Journalism, MFW

The BBC head to Mr Burnham’s table tomorrow bearing a few gifts for us all. And being this fledgling written content network, I might even be able to give them one back…

This is interesting.

On a number of fronts; not least in the fact that someone, somewhere has found me a ticket to tomorrow’s ball and so alongside ‘… Helen Boaden, the BBC’s head of news, and David Holdsworth, controller of the English regions, as well as other industry executives and the National Union of Journalists….’ will be yours truly.

Given that I’m a big fan of the Tom Hanks film ‘Big’, I have this image of me being sat round some corporate table at Portcullis House tomorrow, gingerly poking my hand in the air and saying: ‘I don’t get it…’ as all the well-heeled execs fawn over the insect that becomes a building.

Or, in our case tomorrow, the silo that becomes a bigger silo.

Which, of course, is all that the provincial news industry needs to save its bacon, according to Peter Preston in The Observer yesterday… Give Archant the keys to the Diss Express and the Bury Free Press and that’ll be it – job done.

We digress. Back to the Beeb… and the arrival of Ms Boaden and Mr Hollingsworth at the summit table bearing gifts.

This is a block we’ve been round many a time before; but, yep, I’ll have one of those thank you very much… Oooh, and a bit of that too…

Some six months on and the arguments for doing what you/I do best [words] and then linking to the rest [video and audio] hold even greater water as all and sundry get crunched like there is no tomorrow. Which, for many of us, remains an all-too real prospect.

So, as the Beeb turns up at Andy Burnham’s table in a new spirit of OfCom-induced co-operation with the very people that scuppered their own Local Video plans, the problem remains the same.

The BBC is a network.

Not a silo.

And if you’re going to start sharing content between the two, the practical, every-day difficulties of doing what you do best then linking to the rest need to be borne in mind now. Or perhaps tomorrow.

Take football.

And it’s a big one. It drives huge amounts of traffic to the provincial newspaper web-sites; it also [still] sells them a huge number of newspapers.

It is also a big, big source of sticky content for the BBC as all their local radio stations follow their local football teams up and down the land.

And the level of that content is about to ratchet up another couple of gears from the start of next season as the BBC take over the TV rights to the Football League.

And, in particular, these lines…

‘The BBC Sport website will also show goals from all Football League clubs.

‘Director of BBC Sport Roger Mosey said: “We are genuinely excited about the potential of the Football League properties on the BBC.

‘”Our aim in the three seasons of our agreement is a simple one: to showcase the new acquisitions across all our platforms, and to make our commitment to football deeper and stronger at every level.” ‘

Now, I’m there with a budding football network in the shape of and and, all of a sudden, here comes Auntie with her iPlayer toy.

And, yes, I’d love some of that please; as – I strongly suspect – would my c30,000 monthly uniques on MFW/norwichcity. Now I don’t have to pretend to be a TV station and wander round with a hand-held camera; I can do what I do best [write] and link to the rest… the Beeb.


But – and in terms of any new eco-system for news that may yet develop across this forbidding digital landscape – I’m not going to just take, take, take… I’ll offer to give, give, give… in the shape of a networked written content deal back into the BBC.

Sourced from fully-accredited football journalists still sat in the Press Box, it’s big, sticky, written content – something that the Beeb don’t do. Or if they do, it’s a case of someone deep within The Mailbox in Birmingham having to transcribe four or five pars from a Radio Norfolk audio clip on a Sunday.

So why not help yourself to my post-match manager’s piece on a Sunday morning? 800 wods of big, sticky content that then sits very easily with your existing and newly-enhanced audio and video feeds.

Doesn’t bother me; I’m getting the goal highlights clips back off my embedded iPlayer.. it’s a swap. And, besides, I’ve already posted my piece up on MFW/norwichcity.

There could even be a little syndication deal to be had; which – in HM Government eyes – might be one way of subsidising provincial football reporting on the sly if the BBC was ‘encouraged’ to out-source its written Championship football content to an independent content production house working off 24 kitchen tables every weekend.

One deal; network to network. Eminently do-able cos I work on Sundays.

Try to do that with, say, five provincial newspaper groups – none of whom traditionally work on a Sunday; opting instead to give the punters their football news when they see fit, ie a Monday morning – and how you get five silos to fit into one network will be a test and a half.

Particularly when you take the cases of say, Reading and MK Dons. One club now serviced by a bi-weekly paper in the Reading Chronicle and one by a weekly in the shape of Johnston’s MK Citizen.

So, on previous form, are either GMG or Johnston Press about to share their content with Auntie when it requires them to ‘feed’ the great BBC beast two or three days before they need that same content to feed their once or twice-weekly papers?

Maybe, needs must. That this time, they’ll see the benefit. Perhaps.

And, maybe, the BBC will find a way to drag some sort of elegance and efficiency out of a content share deal with the Newspaper Society.

But for what may well be already be two unnatural and unwilling bed-fellows, it is not going to be an easy fit. Sorting out a content supply chain from eight Northcliffe Championship clubs, two Archant, six Newsquest…

Find another network and the BBC might find a far more willing and natural partner; someone for whom neither deadline time nor geographical dislocation has ever been an issue.

And it doesn’t have to be MFW; it’s conceptual as much as personal… perhaps PA will sniff an opening. Perhaps.

But ditch the silo, build a network and Digital Britain can start to make far more sense. It might even start to make a little more money…


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