the level of reliable, local connection to deliver the kind of mobile-video content that you can look to commercialise locally on a sustainable basis, our ‘Holy Trinity’ falls short. We haven’t squared the circle. Made the model whole.
And that, for me, is the challenge; the game that is afoot right now.
Addressing those communities that fall outside the current footprint of both local TV and broadband provision. Communities that might still – just – be in range of a print press. But whose connection to such a 600-year-old device is becoming ever more tenuous.
So we’ll see.
There are, still, huge challenges ahead. Keeping three corners of a circle together on the same page; ensuring that each recognises that without the other two, the likelihood is that we will all fall on our a*se. Again.
Become another two-legged, milking stool.
Keep on the same page, however, and we’ll see. We’ll see.
In January, 2009, I wrote this….
It asked a simple question. Whether or not there might be a pot of ‘hyper-local gold’ to be mined from the data that was starting to pour forth from your local doctor’s surgery.
That if we were starting to leverage ever more data about the medical make-up of that community there… didn’t it actually make sense to tailor the local ‘messages’ accordingly?
That if the doctors’ surgery that serves that challenged community in that particular part of town demonstrated a higher than average prevalence of teenage diabetes, shouldn’t they be targeted accordingly? Isn’t that a wiser spend of what’s left of a local health authority comms spend than taking out a full page ad in the local, regional newspaper that – by very definition – sprays said message across a region and not into the specific community where that message is most needed?
It was a challenge that faced the local authority comms teams in South Wales when I spoke at the CommsCymru conference in Newport last spring as the measles epidemic hit Swansea; that the then in-coming head of HM Government Comms, Alex Aiken, addressed in his key-note. How everyone had to be ‘Germanic’ in their thinking; brutally efficient in the delivery of their message.
And we demo’d how we could deliver a ‘Message’ into a mobile phone app – down to the level of a bus stop; on the edge of the Gurnos Estate, Merthyr. 30% off fresh vegetables – because the local, GP’s data shows that’s what you lot need…
And that the platform of choice had to be mobile. That was the only place you were going to grab their attention. The more hard-pressed communities didn’t have a PC sat in the corner of their study; broadband was an irrelevance to them. They lived their lives on their mobys.
And in an age of ever-constricting budgets, TV campaigns were an ill-targeted luxury that most Government departments could ill-afford; it was way beyond the reach of local authorities. As for the next generation of Local TV stations, do they actually reach every corner of their local land? Can, for example, a Mustard TV broadcast the length and breadth of Norfolk? From one estate in the back end of Lynn to another in the back end of Yarmouth? Did it offer the ubiquitous coverage that Claire Enders long ago demanded of future local media provision?
All of which lay underpins my interest in this piece of news… that Hewlett-Packard have rocked up in Norfolk to transform service delivery by ‘harnessing the power of big data…’
Which is fascinating.
‘Bringing together disparate data from multiple agencies will enable NCC to make evidence-based decisions, reduce costly duplication and meet rising demands for services…’
I have never been a big fan of data. Not when it acts alone. Data journalism by itself will not solve this nation’s media woes; it is not the panacea of all evils that some insist.
It is only ever been a starting point for the delivery of a story – or, as importantly, the delivery of an advert that matches that piece of data.
Data alone will not suffice. Just ask Adrian Holovaty. Data is a means to an end – not an end in itself.
So, what could HP’s arrival in Norfolk mean for the delivery of the kind of ‘Germanic’ messaging that Alex Aiken was exhorting his local authority troops to pursue?
Particularly if this approach was ‘multi-agency’? That it could cover everyone from the local primary health care trusts, to the police authority to the chamber of commerce?
What ‘evidence based decisions’ could it now empower the likes of Tom Baker, Norfolk’s CIO, to make if the disparate data from the four corners of the county were honed and homed in a new, single feed of social and commercial intelligence?
Well, that area there has higher than average teenage pregnancy rates… that area there suffers unduly from obesity… that area there is more prone than most to burglaries… those local SMEs there are more dependent on the tourism trade than those businesses there… The list is endless. Let’s send the library van into that area of poor literacy; the breast cancer screening clinic into that area of high cancer rates.
And let’s partner with the local retailer to promote fresh veg into that community; fresh fish into that one. Let’s intervene early; let’s re-educate a community diet-wise by delivering pertinent offers into where they live their lives. On their mobys.
Let’s be ‘Germanic’ in our decision-making. Let’s tick a big box as far as Mr Aiken is concerned. And let’s be equally ‘Germanic’ in how we deliver on the evidence that HP lay before us.
That, for me, is the big opportunity here. To marry evidence-based decision-making to actual delivery.
On the ground.
In a ubiquitous fashion.
There are several very good reasons why this particular blog space has been quiet of late – principally because I have been head down submitting a final bid for the Nesta/TSB ‘Destination Local Demonstrators’ funding competition.
It went in last Tuesday night; along – I can only presume – with the nine other finalists that rocked up in a Derbyshire ‘Sand Pit’ a few weeks back.
And whilst our final bid might be in, I still don’t feel it would be right or fair on anyone – in particular our partners – to reveal all. There is every chance that what we have sketched out on so many bits of paper will never see the light of day.
For whilst Nesta/TSB might be looking to fund ‘three to four’ projects within this local media space, there are plenty of others out there who could rightly claim one of the prizes.
So I’m not about to sing anything from the roof-tops. We’ll see.
But I know the last 5-6 months have been hugely instructive; that there are *potentially* relationships out there that can change the face of local media provision in the UK; certainly in terms of the way that revenue can be driven out of hyper local communities if the model is open to both ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ advertisers; if the model lends itself to mobile delivery; if the model is built around the concept of ‘location being the new cookie’; if the model harnesses the power of big data to drive appropriate messages into appropriate communities of need.
Which is why the arrival of Hewlett-Packard in this little corner of the world might be of significance. We’ll see.
And then there is the ‘Holy Trinity’ of content, commerce and connection; that somehow we have to get the three to work together if we are ever to deliver a platform of local news and engagement that is truly fit for the 21st Century.
And we have to think like a network; one that is ubiquitous – that can go anywhere. One that is not predicated by the ownership of a hill and with it a TV transmitter mast.
That model is bust.
And as much as I applaud and commend the efforts of Archant in delivering the latest addition to the ‘Local TV’ stable in their ‘Mustard TV’ proposition, I struggle to get my head round where the ‘revolution’ is.
They have a nice new regional/local TV studio in Norwich, that feeds a TV centre in an industrial estate in Birmingham and from there a TV transmitter mast in Tacolneston. It could 1959 all over again.
Which sounds churlish.
I know how hard people have worked to make that happen; the blood, the sweat and the tears that have gone into morphing a regional newspaper group into a TV broadcaster in the space of 15 short months. Or however long it is since OfCom gave them the nod.
But, fundamentally, its flawed. It might be on the web – here. But it is not of the web. In the sense that it can go here, here, here, here… and here. It has the ubiquity that Claire Enders long cried out for.
I have another fear, here.
And this will have nothing to do with MustardTV; or LondonLive that is soon to follow in its wake.
The danger is that the whole sector will be judged on its weakest link, not its strongest. That would be my real concern.
Birmingham TV – the one that was the centre-piece of Jeremy Hunt’s original vision – would appear to be slightly slow off the blocks. This was the Birmingham Post’s story back in November. The website suggests that ‘mid-2014′ is the new deadline. Three months away.
And in the meantime, Trinity Mirror are pushing home working; Johnston Press are slashing mileage rates. Newsquest are subbing ‘local’ news stories from 270 miles away.
None of which suggests that the regional newspaper groups are getting any closer to the communities that they are charged to serve. If I was a news reporter for JP, I wouldn’t jumping in my car every time a cat got stuck up a tree. But that’s the news that really matters to that cat owner, in that small street, on that particular day.
Point is that – to my mind – neither a TV transmitter mast nor a print press are fit for 21st Century purpose. We’re still trying to slap an outboard motor onto the back of a canal barge and insisting that ‘Everything’s fine round here…’
To suggest otherwise would, of course, be like King Canute calling for a towel. And no-one is going to do that.
Definitely, more than their job’s worth.
This morning I received an invite from Cardiff University; from their Centre of Investigative Journalism, I hasten to add. Not the hyperlocal branch of the Cardiff family.
They had, kindly, opened it up to community journalists. It was a one-day workshop on ‘cyber security’ – a topic that is, no doubt, a pressing concern for every community journalist in the country.
‘The Centre for Investigative Journalism will run a cyber-security workshop on May 15th (Thursday), at Cardiff School of Journalism.
‘It is aimed at teaching people how to preserve anonymity for journalists and sources online and how to better understand how to protect communications.
‘It’s a topic Alan Rusbridger has said every journalist needs to know more about.
‘It will be a one day workshop for up to 30 people.
‘It will cover surveillance of journalists (in a post Snowden era), censorship, censorship circumvention, cell phone privacy, safe whistleblowing, discussion of easy to use encryption methods for instant messaging as well as email, document and full disk encryption.
‘There will be a heavy focus on Tor – an anonymity system deployed today and freely available. It will also discuss anonymity flaws with commonly used software such as VPNs and other privacy software.’
Full disk encryption is something that I am very conscious that MyFootballWriter lacks; nor in our final bid document for the Nesta/TSB ‘Destination Local Demonstrators’ did I include provision for teaching every community video journalist we – potentially – put out in the field how to Tor.
But if Alan says we should all know more about it….
To suggest that encryption techniques and cyber security needs to be hauled up the learning agenda for 98% if not 99% of journalists in this country is, for me, bollo*ks.
The vast majority of journalists in this country have far more pressing concerns than to worry about whether some wonks in the basement of a big doughnut outside Cheltenham are ‘illegally’ accessing their Crawley Town match report, the re-written Press Release of the new, £1.6m contract won by Jenners Street Furniture for architectural lighting in Macau and the thoughts of the town council chairman on the success of the latest Flower Festival. Or how to protect the ’sources’ that supplied any of the above.
They worry about whether they will have a job at the end of the year; how much they will have to pay for every mile they have to drive in a company car; whether or not they too will find themselves working from home as yet another district office closes.
On the news desk receiving their copy – or not depending on where they are with automated page make-up and copy insertion – I suspect you will struggle to find a single news editor who has the time or the inclination to ask how the copy arrived on that page.
‘Did you send it by Tor?’ is unlikely to be ringing out across provincial news rooms in the UK.
Where most journalists actually live their lives.
Concerning yourself with out-witting the spooks is a privilege afforded a tiny few. And most of them live in the rarefied and other-planety type existence that comes with working in Kings Place.
Not everyone in this country can afford to be a Paul Lewis or a James Ball.
And yet somehow the message appears to be that we should. This is the new agenda emanating out of the intellectual hot-house of GMG; that we should be cyber-safe as well as data led.
That’s *our* future. Set out for us by a Solomon like decree.
No, that is *your* future. The one you plumped for once you decided that this whole local thing was commercially unsustainable – and left the rest of us to it.
For me, the new and essential skill sets that ought to demand workshops revolve around mobile and video.
Re-skilling local stroke community journalists in such ‘trade craft’ is of far more value in a real world seemingly beyond the ken of someone. You can afford to be Smiley’s People if you have £600m of family silver to sell.
It is a luxury that Ashley Highfield can only dream of as he goes back, cap in hand, to JP’s shareholders this spring.
And that is part of what our Nesta/TSB project is all about; re-tooling 30, part-time community journalists with the kit and the knowledge they need to deliver OfCom compliant video content into a localised and mobile space.
I don’t give a monkeys if some super cyber spy wants to watch the two minute video clip of the local headmaster celebrating the village school’s improved OfSted report.
What I do care passionately about is making sure someone, somewhere, can deliver such content on a sustainable basis.
I have no family silver to flog; that went long, long ago. My thoughts as to what are the most pressing priorities facing journalism in this country are not cosseted and feather-bedded by such munificence as Rusbridger and Co enjoy courtesy of the Scott Trust.
They construct their arguments in a world far, far removed from our own.
And I’m tired of them telling the rest of us how to conduct our journalistic lives.
They can do one, frankly.
As one or two people have observed on LinkedIn, this week marks the eighth anniversary of Addiply.
For ads that add then multiply. Pure cheese.
Eight years? Is that all? It feels like a lifetime.
I know exactly when the journey started. On my 40th birthday. January 16th, 2006. And I know exactly what fired it all into life. An interview with Craig Newmark and Clay Shirky on Media Guardian.
This is it: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2006/jan/16/mondaymediasection.news
Still worth a read. Still as pertinent today, eight years on, as it was then. As I sat on the sports desk of a local evening newspaper in the UK and contemplated the one in three redundancy process that was heading the way of our sports desk. And the subs desk, where my then wife worked.
The lines that stood out were Shirky’s, not Newmark’s. I can almost quote them by heart.
“In the same way that there’s a split between the music industry and the recording industry, there’s a split between writers and the newspaper industry. The recording industry is in trouble but the music industry is not, because musicians still make music and people still care about music enormously.
“The people who sell plastic circles with the music on it, on the other hand, are in real trouble.
“So if you base your business model on producing plastic circles, or, by analogy, staining wood with ink, you’re going to be in trouble. Do people care about good writing? Of course they do, and it’s the writers who can adapt to the new technologies.
“The only technological innovation that the newspaper industry is waiting for is a time machine so that it can turn back the clock.”
In the eight years since Shirky wrote those lines, it is interesting to ponder what has changed.
Not a lot in terms of the newspaper industry. Who still insist on staining trees and asking kids on bikes to deliver ‘their’ content.
What has changed, however, is the cast of characters that the Web continues to chew up and spit out – encouraged by what was once the newspaper’s audience.
Because I would argue very strongly, that the TV industry is now looking for the same ‘time machine’ as the newspaper industry. In fairness, perhaps they have found one.
The recent launch of Jeremy Hunt’s ‘Local TV’ platforms feels like 1959 all over again. And in certain sections of Ofcom and DCMS, it would appear that the regulators think that it is still 1959 again. That the only way to deliver local content is from behind a desk, in a TV studio, that generates a signal to a TV centre that in turn is broadcast off a TV transmitter to a box sat in the corner of a living room.
I might be wrong.
But for me, as a nation, we have to get away from this belief that the only way to deliver the kind of news that really matters to people locally is via either a print press (1450) or a TV transmitter mast (1959). A pack horse and a canal barge are not fit for 21st Century purpose.
Nor, indeed, is a copper wire (1877). Whatever BT/BDUK may claim to the contrary.
Tomorrow we hear whether or not we have been successful in a £769,000 bid to build a new model for the delivery of local news.
There are 10 finalists in the competition; ‘three to four’ prizes up for grabs out of a £2.5m prize pot.
Life has long ago taught me to take nothing for granted. So we’ll see.
We have found some interesting partners; we might look at new ways of delivering ‘messages’ off municipal data, for example.
And what we can try to make work for one city and one rural county, we will see if the model can work elsewhere. If…
Because, for me, at the heart of all our debates about the future of local content provision in the UK lies one simple word. Beloved by both me and Ms Enders.
I listen time and time again to smart local newspaper folk – or, indeed, smart local ‘TV’ folk – pointing in the direction of this innovation; this ‘revolution’ in Local TV.
When it is nothing of the sort. Not for as long as you’re stuck in silo of technology’s making; delivering your content via a pack horse or a canal barge.
If you get something to work in Birmingham, fantastic. If it doesn’t in Bristol, you’ve lost the game before you have even started.
If you can do something in Mold, but can’t do it in Ipswich, you’ve lost the game before you have even started.
Last week I met someone and talked about what we *might* be able to do in Norfolk, UK and whether that model was replicable in Oregon, US. If the same pieces of the jigsaw were made to fit. That we could monetise *both* content and connection. To mobile. With video. Locally.
So we’ll see what tomorrow brings.
I know the people I have to thank; win, lose or draw.
And as the title of this blog suggests, we’ll go out with a bang. One way or the other
The announcement of the winners of the Destination Local Demonstrators funding competition, run by the TSB and Nesta this spring, means that I can finally announce the fact that… we didn’t win.
As I said last week, life long ago taught me not to take anything for granted.
And in this instance, it wasn’t meant to be. We don’t get our feedback forms for another month; so I can’t reveal where we fell short.
All I can do is congratulate those that did win – and wish them every success with their projects.
I’m actually quite loathe to reveal what we might have done; it is spilt and milk time. We all move on; dust ourselves down; go again.
And suffice to say the last fortnight has been lively – even by our own roller-coaster standards.
Looking back now, the whole process was hugely instructive. Because the company you found yourself keeping over those last few weeks could still prove of huge significance. There are some big players out there who increasingly ‘get’ where this local world of ours is going; the dots that you need to join to make it all work.
Something that involves mobile, local, data and video. And something that has to reward both content and connection providers.
And, above all, something that is not beholden to a TV transmitter mast.
Because over the last fortnight the need to find an answer – be it via an aggregator, a data mill, a community news platform or a combination of all three – has grown ever more urgent as the Local TV roll-out first championed and envisioned by Jeremy Hunt runs into serious trouble.
I’m not overly-concerned re the viewing figures for LondonLive; to my mind, the ‘audience’ is somewhere sat on their mobiles and tablets – its just the reporting structure that is still locked in a 1959 mind-set and is doing no-one any favours when it comes to anyone’s hopes of picking up commercial advertising revenues off, allegedly, 200-odd viewers.
Of far greater concern to the whole construct of a new Local TV landscape for the UK are the issues seemingly surrounding the BBC Trust and Comux - they who own and run the ‘network centre’ in an industrial estate in Birmingham.
Without going back over old ground again, the ‘revolution’ in the delivery of Local TV is nothing of the sort. It’s a time machine. Heading in the wrong direction. Re-visiting complex business models of the past when the 21st Century demands simplicities.
Simplicities that are ubiquitous in their application.
Something that works in Mold has to work in Ipswich. In Portsmouth. And from day one, this hasn’t.
I suspect it is probably working far better in London than LondonLive are being given credit for; you just can’t ’see’ their audience numbers off the antiquated reporting structures they remain saddled with.
Someone is still counting barges and the weight of coals they carry; wholly ignoring this puffing thing on the track overhead.
Where this all takes us in terms of someone, somewhere ever holding the local headmaster or the parish council chairman to account is another matter.
But if I was an investor pondering whether or not to place my chips on a TV transmitter mast sorting this all out, I’d hold fire.
Which may – or may not – have significant implications for the second and third tranches of the proposed Local TV roll-outs.
And there is still a belief out there that it is the TV transmitter boys who alone own a network capable of delivering the kind of engaging content 21st Century audiences are demanding – Generation You, for want of a better term.
This was interesting from BusinessInsider last night; how the 20 and 30-somethings are now dis-engaging with platforms of the past.
I also found myself wandering down Memory Lane the other night; to the very first blog post I wrote on here… six long years ago.
‘…I’ve got an eight-year-old boy.
I look at him and you just know it’s not in his genes with a ‘g’ to read a local newspaper; what’s in his jeans with a ‘j’ is a mobile phone.’
Upon which he might watch LondonLive.
But right now, no bugger would know it – not whilst the reporting structures remain locked in the complexities of the past.
And if he did, he wouldn’t be viewing it off the nearest TV transmitter mast – in the hope that it was pointing in the right direction.
In increasing likelihood, he would be viewing LondonLive off the nearest wifi/wireless access point. That could deliver video. Seamlessly.
And as a ‘price’ for that access to that content and that level of connection, he would have given away his location. To the nearest piece of street furniture, potentially.
And if we believe, truly, that location will prove to be ‘the new cookie’ then prepare for the world to turn upside down.
Certainly as far as Ofcom, DCMS and all the wonks that sit behind the ‘Local TV’ initiative in the UK are concerned; ditto the ‘TV’ ad reporting and delivery industry that still tie their colours to a hill and a TV mast.
The model is bust; broken beyond repair. And the learning I take away from the whole Nesta/TSB space – and the conversations and opportunities that are currently unfolding – is that real revolution is, finally, afoot.
Provided we find those with the vision and the pockets to deliver it.
Two pieces of late that have, together, got me thinking. Or rather re-visiting old thoughts.
The first is an ‘Outsider’s Guide’ to the City; as seen through the eyes of The Guardian.
Nothing wholly new or revelatory; nothing you couldn’t guess. There was, however, one passage that stood out – in regard to the sheer complexity of the 21st Century financial machine; how its very language and terminology defied both easy understanding and the kind of transparency sought by either a curious, blue chip client or a watchful regulator.
‘Seeking an insight into the City’s problems is a thankless task. The terminology is baffling – I still can’t distinguish between a credit default swap (CDS) and a collateralised debt obligation (CDO); organisations, including the Bank of England that refuses to grant me an interview, thrive on opacity…’
The second piece is from the FT; apologies in advance – it will require people to sign in. It concerns Mercedes-Benz – and how, apparently, more of their recent online ‘audience’ were actually automated bots as opposed to human eye-balls; that, according to a report by Telemetry, of the 365,000 ad impressions served up over a three week period on behalf of the blue chip German car giant, 57% were ‘viewed’ by ‘automated computer programmes rather than people’.
The ad exchange in question – Rocket Fuel – was swift to defend its position; disputing the numbers and setting great store by the ’security partners’ it brings to bear on this vexed issue of online ad fraud.
‘To identify and block suspicious activity, Rocket Fuel uses a combination of its own technology and partnerships with third parties such as Double Verify and Integral Ad Science.
‘Rocket Fuel said that in February it identified and rejected 500bn bid requests from online publishers because of inventory quality concerns…
The threat is laid out on the company’s own website: ‘The digital advertising ecosystem can be a scary, confusing place full of dangerous traps and pitfalls for brands. The rapid growth of the industry has given rise to a gang of bots, con artists, and hired guns that use several cunning tactics to defraud advertisers for their own financial gain…’
As Mercedes Benz discovered. Or not. Depending on whether or not Telemetry were on the money with their calculations via their own ‘forensic’ approach to the issue of ‘man vs bot’ in the online ad space.
For you could argue that the likes of Telemetry, Double Verify and Integral Ad Science are all looking to ‘thrive’ off the opacity that appears to be built into the online ad machine; none, I presume, are charities. All three will be charging for their services; so who is picking up the bulk of that tab? The publisher or platform owner, one would suspect.
This is, of course, all just more tales from the LumaScape; that ‘cluster-f*ck’ of competing ad technologies; where SSP meets DSPs; where RTB campaigns demands an algorithm make a decision within ‘a 100 milliseconds’ – deploying, no doubt, exactly the same kind of technology that sits behind a Wall Street trading desk. Off which CDS’s and CDOs are swapped over similar time frames.
With exactly the same level of opacity as must, surely, have greeted the unwitting ad campaign manager of Mercedes Benz as he or she sought to discover exactly who did see our brand message over that particular, three-week period.
It does also all hark bark to Mr Shirky and his seminal essay on the collapse of complex business models. It is worth a read. The whole Tainter proposition can – to my mind – be applied to the suffocating complexities that have come to lie at the very heart of the online advertising machine.
‘Early on, the marginal value of this complexity is positive—each additional bit of complexity more than pays for itself in improved output—but over time, the law of diminishing returns reduces the marginal value, until it disappears completely. At this point, any additional complexity is pure cost.
‘Tainter’s thesis is that when society’s elite members add one layer of bureaucracy or demand one tribute too many, they end up extracting all the value from their environment it is possible to extract and then some.
‘The ‘and them some’ is what causes the trouble…
What happens next is a collapse to simplicity. To the kind of transparency that a hard-pressed Mercedes Benz marketing exec might be crying out for faced with the level of ‘tribute’ demanded of it by a Rocket Fuel or a Telemetry. Only all-too often that proves beyond those that have grown fat and complacent on opacity and complexity.
‘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… Furthermore, even when moderate adjustments could be made, they tend to be resisted, because any simplification discomfits elites.’
As a matter of interest, Mercedes-Benz have a dealership in Bath.
And I have an ad spot in Bath. As we have in every major postcode in the UK.
Just don’t have an audience.
And nor do we have an algorithm. We’re not that clever. Or complex.
But, Mr Mercedes-Benz, there’s a (potential) audience; there’s an ad space. Help yourself…
I have long been a fan of Cindy Gallop. In all her various guises.
She is one who looks to turn the world upside down; invariably one that involves a world of men. Be they the barons of porn or ads.
Her address to the Guardian’s Changing Advertising Summit in 2012 is worth revisiting. And re-quoting. If only to keep hammering some points home.
Watch the video.
In particular, that one fabulous line; that in the future the ad industry needs to align itself to the concept of ‘advertising for good, and not good advertising’. In short, that maybe marketers, creatives and agencies should aspire to something more meaningful than picking up a gong at Cannes.
‘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].’
What is ever more fascinating about her thinking is how it is data driven. Of late, we have started to talk to those for whom data is big news.
Ms Gallop has also been training her thoughts on the power of big data and how advertisers need to start harnessing its power as a force for good; as a means to effect real, societal change – in particular, to my mind and I suspect hers, for those communities that are most challenged; most in need of advertising for good.
‘It’s enormously important to humanise [that] data… big data offers tremendous opportunities, but they have to be processed through the lens of humanity…’ [10.50]
Through the lens of humanity…
What a lovely line.
The goal that Ms Gallop is driving towards is one of mutual respect – born out of mutual usefulness. Which touches on another area of great interest around here – connectivity. Because for me, the most useful thing any local authority can do in 2014 is deliver free and ubiquitous wifi/wireless coverage for its residents.
And that can then be the start of something beautiful; because ‘the price’ of that free wifi is your location.
But the fact that the resident likes the new, free wifi means that are in a more accommodating mood when it comes to giving away their location. And having their location is clearly a key piece of the jigsaw when it comes to advertising for good…
You are starting to build a picture of the individual; their location being one of the cornerstones of a new, data-driven marketing space.
‘You build up more and more information about them – and you do this in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect and liking…’
They like you because you have given them free wifi; whilst we’re getting on so famously, I now trust you to give me offers, rewards, messages and alerts based on that location data that are useful to me, the individual. That are actually good for me.
At which point we need to pause.
Because there is a whole libertarian wing out there for whom the thought of entrusting any piece of personal data to any third party is clearly an anathema. They do not trust people with knowing their location. That ‘Big Brother’ will merely put such information to a nefarious use.
That ‘atmosphere of mutual trust and respect and liking…’ has long gone. The individual’s right to the privacy of their individual data is sacrosanct. How dare anyone seek to utilise it for marketing purposes…
I think the vast majority of people in this country when faced with the choice between 25% off a pack of bangers because I know you’re 250m away from the local butchers or paying the full whack for my sausages as ‘the price’ for keeping my individual data pure, virginal and ‘mine’, will go for the cheap bangers.
The vast majority of the population can’t afford the libertarian line that you’re selling out to the snooping data gatherers by allowing such free and easy access to your whereabouts, to your purchasing history, to your travel intentions…
It is why, I suspect, most punters don’t give a monkeys about NSA, Snowden and Co. A fact Marina Hyde recognised the other day. They have more pressing concerns. Like putting a decent meal on the table at night.
And here is where it gets interesting; where the marriage between data for good and advertising for good can – to my mind – make real, societal level change.
I want my son to grow up in a healthier society; I don’t want his nation to be the obesity kings of Europe; to have higher cholesterol than our neighbours; to be the sickly kids with the scruffy notes from matron.
But to change that – to change it on the streets of Pontypool as opposed to those of leafy Islington – data for good has to be married to advertising for good. That, say, responsibility for my medical data has to be entrusted to AN Other for a socially responsible local retailer to then deliver me dietary offers that are appropriate to my individual nutritional needs.
Re-educate the way that I eat, the way that I feed my family by advertising for good.
And that way we lift, say, 10% of the final 15% up and over the welfare dependency line… and save hard-pressed local authorities fortunes. By allowing advertising for good off an individual’s data.
‘We know you have been to your GP, have been diagnosed with high cholesterol now have 25% off fresh fruit and veg from [potentially] your local Co-Op… ‘
…because I know you’re on your moby; on the free wifi; on the precinct outside.
That’s the opportunity. To make Ms Gallop’s vision properly flesh.
This week the BBC held a conference on the Revival of Local Journalism in the UK.
I didn’t go. For a number of reasons. Principally because I was never invited. Plus Norwich to Salford in a day isn’t the cheapest. And start-up finances are start-up finances. That’s an every day reality which rarely intrudes on the travel plans of the established media companies.
So I had, therefore, to watch from afar. And rely on third parties to relay the day’s events.
If you haven’t read Alison Gow’s take on the day, do. It is one of the best pieces on the state of the local journalism nation I have read in a long, long time. She deserves huge credit for it. It is a brave piece.
There are a number of lines that leap out, not least these:
‘When the established regional media bends its thoughts to the revival of local journalism, there is a real danger that we end up talking in circles about our own platforms – whether that be print or broadcast or digital…
‘I suspect that the best people to lead objective discussions on the revival of local journalism are not those enmeshed in the industry as realities intrude, defences laid, and the trouser of reinvention get snagged on the barbed wire fence of practicality.’
There was another stand out line; the question re the future longevity of the printed newspaper.
“I was asked at RoLJ if newspapers were going to disappear, and I replied along the lines of “if you had a better delivery method for news, why wouldn’t you use it?”
That one line is fascinating – and very telling.
Because to my, outsiders mind, the incumbent media players are wedded to three delivery methods for their news – a print press, a TV transmitter mast and a copper wire for those with a PC in the corner of their study.
And whilst BT might not have been sat in that conference space, the newspaper groups still own their own means of production – they control the only print press in town. Or rather they invariably own the print press in another town.
The BBC might not physically own Winter Hill TV transmitter mast; nor does Archant’s fledging Local TV entrant Mustard TV own Tacolneston mast, but their means of news delivery is inextricably linked to the power and direction of a TV signal sent from the top of that tower down.
Point being that the business model that sustains the delivery of local news via either a printed local newspaper or a Local TV station is an immovable force – aimed at an increasingly moveable object in the form of an audience that is forever on its mobile. Riding that ’second wave of digital disruption’ in the form of the mobile revolution. Where video content is increasingly going to be king; where location is the new cookie.
‘Generation You’ is going to expect nothing less than seamless streams of free video into my moby…
So, therefore, the ability to engage with a local audience on mobile appears, to me, to be a wholly fundamental plank upon which any kind of future local media provision is going to have to be built.
Ask Eric Schmidt. He’d say the same. The challenge – and I didn’t get a sense that there was anyone in that room who could answer this – was whether the mobile ad tech upon which the provincial newspaper groups are going to have to pin their hopes get this too…
Because they are smart people on the editorial floor who get the drift; that the pace and direction of change is to mobile, to social, to local… it is when they put that challenge to their commercial teams and the ad tech that they, in turn, rely on, that the fatal disconnect occurs. ‘Top down’ ad tech doesn’t sit snugly within this picture. And yet, career-wise, a lot of suits have paid a lot of money for this gear to work. For the national brands; not the local butcher, baker and candlestick-maker.
And data, likewise, presents a huge challenge. I have no idea who is buying a copy of my local evening newspaper; or if I do, I certainly don’t know where they are reading it. Be it outside the local chippie or Co-Op; in the bus-stop opposite the local curry house.
Attach me to the nearest wifi/wireless mast, on my mobile, and now I know where you are, who you are… and whether or not you’d like a fresh fruit and veg offer off the Co-Op opposite. If you are watching Mustard TV, I know exactly where you are – parked on your a*se on the sofa in front of the TV. Drilling a local ‘message’ into the palm of your hand is even harder work.
And yet, somewhere in this mix, local advertising has to play a role in sustaining local news through the 21st Century.
I did tweet my doubts; that the answer, to my mind, doesn’t lie with a print press, a TV transmitter mast or a copper wire .
That the ‘broadcast platforms’ of the future might be outside the grip of the current incumbents. With it I tweeted a pic of a manhole cover.
Why? Well, for example, if I have fibre and power running into every traffic light, street lamp and pedestrian crossing in any community, I now have the power to switch that to a digital use; to be rather more ‘holistic’ and helpful in what services such a network could offer – over and above the timing of when red becomes amber and red.
I could do the same with CCTV infrastructure. Or the gear they put into bus stops these days.
Ponder on. What if every traffic light in any market town could become the ‘transmission mast’ for highly localised video news content that is drilled into similarly, localised mobile and app platforms? All monetised by local and national offers, ads, messages and alerts drilled into that same, highly targeted space. Which you could repeat.
Ubiquitously. Across the country.
Becoming ever more certain of that individual’s marketing needs and wants via the data that is delivered back via their mobile engagement off a specific wifi/wireless Access Point.
And is there really no business model that can accompany such local video news provision? And if there is, what is the challenge it poses to the provincial newspaper groups still locked in circulation and audience silos that were set in stone some 300 years ago? Who cannot approach this space with the ubiquity of a major infrastructure provider – now twigging that they own the ‘broadcast’ platform of choice.
The challenge for the brightest sparks on the editorial floor is to take their knowledge and their learning deep into the commercial bowels of their building – and to question whether their current ad technology is actually fit for purpose.
Can it pin a punter down to the nearest pedestrian crossing and let the local Co-Op ping them a mobile offer whilst they wait for the green man to flash… and in so doing reward someone, somewhere, locally for their community news provision?
This week we finally received the official feedback from Nesta/TSB as why we failed to make the grade when it came to the final selection process for their ‘Destination Local Demonstrators’ competition.
That of the ten finalists, we were not one of the four to benefit from the £2.5m plus funding the Technology Strategy Board opted to throw into the UK local media space. The winners charged with bringing fresh thinking to bear on the $64m question of what next for local media provision in this country are here; the outline of our proposal is here.
As I’ve said before, I wish all four every success in the world.
Having now digested the feedback from the independent assessors, one thing is very clear.
We lost a major infrastructure provider ten days before the final bid deadline went in; there on the original Expression of Interest – along with £300,000 in match funds.
They disappeared; boardroom decisions way beyond our control – or indeed prior knowledge. And whilst we scrabbled about and brought two, significant technical service providers on board, we ran out of time in terms of delivering the kind of detailed technical breakdown assessors from the Technology Strategy Board would have looked for out of either.
But up until ten days out, we had the mix where I still think the magic can happen – where data meets video meets mobile, in local. And sat behind it, you had a mobile-local ad platform that could deliver an offer, a coupon, a message or an alert to the nearest wifi/wireless access point.
And build networked vision for the future of local news in the UK that stretched across 30, Norfolk communities. We would, in short, have built Dereham ‘TV’, Wells ‘TV’, Cromer ‘TV’ with a trained, part-time community video journalist sat at the heart of each localised portal and app space.
But to do it, you need a ‘broadcast’ platform – one that isn’t beholden to a print press, a TV transmitter mast or a copper wire. One that would allow for location to be the ‘new cookie’.
And that’s what we lost. Ten days away from deadline.
It wasn’t the only gap in our armour; putting all the above into one, tight proposal that covered the alignment of every planet required isn’t easy – particularly for an audience whose first calling is technology, not local content creation.
And, if I’m honest, aggregating other people’s content however cleverly still doesn’t address the fundamental need of local provision – someone, somewhere has to be empowered and rewarded for asking the awkward questions of a local parish councillor or the head of a failing school. Raising the issues that really matter to those local communities. And an aggregator doesn’t do that.
It’s a drone overhead; it’s not a grunt on the ground.
In a way, it is a shame that last week’s Revival in Local Journalism conference as jointly hosted by James Harding and the Society of Editors didn’t find space for the four Nesta/TSB winners to share their hopes and their new-found opportunity with the invite-only audience.
I suspect they were just the kind of outside innovators that Alison Gow might have looked for; people not constrained by past legacies.
‘I suspect,’ she wrote afterwards… ‘that the best people to lead objective discussions on the revival of local journalism are not those enmeshed in the industry as realities intrude, defences laid, and the trouser of reinvention get snagged on the barbed wire fence of practicality.’
In fairness, I would equally suspect that you could count on the fingers of one hand the people in that room that knew of those four winners; not through any interest or fault of their own, but the fact that the TSB in particular is its own worst enemy in promoting those that do win such competitions; whose work the rest of us will now look to us for fresh learning and insight in this challenging local news space.
But there is another point here.
It is whether anyone in that room would truly embrace any future model of local news delivery that did not fit with the hopes of its shareholders and, let’s be honest, lenders.
For all their recent success in a rights issue and fund raising complete with reduced interest rates on their outstanding borrowings, Johnston Press are still £225m in debt – to institutions not universally renowned for seeing pictures over and above their own balance sheets. If I am the Royal Bank of Scotland, I don’t give a flying f*ck about what might be good societally in terms of JP dismantling their silo’d commercial fiefdoms and opening their audiences and their advertisers up to new entrants in the field of local journalism.
All I am interested in is Ashley paying his (reduced) instalments on time for the foreseeable.
And if I was JP, I wouldn’t welcome too many new aggregators on my patch; harvesting my stories for their own commercial gain.
But this is the trouble with the great and the establishment good that gathered in Salford last week; if we – as a nation – charge them with building us the kind of local news platforms we need in the 21st Century, are they going to deliver?
And if – for example – finding a ubiquitous solution that works for every corner of the kingdom and not just for those owned by a JP there or a TrinityMirror here is going to be a key foundation stone as Claire Enders long ago maintained, who is going to lead that charge within the ranks of the established publishers?
It will be like asking turkeys to invent Christmas.
And its not going to happen. Not while it’s in everyone’s best interests to keep talking themselves up the same cul-de-sac…
There was, clearly, something of an interesting moment at the recent Revival of Local Journalism conference as hosted by the BBC and the Society of Editors.
Once again I am grateful to the thoughts of Alison Gow; someone prepared to put at least a small kitten in a room of fairly fat pigeons.
‘I was asked at RoLJ if newspapers were going to disappear, and I replied along the lines of “if you had a better delivery method for news, why wouldn’t you use it?”
‘Me and my mouth. That prompted the more direct question “Do you think newspapers will die?”. To which I answered “yes”, and then there was an audible intake of breath from the room.
‘It was a fairly bald statement in a room full of press people (and my boss) but, yes, I think newspapers will cease to be required. Which is a far different thing to journalism being required, although platform obsession seems to blur that distinction…’
Alison isn’t the only one of late to be faced with that same question. Last month an editorial from HoldTheFrontPage took Claire Enders somewhat to task for daring to suggest, in 2009, that half of the UK’s local newspapers would be gone five years hence.
Claire and all concerned are not questioning the longevity of local journalism; rather its mode of delivery. In print form. On paper.
If pressed I would say a ‘few years’; no more. Alison, in fairness, offered 30. It was left to an outsider, Jasper Westaway of local news start-up Borders, to throw in the number 15 as one or two in that room shifted uncomfortably in their seats. As you would when profits still remain so wedded to wood.
I am going to quote a long favoured text at length here; to see if – somewhere – one or two pennies might drop. I don’t doubt for a moment that internally, in hearts of hearts, there is a recognition that the game is getting ever more challenging. That an end game might be afoot.
But to my mind, you can only kid kidders for so long. And at some point – in the none too distant future – you will have to make a decision as to who you owe more in terms of provisioning this country with a mechanism for the sustainable delivery of local news in the UK.
Us, as a society, seeking ways to keep those powerful locally in check – or your lenders and shareholders for whom such concerns as a poor OfSted report or a ‘curious’ planning application decision are of no relevance or interest.
ROI, not FOI.
So, to Mr Tainter. As quoted by Mr Shirky.
‘Complex societies collapse because, when some stress comes, those societies have become too inflexible to respond…
‘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… any simplification discomfits elites.
‘When the value of complexity turns negative, a society plagued by an inability to react remains as complex as ever, right up to the moment where it becomes suddenly and dramatically simpler, which is to say right up to the moment of collapse. Collapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification.’
Actually, why not watch the man himself in action. Here.
Its his opening slide – see pic above – that needs pondering. In depth.
* Collapse is the rapid simplification of a society.
* Societies collapse from the same processes by which they became complex.
* So first we have to understand complexity…
It is not rocket science to sit back and think how complex the process of staining a tree and then finding a 14-year-old boy on a bike to deliver the eventual by-product of staining said tree actually is. Hand the proverbial Man from Mars a blank piece of paper in 2014 and he’s unlikely to draw an axe and a bicycle.
But what gave that level of complexity its fundamental success commercially was the fact that each individual local newspaper would strive to become the only show in town; that there was no-one else to going to enjoy such unfettered and unrivalled access to local audiences and advertisers.
And once that dominance was secure, you defend your turf; protect the silo; keep that complexity intact. As Chris Bullivant was railing against only last month.
Archant’s Mustard TV is another of the breed; a defense play; keep the Mother Silo free from commercial rivals.
But this would be Tainter’s point – the very complexity that garnered you such reward for 350 years will now merely hasten your own demise when someone, somewhere, simplifies the delivery of local news.
To quote Ms Gow: ‘…if you had a better delivery method for news, why wouldn’t you use it?’
You would. As would any local advertiser handed a simpler way of engaging with local consumers. On their mobile, for instance.
And its the timescales that Tainter predicts that ought to send a chill down the spine; act as a belated call to arms – not for the newspaper groups fatally locked in the complexities of the past, but for the likes of those in central Government actually charged with ensuring that local authority remains accountable.
Collapse is the ‘rapid simplification of a society’, says Tainter. Who has plenty of history on his side here.
A society plagued by an inability to react becomes ‘suddenly and dramatically simpler,’ adds Shirky.
And this would be my fear. If the Newspaper Society honestly believe that they can continue to be the masters of their own fate; dictate the pace of their own destiny; beat an orderly retreat into the realms of mobile and tablet over the course of the next 15-30 years, they are living on another planet. One that Tainter wouldn’t recognise.
Its when they are forced to retreat to the beat of someone else’s drum that an orderly disengagement from the centuries old practice of staining trees becomes an ugly rout; their treasured complexity merely guarantees their collapse into a very untidy heap.
And leaves the rest of us to try and pick up the pieces…
One of the enduring features, nay demands, of this Digital Age is the fact that punters – the great unwashed of the globe – want everything for nothing.
Free. Why am I having to pay for this newspaper when I can get the news that matters to me for free on this website…
Or why am having to pay for this app, or that service… when I can access this one for free.
And so the story continues… and it causes huge problems for anyone who produces said product or service at a cost. Who is paying for this… who is paying for my time and effort to build you a new app, deliver you a compelling news story, etc etc…
And, invariably, the answer from what was once everyone’s captive audience is a resounding: ‘Not us!’.
‘But if not you, then who?’ is the reply from those seeking a living producing a product or service that delivers a fair return on their investment.
Such arguments rage across a whole wealth of digital behaviours and expectations, but the one that really interests me is the question of who pays for free wifi..? Which is clearly right up there in terms of customer expectation. Who does actually pay BT £3.99 for an hour on their FON service? Anyone?
All of which makes this cautionary tale all the more compelling – the story of Gowex’s dramatic fall from grace. The magician, Jenaro Garcia, who “converted Wi-Fi into water.”
The councils of both Edinburgh and Newcastle were not alone in thinking ‘Happy days – something for nothing…’ If it was good enough for the Paris Metro. And NYC. Then it was good enough for us.
I am not pointing any fingers at anyone with regards the lack of rigour; of due diligence before GoDigital Newcastle boldly announced a future that was ‘hot, hot, hot’ in terms of free wifi provision. Only to discover that was not, not, not the case at all.
Because there is clearly something of huge value that free wifi provision for a city centre the size of a Newcastle or an Edinburgh delivers – that Gowex might have hoovered up to their commercial advantage. And that would be the data; of everyone’s mobile internet usage and behaviour – and, clearly, their location within that wifi/wireless area.
That’s gold dust. If you are of a mind to then sell that data on to third party marketeers; to play fast and loose with individuals and their data. To cash in on that clear benefit of a meshed wifi/wireless cloud. *In theory*, that might be where the money is; where I get my ROI.
But its a perilous path as everyone gets a little bit more savvy as to what anyone is doing with my data – with my life on my mobile phone.
Is mobile ’spam’ the price people are willing to pay for free wifi? I don’t think so.
And clearly others in this field are struggling to make the numbers work; fighting shy of using and abusing such vast swathes of mobile data for ill-received ends.
‘The investment firm noted that Gowex claimed double-digit profit margins offering free Wi-Fi while peers such as Boingo Wireless Inc. and iPass Inc. posted losses offering similar services…’ is an interesting line from the WSJ piece. Who knows whether, closer to home, The Cloud turns a profit.
But someone, somewhere, down the line has to pay for this. Because to deliver effective wifi coverage for a city centre is not a one-off cost; someone has to pay for the back haul; someone has to pay for a help desk; a maintenance team; the power into each individual AP. It all costs. And will continue to cost for the foreseeable.
And yet, in a way, the magician was right; free wifi is gaining the status of a utility – alongside power, heat, light and water.
“Wi-Fi is a basic necessity, a fundamental right, just like the U.N. says the Internet is. If you don’t have access to it, you don’t have access to culture,” said Snr Garcia. And less and less of us would disagree. In that at least, he was bang on the money.
And, to my mind, it remains the most useful thing a local authority can do for its residents. Edinburgh and Newcastle Councils were likewise bang on the money in seeking such a solution for both their residents and their visitors alike.
Because now they know where they are. A visitor can be pointed in the direction of the museum; a resident can be reminded that the breast cancer screening clinic is in Jesmond next week. Good advertising, in the words of Cindy Gallop.
It’s a meeting place; one possible point of contact as councils up and down the land reach out to try and connect with their more challenged communities… and in the words of Alex Aiken, be more ‘Germanic’ in their marketing and comms efforts in these financially straitenend times. Find those in need of a measles jab. On that estate. Using that bus stop.
But in a way, we all owe Snr Garcia.
Because he has fostered this expectation of free within the field of wifi – metro or otherwise.
I don’t believe a paid-for model will work; punters won’t pay. Ask BT. Someone else has to.
But, for me, if that someone else is *useful* advertising delivered in a fashion that does not interrupt or disrupt my mobile life then free and ubiquitous wifi can still be made to work. Particularly if it is made to work for local SMEs seeking a simple solution to their own mobile marketing needs.
The magic can still happen.
‘We cannot solve the problems we face through technology alone. Given we are now supplied with more technology and data than ever before – a veritable digital deluge – our future lies in our ability to harness it, not hate it…
‘This book is my attempt to start answering this problem: it’s a call to action, not to despair as we fall beneath the waves of endless data and connectivity, but for individuals and organisations to adapt to survive it – and then to take advantage of the opportunities that it places at their feet every single day…
‘The rise of the humans starts here…’
Those quotes are taken from a new book by Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer for Microsoft UK. It’s title? ‘The Rise Of The Humans: How To Outsmart The Digital Deluge’.
Go read it; there’s a lovely line from his Dad about what lies at the interface between a computer and a chair – a human being. And how we tend to get over-looked, if not over-awed, by the ‘digital deluge’ that engulfs us on an ever more daily basis.
‘The rise of the humans starts here…’
What follows should be prefaced by two thoughts; (a) once upon a time I was an Oxford historian, not a Harvard mathematician. I’ve always been a story teller; I’m not smart enough to know how an algorithm works. (b) through life, I’ve spent the last five years living with my Mum; cancer, only kids and a five-mile walk in and out of Norwich city centre most days. I’ve not been over-deluged by the email in-trays of those charged elsewhere of getting local digital advertising to work.
I’ve not suffered with the same sensory over-load of others; the joys of start-up finances and single living also allow for a clearer head. Distractions of any variety are few and far between.
‘The net effect of our inability to navigate through the digital deluge is that we deprive ourselves of the physical and mental space needed to generate ideas and innovation…’
In January, 2009, I wrote a blog piece; with regards to the power and the potential that lies behind a map of public health data: ‘How do we join the dots in a Digital Britain? How do we find a little pot of hyper-local revenue gold from that data mine that is the doctors surgery…?’
The connection is between ’seeing’ a local advertising opportunity for an estate challenged by a higher than average rate of, say, diabetes and empowering a local marketing person sat in front of his or her screen at the local health authority to place a ‘message’ appropriately. In 2009, we were talking a web banner; five years, a Public API and SDKs for iOS and Android later, we’re talking about an non-interruptive interstitial ad inserted in front of a mobile app audience by an app developer – and all at a moment of his or her choosing. Not AdMob’s demanding.
But the point is still the same. Join the dots. Between local data and local marketing opportunity. Now into mobile.
‘We need to find technology that – at the right time – switches from narrowing down on convenience to broadening out into opportunity. To connect the dots floating in the sea of digital information, we actually need to be able to see all the possible dots in the first place.’
ie, via ‘Big Data’ I can now be empowered to see every estate in every corner of the UK, that has a higher than average rate of diabetes.
The picture at the top of this piece is courtesy of two, very bright lads out of UCL who have been doing very clever things with OS Maps and 2011 Census Data. More of which is here. On a blog.
I’ve drilled it down into Calne, Wiltshire. If only for the fact that my very first job in local journalism was on the Chippenham & Calne Gazette & Herald. But it is indicative of any market town in the UK. Or US. That data map is ubiquitous; it goes anywhere; just like our ad platform.
In the real world, we can now allow local marketeers to ’see’ those areas of Calne where unpaid carers help within a challenged household for more than 50 hours a week.
In short, we can now ’see’ people that the local authority might need to help.
And if we light up such communities with free wifi/wireless provision, not only can we ’see’ where these people are, we can connect with them. To the nearest piece of wireless enabled street furniture. Into their mobys.
Cue Mr Coplin:
‘If you can’t be creative about what the data might be able to tell you, you’ll never be innovative about what you might do with it. People will need to not just make sense of the data but see the value in relation to the real world.’
As has been mentioned before of late, the challenge facing the local newspaper groups is that they cannot deliver ‘every dot’ as an advertising opportunity. In Calne, it’s the Gazette & Herald; in Trowbridge, it’s The Wiltshire Times. The complexities of their past haunt their need for a simple future.
But here’s the point when it comes to Men vs Machine; Human vs Algorithm.
Because what Addiply seeks to achieve is to put a human back into the local ad sales loop.
Those who can tell a story locally as to why the Melksham-based stair-lift engineers should be advertising there, there and there.
‘Oh, and by the way, just chatting about it with you now, maybe next month we’ll look to advertise here, here and here. But let’s see how it goes this month; catch you later…’
It is a commercial conversation that a machine is incapable of having.
What a machine delivers is an indicator of a ‘propensity to purchase’ – be it within a street, a postcode or, eventually, within the mind-set of one, particular individual.
What it doesn’t do – back in the real world of Calne High St – is ever shake anyone’s hand on a local ad deal. That is the work of a human.
A sales grunt on the ground, not a data drone in the air. That’s how you win hearts, minds and money in the local-mobile ad space.
For anyone who has long pondered aloud as to the likely success of Jeremy Hunt’s vision for Local TV in the UK, it is very easy to say: ‘I told you that wouldn’t work…’ as the Evening Standard’s LondonLive platform today backpedalled on its commitment to Ofcom to deliver ‘local’ news for the nation’s capital.
This was the line: ‘Commitments to hyper-local programming across 33 digital platforms have also been cut back, delivering them only “where available” under the proposals put to Ofcom…’
In short, London Live can’t make the numbers work; not in that ‘hyperlocal’ space within the capital.
“I hope Ofcom and my other colleagues in local television realise we have to be very flexible in our business models to find one that works and suits our location,” the MD Tim Kirkman explained.
“Every TV channel has looked to reduce its local content over the years. The challenge for us is to find a balancing point – how much we need for revenue generation to sustain the cost of local content.”
It’s expensive to generate local TV content… No sh*t. Particularly when it is broadcast ‘top down’ off Crystal Palace transmitter.
But rather than go the whole ‘told you so…’ route; let’s approach this from the streets of Brixton up, and not from Derry Street down.
And let’s think like a network; not a silo – be that a silo that comes with a print press or a TV transmitter mast.
Because much of the news that matters to the people of Brixton is likely to be found here – www.brixtonblog.com Just as much of the news that matters to the people of Kentish Town might be found here – www.kentishtowner.co.uk
The trick, of course, is to put those into a ‘broadcast’ network that could offer a replicable model that would stretch from one corner of the nation’s capital to the other – that could deliver local news for, say, West Hampstead, Finchley Central, Leytonstone, Wanstead, White City, Leyton, Newbury Park, Plaistow, Finchley Road and Upton Park.
And all stations in between…
Because there is someone who could underpin a local news network for London – and create ‘Boris TV’.
And that is TfL. Who are, as we speak, rolling out wifi across a network of 270 stations.
This is not new territory round here; this was from the summer of 2010.
But events have moved on since; London Live, Comux, Jeremy Hunt and Ofcom have all set out their stall around a piece of broadcast equipment that first went live in 1956. The Crystal Palace transmitter will celebrate its 60th birthday in two years time – the future of local news for London starts here.
Me? I’d pin my hopes to VirginMedia and TfL twigging exactly what they are sat on as they continue to roll out wifi across their network.
Not the chance to fleece punters for a fiver a week to access their wifi if they were not part of this network or that, but to subsidise the delivery of hyperlocal news via the local-mobile advertising opportunities that come with the ownership of a ‘broadcast’ platform run off half a dozen APs. Per station. That are free.
I know you have just emerged from Brixton tube station, now have an offer from the independent coffee shop opposite – into your TfL tube app. That’s what Addiply does. It is built to run off a local network, not off a distant silo.
But whilst you are there, as you are logging into said wifi portal, have some news that is relevant to where you are… courtesy of our friends at Brixton Blog.
Better still, have a video off our friends off Brixton Blog. Now that we have the effective connection to stream video into your mobile while you are stood just there…
In fact, given we have access to the bus stop infrastructure too, let’s extend that free wifi zone beyond the immediate vicinity of the tube station. Let’s ‘broadcast’ Brixton news off every bus-stop… Let’s build Brixton ‘TV’. From the streets of Brixton up.
A video platform for every corner of the capital; in the run-up to a mayoral election….. Hmmmm, what could I use that for, eh Boris?
Or, indeed, every London MP wishing to get their message to their constituents – waiting at the tube or the bus stop in their local constituency.
Wouldn’t actually need to engage with the Evening Standard at all – I just need my message to get in front of my voters there, there… and there.
Give yourself an Underground-wide broadcast network and I can relay real-time tube ‘alerts’ into that network – only for the people there, there and there, because the signals are – similarly – out there, there and there.
And if I speak to those clever boys from UCL, I can marry their census data that I – as either TfL or the relevant local authority – want to deliver to residents of that estate that use that bus stop.
But alongside such networked municipal comms thinking, I can empower Brixton SMEs to find a Brixton audience on their mobile phones; I am opening up a new local marketing network that isn’t just the play-thing of the big brands – who cascade their message from the top of Charlotte Street down and will never in a month of Sundays reward the likes of Brixton Blog or Kentish Towner with their due rewards for their local publishing efforts.
And this is the point to that great Clay Shirky quote – that ‘right now in media, nothing works but everything might… now is the time to experiment, experiment, experiment…’
The Evening Standard and their TV chiefs are struggling to make the numbers crunch off Crystal Palace transmitter; they can’t even get BARB to see their numbers.
But if TfL start to see what they are building and to start to mash local with mobile, data with video – and all off 270 ‘TV’ transmitters – hope might spring again for the future of local news in London.
In the autumn of 2007, I sat on a revenue panel at the City University of New York and talked ad models at NewsInnovation.com.
On that panel were ’suits’ from the big, US ad networks – BlogAds, OpenX etc – all of whom were only interested in talking volume. If you didn’t have the numbers or the views, you didn’t get to play with their toys.
Today, the conversation has moved on. Those same big ad networks will blind you with adtech science; DSPs, RTBs, AI, programmatic buying – all the trendy toys of the trade will be out on the table. Even the likes of Mercedes-Benz appear to be at the mercy of the bots in the machine as advertising technology follows exactly the same path as the algorithm-driven trading desks of Wall Street and the City.
The boys with the biggest toys deliver the fastest ads. Just as they make the swiftest sale. To the nearest Nth of a milli-second.
But, fundamentally, nothing has changed. Certainly in the field of local where the likes of Eric Schmidt insist we should all be playing.
Because there are two ways for a local curry house to place its ‘message’ in front of an increasingly mobile audience – ‘bottom up’ via a simple, local facing network or ‘top down’ via one of an array of highly complex pieces of advertising technology. That is shaped like a silo. And comes with a mind of its own. Literally.
And has to pass through the eye of the LumaScape needle en route to its preferred local audience.
Look at it another way; see the illustration above.
I think the traditional view of building a business is to scale it vertically… to build a Budweiser.
The alternative – and one that I think the digital and mobile web is built for – is to scale horizontally. To continue the brewing analogy, to build a network of small, micro-breweries (hyperlocal); each catering for local taste and demand. And charging a little more by way of a premium accordingly.
The point being that when aggregated over a network 1,000 micro-breweries strong, you can pull just as many pints as you can off a Bud.
One of whose challenges is distributing their beer across the same chain of 1,000 local outlets – and at the same time keep it fresh and appealing (relevant) to that same local customer-base.
And this is the battle-ground – not just for advertising technology and opportunity in the mobile-first age, but equally for content.
Because building a top down ‘Bud’ is exactly the same thinking that underpins the roll-out of LocalTV off the nearest hill and TV transmitter mast.
As LondonLive are fast discovering, its hard to make your numbers work off one ‘brewery’ in Crystal Palace; what might be more appealing to Londoners tastes is something that was served out of the 270 potential ‘micro-breweries’ that TfL own off their wifi-enabled London Underground network.
It was this clash of thinking that haunted the Guardian when they rolled out their Local platform through the cities of Leeds, Edinburgh and Cardiff. Bar the little tenner text ads, the rest of the ‘beer’ was going to be served off the top of King’s Place and down. That Leeds audience was going to get a taste of a London-Paris Eurostar ad off the Guardian’s own ad network.
They weren’t about to encourage a little ‘micro-brewery’ to cater for Yorkshire tastes and flavours – certainly not beyond those tenner-a-week text ads.
And as the Guardian seek to establish a global media brand, so they continue to chase volumes; become a bigger and bigger Bud – in the hope that the world does not become awash with cheap and tasteless tat beer-wise.
There are other challenges afoot for the Buds of this world – in particular the act of advertiser recruitment. Particularly in this field of local.
Who is going to sell the virtues of a Bud to the owner of the local curry house? To my mind, it won’t be a machine. It’ll be a human that makes sense of the digital deluge of data now engulfing us all. From the streets of Calne up.
And this is the other point re programmatic ad buying and the virtues of. I’m a local curry house advertiser; I could be any of 000s of local SMEs – the same ones that provided the financial bedrock for a local newspaper industry for the last 350 years.
Just how intelligent does anyone need to be to tell me I need to be advertising to punters 150-metres away from my restaurant at 10.30pm on a Friday night?
No sh*t. Really?
That doesn’t need a ‘Budweiser’ rep to tell me that… Nor have I the time to listen to him or her explain how it got there; what algorithmic piece of magic took my message to a ‘brewery’ in Mountain View, Ca, and back. Just to get me there…
Clearly the beauty of a 1,000-strong network of micro-breweries is that you can still run ‘guest ales’ alongside your local regulars. BellaPasta (Calne) can be served in one corner of the country; just as BellaPasta (Alnwick) can be served in another.
None of this is rocket science. Not if you have never had any ambition to be the next Bud.
The world is turning upside down. There is a revolution afoot; one that Christopher Hill would certainly recognise.
Localism is on the march.
Oh… and this is an interesting read. In the US the ‘craft brewing’ industry grew by 20% in 2013; record sales of $14.3bn. I might just be starting to look over my shoulder if I was Budweiser…
Once upon a time… a long, long time ago… I started my journalistic career as the sports writer-cum-department on the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald.
It had six editions and covered such rural towns and communities as Calne, Malmesbury, Chippenham and Devizes. It is, I guess, where my interest in all things local and media began.
Back then it was part of the Westminster Press Group; before being bought by Newsquest – the UK trading arm of US newspaper giants Gannett. The mighty G&H is now stabled under the Newsquest (Oxfordshire & Wiltshire) Ltd ‘banner’ – whose registered address is in Weybridge, Surrey.
Which is why I have always kept one eye on news from Gannett; particularly now that one or two roads are potentially pointing me west again.
Of course, Gannett had some big news this week; they are looking to get out of trees and into cars as the whole newspaper publishing division is hived off into a separate entity and the parent company splashes $1.8bn in acquiring a full interest in an online motors vertical, Cars.com.
The US equivalent of AutoTrader by the looks of things; the same motors vertical that Guardian Media Group sold out of at the start of the year.
This is the ten ‘takeaways’ that Ken Doctor took away from the Gannett move – one that ‘…you can position it as a digitally propelled company of the future being born along with a newspaper company that can chart its own future.’
The Cars.com ‘wing’ of the new concern also includes the 40-odd TV stations that the company owns following its $2.2bn acquisition of Belo last winter. So you have digital/broadcast to the right; newspapers, Newsquest and the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald to the left.
Already one or two commentators are starting to ask what next for Newsquest given that Gannett’s UK off-shoot is now even more of a limb off a limb.
But with 180-plus local newspapers out there, it is a big player in the UK pond. But potentially one that is unloved by its US parents. Whose shift towards a future devoted more towards its digital and broadcast offspring suggests that everything might be on the table with regard to Newsquest’s future.
All of which ought to have the ears of the likes of Crispin Odey and Lord Ashcroft pricking up – the two are, of course, part of the money behind LocalWorld.
Both of whom, one would suspect, would see big value in picking up further ‘distressed’ newspaper assets if it had the added benefit of consolidating the local newspaper market into one, even bigger player that saw Gannett’s stable of papers rolled into that of the old Northcliffe and Iliffe groups. With TrinityMirror enjoying a stake in LocalWorld, it would create something of a new powerhouse in terms of the UK’s provincial newspaper industry and give the Ceo David Montgomery that much more journalistic flesh and bones to consolidate across regional print and subbing centres.
The Competition Commission would have a cause celebre on its hands, but having Lord Ashcroft on your team must surely help with regards to the politics of local newspaper consolidation. And from the prospective of a hedge fund manager of Odey’s repute, what’s not to love?
All of which is fascinating. Potentially.
But, for me, there are some alarm bells – even for the likes of an Odey and an Ashcroft. They may claim to be in the audience business, when in reality they remain stubbornly locked in the print business. As in staining trees business.
Those latest financials show the depth of the challenge facing such masters of the universe – even in 2015, print ads and circulation still account for the better part of 90% of their revenue.
‘According to the annual report and financial statements document, Local World’s print advertising revenues for the year were £143.3m, while circulation revenue was £60.3m. Digital revenue stood at £20.2m…’
That’s a print business. It would be interesting to know how much of that £20.2m in digital revenue was derived from mobile. Ten per cent of the ten per cent? In other words, how LocalWorld were addressing the ’second wave of disruption’ that is mobile – and all when 90% of their revenue still remains beholden to a business and distribution model established 300 years ago.
Because there are people with previous in this regard – Guy Hands would be one. His £4.2bn purchase of EMI in 2007 didn’t end well.
EMI were in the business of pressing pieces of plastic; just as Newsquest are in the business of staining trees.
And that remains a lovely line from the court case as the fingers of blame pointed in every direction: ‘Mr Wells described Mr Hands as someone who tried to shift the blame when he discovered that his “magic sauce” didn’t work on EMI. The 51 year-old believed: “he could fight technology and get kids buying records again…” but failed…’
And this is the challenge; for those that think they can fight technology and get kids buying newspapers again…
Guy Hands failed to heed the words of Clay Shirky; whose thoughts I read on my 40th birthday in 2006:
“In the same way that there’s a split between the music industry and the recording industry, there’s a split between writers and the newspaper industry.
“The recording industry is in trouble but the music industry is not, because musicians still make music and people still care about music enormously. The people who sell plastic circles with the music on it, on the other hand, are in real trouble.
“So if you base your business model on producing plastic circles, or, by analogy, staining wood with ink, you’re going to be in trouble.
“Do people care about good writing? Of course they do, and it’s the writers who can adapt to the new technologies. The only technological innovation that the newspaper industry is waiting for is a time machine so that it can turn back the clock.”
Last night, The Guardian carried a piece regarding the latest challenge to face the UK’s fledgling Local TV space – namely the inability of Birmingham TV to even make the starting line.
What follows is not an ‘I told you so…’; it is more of an appeal to whichever policy wonk is sat deep in the bowels of Ofcom/DCMS trying to make this thing fly; trying to make Jeremy Hunt’s ‘vision’ into a reality – one that might hold local authorities to account in a manner fit for 21st Century purpose.
Someone, somewhere must be tasked with the implementation of HM Government’s Local TV ‘policy’; someone, somewhere must be ruling on the plea from LondonLive to be allowed to reduce their local news provision from three hours a day to one; someone, somewhere must be wondering if a city the size of Birmingham can’t make the numbers stack, who can?
Because the landscape beneath the feet of the Local TV sector is shifting – dramatically. And not in their favour.
And someone, somewhere, needs to be alive to the challenges – and, in particular, where the latest challenge is coming from. And I might not be the only one to see irony being ladled upon irony as the Secretary of State for Health watches his flagship local media initiative run into serious trouble.
Set aside the word ‘mobile’ for one moment. That’s a whole new can of worms.
Instead, ponder the map at the top of this piece.
It is from Sky’s newly-launched AdSmart platform. ‘Sky AdSmart now offers the ability to advertise on TV in 1 or more of the 16 largest cities/areas in the UK…’
It means that I, as a medium-sized local SME in say, Birmingham, can now take a TV ad out across Sky’s channels – on the basis that it will only be screened to Sky subscribers in Birmingham.
The platform cleverly segments audiences in other ways, but basically if I am a Birmingham SME toying with the idea of a ‘local’ TV advertising campaign, I can now do it across Sky. And feather the nest of the Murdochs. They may have many, many faults, but stupid they are not.
For one thing, they have just recruited a local TV ad sales force via Johnston Press. The implications of which were not lost on Ray Snoddy in his recent interview with Ashley Highfield.
‘Sky was looking for a partner to develop its AdSmart local service, which tailors what is shown in TV ad breaks according to a household’s profile and location,’ Snoddy wrote.
‘…when the AdSmart service is rolled out, Johnston will be able to offer a medium-sized car dealer in Sheffield, for example, a Sheffield-only TV campaign on Sky, as well as the usual print half page, the purchase of Google AdWords and even website design.’
Clearly that might cause a problem for the still-to-be-launched Sheffield TV – now due to go live at the end of September. JP ad reps are now going to be selling against them – to Sky’s benefit.
Highfield’s ‘direction of travel’ was clear.
‘…we want to become a one-stop shop for all the advertising and marketing needs of small to medium-sized enterprises.’
Which is fine; in as much as their circulation ’silos’ allow. They are unlikely to pick up much business in a Norwich or a Brighton.
But that will cause SheffieldLive a problem – once it bangs on the same motor dealer’s door as Sky.
Because the man from Sky/JP has the numbers – a list of subscribers for the Sheffield area that is long as your arm and as detailed as any local motor dealer could wish for. Viewing habits, demographics, and a whole range of big brand channels.
For the fledgling Local TV channels, demonstrating their numbers is one of the biggest challenges – BARB takes no account of the audience’s changing viewing habits; that they could be accessing that content on their mobile devices and not the box sat in the corner of the living room.
‘BARB is a mechanism which is designed and works for the five public service broadcasters,” Tim Kirkman of LondonLive told The Drum recently. “If you’re below the one per cent audience share mark, you’re always struggling.
“All minority or small TV stations have the same issues. For a good night of TV I need to get 10 BARB homes watching – I cannot. It’s not a sustainable model.”
All of which the policy people in the heart of the Ofcom/DCMS will be well aware of; how the new entrants into the field of local TV will come to justify their numbers in the face of new-born opposition from the ad man from Sky. Or JP.
The biggest irony, of course, is that Jeremy Hunt – the political architect of so much of the above – has already found himself shafted once in his dealings with the Murdochs and their broadcasting ambitions for the UK.
Should their AdSmart platform merely add to the woes of his flagship policy initiative as then Culture & Media Secretary, it would be a further, deeply ironic twist in a long, painful and on-going tale of trying to make something work in the field of local media provision in the UK.
Assuming anyone was less than clear on where this autumn’s big data battleground will be, Apple’s latest diktat to its developers made it all-too clear.
The wealth of individual health data that is about to explode into the ‘market-place’ via our new, wearable tech is not yours to sell.
For Apple have a health platform en route, Healthkit. ‘Whilst developers will be permitted to collect data from this platform they will be unable to sell it on for commercial gain to ‘advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers.’
For ‘data brokers’ read trading desks – just like the ones on Wall St. Its a currency; a commodity. Information about your health.
Google are playing in exactly the same space; a big, beady eye on owning one of the biggest prizes in personal data – the facts and figures that define your own individual health. In their case, the platform of choice would be Google Fit.
Where the ‘fit’ is with regards to AdMob and AdWords isn’t too hard to fathom; some people are already doing the math.
“The big question is are they going to try and put search on top of [Google Fit] to mine your data,” a Derek Newell of the corporate wellness management platform Jiff told Parmy Olson of Forbes earlier this summer. “If Google knew that you had diabetes, then Google could start feeding you pharmaceutical advertisements about diabetes.”
The issue, of course, is whether individual users – and, indeed, individual sovereign governments - trust Google with the knowledge that I am a diabetic.
For would Google – and it’s all powerful algorithms – really have my best interests at heart or would that opportunity to market to me, the diabetic, simply be sold to the highest bidder? The one with the cutest take and biggest balance when it came to programmatic ad buying?
The ad at the top of the page appeared on the website of Norfolk County Council. Back in the day when they had Google AdChoices running across their site. In fairness, their nice, new shiny website is now Google-less. The point here is not so much to point fingers at a local authority for the ‘messages’ it conveys via algorithmic driven ad tech, rather the dangers that can come if the big boys with the biggest bucks are granted unfettered access to individual health data - if this is not policed correctly.
Because let’s say my health ‘issue’ – the one flagged up by my relationship with Google Fit or by the data that now sits on my GP’s server – is high cholesterol, not diabetes.
If GroupOn win the programmatic race for that ad spot – in my app, on my mobile – and direct me to discount donuts (sic) and burgers as they once were on a local authority website, how responsible is any programmatic ad interface being with my well-being?
Why should I trust them with that unique piece of data if that is the best they can do? Sell out to big pharma – or the guys with the biggest bucks offer-wise. Whatever offer that may be.
My health is now in the hands of a bot. A US bot. Left to influence the health and well-being of a UK resident. Or, indeed, a European one.
There is clearly huge societal benefit – and savings – to be had if I can be encouraged to eat more healthily and reduce the levels of my cholesterol via offers for fresh fruit and vegetables, as delivered into my mobile and app experience by a local, socially responsible retailer. That’s a path that we have trod before; that we can do.
It goes back to Cindy Gallop’s call to arms – that advertising be a force for good. Advertising for my good, as opposed to good advertising.
It is a big, big issue that is going to come to dominate our thinking as big data – and its atomisation into the big data about me – comes to the fore this autumn. As people seek new levels of assurance that their data is safe with those that own it – and those that have access to the marketing opportunities that can flow around it.
This is the best piece I have read on this whole data-privacy-monetisation debate – from the smart guys at Umbel who I once met on the floor at SxSWi.
‘How do any of us know that a particular app maker is ethically respecting our data?’ is a great question to ask.
Bang on the money. Or not. Depending on which way feelings flow. Be they those of the consumer or the regulators – who, in Europe, may yet stay Google’s hand.
‘…big data, no matter how profitable, shouldn’t undermine our personal agency.
‘But, we all also understand the need for businesses to sustain themselves, which means that this is about striking a balance between the profitability of data at scale and our collective basic expectations of privacy.
‘The best way to strike that balance? Make sure that any data you collect is only used to improve my experience…’
That’s the key. Improve my experience. Make the usage of my data relevant and contextual – to my location, to the continuing enjoyment of my app experience and – if you must – contextual to the betterment of my health and well-being.
Don’t try and flog me cheap donuts.
Treat me like a human; with respect. And don’t let a bot play fast and loose with my health.
There is a lovely line from ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ by Christopher Hill. It’s on Page 366.
‘The more liberty, the greater mischief.’
The line was uttered by Major-General Skippon, to Parliament in December, 1656. His ire was directed, in particular, at the luckless James Naylor, who had ridden into Bristol on the back of an ass – local women strewing palms before him.
An act of provincial defiance of the ‘new’ established order that would come to break Naylor in both body and spirit. He was pilloried, in every sense, by MPs in Westminster as the backlash against those that sought to turn the world upside down found its cause celebre. London brutally re-asserted its authority over revolting locals.
The ‘teeming freedom’ that Hill saw in those tumultuous years came, in part, he argued from the wide dissemination of ideas via itinerant pamphleteers; freshly empowered to spread such questioning thinking via new, portable little printers. Smartphones to me, you and the people of Scotland. Who came close to revolting again this week.
I read two pieces, for free, off The Guardian website this morning. One was Andrew Rawnsley on whether or not the forces of nationalism/localism/regionalism evident at work within the Scottish referendum had been safely corked back in a bottle ‘for at least a generation’.
He doubts it as the ‘English Question’ starts to dominate. ‘The population of Yorkshire is much the same size as that of Scotland, and its economy is double the size of that of Wales. Is anyone proposing to give that great county control over all of its income tax?’
The northern barons – amongst them Peter of Darlington – have already started to stir.
“The Northern Echo is happy to be joining forces with other major regional newspapers to call on party leaders to ensure the north of England is not overshadowed or neglected,” wrote one Barron.
The second piece was by Peter Preston; and here it touches on that issue of neglect – as in that of the media. For if there is a movement afoot to devolve greater power and responsibilities to the provinces, who will be there to keep such local authorities in check?
It is a fundamental challenge; ‘…especially for the residual, shrinking regionals and contracting nationals, caught in the lee of a digital storm.’
Particularly for those newspapers whose eyes have been drawn elsewhere; to seek their salvation from a global audience and the apparent riches that such a volume of eyeballs will be bring commercially.
‘Britain isn’t big enough. So salvation involves journeying across Europe, America, India, seeking more clicks, more engagement, and perhaps more cash.
‘But one big vote beyond the border jolts that easy assumption. Maybe you need roots as well as ambition to prosper. Maybe reporting your native land, its parliaments, its cities, means renewing those roots…’
All of which is fascinating. And might make for slightly uneasy reading in certain quarters.
Because if, societally, we are sensing this shift towards a decentralisation of power and loyalty – to locality – then maybe it might be a worthwhile exercise to put ‘roots’ down in an Edinburgh, a Cardiff and a Leeds. To report back on what is happening in the great, provincial kingdoms of Scotland, Wales and Yorkshire. To keep a weather eye on events on the Isle of Great Bedlam.
Of course, the Guardian did – briefly – enjoy such eyes and ears; they had single ‘beat’ reporters for each of those cities – only to beat the retreat when they decided that one reporter, one desk and one lap-top was ‘unsustainable’. Hindsight is wonderful, but what audience numbers might GuardianEdinburgh have driven over the last few weeks? What levels of loyalty and engagement might that position have encouraged, nurtured and sustained?
To be repeated across a network of such citadels; perhaps even a return to their Manchester ‘roots’ as three such worthy pilots became five, six, seven and more. You would be riding the forces of localism; embracing provincialism.
Whether they would have been commercially sustainable is, of course, the moot point – one that becomes increasingly moot when sat alongside the cost of US expansionism and the latest plans for a kingdom hall of Guardian Witnesses in the old Midland Goods Shed at King’s Cross.
Where, it appears, member will get the chance to break crusty olive bread with the neighbours. Google, for example.
Upon whose global-facing ad and search products the Guardian may have to come to rely on as investments both abroad and across the road from Guardian HQ continue to have ‘an impact on the overall commercial narrative’, as Deputy CEO David Pemsel told Media Briefing.
How many local ‘members’ will make the pilgrimage to the Midland Goods Shed from beyond the M25 is an interesting question; as is how many GuardianLocal posts you could sustain for the cost of one Midland Goods Shed.
Because, for me, there are aspects to this whole ‘localism vs London’ debate that touch ever more on the very sustainability of such great institutions as the Northern Echo or the Newcastle Journal. Or, indeed, GuardianLeeds.
Because commercially we are all going down the same path; that the technology imposed by London on such provincial redoubts of news and opinion fails to accommodate the needs of locals. Be they readers or advertisers. And whilst one or two might be slowly running to catch up web-wise, come the second tidal wave of disruption that is mobile, so the ability for local media institutions to keep new provincial seats of authority to account grows ever less.
The good folk of GuardianLeeds had to settle for generic bra ads delivered from on high. From the top down. When this newly re-connected world of ours is ever more looking towards ‘bottom up’ solutions fit for new, re-invigorated communities whose first loyalties are not to an ever more distant and disconnected elite. That don’t have time or interest in Alfa (Leeds) ads.
It’s an ‘elite’ that can be as much an ad platform as a political one. And for as long as that remains the case, so the disconnect and the bedlam beyond Whitehall and Westminster will only grow.
There are a few quotes that you keep close to your heart; through the good times and the lean.
One is that ‘right now in media nothing works but everything might… Now is the time to experiment, experiment, experiment (C Shirky)’
Another is David Cohn’s classic chess game: that ‘if content is king, then collaboration is queen – and as in chess, we all know which piece is the more powerful.’
And then there is this from Paul Graham, from Y Combinator re start-ups.
‘The very best start-up ideas tend to have three things in common; they’re something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build and that few others realise are worth doing…’
What did I want when this all started round about my 40th birthday in 2006?
To earn a living from the job I was doing – writing and reporting on my local football club, Norwich City.
What did my co-founder and CTO want when he joined the party that summer?
To earn a living from the day job that he was doing – building iPhone apps.
Nothing has changed over the eight years since; that – fundamentally – is what we both wanted out of this; me, the reporter; Ian, the app developer.
Actually, that’s not true. What has changed over the last eight years is the level of difficulty that attaches to such seemingly simple aims.
The chart above is fascinating in terms of Ian’s industry; it was lifted from this piece from TechCrunch earlier in the summer.
It makes for brutal reading.
‘The report’s analysis groups the estimated 2.9 million mobile app developers worldwide into a handful of different categories for easy reference: the “have-nothings,” the “poverty-stricken,” the “strugglers,” and the “haves.” And, as you can tell, most of these categories don’t sound too great…’
It concludes: ‘More than 50% of app businesses are not sustainable at current revenue levels, even if we exclude the part-time developers that don’t need to make any money to continue… A massive 60-70% may not be sustainable long-term, since developers with in-demand skills will move on to more promising opportunities.’
Our Ian, alas, is probably one of those identified as one of the ‘disappearing middle classes’ of app developers for whom eking out a living is becoming harder and harder whilst reliable revenue models remain so elusive for anyone bar the creators of CandyCrush and AngryBirds.
I’m not sure I need to dwell over-long on the fate of your ‘disappearing middle class’ of regional sports writers. Three colleagues from the glory, glory days of the Evening News sports desk are now all-but unemployed. Between them they have the better part of 60 years worth of local content creation experience behind them. Great writers, in short. One is trying to be a postman.
The next point is that you aim for something ‘that they themselves can build…’
Well, in the case of http://norwichcity.myfootballwriter.com/ we have successfully built a web audience; some 25,000 monthly punters strong these days. We did that ourselves; because people can write. Engagingly.
And we built a web advertising platform; the Mk1 Addiply sits here: www.TWAdServices.co.uk – still faithfully chugging away and recording every piece of local advertising data off the site.
But it still didn’t address Ian’s need – nor did it mine; £122,000 worth of locally-sourced digital display ads over those same eight seasons is no mean feat but not quite enough to provide a full-time livelihood.
This week we made an announcement on MyFootballWriter – or rather a hope. That we will find the time and the resource to build a mobile app version of the site.
Or rather Ian will build the app version of the site – and we will see if we can’t finally reward him for his efforts; get him out of being one of those disappearing middle classes.
How? By weaving in our Addiply Messages platform into our own app; by, in effect, becoming our first client.
With 52% of our audience now accessing the site via their mobiles and with us enjoying the opportunity to market the new app off that website – helping with the whole ‘discovery’ dilemma faced by Ian and his developer kin – we think we might be able to hit c11,000 monthly app users.
All of whom, one presumes, might have something to do with the city of Norwich. At least every other Saturday afternoon. We know roughly where they might be. Now Message them accordingly.
Because there is another piece to this jigsaw that – we hope – will allow Ian to tap into a new seam of revenue for his developer efforts.
Norwich has a free wifi en route. By the start of 2015, the city centre will boast free, public wifi – individual Access Points will stretch across the main public thoroughfares of the city; around which we can offer location-aware advertising.
And not just advertising – municipal ‘messages’ too. Maybe from the local county council promoting their Park & Ride services on match days; stop the Canary faithful from clogging up their city centre car parks for the ninth biggest retail destination in the UK.
Lots of water still needs to pass beneath a bridge for such hopes to become a reality.
But, for me, getting something to earn anyone a living in this Mobile Age of Journalism centres on the three Cs; the ‘Holy Trinity’.
Content, commerce and connection.
Without commercialising the connection, you can’t deliver great content. Particularly to where everyone leads their lives these days – on a mobile device.
But if you can find all three, then maybe the magic can happen. And that a predicted $16bn odd market in mobile-local advertising come 2018 can be opened up to the likes of our Ian. Something that he’s always wanted for himself…
This made for an interesting read.
Ian Burrell’s piece in The Independent today on the latest round of angst to hit the Daily Telegraph as its Head Boy Jason Seiken heads upstairs to a darkened room to plot a radical digital future for the newspaper; one that involves less reliance on staining trees for an advertising living – as well as less reliance on another 55 editorial posts.
He will, apparently, have a cunning new plan in time for Christmas and already he is not short of suggestions; one being to take a leaf out of The Guardian’s book and get going with the Masterclasses – ‘So you want to be a data journalist?’ retailored for the Home Counties finest as the paper is urged to re-connect with its traditional core.
“Some time ago, Patrick Barwise, a management consultant at the London Business School, advised the Telegraph to build deeper relationships with that traditional readership.
“Using its strengths in areas such as military history, gardening, the Royal Family etc, it could develop events and master classes, as The Guardian does with its specialisms. An American strategic consultant, Dwight Porter, later suggested the company needed to invest £8m in digital initiatives.”
Let’s say Seiken has only a fraction of that. A mill to play with. To do something radical and inventive with.
Poking around his record in the US with PBS – the nearest thing to the BBC Stateside – makes for an interesting read if he is now sat somewhere with a blank piece of paper in front of him.
Because at PBS, Seiken went local… Not global a la Guardian. I suspect opening up an office in a Soho loft won’t be one example of The Guardian’s ‘best practice’ he will follow. His roots are in Royal Tunbridge Wells. Just as The Guardian’s were, once, in Manchester, not Manhattan.
This lays out his thinking.
“PBS stations need to become the YouTube of the local community…”
It is a theme he warmed to again here.
And get this for a quote: “This is an extremely competitive space — newspapers, AOL, Patch, City Search, Yelp, they all want the local audience,” Seiken said.
“I don’t want to imply we have this all figured out,” he added. “This will require a lot of experimentation, trial and error.”
That experimentation, trial and error now presumeably carries on apace in a little room at The Telegraph as Seiken and his closest lieutenants start to draw down from his experiences at PBS to sketch out a possible future for the Telegraph – one that might be slightly closer aligned to the needs of its core audience than previous efforts in this regard.
Because that local-national mix worked at PBS. He has the numbers and the gongs to prove it. As DigiDay noted. PBS were winning in that digital space.
It is, one guesses, why the Barclay Bros came a-calling.
So, Jason Seiken would appear to know there is something going on in local; with video. And, inevitably, that it will have to involve mobile as the platform of choice.
Particularly if the Telegraph is to re-connect with audiences beyond those that sit and fulminate around the 19th hole.
Mobile, local, video.
As anyone who doesn’t live their lives a stones throw from Upper Street knows, to enjoy any of the above effectively it demands an equally effective connection; that the holy trinity in this space is content, commerce and connection.
You need to find yourself a local ‘broadcast’ platform for your local video ambitions.
Which takes you straight into the arms of the infrastructure boys who, in their own turn, are looking for content to hang off their connection.
And as 201 reader surveys will have revealed to our Jason, what is one of the most pressing issues for Telegraph readers up and down the land? It is a lack of an effective connection. They don’t believe BT is ever rocking up at their rectory door with a fibre to light up their lives.
Their connection to the Daily Telegraph will hang by a copper thread for the foreseeable.
In the summer of 2009 – at the behest of then Norwich South MP Charles Clarke – we started to build new models of mobile connection; portals of local-facing content that would hang off a free metro wifi platform. All funded by a mix of local and national advertising off a simple ad tech platform we happened to have knocking around.
One that can now, via a Public API, start to work towards rewarding app developers for their efforts by allowing them access to an exploding market-place in location-aware mobile advertising.
In the sense of advertising for the user’s own good; of allowing the local municipal authority to message me for my own good…
We can add, potentially, the ‘commerce’, locally, to the content and the connection.
So, let’s say Royal Tunbridge Wells had its eye on a free wifi cloud. To ‘hang over’ how many Telegraph readers every day?
It is an interesting question as to what benefits ‘brand’ Telegraph might accrue from sponsoring that connection locally. And then repeating for a Sevenoaks or a Tonbridge; a Reigate or an Esher.
A portal to drive and display its web content; a platform off which to drive the effective delivery of a video-led app – against which you could locate against ad-wise as well as enabling local businesses and authorities to message alongside brand Telegraph.
All the time pulling as much big data about your reader-users as anyone can wish for.
Above all, it would enable you to re-connect with your core constituencies reader-wise in a very literal sense. You would be doing good; proving hugely useful to the communities you still strive to serve and sustain.
So that would be my plan, Jason. Get yourself into the wifi game.
One Home Counties golf club at a time.
It will be interesting to see whether this piece of news marks any sort of wake-up call stroke watershed moment within an increasingly embattled regional newspaper industry.
The loss of the print version of the Reading Post is part of a wider restructuring programme across Trinity Mirror’s Southern titles as the publisher seeks, like so many others, to find a way to get out of the tree staining business that actually meets with shareholder and lender approval.
It is a huge challenge to go from a business model that was 300-odd years in the making to one that is just 20-years-old in the case of desk-top and the much maligned banner ad… Only then to have to conjure up another that then takes all that web ‘learning’ into a mobile space.
I would strongly suspect – and it is pretty much an industry norm now that MyFootballWriter reflects – that over half of the traffic arriving at the door of GetReading will be on a mobile device. A trend that is only going to accelerate in the years ahead.
The end-game, therefore, has to be to replicate the commercial advantages and margins first honed in the 1700s within that local community and deliver them on a device that can be comfortably accommodated in the palm of my hand.
No easy feat.
Particularly when the 300,000 strong audience within Reading and it’s surrounds will be increasingly looking towards short-form video as their media medium of choice.
Generation Y is, actually, Generation You.
And here the challenges magnify again. Because if we all start to believe that somewhere in the final and lasting commercial mix has to be both video and mobile, then that magic only really happens once effective connection is in place.
The ‘Holy Trinity’ of the three Cs – content (Reading FC reports), commerce (local ads) and connection (wifi, 3G/4G).
Not having been to Reading of late – and I’ve done my time in the old Press Box at Elm Park – I couldn’t say what the level of connection is ‘downtown’. But given the nature of the town and with Microsoft for neighbours, I would have thought there was a better chance than most that Reading would start to offer the level of central connectivity that could effectively deliver video into a mobile device.
In the way that the people of Norwich will be able to from Q1 2015 when NorwichBID set their free metro wifi solution live with 32 individual wifi Access Points ‘lighting up’ the main visitor and retail thoroughfares of the city.
Point being, of course, that such provision allows for the delivery of location-based ads with an ever greater degree of accuracy. And those ‘ads’ could, likewise, be municipal Messages delivered into a mobile app environment.
Reading Council could promote its Park & Ride services to punters on TrinityMirror’s GetReading app based on the fact that I know you have been clogging up our central shopping car parks on a match day.
Because there are two snippets within that news release that could offer hope.
One, they are looking towards a mobile app.
Building responsive designed local ads that work on any device in a mobile web configuration is a bitch; and will be something that only the John Lewis’ of this world might serve.
It is waaaaay beyond either the ken or the energy of the average Berkshire butcher, baker or candlestick maker. Building a mobile ‘Message’ off a simple app-based template might be possible. Stress might. It is one user journey we are very anxious to build and test.
The other significant point is that TM have spotted two, local ‘tribes’ that they are going to focus in on. The football tribe and the WhatsOn/GoingOut tribe.
Every major town and city has them; there are 25,000 of Norwich’s football tribe sat on http://norwichcity.myfootballwriter.com every month; there are another 19,000 sat on OutlineOnline. It is not rocket science to work out where one of those ‘tribes’ is at three o’clock every other Saturday afternoon; nor where they are seven hours later.
There are an awful lot of oh-so smart ad tech types sat in the LumaScape who will insist that you need an algorithm, a geo-fence and the cost of their kit to tell you where people who watch football are and, likewise, where people who like a dance are on any given weekend.
If they are sat reading a footie app or a going out app off that particular wifi AP why do I need a vast and expensive algorithm to state the bleedin obvious?
Particularly if I have a sales boot on the ground offering me the chance to put my offer in front of that same audience every other Saturday.
And in a way – as wretched as it is for yet another tranche of decent, provincial journalists to go through the redundancy mill – it is the sight of half a dozen commercial folk being ushered out of the door that is the real lunacy.
These are the people with the route to money. Just as they have been for the last 300 years.
And if you really think an algorithm can do a local ad reps job on a local mobile app, just look at the ads Google is already serving that Reading audience.
When I last looked, Mountain View was offering me slim fast pills and the ‘news’ that Sandra Bullock was lying to her fans.
‘National media is bought, local media is sold…’ And that’s the lesson in local we all still have to learn.
There are many a-reason to read, at length, Emily Bell’s recent lecture to the Reuters Institute of Journalism.
It is here.
And what follows comes from a proudly local take on the trials and tribulations of journalism’s great and good – a gathering that I briefly joined back in Oxford in January, 2010, when I joined A Rusbridger, S Bailey, H Boaden and S Purvis to discuss the future of local news in the UK at GMG’s Oxford Media Convention.
At a time when the Guardian did local – as championed and inspired by Ms Bell.
The line that stood out, in particular, from Emily’s latest thinking was this one: ‘From Paul Reuter through to John Reith, at the BBC, the pioneers of journalism were also pioneers of communications technology.
‘Today however we have reached a point of transition where news spaces are no longer owned by newsmakers. The press is no longer in charge of the free press and has lost control of the main conduits through which stories reach audiences. The public sphere is now operated by a small number of private companies, based in Silicon Valley…’
Point being that ‘the Press’ no longer own the presses upon which communication with the masses was once founded upon – be it in the content sense or, as importantly, in the commercial sense; that the local newspaper was the only show in town when it came to marketing your wares.
Clearly the onset of the web threw such a fruitful local monopoly out of the nearest window. It turned everyone’s world upside down as we all became publishers – first of the written word and then, increasingly, the video word. Self publishers became self broadcasters. And the Googles, the Facebooks and the YouTubes reaped the benefit.
They ‘owned’ our journey through the web – and built their business models accordingly; raking in vast fortunes as the near-monopoly providers when it came to the business of search.
‘The fourth estate, which liked to think that it operated in splendid isolation from other systems of money and power, has slipped suddenly and conclusively into a world where it no longer owns the means of production, or controls the routes to distribution.’
So much for the web. A battle lost.
But for me, mobile offers one, final chance for journalism to get its act together and ally with the engineers of this world… And all before Google and Facebook get a chance to command our attention and sway our emotions news-wise.
Because if the future is, indeed, video-led over a mobile device that is going to demand a new level of connectivity. Be it 3G or 4G, wifi or wireless, to get to watch a YouTube video seamlessly on my mobile I am going to have to go through someone’s ‘door’ to get there.
And in at least one Norfolk village, I own that door. Not Google. Not Facebook.
I paid – or rather Nesta and their DestinationLocal project – for three church towers to be lit up with a high-speed broadband connection that then delivered the back-haul required to power a free wifi install off the chimney of our old family house overlooking Church Plain car park.
Now, if you want to watch your YouTube vids, your latest news from Vice… You have to knok on my door first. I am the gatekeeper. I ‘own’ the means of news distribution in a mobile-video age.
Do I want to pay BT for access to their local FON? Er, no… Nor you Sky. In one, small village, everyone will come to Rick’s.
I command their attention for one, fleeting moment. I am being useful; I am serving my community in a way that all local newspapers traditionally aspire to.
In the same way that a paper boy would save you the hassle of getting your news via a trip to the local newsagents, so I will bring all the ‘news’ that really matters to you into the palm of your hand. Even if that ‘news’ is a video of a dog called Fenton.
But in return for that I get to control the first time you see an ad. Above the portal doorway. Just as there is an ad space above this blog.
I control what appears there; just as if I built a news app for the village of Loddon so I could ensure that that news app was the only one that was promoted on the portal home page… before you disappeared to play on your Facebook app.
And because part of that free wifi deal is you delivering me your location …
To the nearest 150m… I can now deliver you a ‘Message’ from the local Co-Op, that I can contextualise to your geographic location, your location within the app experience and, increasingly, to you as an individual. If I start to know that you have high cholesterol, then have a fresh fruit and veg offer from the local, socially responsible retailer… And not a discount ‘donut’ offer from a GroupOn.
And in that whole process, there is not a Google or Facebook algorithm to be seen.
We’re not that clever. But then I was never an engineer. I was always, and remain, just a local journalist.
If I was an Archant or a JP, or a Chicago Sun-Times pondering a move back into local-national, that’s what I’d do. Invest in infrastructure, not algorithms.
Reclaim your traditional ownership of the means of news production in a mobile-video age. And split the cost with the local authority. Like you, they are desperate to reconnect with their communities in a mobile space and setting.
Together you could even do something new around planning alerts…
I shared this earlier today for reasons that are many and varied.
In part, it followed on a meeting I had with one of the prospective entrants locally for the Local TV field; someone wedded to making his nearest TV transmitter pay.
In part, it was this week’s news regarding my old employer, Archant – or rather One Archant – as the incoming regime of chairman Simon Bax and new CEO Jeff Henry start to impose their own, strategic thinking on their regional newspaper patch. All of which made for an interesting read.
As, likewise, did the launch of 1XL the other week as the regional newspaper publishers – bar One Trinity – tied their commercial colours firmly to the mast of MediaForce.
The deck – the link to which is above – was built for the benefit of Manfred and Co at Zoomin.Tv – the largest online video network in Europe. Whose investors include de Telegraaf Media Group.
Point being that what you are trying to build for a Norfolk, you also need to be building for a Groningen. Thinking like a network; trying to be of the web, not on it.
Because one of the other, fundamental realities of the web – whether it be in the ‘blip’ that was desktop or the lasting answer that will be the PC in the palm of your hand – is that 85% of your audience is more likely to be interested in the antics of a dog called Fenton than an interview with the head of the local primary school.
Or else what Cheryl Cole was wearing on the red carpet last night.
It’s the content that drives eyeballs. Just ask the MailOnline. Generation You has been brought up on JackAss TV. So give it to them where they actually live their lives – on their mobys.
The trick, of course, is to get a Fenton video to subsidise a part-time village/video correspondent for whom the interview with the head of the local primary school is important.
And when your local news network starts to act as a distribution network for the likes of a Zoomin, so you can start to build a revenue model around the pre-sold advertising that they include within their range of generic video content channels.
Cheryl’s new dress earns you revenue before you sell a single, local-facing ad – be it into either the local portal or app space.
The premise here – and throughout the whole thinking of 21VC – is the fact that whatever our media futures hold, it will include mobile and video.
The word fact is in italics because I challenge anyone to claim otherwise. Every chart that involves mobile and video is going off the scale; Vice, BuzzFeed are proving the point. Video to mobile.
And this is where we come to the infrastructure provision that delivers such a service.
Because the ability to ‘broadcast’ such content on a ubiquitous basis across the UK and beyond demands a level of local connection that only the 4G and wifi/wireless providers can offer.
But till now, they have had very little incentive to place their kit into those hard to reach places – which in UK terms is pretty much any classic market-town of a population of between 10,000-20,000.
The kind of communities that somehow managed to support a Beccles & Bungay Journal for 200-odd years; or a Fakenham & Dereham Times. And to this day supports such thriving town websites as MyWelshpool or a TowcesterNews.
Supplement local advertisers seeking local audiences on their mobiles with national brands seeking the same – be it Nandos (Welshpool) or PizzaHut (Towcester) – and then add a 30% ad revenue return off the generic videos a Zoomin could feed into that same mobile experience and, to my mind, discovering whether there was enough cash to support both a part-time local VJ and offer a rev share for the infrastructure providers was a worthy exercise.
After all, right now in media nothing works, but everything might (C Shirky).
Two further ‘learnings’ from our efforts within that Nesta/TSB space.
Train people to deliver video that is OfCom compliant. Rise above the YouTube herd in the content you push before your local audience maybe no more than 5-6 times per week.
For one thing, brands will gain comfort from the fact that the video comes with certain levels of quality assurance. As would the local, municipal agencies potentially seeking to deliver appropriate ‘Messages’ into the more challenged of their local communities.
The other point is that if you think like a network and have an elegant enough ecosystem of news distribution, that content has value – on a broader stage.
The example we cited was the loss of a US Black Hawk in the marshes around Cley, up on the North Norfolk coast.
A trained local VJ would be the first responder to such a news event; armed with an iPad and a tripod as opposed to a defib kit.
Short video ‘in the can’, that networks ‘up’ through the system instantly. Because both the source and the content is trusted because our village VJ comes with certain assurances training-wise. And that adds value.
Value that also comes from being – in the case of Cley – a good 90-minutes ahead of the TV crews who will be in need of a transmitter mast to broadcast their product to a global audience. Most of whom long ago gave up waiting for the ten o’clock news bulletin.
In the end, we lost our infrastructure provider ten days before the final bid deadline. We were down to the last ten; our wifi provider also came with £300,000 in match funding. It left a huge hole in our submission.
I suspect, in every likelihood, 21VC will remain so many sketches on so many PDFs and PPTs.
But that’s what we would have built. And if it had worked in Norfolk, it would have worked in a Somerset or a Suffolk. Or in Groningen and beyond.
We would have walked the walk… Built anew. From the bottom up.
The graphic above probably makes no sense. Playing about with axes and formulae is not one of my strong points.
But here’s the thing; the bit I need someone else to explain.
The much-maligned banner ad celebrated its 20th birthday recently. It is still the great workhorse of the advertising industry and I have yet to read anyone who seriously suggests its demise is imminent.
(Hence the 20-year time line… )
Indeed, vast complex machines have been built to drive it ever deeper and ever faster around the Web; machines whose computational and transactional power increasingly dwarfs anything the ad banner merchants of old could have dreamed of.
For by borrowing the same technology – and, indeed, the same technologists – that built the great trading desks of Wall Street, so the humble banner ad spot is seen, bid for, sold and filled within milliseconds.
(Hence the vertical axis… 1 second to nearer 0 over those same 20 years…)
By some reckoning, the execution of a real-time bid for a suddenly available piece of advertising inventory somewhere out there on the Web can now be delivered with 60-100 milliseconds – such is the power of the programmatic trading desks now at the disposal of the major players in the ad industry.
In many ways, we can only marvel at the way the machines have delivered such a complex piece of commercial behaviour – delivering the right ad, to the right audience, at the right price for advertiser, agency and publisher alike, all in the space of 60 milliseconds.
But it begs a question. To my mind, a simple one.
Because as the likes of a Google crank up their computational power and that process speeds up again, what happens then?
What if in two or three years time, that transaction can be done in half the time again? In 30 milliseconds instead of the current lumbersome 60? After all, presumeably it’s just a case of driving the same algorithmic exercises that currently exist that little bit faster, right? Foot a little harder down on the computational gas?
For those that have never listened to Joseph A Tainter on the collapse of complex societies, find ten minutes or so to view this.
It is fascinating. Because such complexity as outlined above comes at a cost.
Above all, in energy. Computing such data at such speeds needs power.
And it means that in order to cover such energy costs, someone will be asked to pay. And as the costs of such complexity rises and rises, so the number of people able to bear such costs within their own, sustainable business models dwindles and dwindles.
In the case of advertising, you could be left with an Omnicom and a Publicis slugging it out to get their star client first through the door.
Both behemoths have long coveted the kind of trading technology built on Wall Street; the ones that ensure that the biggest banks with the biggest bucks get first to the ‘trade’. Be it swapping a currency or a derivative.
But just as the great trading algorithms of Wall Street wiped out the ability of first a small and then medium-sized stock broker to compete when it came to fulfilling their clients orders, so the rise and rise of programmatic is likely to have the same effect on small and medium-sized ad agencies looking for decent inventory for their small and medium-sized ad clients.
It is, I suspect, what underpinned Jen Brady’s ‘broken vending machine‘ claim at the recent DigiDay conference. That those not blessed with the financial wherewithal to get first to the game line in terms of ad placement are getting dumped in some dark pool of ghost publishers who pick off those in the 65 millisecond pack.
The winners will be obvious. It will be the big, global brands with the financial muscle to match. The butcher, the baker and candlestick-maker were priced out of the programmatic arms race years ago. How long a Ted Baker can compete with a Pepsi for that one slot is the next question.
(Hence the final axis… Size. Be it brand, bank or computer.)
Which, in a way, returns to my simple question.
What happens if Omnicom beats Publicis, Coke beats Pepsi? And we have a winner. All served with the help of the Big G. The fastest kid on the block.
And? Then what?
Because I would strongly suspect that J Tainter would expect a system collapse.
That the final ‘act’ of any complex society is to collapse into something simple where the energy costs are less and the rewards – for those squeezed out by the recent surge to complexity – are both more evident and, crucially, more accessible.
It is the conclusion Clay Shirky would come to with regard to the newspaper ’society’.
‘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.
‘Tainter doesn’t regard the sudden decoherence of these societies as either a tragedy or a mistake—”[U]nder a situation of declining marginal returns collapse may be the most appropriate response”, to use his pitiless phrase.
‘Furthermore, even when moderate adjustments could be made, they tend to be resisted, because any simplification discomfits elites.
‘When the value of complexity turns negative, a society plagued by an inability to react remains as complex as ever, right up to the moment where it becomes suddenly and dramatically simpler, which is to say right up to the moment of collapse.
‘Collapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification.’
And if history is any guide, following such a shocking societal collapse, humans tend to reorganise themselves again.
If no-one has ever watched Cindy Gallop in action on video, I suggest at some stage over the festive period find a little downtime and do take it all in.
Either the keynote to The Drum Or her performance at GMG’s Changing Media event.
In both instances she is re-imagining the ad industry. From the bottom up. As a force for good.
That it is not about delivering a palm from Cannes; rather delivering lasting, societal change through the power of advertising for good.
And when it comes to talking about mobile advertising, that’s my good we’re talking about. Because you’re putting your message onto my mobile. So you better make it good. Or else I’ll delete you.
This is the point of mobile interaction that fascinates me as we look for a new, location-aware home for Addiply on the mobile device surgically implanted into the palm of your hand.
Because if you are – as an advertiser, a marketeer or a messenger – intent on interrupting my mobile experience, you better be relevant, useful, helpful and contextual to me, the individual.
‘What is it you want?’
‘Oh, 25% off fresh fruit and veg at my local Asda… OK, that’s useful. I’m 250m away. And I’ve just been to the GPs, too. Signed me off with high cholesterol. I really should be eating more fresh fruit and vegetables…’
The image is of Message ‘templates’ and visuals we have been playing with of late. How ‘advertising for good’ into a location-specific app user could start to put Ms Gallop’s words into marketing deeds. To the benefit of many a party.
Be it a socially responsible retailer.
Or a council’s leisure services department with specific activities to cross-promote into the newly-installed free wifi at the neighbouring library.
The one that is 500m away from that local branch of Asda.
Or, indeed, the health authority with an immunisation campaign to promote.
Or, of course, a central agency with an urgent ‘Message’ to relay to those playing on their mobile games app as high tide approaches…
Which made this interesting… HM Govt setting out a consultation paper regarding the rights and wrongs of delivering SMS emergency text alerts.
Based on your location…
That there’s a terrorist incident here, a flood alert there… All delivered into your mobile phone. If the law allows.
The privacy and sanctity of my mobile number and the life I lead thereon is, of course, a big concern of certain libertarian wings of our society.
And I’m not about to go down that route.
Rather to suggest an alternative formula that might work in a mobile setting.
Because what if the ‘gate-keeper’ to your mobile well-being was the mobile app owner?
That the ‘Message’ arrived at his or her door first and only with their approval was it allowed to interrupt your mobile experience…
I am the ‘guardian’ of your mobile soul; I know that if I, as the app publisher, abuse the trust that you, my app audience, place in me to only deliver ‘advertising for good’ into the palm of your hand, then you will delete me.
Find another going out or games app that was less inclined to throw any old sh*te ad onto my mobile.
Therefore, I the publisher, will care for my community. I will keep you informed as well as entertained… But the information I allow through to you will be of use, of help, of relevance.
Particularly when you’re sat in that caravan park on that night with the water of that river rising fast…
That will be one advert that I can see will be for my, immediate good. And I, the app user, will love you for keeping me and mine safe and dry on that particular night.
And what works for a flood alert could work for a hurricane alert or a tsunami warning.
That’s real ‘advertising for good’ – albeit at the extreme end of Ms Gallop’s thinking.
But it is interesting to watch the way that the Cabinet Office now recognises that UK residents are mobile bound – in every sense.
And that to communicate effectively – and, on occasion, immediately – with them, location can be a very useful tool for pinpoint messaging.
And if that message allows for the warning to be shared, for a rescue centre to be mapped, an emergency telephone number to be included or an escape route to be saved, then so much the better.
All of which is do-able.
That advertising needs to re-imagine itself in ways that are not just for the benefit of the Ted Bakers of this world.
It needs to see itself as a force for my good – in ways that a heartless algorithm rarely comprehends. It’s a machine, not a human.
And to do that, the ad industry has to start with a blank piece of paper and build again from the bottom up. Just as Cindy says…
Anyone who has followed the trials and tribulations of the UK’s local newspaper industry over the course of the last decade will know how much the fate of ‘public statutory notices’ means to all concerned.
It is a strange fact that those bland, tiny pronouncements of a footpath closure here or a planning request there that barely cause anyone to pause and ponder in the back pages of nigh-on every local newspaper in the land should become such a cause celebre; a lightning rod for the strained relationship between local papers and their respective local councils.
Both of whom are having to pinch every last penny expenditure-wise. The cause of the councils is no better stated than here on Dan Slee’s blog.
In between the two sits the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles. And just before Christmas he started down the road of banging heads together – to try and find a solution that better befitted the 21st Century.
His foreward to the call for pilot initiatives this spring is worth a read. The document itself is here.
‘The vast majority of statutory notices originate from years when the printed word was our only source of information. How we consume information has drastically changed with advances in technology. Statutory notices need to change too.
‘But, so far there has been a sterile debate based on a binary choice of the total retention or total abolition of requirements to publish notices in local newspapers.
Hence his quest to find a middle way; common ground between two tribes invariably set on war.
‘We are thus inviting councils, newspapers and others to pilot innovative ways of improving statutory notices. We want these pilots to understand better what the public want, push the boundaries of how statutory notices can be better published and marketed, and show the case for change.
‘They must explore how we change statutory notices so that they reach more people, are easier to read, give greater visibility and transparency to big issues and reduce costs in a sustainable way. And, they should show how we can exploit innovation and new ways of working…’
And cue the invite for new, collaborations between local newspapers, local councils and other interested third parties…
Which, OK, includes us…
Because a planning ‘alert’ is nothing more than a hyperlocal ad. I’m just advertising the fact that I’m having a new extension built. Or rather the local council is.
And that piece of ‘news’ is, in every likelihood, only of any real interest or relevance to anyone within, say, 500m of said extension. It is only of interest to people in a specific location…
One, actually, that is not best served by a ‘local’ newspaper that serves the whole of Manchester. It is a whole heap more hyperlocal than that.
This is from 2009 when Stuart Harrison aka @pezholio was putting planning alerts where they actually belonged… In the palm of my hand.
But as the world moves ever more on and we all become ever more mobile in our wishes news-wise, so Stuart’s early experiments can now layer on the very latest in mobile-location thinking and match the audience to the alert… To the nearest 500m.
All you need is a simple ‘comms’ interface to allow the junior planning officer in any district council across the UK to place a planning ‘ad’ in front of the appropriate audience. And let them share it, map it, phone it or, of course, download the plans for further inspection.
Which is all do-able.
There is, however, one problem. Stuart’s Twitter app cut the local newspaper out of the loop and threatened to rip the £68m business that is statutory notices out of their hands. At which point the Newspaper Society squeals like a stuck pig.
Hence Pickles’ pickle.
There is, however, a middle ground here.
And it comes back to trust. Because I, as a local council, want to entrust my ‘Message’ with someone known and respected locally. I do not, particularly, want to place our ‘brand’ into an app of dubious content and origin.
Therefore, my natural inclination will – even now; even in 2014 – be to look to the local newspaper group as the bearer of my planning ‘news’.
But if the local council needs a safe pair of hands when it comes to delivering their news, the local newspaper groups desperately need a route to money on their local-facing mobile apps.
And as much as MediaForce, 1XL and Co might beg to differ, there is no conceivable way that a junior planning officer in South Lakeland District Council is going to engage with a ‘top down’ piece of advertising technology that MediaForce and Co reserve for the likes of a Mercedes Benz.
It has to be simple. Bottom up. Mobile. Location sensitive. Free to use for the publisher. And works for every junior planning officer in the country.
It cannot be beholden to the old circulation fiefdoms upon which the local newspaper groups pillaged a rich living for the last 300 years. That way only lies gross inefficiencies and the kind of complexities that threaten to overwhelm the newspaper industry globally.
I think it is there to be done. But I would.
All we need to do is find a local council and a local newspaper willing to play nice together. Then we have a pilot. And we might even earn some funding…
For anyone who has followed the hyperlocal media sector both here in the UK and in the US with equal fascination, Digiday had some good news this week.
Apparently, Patch has ‘cracked the code to hyperlocal’.
The stress needs to be on the apparently. And it is well worth reading the caveats in the comments; not least from the ex-Patch staffer who – along with 85% of his fellow editorial staff found himself surplus to the needs of the site’s new owners, Hale Global.
People Stateside have long been expressing their doubts. Shred a workforce in the way that Patch did might work wonders for the bottom line 18 months hence, but both product and platform suffer.
Patch, of course, was originally the baby of Tim Armstrong – and then AOL.
As I have written before, put a beer in Armstrong’s hand and find a quiet corner in a bar somewhere free from corporate flunkies paid to pedal the big business line and I strongly suspect he will still defend the original vision and intention.
His roots are in local sales. Not in the kind of programmatic, volume ad buys that keeps the latest iteration of Patch in profit by delivering banner ads from Disney and the Bank of America.
Why? ‘Selling ads to mom-and-pop businesses was too labor-intensive for the amount of revenue they generated.
‘So Patch required that advertisers spent at least $5,000, which got rid of unprofitable advertisers, and started going after regional and national marketers.
‘Last year, it won business from advertisers including Bank of America, Home Depot and Disney.’
In short, it has let a machine take charge of its local ad sales. Cut the humans out of the loop – both on the editorial floor and the advertising one.
They – like all too many struggling incumbent publishers either side of the Pond – have decided that salvation, aka profit, comes from the top down. Content, be it ‘news’ or ads, is to be delivered down into that defiantly hyperlocal space from on high.
In doing so they fly in the face of 250-years worth of history that proved – beyond any reasonable doubt – that the greatest profit margins were to be had from marrying exactly those kind of ‘expensive’ mop-and-pop business ads to the kind of local news content that those very same mop-and-pop business owners would want to read.
How their grand-kids were faring in High School sports, for example. Exactly the same kind of highly-local content that Armstrong had in mind when he first sketched out his network thinking.
He was building the local craft brewer model; he wasn’t looking to create another Bud – homogenised news and advertising content that would be tankered in to each and everyone of those 900 sites whether or not the audience engaged with it or not.
This is what you’re getting… End of.
Which is why I remain fascinated by the prospective roll-out of the Chicago Sun-Times’ new network for 18,000 local communities across the length and breadth of the US; featuring – to my particular interest – some 11,000-odd local facing mobile news apps.
What might location bring to that particular party if you viewed the world from the bottom up?
Of course if Tim Landon and Co follow the Patch ‘model’ to make a profit, it won’t cost them a fortune either.
“It can be done with some algorithms and computers,” Alan Mutter explained here. Which indeed it can. It just doesn’t work that’s all.
The nearest equivalent to Patch in the UK is LocalWorld’s ‘Local People’ platform.
I say ‘is’; it might be was. Click on any of the sites and they are currently down ‘for essential maintenance’.
They, like Patch, have been dispensing with the humans. The editors found themselves with half a dozen patches to work only to be then bundled out of the door as David Montgomery and Crispin Odey of Odey Asset Management amongst others took over the former Northcliffe initiative.
Right now they are certainly not looking to recruit more humans. As I say, the individual sites are shuttered, be it www.CorshamPeople.co.uk or www.oxford-people.co.uk. Maybe it is just a weekend spring clean; that there is nothing to be seen here; no lessons to be drawn.
But for me, for C Odey you can read Hale Capital. I might do both a huge disservice, but I suspect neither puts the survival of local democracy an holding hyperlocal authority to account as their first priority.
Nor the dissemination of minor league sports reports – certainly if it can’t be done by a mathematician and a machine.