Monthly Archives: November 2009

Show us the money!

Journalism is preoccupied with one particular issue right now: money and how to make some! It’s a thought ticking over in everyone’s brains…Will people pay for content?

I don’t think we’ve had one guest lecturer that hasn’t relayed to us just how scary this time is for journalists, with newspapers shutting and jobs a-dwindling.  Who hasn’t touched on the paid content debate?

Central to the whole pay wall issue is Mr Murdoch. He sure is a man on a mission, keen to squeeze cash out of the not-too-profit-friendly internet by introducing pay walls to all of his News Corp. papers. I can’t say I blame the man, someone has to give it a bash, but will it work? Only time will tell if this is the answer to our journalistic woes.

One of our CJS alumni, Robert Andrews paid a visit to Cardiff chat to us all about his thoughts and findings about pay walls. As editor of PaidContent:UK he had a fair amount of knowledge on the subject. PaidContent:UK and Harris Poll conducted a survey investigating all of these burning questions into whether people might be willing to cough up for online news. Most of the results where indeed as we’d expect, depressing stats with people basically not prepared to pay, and those who would were tightening up the purse strings over how much they would pay.**(see bottom of page)

Recent findings have suggested that maybe people will pay if they can do so in micropayments. This makes sense. although while lot of people are loyal to a newspaper brand, many others like a bit of a pick and mix in regards to news. / CC BY 2.0 in regards to newsreading, therefore a majority probably won't want to tie themselves to just one title through a subscription.

However, there was one interesting, a positive finding: a large majority of people said they might actually consider paying if there was a free paper or discount included in the price. A glimmer of hope that there may be some kind of answer out there?

This then led one of us to ask if maybe everyone starting charging online this would push people back to buying good old fashioned print – a fair suggestion. Surely if people had to pay online they would soon start to crave something tangible. But hey! you can never speak on behalf of people – what would you do?

Andrews asked the room who would pay for news online if they had no choice of free sites? Most hands went up – promising perhaps? (although this was a room of wannabe journalists who live sleep and breath news.)

Surely if all quality brands charged for online content we’d be more inclined to spend money on news. I mean blogs are great and all that, but sometimes you just need that familiar brand for reassurance. Imagine a world where all the news you read was literally written by the guy next door, would you trust it? It’s great to get hold of breaking stories online, such as from a tweet or wikileaks, but, it’s important to seek out the story from an actual news site, (not saying all journalism is 100% truth all the time) but it helps you clarify if the story actually is real and not just a hoax.

Okay, so say paywalls are the answer and every paper in the land decides to put up barriers around their written words. There remains a problem as there will always be one site that can ever charge, the BBC as the licence fee we pay them includes all the services they offer us, to charge for online on top of this would spark outrage! Surely as long as there is some good, free news online people won’t be keen to pay for other news sites. Hence why Murdoch (Junior) majorly disapproves of the BBC’s free online access.  So maybe as long as the BBC are around (er- forever?) the ‘everyone charging’ theory goes out the window.

Back to square one ay? This really is a bit of a mind bender.

To me this payment palava is like playing with a rubix cube. It’s frustrating because it feels like there is definitely an answer, we will get there eventually, but it may take a few wrong turns and a while before we do. But if we keep at it, surely a solution will eventually emerge.

**Glimmer of hope: I did learn from my psychology degree that there is never a strong relationship between A) intention and B) behaviour  – you can’t predict  B from A.  So maybe  people are all talk…. maybe when or if they do start charging, people will realise they can’t live without their much loved newspaper/magazine and show us the money!


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Blogging on

So we’ve been writing and posting away on our laptops like good little postgraduate journalism students. Blogging weekly (sometimes two times, one on the online lectures we’ve been having and the other on a niche subject of our choice)

Poor me I have resigned myself to the challenge of  making a cake every week to maintain my investigative cake blog .

Oh how we've tapped away the past few weeks...

But hang on. Are we just blogging into thin air? Is anyone actually reading this stuff apart from our mothers? Well, a recent visitor made us realise that potential employers really do read our web babies…and this can sometimes lead to beautiful things… 

Joanna Geary, web development editor at The Times was indeed a rather inspiring guest lecturer, not many years older than us all, she has got herself a darn good post at a huge London paper and what got her there? Twitter and blogging. 

With no postgrad diploma behind her, Geary broke into the media world on her own back. It was a long wait and many rejections but eventually she secured herself a job at The Birmingham Post as a business journalist. 

Facing the blogging world. From early on in her journalistic career, Geary soon established herself as a respected blogger despite not being all that bothered about it early on and not really knowing what to blog about. I think many us can relate to this, as we were all rather overwhelmed at the initial prospect of starting up a niche blog, but now, like Geary we just can’t get enough of the blog (I may just be speaking for me here though, I have become a bit of a blogging geek this semester!) 

Asking new questions. After a short while Geary’s blog started getting more and more attention. Why? She was asking questions on her blog that weren’t really being asked at that time, such as the fact that journalists weren’t really questioning why their jobs were in trouble. Her editor was impressed by her extra online activity, and Geary was soon given a new role at The Birmingham post, in charge of promoting The Birmingham Post’s social presence online and this opportunity set her on the path that led to her role at The Times.  

The possibilities of online. Geary got spotted online from her now editor at The Times, through her own blogs, the social media work she was doing for The Birmingham Post and her friendly twittering to media folk. 

Communication. Her success is clearly not due to luck. It’s her ability to engage well with people, on and offline, her willingness to get out there and ask questions about stuff she doesn’t understand, and her creativity- thinking outside the box, not just regurgitating stuff. 




Keep blogging but keep it interesting. As I admitted before I am a teeny bit addicted to this blogging malarky, so for me there’s really no danger of stopping. However, no matter how much we post stuff Geary is a real reminder that we need to remember the importance of quality. The key to success is originality and keeping the reader interested. Being original comes partly from not being afraid to experiment – as Glyn our online leader told us ‘don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty’ at the beginning of the course. Geary was adventurous by starting up a blog at a time when blogs weren’t particularly a huge thing, she was apprehensive about starting a blog, but took a chance and had a dabble with social media. Geary went into the whole journalism thing with confidence and willingness to try new things and look where she is now


Of course I’m not saying that a good blog = job. What I’ve taken from the lecture is to try stuff out, don’t be afraid and get involved as you just don’t know where things will lead you.  Good philosophy non?


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Get you teeth into some core skills

Rory Cellan – Jones, The BBC ‘s technology correspondent, kindly squeezed us into his hectic schedule last Tuesday.

It was an interesting talk, comparing the old fashioned newsroom to the modern day journo world. – we realised just how much the broadcast news has changed. He then posted a not particularly flattering photo (hell, 500 people have already seen it, damage is done) of us all on twitter, resulting in a barrage of advice from journalists from all over the show, ranging from pessimistic (telling us to give up right now) to the absurd (picking on poor James for wearing a scarf indoors). So we didn’t get much from that, we did however, (well I did anyway) learn something from Jones, who shared a few wise words of his own:

1. Focus on key skills

Jones told us to try and develop a solid core skill, or skills. We shouldn’t forget about the good old nuts and bolts of journalism, such as researching, interview techniques and structuring a story. It’s still oh so important, despite the change of scene (i.e technology). This links with a piece I wrote recently about how young recruits are not up to scratch in terms of key skills.  Simple basics like grammar are being neglected nowadays -it’s something we should all be really focusing on.

It’s important to have an array of other skills on the side to whip out and impress employers with. (and this is where knowing about all this fancy online stuff comes in- I feel I have a long way to go on this one!)

Specialisation is useful too. Jones reckoned this would probably become even more useful in the future.

2. Realise that it’s okay not to be an expert

Although Jones is a technology correspondent,  he admitted that he is not the world expert. Which is quite reassuring for us. I have to admit I was finding the prospect of being known as a specialist quite daunting.  It’s important to remember that the role of a Journalist is- after all to be the mediator of information. Seeking it out and tell it back to people in a way they’re going to understand and enjoy.

3. Convey the story clearly

Like Jones said, the skill of the journalist is to be able to tell a complex story in a simple, effective way. He demonstrated this point well, though both examples of his news pieces and the dynamic and interesting presentation he gave us.

Although I guess I kind of knew all this before it just highlighted how important it is to really fine tune those traditional skills, get a niche and not to feel too distraught if you’re not the world genius of your chosen subject. Leave the expert stuff to the experts and just concentrate on using your journalistic skills to get across the story in a clear and exciting way.

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Preserved little moments

I found the talk  Daniel Meadows gave us was really refreshing. (Probably because I’m a little wannabe hippie).

Despite being a success in numerous ways, Daniel Meadows is very down to earth. Described as one of the icons of the digital storytelling movement, he has won numerous awards, managed to get the first ever shot of Maggie’s (Thatcher) handbag, and has worked for the BBC. However, but he has still kept a strong clasp on his hippy beliefs. He hasn’t been bothered about climbing the ‘greasy ladder’. He enjoys lecturing, teaching, and learning about the lives of every day people.

P1100449Daniel began his career at 21, embarking on a crazy self driven double decker bus trip around the UK, snapping photographs of the great British public in the streets. The idea seems so simple, but was very innovative and exciting at the time. The pictures were just so real. It’s still interesting today to see portaits of the people in their natural, every-day form. Years later, in 1999 Daniel made appeals to find the people in the portraits in local newspapers, those people were hunted down and and another photo was taken, same pose, same people, different decade.

Daniel had since worked on BBC on a Capture Wales project in which members of the public to create their own narrative story. This way of working goes back again to the idea of the audience becoming a bigger and important part of the media. Who can tell a story better about the locals than the locals.

I like the idea of using photographs, going back to the original form of capturing an image. Photographs capture and freeze a special moment. In film these moments can be lost forever  amongst the vast and fast  frames we see in a moving picture. A frozen moment allows the viewer to absorb the scene and  interpret the situation for themselves. As Daniel explained about the two shots in the 70s and in the 90s of the people on his bus trip, with a photograph the audience can fill in the story, the gap in between the two images. Like people do when they look at a painting.P1100470

This talk was inspiring. It’s nice sometimes to stand away from all this new flashy technology stuff and appreciate the old school things, like photographs and postcards that allow us to enjoy and absorb one single moment in time.

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There’s a party at my blog ….

In this day and age, with the mass of  user-generated content and websites fighting for space on the web, attracting advertisers ain’t no party, it’s a competitive sport. It’s the busiest sites that succeed online because they get lots of visitors – which if you get enough, eventually converts into dollar.

Our business based lecture last week taught us just how we can get our little blog to survive and thrive out there. We can apply many strategies to get people flocking to our sites involving social online schmoozing, such as linking your work to others and keeping as up to date on all the online stuff that’s going on.

Make your blog go off with a bang

Online socialite

Getting lots of hits (online) is kind of like organising a party. If you want people to come, you need to get more people involved. The further word spreads, the more likely it is guests will turn up.  If you don’t sent out any invites and just expect flocks of people to magically turn up at your door  step – good luck buddy. Getting people to your blog is a similar ball game. We have been encouraged by Adam Tinworth to get out there and be the social slag of the online world. Mingle with people on networking sites, leave comments on other’s blogs, link lots to other sites, make regular tweets about your everyday thoughts on politics, Cheryl Cole or whatever, just remember, If you want to  entice people to your little blog, you need to socialise by building online relationships, join in

P1100414conversations and show off your human side – you certainly don’t want to appear as the party pooper, a cold-hearted, story driven journalist.

Oh and also don’t be offensive in your online socialising, make sure you know when to draw the line.

I admit I’m no expert – I’m merely young journo. But I have held a lot of parties and all this advice comes from savvy blogging expert (Tinworth). If you want your blog to be successful (he says), you need to work hard to get people interested.

Optimise your party numbers

Of course a vital way to get people through your digital door is to be easy to find. In the blogging world this means lots of key words (SEO if you don’t know). You need to find words that are going to be picked up easily by the cool kid (Google) and be ranked as the no.1 place to be. How? This can be achieved in various ways, from subtle repetition of key words, to creating a relevant, evident headline to name dropping…imagine if you managed to squeeze in a few X-Factor contestants to the blog party post for example (if you can find a link of course)…Lots of people in the UK right now will be avidly searching these names, increasing your chances of being found.

Be interesting

Likewise, you need to make sure it (party and blog) are interesting and fun enough to keep people there and not wander off to the bigger party/blog.

P1100420And if you have a party trick it’s always more interesting. So, if you have a niche subject that will help. Watch out though, try not to garble on too much about just your opinion (unless you’re the world expert on it). I mean you wouldn’t go to a party and just talk about what you think all night would you?

Feed their info hunger

It’s also a major bonus if you’re on top of what’s going on in your niche area, be the place people want to be for politics, food or car updates. At your doo you’d want to have the best cocktails, food and decor, so same with the blog….You want  to make sure you’re offering around plates and nibbles of the latest advances in your field, you don’t want your readers going hungry after all.

And another thing, always remember to offer that metaphorical online gift by linking lots to other people’s work (you can’t beat a better present blog-wise than a shed-load of new traffic), plus by doing this, you may very well link winging its way right back to you.

Phew, so preps over…get your party frock on (or fancy pajamas…whatever you blog in) and get ready for the flood load of party peeps… (courtesy of A.T). But the hard work is never over…get out there and start mingling – it’s party time!

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