Tag Archives: Saddleworth News

Blackburn Lecture On Journalism And The Internet

I did some teaching at Blackburn College’s University Centre just before Christmas, including this lecture which I gave to a group of first and second year students.

It’s a quick introduction to some of the current themes surrounding the current state of journalism. I thought it was important to emphasise to the students that, although newspapers are generally in decline, there are many factors at work and it’s not just “because of the internet”. I also wanted to stress that the skills they are learning on their course will be useful to them regardless of what they end up doing, whether it’s working for a traditional media company, in some related industry such as PR, or doing their own thing.

Here’s the full presentation.

Whit Friday Articles On Brighouse And Rastrick

Brighouse and Rastrick in action on Whit Friday 2011.

I’ve had a couple of articles published this week looking ahead to the Whit Friday brass band contests, and focusing on the current national champions of Brighouse and Rastrick.

Here’s my piece for the Northerner section of The Guardian, and I also put together a different version for Saddleworth News.

sex shop ucuz satan yer

sex shop ucuz satan yer

Talk About Local 12

The Pinwheel invites on the tear-off sheet disappeared quickly.

I was in Birmingham yesterday for Talk About Local 12, the fourth annual get-together of local publishers and other folks interested in hyperlocal in the UK.

As usual it was a great day with lots of interesting discussions, ranging from the ethical dilemmas of reporting local crime, to fundamental questions about the sustainability of hyperlocal sites.

On the point about sustainability, I was surprised and pleased to be given a prestigious TAL12 unaward for Best Handover, as Saddleworth News continues to flourish without me.

An old friend of mine, Kathryn Hamlett of BBC online, was there with her boss Robin Morley as part of a new effort by the corporation to forge closer links with hyperlocal sites. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out in the coming months, but including links to appropriate hyperlocals in the Related Stories sections of BBC articles, which they’ve promised to do, is a sensible first step.

Great sites from all over the UK and further afield were represented. But I’ll pick out a couple I hadn’t seen before. Both A Little Bit of Stone and Lightmoor Life were recognised in the unawards, and after a quick look at each of them it’s not difficult to see why.

I also took the opportunity to do a quick show-and-tell of Pinwheel, which I’ve been using a fair bit lately. The invites I had to dish out were quickly taken, so hopefully there should be some great new users on there soon. I’ve got some more though, so if you want an invite yourself then either tweet me your email address or put it in a comment below this post.

More Hyperlocal Thoughts For The BBC College Of Journalism

ImageThe second of my two articles for the BBC College of Journalism blog on my experiences with Saddleworth News is now online.

It’s largely about how I went about trying to sell ads to help fund it, and I offer some conclusions on what I think I learned about the financial viability of professional-standard hyperlocal sites.

You can read the piece on the BBC College blog by clicking here. There’s also an interesting discussion in the comments below.

The first article, published here last month, was all about the editorial challenges I encountered while running Saddleworth News (which I’m delighted to say is still going strong under new editor Stuart from Uppermill!).

Both pieces are taken from a chapter I’ve written from a new book, What Do We Mean By Local?, which has been edited by Neil Fowler, Ian Reeves and John Mair. It features a wide range of people from across the local and regional media having their tuppenceworth on various aspects of the state of our industry.

There’s more information and details of how to buy the book here.

Hyperlocal Thoughts For The BBC College Of Journalism

I’ve written a chapter about my experiences with Saddleworth News for a forthcoming book on local journalism, and you can get a preview of it today.

Part of it has been posted on the BBC College of Journalism site here.

A second piece will be posted in the next few days, focusing on my thoughts about the financial sustainability of hyperlocal journalism.

The book itself is called What Do We Mean By Local? and has been put together by Neil Fowler, Ian Reeves and John Mair. It features a wide range of contributions from across the industry, and comes out on 27 March.

You can read more about it in a Hold The Front Page article here. There’s also a preview of a chapter by Chris Oakley on Jon Slattery’s blog here.

Leeds MA International Journalism Course, Lecture 4

My latest lecture to my international MA students at the University of Leeds was about hyperlocal news. It’s something I know a good bit about, having set up and run Saddleworth News for a couple of years, so hopefully I was able to give them an interesting perspective on this area of the media.

I explained to them that, while I learned a lot from running Saddleworth News, I was unable to find an answer to the problem of how to make journalism, and in particular websites featuring local journalism, pay. But then if I’d found that secret, something tells me I don’t think I’d have been there today giving a lecture!

Here’s the presentation: http://prezi.com/ckqvhfsdym7y/ma-lecture-4-university-of-leeds/

I’ve got one more lecture to give after Easter, and I’ve been doing a series of eight practical sessions teaching them practical journalism skills too. I’ve also been doing more teaching with the first year Broadcast Journalism undergrads, and I’ve got them all to find a local site in their hometowns to discuss in seminars later in the week, so it’ll be interesting to get their views on the value or otherwise of hyperlocal.

Leeds MA International Journalism Course, Lecture 2

Today was the second of the five lectures I’m giving to MA students on the International Journalism course at the University of Leeds. It was on the theme of how more information is now freely available than ever before, and looked at ways in which journalists use this information for news stories and other purposes.

You can take a look at the presentation here: http://prezi.com/ko03xsk9mfco/ma-lecture-2-university-of-leeds/

Inevitably, it was a bit of a canter through lots of different but related issues, including filming of public meetings, open data, data-driven journalism, various Freedom of Information laws, and online whistleblowing of the kind made famous by Wikileaks. I fell back a few times on stories I’d done for Saddleworth News using various pieces of data, I’m not sure whether the students from around the world were particularly fascinated to know about road crashes on the A62, but I hope I got the general points across.

Leeds MA International Journalism Course, Lecture 1

Today I gave the first of five lectures to MA International Journalism students at the University of Leeds. I’m also taking them for eight practical sessions, and it’s all part of a module aimed at giving them multimedia journalism skills, to go with some of the more academic work they’re doing in other modules.

The students are from several different countries, so I decided to use the first of the formal lectures to give them a bit of background on a few of the major challenges and possibilities facing journalism. I’m a journalist and not really an academic, so it was more of a personal perspective on some key issues rather than an in-depth critical analysis, but hopefully it’ll help put the practical skills I’m teaching them into a bit of context.

You can have a look at the presentation here: http://prezi.com/kgmt_p-4zioc/ma-lecture-1-university-of-leeds/

Journalists And Selling Adverts

A local advert. Selling these is harder than it looks.

Modern journalists are expected to have a wide range of skills. There are old ones, like how to spot a story, conduct an interview and write an article. There are ones which other people used to do, like write headlines, take photos and record and edit audio and video. Then there all the new ones, ranging from blogging and linking to Tweeting, Storifying and handling spreadsheets full of data.

But, with news companies large and small grappling with the problem of making money, one skill which journalists seem reluctant to discuss is the one which has been helping to pay their wages up to now. Selling adverts.

The divide between journalists and ad sales folk at media companies can be deeply entrenched. I recall working at a radio station, in which most of the open-plan office was filled with desks of people who seemed to bash phones all day, while ever-increasing numbers appeared on a nearby whiteboard. Even though I sat just a few yards away, I had little idea of what they were doing, just as they didn’t offer an opinion as to what should be in my five o’clock bulletin.

Not that I was particularly bothered. After all, even an imaginary barrier between the commercial and editorial parts of a news company seems like good sense. At one time, the drive show was sponsored by the local police. Yet if I had to run a story which was critical of the police in some way, I didn’t feel any pressure from anyone to do things differently. Which is as it should be.

But when I came to the question of how I might fund the hyperlocal website I used to run, Saddleworth News, I realised that nobody was going to sell ads for me. So I had to have a go at it myself. I set up an account with Rick Waghorn’s Addiply for text ads, and started trying to sell display ads directly to local business people.

Adverts like this helped cover the costs of Saddleworth News, but not much else.

I ran into several problems. The major one was that I found myself to be not much good at selling things. It’s all very well to suggest that, because journalists are able to do a ‘death knock’ on a bereaved family, cold-calling businesses should be a doddle. Maybe for some people it is, but I found selling my site to a reluctant shop owner to be a lot tougher than getting information from a reluctant member of the public.

Specifically, I discovered it was hard to convince business owners to part with cash for an advert on a website, even one which had a relatively large audience like mine. The butcher, baker and pub landlord generally have little knowledge of advertising or media trends, and are usually happy to do what they’ve always done, and stick an old-fashioned ad in a paper or magazine every so often. We might know about how the paper’s circulation is a fraction of what it once was, but not everyone does.

The adverts I was able to sell were usually taken by people who used Saddleworth News as readers, and so understood the value of being on the site. Often the advertisers ran internet-based companies themselves, so they could easily see the number of clickthroughs they were getting from me, which helped encourage them to stay on.

The traditional separation between commercial and editorial inevitably got a bit blurred. If one of my advertisers came up in a local news story, I’d always mention the fact they were a supporter of the site. Indeed, I found my amateurish sales patter tended to work best on someone I’d just interviewed (“Thanks for sparing the time to chat, by the way, you can advertise on my site too you know, it’s got thousands of readers a month…”).

But even though at the site’s peak I usually had 12-15 advertisers at any one time, it was only enough to cover costs and keep me in a bit of petrol and beer money. Fine when I was only doing it for a couple of hours a day, but in order to bring in enough cash to make the site my full-time job, I would have been forced to spend most of my time selling ads rather than writing stories. Not an appealing prospect, and a key reason why I ended up handing the site over to students.

I’m sure that, over time, and especially as more local papers go weekly or close altogether, small businesses might see the value of spending a bit more of their advertising money with a quality hyperlocal site. I’m also sure that, with a bit of training, journalists like me could learn to sell ads adequately enough. But I’m even more sure that adding yet another difficult task to the skillset of the modern journalist wouldn’t go down well with anyone. Perhaps this is one skill too important to be left to amateurs.