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?