Posts Tagged ‘Sunderland’

Spent an hour at Venerable Bede school in Ryton, Sunderland today talking about a newsletter project they hope to get off the ground. If only everyone grasped the power of complementary print and web products as well as these enthusiastic Year 7 and 9 pupils. They were full of ideas, excitement and great questions, so it made a change from the day job…

Was surprised to find Facebook now very popular among 12-year-olds. They’ll be on Google Buzz next…

I’m in Dene Community School, Peterlee on Thursday working with positive young people once again, I hope.


Ninety-five per cent of users won’t pay for online news content – that’s according to a poll I ran on for 24 hours yesterday.

Visitors responded as follows to our multiple choice questionnaire:

How much are you prepared to pay for news content online?
Nothing  95% (378 votes)
5p per article  0% (1 vote)
£1 per month for unlimited access  2% (12 votes)
£19.99 per year for unlimited access  2% (10 votes)
43p per day for unlimited access             1% (5 votes)

Interesting that there is next to no interest in the kind of micro-charging suggested by Rupert Murdoch recently.

Given the Echo’s unique users stood at just over 258,000 in July 2009, if we extrapolated the above figures we’d pull in the following revenue at each price point*:

5p per article = £8,890 (assuming ten articles downloaded per month)
£1 per month = £17,145 
£19.99 per year = £15, 867
43p per day (assuming they pay every day) = £40,957

*These figures are calculated by adding together the revenue per person per month at the price point x the number of respondents willing to pay at the relevant price point and at higher prices points x 635 (the sample of 406 people was just over 1/635th of the total audience of unique users)

The resultant drop in page impressions if we did charge would doubtless have a huge impact on advertising revenues, and the loss even in terms of dreaded CPM could offset the gains. However, it’s food for thought to consider that at only a fraction of our current audience we could comfortably cover the current wage bill for one dedicated member of editorial staff at the Echo.

Plus, with 95% of our current audience to aim for as a target for garnering extra subscriptions, is there a case for flicking the switch now and charging a fee for what we currently give away for free?

I guess the major caveat here is respondents did not specify the type of news content they would pay for. ‘News content’ could cover everything from live video feeds of major international events produced by the BBC to three-paragraph snooker updates from our local Green Baize club.

So the question remains, do we serve up the content people want and are willing to pay for? I’d say ‘yes’, but I would, wouldn’t I?

I’m carrying out what is hopefully an interesting experiment, inspired by The Telegraph via George Hopkin, Johnston Press’ SEO evangelist.

We have a big screen in the newsroom which is meant to display our website in an echo of 1984’s nightmarish propaganda walls.

But we’re now using Twitter aggregation site to filter in tweets where Sunderland or SAFC are mentioned. The results after a few days are pleasing, with several leads coming via the feed.

The screen also gives the newsroom a bit more of a live feel, which is handy when trying to convey the message that there are people out there serving our audience between print deadlines.

01072009871It’s on days like today that I’m glad I work online.

A choice error appeared in our print edition (though it was changed on the presses to avoid disaster). A headline about a lucky dog’s stage debut alongside a cute kid shouted: ‘It’s not such a hard-kock life for Lennie’. Oh, dear – we said ‘kock’.

It’s sometimes a curse to know that we can always go back to web content and revise, improve and correct it. There are, after all, few things more cathartic than sending your work to print before starting your next edition ready to do better (and make fewer errors) than last time around…

Had this howler appeared online, we’d have been able  to fix it instantly. Not that I ever make mistakes, of course…

PS. Relief all round that we were spot on with our 120-point page 6 feature headline on a tale about a local chef: ‘Born to Cook’

Ok, so it was a no-brainer. Who cares?Steven Taylor models Newcastle United's new change strip which has been dubbed 'Toongerine orange'

Newcastle United’s change strip was unveiled and it looked like something an Oompa Loompa would use to wipe his backside. I work for the Sunderland Echo. What could we do other than mercilessly take the proverbial? Continue Reading »

They’re hardly new, but the power of live web chats for connecting with audiences, driving interaction and pulling in traffic should make them a staple for any digital newsroom. Best of all, with CoverItLive they are incredibly easy to set up – just log on to their site, register for a free account and place the embed code they provide on a blank custom page… You even get a chance to practice with the tool before going live.

At the Sunderland Echo we’ve used live text chats before to cover the Budget, for instance – with limited success in terms of participation. Near the climax of the 2008/09 football season we took the plunge with a footy chat, despite uncorroborated tales of dead air during similar offerings from rival titles in the north ea

Sunderland Echo live chat

Sunderland Echo live chat

st. The results suprised everyone in the office… Continue Reading »

Porn twins Zayna and Noor, aka Kit and Kat

Porn twins Zayna and Noor, aka Kit and Kat

Any local newspaper is only as big as the village/town/city/area it serves, but the sky’s the limit when it comes to attracting an audience online.

In two years at the Sunderland Echo our most popular story by far has been the tale of two Wearside twins who revealed a secret double life of escorting and porn movie stardom to their aghast family. The story will soon pass the 200,000 hits mark and attracts a steady flow of visitors from all across the globe. Continue Reading »

Covering the Premier League with the Press Association Match Centre live text facilityHaving investigated whether any local papers are live blogging the Premier League I’ve only found one title that is doing so independently, and it seems they are operating outside the rules.

Under the terms of the tiered Dataco licence you can only update with three texts and nine images if you’ve signed a Level One agreement, and with nine texts and 15 images under their Level Two agreement. There are specific windows when you can publish these updates too. I’m not sure how vigorously these rules are enforced, mind… (For Dataco enquiries email or call 0207 864 9121)

Continue Reading »

One staple source of stories for local newspapers is the RSPCA press office. The tales of cruelty we hear are routinely stomach-churning, but sometimes we get images that are genuinely shocking – even to hardened news hacks.

A recent example of this involved photographs we received of a horse found dismembered in a river. The key image was gruesome; the animal’s severed head and blood spattered hooves were scattered on rocks, but there was no body on show. It was truly horrific.

(Read the article here: Dismembered horse found on river bed)

On this occasion our editor was away from the office, but no discussion was required to establish what everyone knew instinctively – there was no way we would publish such an image in a family newspaper.

I could imagine eyes on me – as digital editor – wondering whether I would try to pull a fast one and sneak these images onto our website. They certainly would have generated plenty of page impressions.

I would never do that. Putting aside questions of taste, I operate under the guidelines which inform the brand values of our core product – the newspaper. Sunderland Echo as a multi-channelled brand should deliver the news via different media but to the same standards across the board. 

Of course there are new ethical dilemmas in the digital age – still photos of a brutal mugging seem relatively tame compared to moving images of the same incident, for instance. When we have footage like this we always consider whether showing the shots will do more good by aiding the apprehension of suspects than harm by offending the sensibilities of some website users who have the right not to click ‘play’. Footage is labelled clealy, and never gratuitous.

A footnote to this post regarding oft-claimed declining moral standards in journalism…

April’s anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster caused me to look back at the coverage from 20 years ago and proved that we weren’t so squeamish when it came to images of people crushed to within an inch of their lives in 1989. A front page picture showed young people fighting for breath, and who knows which of them survived.

Such an image would never appear in the Echo, or on these days. Standards of decency have simply improved since then.

I’ve not seen a live blog of a Premier League clash on a local newspaper site. Most of the live football coverage centres on lower league sides and the occasional FA Cup game.

To officially blog from a game you have to be mindful of the Dataco agreement which covers fixtures, results and reporting on England’s topflight.

But in the era of Twitter and Qik feeds to CoverItLive blogs, there must be a way to start a conversation with the readership of the Sunderland Echo around a specific game – even if it doesn’t mean presenting a traditional match report.

We could pay for a service such as the PA Match Centre to do it for us, or make infrequent updates throughout the game which would hardly constitute the kind of comprehensive coverage I’m looking for. Neither option is acceptable as a mechanism for engaging the audience (either due to prohibitive cost or our desire to maintain standards).

Scanning  the fixture list, Sunderland’s televised game at home to Portsmouth on May 18 and the ‘Survival Sunday’ on May 24 are musts for interactive coverage. The challenge is coming up with a solution that respects the licencing agreements without lurching into patchy reporting.

At the very least we should open a channel to fans who are watching the game anyway and want to discuss what they are seeing. Surely the Premier League haven’t signed a gagging order on pub-style banter yet…