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I'm a journalist, ex-national papers, now working in what we call "new" media.


Interesting but I wonder how this will play out, assuming the legal permissions are received. The Parliament Square protestors would probably draw a big crowd of defenders. I shouldn't be surprised to see another Poll Tax riot-style disturbance ensue.
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Ramsay MacDonald was Labour Prime Minister during the Great Depression and economic crisis of the late 1920s and early 1930s. It was a period of great political instability and the major parties were split over the need for cuts in public spending. In 1931, MacDonald formed a National Government with the Conservatives to stay in power. He was expelled from the Labour Part and, ever since, his name has been synoymous on the Left with treachery.

David Cameron was born 100 years almost to the day after MacDonald and his political rise has coincided with the greatest economic crisis since the 1920s. His attempts to do a deal with the Liberals in order to gain power are being watched by some in his party with a degree of concern. There are already grumblings on blogs like ConservativeHome and in the Daily Mail about the way the campaign was handled by what they see as a liberal clique. Getting into bed with a party that is seen by most Conservatives as beyond the pale on immigration and Europe could be a step too far for the Tory rank and file. A period of weak coalition and compromise on core Tory issues could turn the grumbles into open revolt. Is it too much of a leap to imagine Cameron, once seen as the saviour of his party, going down in history as the Tory equivalent of Ramsay MacDonald.

(This man thinks that Cameron is the reincarnation of MacDonald: I don't!)
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BBC News at 6 and 10 ran lengthy pieces on Andrew Flintoff having moved to Dubai to build his career as an international cricket mercenary. Flintoff is, it turns out, an 'ambassador', presumably paid, for Dubai and the BBC piece had all the characteristics of a tourist puff piece for the place. There certainly wasn't much news in it and one wonders what deals were done behind the scenes to bring it to our screens.
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With the I-Slate (or whatever it ends up being called) almost upon us, Ben Hammersley's series on the implications of e-books is a must read for everyone in the publishing business. If you're a journalist, because it will show you how the right technical platform will transform the value of the content you create - and the way you create it; if you're a developer because of the pointers it offers as to what content management systems need to become.

Acolytes of Antonio Gramsci sometimes use the phrase 'the language that speaks us' to describe how the words we have available to use form and constrain our thought processes. Something like that has happened in the world of internet publishing. We think and talk about articles, stories, images, headlines, text and video that we treat separately or bundle up together in packages of greater or lesser elegance. In our minds, we're creating magazines, or newspaper sections instead of actual web experiences. CMSs are designed and built according to this hugely limiting paradigm. Publishing companies make the minimum possible changes to their working methods to accommodate the web.

And then there's the whole question of analytics: the way we measure what we do. What most publishing companies care about more than anything else is page views - the number of times a web page appears in the browser of a computer. Doesn't matter for how long, whether the user meant to call the page up, where they are in the world, whether it's one person coming a hundred times a month or a hundred people passing through once each, never to return. Did they find what they want? Did they like what they saw? Doesn't matter, so long as they hit the page, just long enough for the javascript tag to register their presence.

We care about page views because we can count them and because they seem like a pure and uncontroversial metric compared with, say, unique users. Crucially, advertisers find page views simple to understand so the digital publishing economy essentially works by selling bundles of page views at an agreed CPM (cost per thousand, oddly) to advertisers. Clearly a commercially successful publisher is one who keeps his production costs below his CPM. The principal targets given to journalists and editors were page view-based and inevitably a series of practices developed to meet them. In a way these practices have come to define what a lot of commercial web publishing looks like.
o buying feeds of cheap content from agencies (such as Press Association) and rebranding it as your own. Instead, say, of employing journalists to find out something new.
o creating massive image galleries knowing that it's easier and cheaper to get users to flip rapidly through fifty or sixty nice pictures than it is to get them to engage with fifty or sixty different pieces of content
o letting the SEO tail wag the content dog. Don't get me wrong, search engine optimisation is an essential and valuable tool: it makes your content visible and helps users to find what they want. A publisher who doesn't use SEO is a fool. But using SEO shouldn't mean simply creating lots and lots of stories about Kate Moss, Madonna or, worse, shoehorning their names at every opportunity into stories where they don't really belong. "A teenage boy was stabbed just yards away from a nightclub in which celebrities such as Kate Moss partied, oblivious to the unfolding tragedy"

Publishers encourage this sort of thing because their business model forces them down a 'quantity' route - producing as many page views as possible, as cheaply as possible. Inexorably, quality gets squeezed out. In newspapers and decent magazines, notions of quality are woven into the fabric of what everyone does: a piece should brilliantly conceived, properly commissioned, written with insight and intelligence, designed and laid-out with flair and so on. In many online publishing houses quality is not even spoken about: the only thing that matters is the generation of page views. Perhaps, in a Gramsci-ite way, it's no longer possible to speak about quality in this environment.

But might the I-Slate (or whatever) help publishers find a way out, to restore the word 'quality' to the vocabulary of their businesses? I'll look at this in part 2.
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When I first came to London in the Eighties we used to go to warehouse parties in Battle Bridge Road, just behind King's Cross. The area was a mix of old canal and railway buildings, deserted and rather desolate for somewhere so close to the centre of town. It was known principally as a red light district, because there were man quiet streets where kerb crawlers and prostitutes could go about their business.

Development was just beginning back then and the area progressively became London's largest building site as the St Pancras Eurostar terminal and the surrounding 'King's Cross Quarter' took shape.

I went for a walk around the area yesterday. There are lots of shiny modern, rather characterless buildings and shops: the Guardian have moved up there, for one. But there remain some pleasing reminders of the areas industrial past: gasometers, brown brick canalside buildings. The Battle Bridge Road warehouse where we used to party has been razed and there is some sort of development going on. I took a couple of photos, surveilled by a suspicious security man. He didn't call the police, though....

The purpose of my visit was to take a look at the Camley Street Natural Park and it's Natural London photography exhibition. It turns out that the park, built on an old coal yard, came into being at about the same time that I was attending those Battle Bridge parties. It's a few acres of carefully crafted wilderness alongside the Regent's Canal and very beautiful and on a damp, late afternoon in winter, soothing and restful. I particularly like the glimpses of industrial architecture through the foliage. I wonder how long the gasometers and warehouses will remain, though.

I love finding unexpected little places like this, like the overgrown botanical gardens you often find in European cities; they contrast with manicured, packaged and reparcelled, high-land-value nature of most urban space.

It turned out that the exhibition is next weekend, so I'll go back then.

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If payment becomes the norm for online news and content sites - and the idea is getting up a head of steam - I wonder if they will have to grapple with the question of piracy. Will opportunistic blogs, for example, start lifting articles wholesale and reproducing them? Might pirated versions of newspapers start to spring up? My suspicion is that they will.

Today there is a report that online music piracy has fallen dramatically; the reasons for this being not the music industry's hamfisted attempts to criminalise its customers but the emergence of alternatives that are more palatable to music consumers - in particular Spotify. Basically, why bother going through the hassle of downloading pirated music, when you can get what you want for nothing? This has been accompanied by a shift in attitudes to music ownership, which may be generational. Personally, I like to own stuff, to have the physical CD in my hand - or at least the MP3s on my computer. Spotify to me is a nice adjunct to that. Hardcore Spotify users, it seems, may be happy to know that the music is out there somewhere and that they can access it whenever they want. Which makes sense, especially for as long as the service is free.

So instead of music being sold as a high-priced, fetishised experience, involving the physical possession of an expensive object, it's become rather commoditised - something that's out there, to be tapped into as ad when you want it, at little or no cost. The profit centre of the music industry is live performance and merchandise. Recorded music is a loss leader. The industry, and record companies in particular, are having to adapt to this new reality.

What does this mean for newspapers?  I suspect they will face a battle to shore up their porous paywalls in the face of piracy. Direct charging for content will, for many of them simply be a troubled step along the road to a completely different model of monetisation, which will change the shape of the industry.
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Yasmin Alibhai Brown grapples with the internet in the Independent. She would like more regulation - censorship, if you like - preventing what she sees as extremes of violent pornography and personal attacks (from which, she says, she has suffered).

It is true that there is distasteful stuff online and that debate in forums and on blogs all to often curdles into abuse. But, given that the web is bound by all the laws that govern any other form of publication (libel, hate speech and so on), so we really need more constraints?

Am I right to detect in her words a concealed fear of the democratisation of opinion, and a nostalgia for the days when newspaper columnists had a effective monopoly on public, published comment?
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Quite nice and tells you quickly that there is a fire in Dean Street, Soho and presents some pretty good pics. Doesn't tell you much else, though. How did it start, anybody inside, dead, injured etc. Perhaps at this point you need a reporter asking the basic questions.

Also, because it happened in the centre of media land where everyone has twitter, cameraphones etc. If it had happened in Newton Abbot or Burnley, it wouldn't be getting this attention
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The Dean Street fire seen through the lens of Twitter. Quicker to the draw than the BBC, I think.

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