General, Journalism, MFW

As the curtain falls on MyFootballWriter’s third season on the Norwich City ‘beat’, one or two lessons to be shared with Jeff’s pal, Amber…

First things first and due credit to Mr Jarvis for highlighting this post…

… because as the third, full season finishes for – or, at least, the /norwichcity part of the deal – so Amber’s post provides a very useful ‘tick box’ as to what we may or may not have achieved in our time on the Carrow Road ‘beat’.

It is, of course, assuming that Jeff’s thoughts within ‘WWGD’ is starting to gain some level of orthodoxy; that his thinking is starting to ‘fit’ within what little we still know of this new, digital landscape of ours.

There are certainly lines that chime with the lessons we’ve learned… not least the notion that we all need to ‘act small but think big – and see the world differently…’

So, remains, essentially, small; it is still a community of little more than 35,000 Canary souls – a figure that varies with both the mood and the month. Ironically, the bitter aftermath of relegation currently finds the punters out in force as they wallow in whatever comes next for the League One-bound Norfolk club.

But the point is that it can be big; you can bolt any team onto that single url and create a bigger network; all of which – in their turn – can be small.

Whilst we were running it at full tilt, was small – and yet it was a big thing for the good people of [then] Layer Road who had never had so much editorial attention lavished upon them.

And all without the need for a paper boy.

‘Old way of thinking

Readers got their news when the paper hit their doorstep, or soon after it rolled off the presses.

‘New way

‘Readers don’t wait for the presses to roll but expect the information immediately…

This was the point; that all we [still] ever hope to achieve is not to become a brewing giant of a Budweiser ilk, but just to create an elegant network of micro-breweries that can, together, be big by being small.

And, hopefully, give a fewer micro-brewers within that network the chance to make at least part-time living out of provincial football reporting.

So, that’s one box ticked. Or, at least, the theory is.

Thereafter and we were into Amber’s lengthy list…

‘Old way of thinking

‘The newspaper was a product.

‘New way

‘News organizations provide a service.

‘Old way of thinking

‘Readers became known as “the audience” in the early days of the Internet, describing a one-way relationship wherein readers sat still to observe a performance.

‘New way

‘Readers/users are participatory.

‘Old way of thinking

‘Newspapers attempted to be all things to all people, serving a mass geographic audience.

‘New way

‘News organizations strive to serve a mass of niche communities that already exist, (some geographic, but most based on interests.)…

We’re a very real ‘niche’; that if we are about to witness the great ‘unbundling’ of newspapers, those boys and girls who have earned themselves a ‘brand’ off the back pages of their local newspapers are – to my mind – some of the first that need to be re-bundled up into something more befitting our networked times.

One thing I think we got very right – perhaps more through luck than being fully versed in Jeff-type theory – was to build that RSS box; giving what was once our old newspaper audience a ’service’; in that we were bringing together, aka aggregating, other people’s Norwich City news and housing it in one place; on ‘MyFootballWriter… but all beneath their logo, their brand…

From the start, we admitted we weren’t the only show in town; you can get Norwich City news here, here and here… but, in a way, that’s a cost-saver. You know what, I can’t be everywhere at once; on some days, people will get a better story then me… Fair play to them, and here it is… give me a morning off…

‘Old way of thinking

‘Newspapers were hesitant to even mention competitors in the newspaper.

‘New way

‘News organizations do what they do best and link to the rest, as Jarvis says, and yes, that means even if the link leads to the competition…

But – and this is luck – I can now see that in building those RSS boxes and giving people the chance to customise their own choice of feeds, MyFootballFeeds, we were starting down the road towards ‘participation’; we were empowering them with choices… something that, with the help of 4iP, we did again with ‘backchat’…

That’s not perfect; it was built to be ‘platform agnostic’ in that you could join me in the conversation from a Jaiku stream; but as Google appeared to tire of the Finnish Twitter, so that all-but broke down and we became a Twitter-feed only… one enabled by the simple application of a little #ncfc thinking.

But we were starting a conversation; we were opening ourselves up for comment, for feed-back; we were joining their conversations as imposing on them ours…

Mr Dennis has all sorts of conversations going on today…

And, clearly, we’re not unique in that; the world and his wife are doing that; this isn’t about being big or clever; it’s about trying to find some sort of consensus as to what does and doesn’t work; and coming down off our ivory towers and thinking of ourselves as somehow less than special, does…

What does work, I have to say, is a Twitter-feed without moderation. In six months, two derby games with Ipswich and now one big, relegation I think we’ve had about three swear words… I could still let my 78-year-old church-going mother roam over MyFootballWriter without too much fear of offence.

Ditto my nine-year-old.

Perhaps the more main-stream it moves, the more Twitter will slip into old, messageboard ways. Perhaps. Right now, however, as free and unmoderated UGC content goes, it works. Punters are giving good talk. And I feel confident enough to let their Tweets trundle through unchallenged.

As for the hoary old chestnut of making money that will only come properly with a network.

That way you can complement local advertising with national advertising; complement local content syndication with national content syndication.

A local BMW car dealership ad complemented with corporate BMW branding cascading down from above; small being big.

Content still being king – and all punters want is a good footie read for ‘whenever I get a mo…’ – you syndicate locally into the BBC in return for their Football League TV; nationally into a pan-regional sports portal that will never in a month of Sundays staff a Championship football club and its twice weekly Press conferences, but will happily take a rolling digital news and reports feed off a network of trusted local writers…

Which we did in a small, but potentially big way last summer with The Daily Telegraph.

And we give people numbers; small numbers for our small advertisers, but no more smokes and mirrors.

‘Old way of thinking

‘Newspaper ad rates were based on circulation, how many people bought the newspaper, and advertisers had to hope readers would notice their ads.

‘New way

‘Ad rates can be based on the number of page views, or clicks, so advertisers know more precisely how many people see their ads; and, the ads can be targeted to those niche markets…’

Which is

Trouble is, as a fledgling media brand, we had little choice but to go ad first, invoice later…


We kind of figured that would be a natural partner to content share.


We hoped that would be niche-enough and self-feed enough that we wouldn’t have to do too much marketing on to get some postcards in our Post Office…


And when it all began – as one, unholy scribble on the back of one, battered team-sheet in the Walnut Tree Shades pub in Norwich – we kind of figured that the winds of global, ecomonic change would gently fill the sails of any new media start-up…

Wrong… Very, very wrong…

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