ERT Press Release

PRESS RELEASE
(two headlines I can’t choose between them)

The Train Leaving Platform 1 Will Be From the Future

Riding High With East Riding Trains

East Riding Trains have successfully bid for and won the contract to operate services along the East Coast Mainline. Starting in 2010 passengers travelling with East Riding Trains (ERT) will be able to take advantage of a first class commuting experience for the 21st century. Delayed trains will be a thing of the past. No more missed connections. No more frustrating waits at the platform just a fast, friendly, reliable train service meeting the needs of the modern age.”

Travelling from London to Edinburgh in complete luxury in one of the reconditioned carriages, business passengers will benefit from full internet connectivity: making business really work on the move. The newly designed carriages will provide a more enjoyable travelling experience for the family with more leg room and customized seats offering support and comfort for every passenger.

The excellence and attention to detail in meeting customers high standards will be reflected in a slightly higher tariff. This increase is inline with the expected rise in fuel and running costs and keeping ERT as a competitive player in the transport industry moving forward.
Rail users can log on to the ERT Facebook page and SMS service to take part in an exciting Prize Draw Competition to win £1000 cash. The competition will run in conjunction with the new ground-breaking poster campaign and television advert series featuring Kevin Whateley from ITV’s popular Drama, Lewis.

Carl Korshall spokesperson for ERT said:

“East Riding Trains represent a revolution in rail services for the East Coast Mainline.
Riding with ERT will increase business productivity by using the special ports for plugging in your laptop or other device. Families will be able to enjoy travelling with ERT riding in the new comfortable seating. Once on-board young travellers will receive special activity packs developed by our new partners from the creative industry sector “Dragonfly” to keep all the little ones busy.

“By identifying popular services we will be in the unique position to adapt our schedule to meet the changing needs of our ever-growing customer base. Unlike our competitors, ELT is ready to listen to its customers by way of a brand new online feedback service where travellers can tell us what they think about their experience riding with East Riding Trains. By improving the rail links in the area we will boost local tourism, attract new business, and connect communities whilst rebuilding our economy.

“ERT offer a vast array of value for money tickets available to purchase using their brand new online facility and through the newly created 24hr ticket hotline. See the new website for full details of these special offers and exclusive ticket deals where you could be riding with us for a lot less in 2010.

For more details log on to http://www.ridingwitheastriding.co.uk

Ticket Hotline Number. 0800 290290

Digital Media Content Creation

The Media Sector is undergoing huge changes due to the digital revolution. In this essay I intend to identify some of the key reasons for these changes. By outlining basic organisational structure for various media groups I intend to show how they have had to adapt and develop as users demand content in different ways.

Starting in London, Britain’s Media hub new thinking and technology and demand began to give everybody access to news content in their homes. This wave of new technology inevitably began to influence the way journalists and media companies gathered collated and presented content. With the advent of Broadband users could access more content faster than ever before and in increasing quantities.

The current government has a plan which they outlined in the Broadband Britain Report of 08 to install Broadband in every home. They qualified this stating that access to Broadband was just as important as access to basic utilities such as gas electric and water supply. Currently if an internet provider is delivering under 2meg then you are classed as being digitally deprived. One of the key drivers that are spearing the sea-change of internet services has been the high demand for online video.

If you look at the Guardian Newspaper you can see many changes to the way it collates and presents information.

Ten years ago a journalist would gather stories in one of four main ways these were:

Meeting people possibly from their existing list of contacts

Press releases from PR companies (many sent by email)

News groups such as Usenet

Reading other publications

Five years ago the picture looked as follows:

Meeting people possibly from their existing list of contacts

Searching news websites

Searching Blogs and other publications

Press releases (all sent by email)

Today a journalist will rarely use press releases to create content. The vast majority of news stories will be developed by following RSS news feeds up to 500 daily. Twitter the micro-blog site is used heavily to learn what the rest of the world is thinking and talking about. In particular the sub-site, Twitscoop is used by today’s journalists for its ability to identify keywords that are appearing in tweets in large numbers. In the recent Trafigura story it was the Twitscoop keyword lists that enabled British journalists to see what other people felt about the story even though British journalists were unable to write about it because of an illegal injunction. This is just one way where something like a social networking site has been used in a different way to further the spread of information on the net.

One of the biggest changes in the newspaper industry is that the readers the general public will dictate the content. By following popular trends it is the readers who dictate which email provokes a response and a follow up from the journalist.

With major publications with increasing online presence such as the Guardian the content is developed for the web first and print formats second. By identifying which format is best for each story the provider is able to engage with readers more so than ever before. Information is accessible online in timely fashion with regular updates giving users exactly what they want to see. Today online content can be updated three times faster than previously achieved thus providing users with up to date relevant information on stories. Some stories will generate discussion via comment and feedback services, these can be a useful source of reader input and be used to follow up and repurpose a story for print, web or Blog. This idea of tailoring information can be further developed by measuring online traffic using packages to track from where users are coming from on the net, and markers to identify which pages and for how long each page is viewed. Obviously if your average page view is 12 seconds rather than a minute then you are not retaining your readers and would need to rethink the way you present your content. Two main concerns for all newspapers are:

Readers are interested in the story

The story is something they will pass on to others (through links to the pages in emails, blogs etc)

This last is crucial to getting a story to spread to different users, to get everybody clicking on that story, increasing page views and hit rates and creating a buzz around a story so that it gains more media time and space than a rival story)

The Hull Daily Mail is a subsection of the N.E. sector of Northcliffe Media Group who are in turn parented by the Daily Mail Trust. The parent company’s brand over arches the regional branding of Northcliffe and HDM. The HDM itself has a top down organisational structure from Editor John Meehan down to individual journalists. Deputy Editor David Bourn is in charge of daily operations in Hull. He has come from a print background and has developed content for Norwich Evening News, Trinity Mirror group and the Hexham Courant. It is widely expected that Editors will come from a design or content background.

Each day the Deputy Editor will call three news conferences with business managers, news editors from each section eg: Sports, News In Brief, Features, Arts/Culture and the imaging desk. The last of these may well just send edited images via the image feed direct to the meeting rather than actually attend in person. It is at these meetings crucial decisions are made according to numerous sets of criteria, what is to be published in print and what and how will content be repurposed for other publications or the web. HDM, unlike the Guardian and other major papers, due to its absence of expertise and delivery for online content, use a print first web second model (web first or simultaneous publication only in exceptional circumstances and if the story demands it) Other considerations have to be made regarding layout and multimedia aspects for online publishing. For instance will there be a piece of VT to go with the story will there be a series of images links to external sites. These considerations are made for the print version too, there may also be legalities to identify and other print boxes to finalise and pass from all the different sections of the paper in attendance.

Yet more considerations will be addressed such as the location of the story. These are whether it is local to the area and whether it holds local interest? It is possible the story is about a local person or issue that has relevance or interest on a wider scale. If the latter is true then the story can be repurposed for the web, perhaps including more imagery, an edited text and or VT. The same story could also be used in other regional papers coming under the Northcliffe name such as the Boston Herald, Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph to capture as many different markets as possible with the one story. Stories will also be repurposed usually shortened quite dramatically for the many free weekly editions. A shorter story simply means more space for print advertising.

With the change in HDM becoming a Daily rather than specifically an evening paper the latest stories can be included is 10:30 – 11:00pm for inclusion in the next edition. This change allows for a longer sales window and crucially for a paper to be able to break stories. However as we learned from the Guardian’s Charles Arthur Exclusives are things of the past. Everyone knows what the story is likely to be before hand, because everyone is writing as a reaction to and following the popular trends indicated by the soc-networks and blogs and micro-blogs that drive the media today.

BBC Five live is predominantly a broadcast radio station that has grown into a large content provider via digital services and via the website. The nature of their programming is also affected by their users. They have to be aware of what is of interest to their demographic and the programmes must reflect these interests and values. They are looking to target a particular group of people and strive to create a brand that appeals to that group in order for the listeners to buy into it. The station has listen online facilities sometimes with live webcams giving the user an insight into who the presenters are and exactly what is going on in the studio or OB (Outside Broadcast) This user interactivity acts much in the same way as the comment and feedback sections mentioned earlier. Throughout the live broadcast of the Simon Mayo, Mark Kermode show I witnessed print outs of messages/comments being passed to the presenter. These messages were coming directly from readers emailing and texting the show in real time. This allows the users to feel they are contributing to the show, are important to the show, because their message from among hundreds was read out live, and overtime they can develop loyalty and a sense of ownership to the show and station.

The changing nature of content gathering, packaging and presentation is prevalent in all major news providers as they struggle to retain their place in an increasingly competitive and ever-evolving market. If you look at the license funded BBC organisation there is an increasing emphasis on tailoring products to meet the demands of the license payers.  No longer dictating the programmes broadcast but giving the viewer a range of choices and a sense of control over the content. The prefix Your is constantly used by media companies to suggest there is a shift in ownership of their product.

Like the radio programmes all the major television channels have shows that have interactivity built in. These can take the form of phone-in competitions, contests with public votes, online profiles for programmes with further information about the show’s presenters, writers etc. Many news shows have on screen adverts and links to view online only content such as reporters and presenters blog pages. For the first time ever whole programmes can be downloaded via home pcs – in some cases for limited time frames only – and watched at the user’s leisure. New digital channels are being created all the time creating to specialist markets, particular age groups, ethnicities and socio-economic demographics. Examples of these are things like BBC Parliament, BBC Knowledge, BBC3 and BBC4.

Closer to home the Hull Daily Mail has online services such as the forum based site Your Mail. Users pick topics sometimes generated by past news stories and discuss them online with other users of the service. These forum based platforms have limited interest because while they give the user a chance to air their own views and get their voice heard they attract persons with extremist viewpoints. Opinions can become very much polarised and inevitably the site breaks down into hackneyed personal attacks of one group or another.

The future of the media sector is hard to predict. One new application, idea, product or methodology could come to the fore gather popular appeal and change the digital world as we know it today. One such thing is the idea of Augmented Reality highlighted and demonstrated by Anand Verma from Sapient at Hull Digital Live. This is a new technology that allows a camera or view screen to look at a small black image within a large image and display seemingly by magic advertising and purchasing details for that product. For instance you could have a poster on a wall for a clothing range. By simply pointing the camera on your phone at the black dot on the poster you can access lots more information about the product and purchase it if you wish at the click of a button. Moreover if your phone has GPS application technology you can be situated anywhere in the world and using GPS your phone will draw you directions on the screen to the nearest station, hotel, airport etc.

I would suggest that that one of the strongest drivers for change, that being user led content, will remain just as important if not more so. We are likely to see more companies following this model particularly with the Advertising Sector tailoring their approach to particular groups via Google spiders and Search Engine Optimisation.

With Broadband in every home and potential connectivity worldwide, the amount of user created content could well become staggering. No-one really knows if the internet will be affected by the huge amounts of data being downloaded and uploaded. There are some experts that have said that this desire to get everyone online with faster speeds, could have the reverse affect and the increasing numbers may well slow down the net. Another issue to consider is that with this massive increase of content there will be the inevitable decrease in quality.

Do we really want more footage of hapless folk falling in garden ponds for instance, or far more film of little Johnny’s school nativity play? They might have interest to the immediate family but not so the rest of the world.

Each year the cost of software and hardware, comes down allowing people to purchase better software, updated programs faster modems, increased memory capacity, faster processing speeds thus spreading the power and appeal of I.T. The next generation will have grown up in a world where they have been exposed to I.T from infancy and will be far more tech savvy than the last generation. They will drive the new ideas to build upon the innovation of today and keep the digital revolution moving ever onward.

However there are very real issues that will have to be faced by the Media Sector. There are many legal and ethical issues that will have to be addressed with regard to what is and what is not proper content for the net. There are many ways that the net is used to commit crime such as fraud, exchanging unsuitable content, identification theft etc. Most people believe they retain ownership of content that is placed on the net while some see content online as being in the public domain. Music download sites have had to face up to and overcome issues surrounding copyright and publishing rights. New models will have to be designed to overcome these problems with file-sharing.

It is inevitable that Media companies with news outputs will develop some kind of financial model to generate revenue from the users. This could lead to a two tiered digital divide with affluent persons being able to pay for and access content, while those without being left behind: without the knowledge and disempowered. The idea of pay per-view models for specialist subject areas, celebrity news and updates for example, could just be a ploy to tax the poor. It seems to be this group more than others who feed their aspirations by devouring this kind of material.

The ongoing race will continue apace to keep up with consumer demands, new ways to further communication and social networking. The virtual office is now a reality so working from work stations at home may well become the norm. This new way of working could appease the ecological groups by cutting down travel pollution. Looking at the Eco angle further pc construction and application will become even smaller and portable, less raw materials to make them thus making them greener. Hardware is currently in operation and will be further developed to make internet connectivity a very real possibility when existing provision has been disrupted due to war or disaster. Thus journalists could broadcast and communicate with people on the ground in areas where communication would be nigh impossible. It was noted that the use of these backpack devices were used extensively by aid workers trying to stay in touch with base camps, people out in the field and to allow survivors to email family members to let them know their condition. This technology will almost certainly make rescue efforts and rebuilding communities much more effective.

In every area of life online technologies will become crucial to connecting people any place, any time using different formats, voice, image, text or a mix of all three, in one single package. People will become linked to products and services more, this increased connectivity and public input will drive competition and shape future provision of those products and services. Recently hospitals and GP surgeries have been mapped online with comment features for the public to use affecting the way we access our health needs. There are recent developments in data sharing in the scientific community. Sites are being developed that allow users to share data, results on experiments, methodology and more with their fellow scientists. By using more focussed Search Engines the creators of this site can deliver better choices more relevant choices that may interest the scientist when searching for a particular paper or journal. This kind of application could easily be transferred to a journalistic community where stories with relevance to your search key words would appear as links on the screen. It is often very difficult and time consuming to research material from archives that relate to your particular angle.

To summarise the Media Sector will grow and develop new schools of thought, new pioneers and new applications. The major players will have to be far more aware of their users and react quickly to changes in popular trends and technology development. Journalists will have to become increasingly multi-skilled and au fait with new technologies. As the medium moves forward so must they or risk being phased out and replaced. There is room for the smaller players but top-down centralisation may well destroy their regional appeal. Digital broadcasts will grow exponentially with user created content and the expected surge of online video. The only constant is that change will happen, and those who are ahead of the game have the best chance of survival.

Response to Visit to Hull Daily Mail and the Changing Face of Journalism

Hull Daily Mail was traditionally an evening paper with working classes knocking off at teatime from factory jobs and buying a paper on their way home. Theses days due to the collapse of industry and manufacturing, HDM has had to change and adapt repositioning itself as a morning publication. This move allows for a larger sales window and, crucially for a daily, to exclusively break new stories. 

As technology advances and becomes integral to our every day lives so it has affected the newspaper business. Journalists today have to be fully competent at using multimedia techniques to publish their stories. This may mean going out alone into the field and capturing footage for a piece then returning to base to edit the raw footage and building up the story for the web.

Hull Daily Mail, part of the Northcliffe Media Group – which is in turn a branch of the Daily Mail Trust-, has John Meehan as the Editor. It is he who has overarching control of decisions regarding the paper. David Bourne, who we spent a number of hours, with is the Deputy Editor he heads up editorial meetings twice daily where different managers from the live departments will discuss with him what is going in the next days edition. Decisions are made at this point which stories are going to have digital media aspects such as footage online or images slideshows etc.

David Bourne stressed that content is not just duplicated from print to screen rather decisions are made surrounding suitability and availability of digital; content to support a story or drive an existing story forward. Content is targeted for an online audience that can access particular stories either through HDM website, via a daily Email or via mobile phone.

There are a number of challenges facing the media world with this shift from printed news to online, multiformatted content. Many people believe news and information should be available for free. Initially it was thought that revenue from advertisers would negate the need to charge readers to view content. However, this assumption proved to be short-sighted and some of the specialist papers have begun to explore and trial different paying models. There are a number of ways papers could charge their readers for content, one is the annual subscription you pay a fee and you can then access the pages on the site at your convenience throughout the year. Other models look at the idea of paying per page viewed or targeting readers who want to access specialist news areas such as celebrity and lifestyle, and having a fee to view those particular pages. Whatever the solution is arising from the over-estimation of revenue to be gained from online advertisers, no one solution is likely to fit all demographics or publishers.

D. Bourne spoke of a fundamental shift in newspaper publishing referring to the relationship changing from being a lecture to being more of a conversation. In the past a paper told the reader the news each day, at the same time in the same format and perhaps with one or two images illustrating the text. Today’s readers want their news in a myriad of ways. They want to be kept informed 24 hours a day, be updated on stories, have their news tailored by Search Engine Optimisation to meet their particular tastes and interests. No longer is it their news to impart to you but rather it is Your News with an emphasis on meeting criteria set out by you.

Deputy Editor Bourne spoke bitterly about the last eighteen months as being the worst for many years in the industry. The financial collapse has resulted in the three main revenue streams being reduced dramatically. Job advertising through the paper is the main revenue stream but with more and more companies cutting staff in order to stay afloat the number of vacancies advertised has fallen. Less job opportunities less revenue for the paper. The same goes for the property and car sales sections. In a stable economy those two will bring in considerable amounts of revenue, in this economic downturn we have a property price crash and a huge slump in the new car market so less people buying/selling property or motors resulting in less money coming in to the paper.

This dramatic reduction in money coming in coupled with a 60% reduction in daily papers sold has led to HDM and Northcliffe Media centralizing their operations. Local journalism is sadly a thing of the past. Journalists within HDM main office can be working on up to 7-8 pages on various different publications a day. For example they could simultaneously be covering stories from Boston to Bridlington. I feel subbing for other publications including the dailys and free weeklys; will almost inevitably lead to a macroscopic view of local stories: content will lack that local knowledge – without a genuine understanding for a place how can you write knowledgeably about it. Although seemingly very proud of their hub and with possible plans to centralize the operation even more I fear for the quality of reporting, the accuracy of information gathering and the attention to detail. You could end up with very generic coverage of news, almost reportage by template resulting in disinterested readers turning away in their droves.

It could be said this is already happening to the Hull Daily Mail looking at the considerable reduction in newspaper sales. Northcliffe and HDM would suggest that these ex-paper buyers are looking for alternatives such as the online provision but traffic figures do not bear this out. If you were to take away the job and Classifieds pages on the HDM site and thus the number of people accessing them their traffic figures would look very ordinary indeed for a professional outfit. I would suggest that the turning away from the HDM is due to the lack of due care when researching and collating information. This could be due to excessive job demands such as, longer working hours and jumping from one paper to another without a thought for geographical differences in the demographic of the reader. 

Rather than worrying about having a level playing field in order to compete with the licence fee funded BBC’s online content provision the HDM should concern itself with reporting stories accurately and reducing the number of daft irresponsible and sometimes grossly inexcusable errors.

We can all point to a time when the HDM has got some piece of information wrong even when we have sent the details in triplicate in both hardcopy and electronic formats. We wince when we see they have got the time wrong, the date, and the name of the venue, the name of the show or the promoters’ name. Perhaps using a stock image usually out-of date instead of using the image you painstakingly created and sent with the text. These things are annoying, show a lack of forethought and a fault in the communications department.

However I’d like to mention a time last month when the error made was far more serious, when their lack of attention was wholly unforgivable and should have led to court proceedings.

The Hull Dail Mail reported a story about the tragic death of an infant on their front page accompanying the text was an image of a young baby all smiles and curls. The next day’s edition on page 3 in the right hand top corner there was a much smaller image of a different baby and a few lines of apology.

They had, on the previous day’s front cover, printed a picture of the wrong baby!  I rest my case.

My own feelings on the visit were mixed. I was interested to see how the process worked or didn’t. I think I did go in with pre-conceptions and there was not a lot to change my view. It is a very male oriented paper almost an old boys club attitude prevails, this was proved when Bourne referred to women he had handing out free papers to commuters as Dolly birds and his derisory tone speaking about female colleagues being on maternity leave, when asked about the apparent lack of gender balance in staffing.

I was very concerned when during the editorial meeting the rape story had them all buzzing like bees. It was almost like a trophy they were holding up. They metaphorically patted each other on the back as they celebrated the fact they were going to publish all the gory details. I noticed they were to have a box with the rape crisis number and details for anyone wanting more information about support for survivors of rape but the real story should have been the lack of financial support for the service from the council and government. But that wouldn’t fit in with their agenda.

I have noticed every story ticks a certain box whether it is the Education sector when talking about falling standards in schools, crime and justice when highlighting Hull’s crime filled streets or bigging up the latest initiative for PCSOs. They will write stories that promote various council initiatives such as the help for start up businesses but they won’t support when these small businesses ask for help. They are a closed shop when it comes to promoting anything other than something they are already connected to sponsoring got their grubby paws all over. But I know they are running scared and upsetting a lot of folk as they desperately try to retain their readership with their shoddy second-rate paper.

Adjectives

Adjectives today are employed as buzz words to capture the imagination. They are employed heavily in Election speeches and party conferences and the language of Whitehall and Westminster. Words like transparent, effective, inclusive are trotted out from those on high and passed down to regional powers who subsequently use them when trying to sell us their policy ideas.

However these buzz words can oft disguise the meaning of the statute, they can be great points of contention because different parties cannot agree on the words used. They can spend hours days or even weeks ironing out the different interpretations that not only they have to make judgement on but also their electorate.

We would like our Government to work in an effective way with transparency and to promote inclusive policies but what does that actually mean?

With reference to the Rev. Angela Tilby and her quoting the angels “holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” they are employed in the same way as the buzzwords. To reinforce a doctrine, to promote a collective idea to encourage humilty and obedience in its followers.

However I think it would be a very boring place without these descriptive words.

Dickens’ cotton mills would neither be dark or satanic.

Pop music would be just pop music instaed of being spiky and angular. Performances no longer driven or heartfelt and vocals would lose their light meliffluous tone or their raw edge.

A sea would just be a searather than being a sparkling emerald sea (a bit twee) or a wild foaming cauldron with twenty foot waves swallowing up defenceless vessels with paper thin sails.

Latest example The two girls’ death described as “distressing” by authorities. This suggests a set of criteria for an event perhaps if they described it as “alarming” then a different set of actions and a different response would occur.

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