Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wired: the future just caught up with me

I’ve just read the second edition of David Rowan’s Wired magazine and he’ll no doubt rest a lot easier knowing I think it’s shaping up nicely. I didn’t dwell too much on the launch issue; I never do as they’re always too long in the making to represent real publishing.

Besides, it was hard to find. This month’s editorial puts that down to a sell-out, something I’ve done on all my launches. Hope it did but, even so, the truth is, no matter how much sway even major publishers have with the multiples, it’s hard to guarantee launches a good show in the independent newsagents.

I also wasn’t a fan of the original cover. I liked the fold-out image but the texture just irritated. But that’s just me. I’m the same with fabrics. Never could wear wool.

Anyway, this month’s “proper” issue does itself serious credit. It’s well-presented, eclectic enough to move beyond the obvious niche market and nicely mixes the waiting room reads (How to read war and Peace in 34 seconds) with those requiring a decent hammock and a bit of peace and quiet ( Britain’s Internet censors, How the Web was almost brought down, World’s biggest diamond heist).

I did smile to myself when I read that he’d sent writers to India, Kenya, US, Sweden, Italy, Holland, St Kitts. Must be wonderful not to have me querying the cost of an overnight stay in Blackpool.

Private jokes aside, good editors build the best brands when they do it in their own image. This is a good example. Here’s a very exceptional editor; an intellectual having fun with a subject that fascinates him.

We just need to see it in a few more shops.

Otherwise, I’ll just have to get a subscription.

Friday, May 22, 2009

To Davos and beyond

I have to say congratulations to Adrian Monck on his appointment as the new communications head for the World Economic Forum. I'll miss his blog, but what the hell; he’ll be in for a good time there. It’s one hell of a job.

How do I know? I was in line for it a while back, about a year before I parted company with the Telegraph, in fact. The title wasn’t quite the same and the internal changes that would have facilitated it never came about, but the job was roughly the same: travelling the world and spreading the word.

It was sold to me as the ultimate networking opportunity during the few hours I spent in a massively-gated James Bond-base style headquarters in Geneva. Apart from the meet-and-greet stuff at Davos, it offered what was probably the most enviable opportunity to get inside the global corridors of power than any in the media.

I’d gone as far as looking into the possibility of becoming a frontalier, one of those people who buys a small estate over the border in France for the price of a Barbican flat and commutes every day past sweeping vineyards in an open-top sports car.

My only recollection of a downside to the job was that, high up in the hills fronted by a dusty residential road leading to nowhere, where does one go for lunch.

Then I noticed outside on the grass overlooking the lake, loads of them working out in the sun, with a personal trainer.

Beats the queue for Pret any day.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Good excuse for being late for work

The day began a little later than usual, because a woman almost gave birth on a train.

Passengers travelling on the Central Line into the City were stuck for about 20 minutes as the driver gave constant updates. But left out the best bits.

After first explaining there appeared to be a door problem with the train in front at St Paul's Station, he then announced the unexpected labour.

But from then on, his minute-by-minute "customer updates" included everything from how the train was being cleared, how he could see the driver ushering people off, how the platform was now dangerously crowded, how it was being cleared, how we would be technically jumping a red light and "proceeding at 10kph or less", how only the first carriage would reach the platform as the other train was still there and how the driver would have to open the doors "manually from the outside" to let us out, single-file.

But no news of mother and baby.

It was only as I boarded the escalator for the exit that I found out. There, riding alongside me on the next one, strapped to a stretcher and screaming the place down, was mum-to-be.

The time it took to move her from the platform suggested either the ambulance had been stuck in rush-hour traffic or they'd expected a platform birth.

Eiher way, bet she calls it Paul.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Council papers - journalism they aint

I can fully understand why journalists on the breadline find the lure of jumping ship to council papers so attractive. But I can’t understand how they can still call themselves journalists. They’re not. They’ve taken the very well-trodden path across the road to PR.

It was ever thus. More than once a town hall took one of my promising, albeit starving, young reporters and gave them a living wage to write the sort of press releases they’d have rewritten or spiked a few days earlier. But they became as much a part of the spin machine as Alistair Campbell did when he left the Mirror for Whitehall – and never made any secret of it.

The defections have grown in line with the rise of council newspapers which are, in the main, awful. OK, in house magazine terms, which is more or less the genre in which I’d place them, some are not bad. But don’t let’s persist in the notion that they any more deserve a place in the media than the corporate newsletters big companies place in dump bins in the factory canteens.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Katie and Peter - the latest chapter

Jordan and Peter Andre's marriage is on the rocks, and they have asked for privacy during their difficult time.

I'd love to think their wishes could be granted, particularly as I used to rent a flat to his publicist and never once felt tempted to invade his privacy. Mind you, he had faded from view after his one fairly forgetable hit.

But that's beside the point. Given that the pair met on a reality show that reinvigorated his career, they sold their wedding pictures for a sum equivalent to 50 backbenchers' expense claims and made a fortune by living their lives in front of the cameras, they've got as much hope of privacy as Newcastle has of winning the premiership.

Incidentally, the publicist moved out ages ago. Pity. I'd love to ask her what she thought of the mileage the couple are getting out of this, particularly as their story is currently the most read on several national newspaper websites - even beating those expenses stories.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Raising Standards?

Just seen the new-look Evening Standard. In a nutshell:

1. The masthead: play with that at your peril. Eros defined the brand. Not sure where that has gone.
2. Standfirsts: over-long. They call them sells in magazines, which are read sitting down. This is read standing up.
3. Those Tesco ads: top and bottom of facing pages. Hope Tesco paid through the nose for them to sacrifice the editorial that now flows under them.
4. The design: has a look of Lite about it; breezy, modern and a bit freesheet. It’s not. It’s the market leader. It’s paid-for and should evoke authority. The spot colours don’t help.
5. It’s also day one. The key here is not today, but next week and next month when the staff have settled into it and moulded it.
Good Morning, here's the bill

GMTV, my morning favourite, have done it again. This morning they flew two presenters and a film crew all the way to Monte Carlo launch their Win £100,000 competition.

“What better place?” they asked as they stood on the deck of the boat emblazoned with banners announcing the OK!-sponsored competition. Indeed. But why did the viewer not get a single image of this “millionaire’s playground”?

Close-ups, side of the boat, cartoon cutaways of Jenni Falconer wondering how the cash would change her life, but no Monte Carlo. Just the odd snatch of blue sky.

Glad I’m not signing off the eccies.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Sorry can be the daftest word

Veronica Wadley must be chuffed to bits with the Standard's Sorry for losing touch campaign

All incoming editors arrive with a vision and want to stamp their mark pretty much immediately. But Geordie Greig’s campaign that includes apologetic ads on London buses is both risky externally and potentially undermining internally, if you factor in staff loyalties.

I've worked with Veronica and know she’s never one to do anything without conviction.

The only time I've shared office space with Geordie was in the eighties on the ill-fated Today. He moved on and may well have flown by the time Tiny Rowland bought out Eddie Shah and we relaunched with a campaign to mitigate the disastrous launch. By saying sorry. My views haven't changed since.

Sadly, there are many reasons for a newspaper to say sorry. Not agreeing with your predecessor isn't one of them.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Call me cynical..

“I’m from a marketing company ringing on behalf of Vodafone. You recently changed your Blackberry handset and we’d like to ask you some questions. Were you satisfied with the service?”

“No. It took three days when I was told it’d be done in one. I had nom proper explanation and was left without a functioning handset for much longer than I was told I’d have to.”

“Can I ask what profession you’re in. Is it public relations, marketing, sales of journalism.”


“In what position exactly.”

“Managing editor of a national newspaper.”

“Could you hang on a moment?”

A full minute later…

“Are you the person who dealt directly with the handset transfer?”

“Of course not. I have people to do that.”

“In that case, we can’t talk to you. We can only speak to those directly involved. Goodbye.”

I’ll spare the rest but summarise my response: You asked a customer care question of a media worker and got a negative response. You gingerly asked if they were in journalism and took advice on the implications. Then you came with a closing question to which there could be only one answer.

No hard feelings. I wrote this on the new Blackberry. Works a treat.