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Indie 2.0: Inspiring a Generation of Artist August 2, 2011

Posted by billyburnettgbc in blogs, conversational PR, Facebook, Journalism, kindle, new media, print media.
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As you may recall, in a previous post I talked about how filmmaker Kevin Smith announced he planned to market his next movie, Red State, using just social media and entirely without studio support. He has since not only made back the cost of the movie, something several recent summer blockbusters have failed to do, but also launched an internet radio station, filmed a pilot for a new TV talk show and started work on his final film, Hit Somebody.

The story of Kevin Smith is enthralling, but what’s more exciting is that it is far from unique. As far back as 2004, the British director Franny Armstrong made the eco-documentary The Age of Stupid, pioneering “crowd-funding”, a method whereby the financing (£450,000) was raised by selling shares to individuals and organisations, who all received a pro-rata share of the profits.

Now with the decline of the printed book and the rise of the eBook, supported by recent announcements by both Borders and Penguin books publisher Pearson, many authors are self-publishing and promoting their latest page turners.

For example, Toronto writer Blake Northcott decided to launch a Kindle version of Vs. Reality, a “comic book-inspired urban fantasy novel” on Amazon.com. During the nine months she spent writing the comic and movie blog, she amassed a 16,000 strong Twitter following, more than 1,700 personal Facebook friends and 4,500 page views providing real-time feedback on her work. To put that into perspective it’s more than Image Comics, the world’s largest independent comic book artist publisher.

Even those authors that still have the financial and marketing support of their publishers are realising the opportunity around social media in promoting their work.

John Green’s latest book, The Fault in our Stars, recently landed the number-one spots on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. This isn’t particularly strange – expect the book won’t be published until 2012. Using a variety of social media tools, including Twitter, Tumblr, community forums and YouTube, he has created a community around his work and unprecedented pre-orders have followed.

This presents a conundrum for any artist. Consider the extra blood, sweat and tears that self-distribution requires; engaging with followers via social media instead of getting that final chapter done, which is surely self-defeating, but also becoming an intrinsic part of the marketing mix which was traditionally handled by the publisher.

Thanks to social media however, artists across the globe are writing their own rules about branding and fan engagement.


Win, win, who will win? Pay or free to view? June 25, 2010

Posted by kewroad in 2010 predictions, Journalism, new media, Online Reputation, print media.
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The great paywall debate in the publishing industry continues to rage.  With the Sunday Times and The Times now taking out full page advertising to promote News International’s new pay wall scheme, the Daily Telegraph and others are also taking a stance.  According to Beehivecity, The Daily Telegraph is now running London Underground adverts along the lines of :

‘Award winning journalism, free at the dailytelegraph.co.uk.  Sometimes you get what you don’t pay for.’


‘Quality journalism should challenge your mind not your pocket.’

This is possibly the first time that the Daily Telegraph is taking a clear stance that it does not believe paywalls are the right way to go and that newspaper content should be free.

There are clearly two camps evolving.   The FT sits with The Times on the far side of the paywall debate, while both The Guardian and The Daily Mail are committed to it being free and easy for all.  And with all BBC content free – that’s quite a strong ‘free’ force.

News International is charging readers £2 a week to access The Times and The Sunday Times online, the price of one copy of the Sunday newspaper.  I’ve just subscribed to the limited free version and  there is loads of interesting content in there that I would probably be quite happy to pay for it especially if it’s the same price as one copy of the Sunday newspaper.

On the free-side argument, the Guardian generates £27m of online advertising revenue which rises to £38m with dating site. Total turnover last year for Guardian News Ltd was £253m. So the advertising revenue more than makes up for lost subscription revenue.

And with the Evening Standard’s free edition going profitable this month for the first time and solely relying on advertising revenues, is this possibly yet more proof that long-term people won’t pay?

While the publishing industry works all this out, people still need to get used to going online for their news and information – no doubt the iPad will help do that.

Ultimately, may be the industry will end up with a mix of both – sometimes consumers pay, sometimes they don’t.  Whatever happens between pay and free-to-view models, the future business model of a medium that is nearly 500 years old will change forever.

Soon the proof of UK Newspaper Paywalls will be in the eating May 28, 2010

Posted by kewroad in iPad, Journalism.
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This week is potentially very exciting for the newspaper industry. It marked the first stage in Rupert Murdoch’s plan to introduce pay walls for his UK newspapers

So the doubters out there that said consumers will never pay for news/content online may soon have to eat their words. It will cost £1 a day or £2 a week to view.

At the very least you can be sure people who need quality news and articles for work and business will be prepared to pay for it. And if News International makes its content truly valuable and different to all the other freely available material then of course, people will be prepared to pay.  Notably for the first time the Sunday Times will have a standalone website

Pay walls are not a new concept. Indeed Euromoney, the FT and the like have been doing it for some time. What’s different this time is that these others have allowed limited free access to casual browsers.  To do the job 35 additional new staff have been recruited to produce thesundaytimes.co.uk.

 I really hope for the sake of the newspaper industry, they can make this pay! But they will need to work harder on synchronizing their digital strategies though. In the same week the websites are relaunched, The Times became the second UK national to offer an iPad app. Great idea as the iPad finally arrives in the shops but pricing is problematic because if you want web access on your PC and on your iPad you have to pay twice. Surely this’ll be ironed out soon?

Standard & Private Eye Web Strategies: Shome Mistake or Masterstroke? February 25, 2010

Posted by kewroad in Journalism, new media, print media.
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Two different viewpoints on how the Web is changing mainstream print media from last week.

In the heat of the Mobile World Congress hype, the London Evening Standard announced a mobile app version of the iconic evening paper read by Londoners. A great idea when you see so many commuters looking at their mobiles every morning and evening. And the paper is the latest high-profile UK media brand to go down this route with the Guardian announcing 100,000 users of its own app this week too.

But, some wisps of doubt about newspaper mobile apps float through my mind. As a London tube commuter, I can’t help wonder how an app competes with the easy, instant  access to Metros and Standards that litter every tube train morning, noon and night. So what’s the point of a Standard  app if I want to see what;s in The Standard? Well it defends the brand as the demographics of a non-newspaper reading generation become overwhelming. As a connected rich media app  it could deliver a different experience to the paper version – stories that are updated after the paper print run. The Standard  used to come out in different timed editions throughout the afternoon. This has been cut back so Londoners could use the app to enjoy the Late Late Late Edition of the Standard. And a mobile phone is easier to read than a paper when you’re compressed into the tight corner of a tube train or the armpit of a fellow traveller.

Another bit of media industry news gives an insight into the power of the Web though in this case when a publication deliberately doesn’t have an online presence. UK satirical news magazine Private Eye has reported record increases in  sales with  more than 200,000 copies sold. What’s significant about this figure is that 99% of copies are bought at traditional news agents and newsstands.  There is minimal web presence – a deliberate strategy of the publishers to protect the magazine’s circulation and relationship with its readers. 

Arguably the demographic of Private Eye readers might be older and less ready to go online. Not sure this is the case (if anything older generation is more not less enthusiastic about the Web) but an anti-Web publishing strategy fits with the curmudgeonly attitude  of the magazine and its reputation for publishing embarrassing gossip and rumour about politicians and others.  In this example it looks like avoiding the Web preserves the conspiratorial bond the magazine has with its readers – for now at least.

Twitter hits PR agencies – guess what it’s called: twitpitch November 25, 2009

Posted by kewroad in 2009 predictions, blogs, conversational PR, internet, Journalism, pr, Twitter.
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Twitter makes the world go round and probably provides more opportunities than people can think of right now. Not only journalists, bloggers and analysts find a new communication channel in the 140 characters space that Twitter offers. Companies start to talk to their clients, partners, best friends and potential new clients about new products, the market or other hot issues. PR agencies like us try to introduce the advantages of  Twitter to our clients and we try hard even in “far-behind-Germany”.

Now as part of the PR community we can make Twitter a new business channel for us as well. We start twittering in our community and talk about PR news, discuss issues and get quick feedback from other agencies of our thematic focus. And this network could lead to new contacts for our business. Watch us twitpitching!


GBC Germany

Who will pay? November 18, 2009

Posted by kewroad in 2009 predictions, blogs, conversational PR, Facebook, Google, information technology, Journalism, new media, Online Reputation, Uncategorized.
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Murdoch has created a lot of storm recently talking about how consumers will have to pay for content.  In this Sunday’s Observer, there was yet more discussion about how even in the good old days of printed newspapers, customers never paid the full price anyway – so why does Murdoch think they will now! And then later in the week, the editor of the Times shed more light on how he expects readers to pay for the digital edition of the Times.  Good luck to them. Now, the founder of Digg, is suggesting that news aggregation sites have a contribution to make.  So it’s definitely all still up in the air, in terms of how it’s all going to work financially.

In the meantime, it’s goodnight to another printed publication, 25 year old Media Week but welcome to it’s new online presence..let’s hope they can make it pay.

So in this revolutionary world we currently live, the winners will be the ones able and prepared to change their business model and make it work financially.

Sue Grant

Microsoft Windows 7 Launches with a Successful Whimper October 23, 2009

Posted by kewroad in Journalism, Microsoft, pr, Windows 7.
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Impressed this week with how “little” Microsoft has done to launch Windows 7.  Seems to have learnt the mistakes of the Vista and past hullaballoo and gone down the path of “less is more” and well-judged restraint. (though the Japanese haven’t been able to restrain themselves e.g. the Windows 7 Burger King burger).

 And, with expectations nicely calmed if not lowered to zero, the media’s response has been pleasantly positive. Few commentators have found much to complain about except the price and the fact that XP users – who hated Vista and were most enthusiastic about what Windows 7 would offer – have to pay the most to upgrade. 

Notwithstanding it’s been so low-key (actually overshadowed in the UK by much bigger stories e.g. Nokia suing Apple, nasty but thick right-wing politician on premier UK political chat show) the PR approach does follow the old maxim of the most powerful stories are Man bites Dog, not Dog bites Man in that Microsoft launches a (so far) Good OS rather than launching a Bad OS.

The internet now drives opinion not the print media October 18, 2009

Posted by kewroad in 2009 predictions, information technology, internet, Journalism, new media, pr, print media, social networks, Twitter, Uncategorized.
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The furore since Thursday evening over the Daily Mail’s Jan Moir’s take on the death of Stephen Gateley serves to demonstrate that communications and opinion is no longer in the hands of journalists alone.  Twitter not only ‘breaks news’ – it also provides the facilitate to quickly garner masses of public opinion around news.   In the old days, a journalist would express a view and all that might happen is a letter from Mr Angry from Bournementh in the letters page the following week.   Many of might have wanted to comment but didn’t have the inclination to write a letter.  Not only does the popularity of Facebook and Twitter  now enable people to comment instantly but these social media tools also enable us to come together collectively, quickly and forcefully to drive comment and lead opinion.

Is this new wave of influential public opinion revolutionary? Well almost.  When before could a swell of opinion be expressed so quickly and powerfully? Long-term, this must have a positive effect on the old powers of the handful of media moguls who have long domintated the printing presses. Surely, long-term, it will be public opinion that drives the news agenda.  This new power of the people can’t be underestimated. Such was the rumpus caused by the Daily Mail article that the  newspaper lost significant advertising revenue. The mail had to remove adverts from big brands like Marks and Spencer, Nestle, Visit England, Kodak and the National Express. 

As the Observer recently reported, the print media is changing beyond all recognition and will never be the same again. We are currently living in a period of incredible change in communications and social media. No one really knows what the outcome will be, all that is for sure is that it won’t be the same as before. 

Sue Grant

FT enters the newspaper paywall debate September 22, 2009

Posted by kewroad in Journalism, new media.
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In a recent interview John Ridding, CEO of FT, stated that “it would be very hard to sustain an effective news organisation without paid-for news content”. The article makes the point that FT has not only managed to keep their readers during the economic downturn, but they have also successfully introduced a charge for digital content, and upped the price of the subscription.

The message here seems to be that publications wishing to make money from their online content have to make sure this is relevant and topical enough for their readers to be willing to pay in order to access it. Some people who are not willing to pay for full access may be willing to buy a particular article or snippet of information. So, the question is can any online publication charge for digital content?

Perhaps the FT can. Financial sector executives form a large proportion of their user base, and many of these people rely on FT content in their day-to-day work. Another factor is that a large amount of the FT’s subscribers are companies whose budgets are very different from those of individuals. Finally, the global reach of the FT is an advantage as people from all across the globe access their online content.

John Ridding does concede that “it may be easier for a specialist publication like the FT to charge”, but then continues by saying that “other publications need to identify these opportunities”. He may be stating the obvious here and many magazines are currently analysing what they could start charging for. The issue many are facing in today’s world of online information sharing is how to ensure their content is unique enough to demand a premium price?

Whether the solution turns out to be localised news unique to particular publications, or sponsored articles, the goal will be to work out a way to make enough money to stay afloat in the online market. And do this without compromising the quality of the coverage, or scaring off the end users.

Silly Season dominated by (mostly) Madcap Twitter Stories August 11, 2009

Posted by kewroad in Journalism, pr, social networks, Twitter.
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We’re in the midst of the UK media silly season. Serious news is supposed to be off the agenda because politicians and the media have gone on their long summer  holidays. Of course there are grim exceptions to this rule – war, famine, recession, disaster stories still retail well in the dog days of the summer.

Silly season stories are silly by definition (explains the elephant in a pit story doing the tabloid rounds). But there’s a  rich rash of Twitter silly season stories this year too. One good example spotted by the Daily Bulldog is Jackson-related. The other is less bonkers but has PR silly season written all over it – The Twitter Opera.  (NB  Royal Opera claims Twitter will help it reach a younger audience. But have’t they read all of the reports on Twitter’s user base being largely wellheeled, middle class and middle aged? Their deal with The Sun was more ground breaking but that was so last year)

Nothing wrong with this. In fact if you care about the media and it sells papers then all of this silliness is seriously a good thing.