Se7en deadly sins

Over at the site of my new business, we’ve been having fun with the seven deadly sins. Nothing sordid, mind, all very tasteful. We’ve been listing the various downfalls we’ve seen befall sites and matching them up against the classical vices. (Of course, being a business, we then offer ourselves as the solution.) It’s part of our radical strategy of making clients’ content interesting.

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Magazine for the older lady advocates drug use?

Off your face

Thanks to Bruce Combe from The List for pointing out this great headline in Woman & Home (no, I don’t know what he was looking for either). “Five years off your face”? I didn’t know that Bez wrote for that market. What next? “Shaun Ryder opens his heart to the People’s Friend”?

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You think no-one’s watching?

It’s not always easy being a hack. You throw your creativity out into an uncaring world and think nobody’s watching.

But they are, especially when you screw up, as BBC Scotland’s Judith Tonner demonstrates.

What’s even more surprising is the extent to which even the smallest (albeit very flashy) gesture gets analysed over and over again, as with David Robertson’s pen trick.

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w00tonomy director relentlessly delivers nauseating self promotion

Posted on w00tonomy:

Stewart Kirkpatrick, our Content Marketing Director, has induced a bout of vomiting at w00tonomy with this self-serving communique:

“I have been elected to the New Media Industry Council of the National Union of Journalists (in a jobshare with Euan Williamson of Imagineering). Like nearly every large body, the NUJ has struggled with what the web means for today and tomorrow. I am delighted to have this opportunity to help guide its thinking.”

Stewart will also be speaking at the Sunday Herald’s Shaping Scotland’s Digital Future event – at 9am on 24 April at The Teacher Building, St Enoch Square, Glasgow – where he will be tarred and feathered by the rest of w00tonomy if he comes out with anything similar in tone to the above statement.

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My disappointingly low net culture IQ

I just took the What Is Your Net Culture IQ quiz. Man, has my finger slipped off the web trivia pulse. Given that I used to pen the Lazy Guide To Net Culture I was disappointed with the result: 104. Higher than average but less than half of the top score.

Mind you my disappointment was as nothing compared to what I felt what the redesign of scotsman.com did to the display of my old columns in the link above…

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Three cheers for Rab McNeil

Robert McNeilWell played, Sir Robert of McNeil, who has apparently seen off a wealthy person who was offended at his comment that “the rich are leaving and good ruddy riddance to them”.

Carol Høgel – who hails from a place called Chicago in one of the former colonies – also referred to The Scotsman columnist as a “destructively spiteful philistine“. This is a plainly untrue as Rab is a devotee of the poet-warriors in green and white who grace this Earth under the name Hibernian Football Club. He thus demonstrates delicate artistic sensibilities that make Ovid look like Stephen Frail.

At the risk of being “spiteful”, I note that Ms Høgel is an heiress. Perhaps if she had had to make her money herself she wouldn’t have so thin a skin. In the hope that Rab can keep this up, I have sent him a list of people that I think Scotland would be better off without. Sadly, he has not replied to my pleas.

More seriously, Rab is one of the very, very few writers in Scotland who is provocative. I’m sure that rich people prefer paeons of praise – such as they might hear from desperate fundraisers after some dough – but that is not what real journalism is about. Too much of what fills our papers is tepid, timid, predictable and corporately approved.

Thank God for the Rabs of this world who remind us that proper journalism jars, surprises and – yes – offends. Let’s hope the Carol Høgels of this world see the art in that.

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Bad news for papers: the public sector wins

For eight years I plied my trade as an online journalist. My mission, should I have no choice but to accept it, was to attract readers to pages where adverts were served. For every 1,000 page impression a piece of content received we could expect something like £10 (plus any sponsorship for the relevant section).

That’s a lot of work to get a lot of traffic for not much cash. That’s a key problem for commercial publishers online. Another key problem is the way that online has moved in the past two years or so.

Thanks to the phenomenon known as Web 2.0, the focus has shifted to individual items of content not to where they are displayed. Blogs, RSS feeds, widgets, wikis, social network and umpteen other phenomena take content out of its context and share, manipulate and distribute it in more ways than seem possible. If the content is interesting enough, that is.

This presents a bijout problemette for commercial content producers. While it’s great to have lots of people reading their stories or watching their videos it’s hard to generate revenue unless you can drag those users under an advertising banner or beside a sponsor’s logo. This mission is not impossible but it is damn hard.

But this is all great news if your aim is not to make money from attracting people but simply getting a message to them. And this is where the public sector wins big, especially when it comes to delivering public service messages.

Online is now about distribution and content. If you can embed your message in interesting content then the natural flow of the web will take it to the people for you.

(Also posted on w00tonomy.com.)

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