Robert Freeman's whole Media, Business and Technology thing. Sorted.

Archive for March 2010

Do you remember why we need the media?

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In writing this I am satisfying a deep-rooted need within you

In the last few months I’ve been remembering what it’s like to be back at University.

I’ve recently written a digital journalism training syllabus for the Thomson Reuters Foundation and I’m currently helping  seasoned reporters extend their skills in social media at the BBC Academy’s College of Journalism, under the diligent eye of Claire Wardle, PhD (no less!)

Selfishly (because I’m being paid to help other people learn) I’m finding it tremendously enriching. I’m able to read and think much more deeply about where we’re all headed in this fact-rich, analysis-poor media landscape.

I was tracking down some of the academic research I was forced to do a few years ago. At the time, I hated all the theory, all I wanted to do was get out with the gear and meet people and talk to them and write a juicy story and get back and run with it.

Little has changed. Except now I care slightly more about why I’m doing it and what it all means.

So here’s a blast from my past, a theory of why people use television, by some chaps called McQuail, Blumner and Brown. They wrote this in the early 70s well before I was born, but I don’t see why it isn’t immediately applicable to today’s media.

Anyone producing content today should remind themselves why people need to consume their stuff and adapt to suit.

There are 4 ‘needs’ a person has:


Relaxation, escape, filling time, release of emotions.


Learning, advice, understanding the world.

Personal identity

Finding role models, forming personal values, understanding yourself.


Understanding and identifying with others, finding roles for ourselves, sharing common traits, and (perhaps sadly) substitution for real-life relationships.

Read that last one again. As true now, and more achievable now, than when the good gentlemen wrote it in 1972. Is it any wonder Facebook has become so popular.


Written by Robert

30 March, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Digital marketing: Little and often

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A hypocrite speaks

This afternoon I had the pleasure of chairing a seminar hosted by the Media Trust all about how small charities can take advantage of using the web in general and video in particular to further their communication.

There were some fascinating examples from both Greenpeace UK and Macmillan Cancer Support.

We discussed:

  • Video’s ability to explain complex ideas and express emotive messages
  • The underlying importance of social networks, particularly finding enthusiastic supporters who can at as ambassadors and help a charity develop
  • Using existing tools, going where the audience already is and not re-inventing the wheel
  • Not spreading your efforts too thinly
  • Supporting material for the main message – video has more impact if it doesn’t stand alone

What is clear in modern marketing is that big campaigns still have some use, if you can afford them, but they suffer from a long preparation,  followed by a large but short-term impact.

However, you can get a very worthwhile result from regularly putting small and simple messages out there. You’re playing the long game.

My top tip is actually very simple:

Keep a weblog. Add info it regularly. (Sharp eyed readers will notice that I don’t actually manage to do this myself. Oops!)

Link to pictures, video, other writers who resonate with your cause. Use other tools like Twitter and Facebook to send people back to your blog.

Quite apart from the conversation you can now start to have with your supporters, a weblog is a great way to prove your diligence in your chosen field. It’s also a great way of reminding yourself what you’ve been doing for the past few months.

In short, it’s a planning tool as well as being a your archive of actions. Need to get that Annual Report out in half the time? Keep a weblog and you’re doing the work throughout the year rather than in one exhausting block.

Written by Robert

17 March, 2010 at 12:01 am

Posted in marketing, Media, tools

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Check twice, publish once – the 4am curse

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Don’t write it down, don’t even think it

For some reason at almost 4am on the 28th February I was surfing the Guardian. Right on the front page was a small link to ‘Chlie sausage’ with other links with earthquake coverage.

Intrigued, I clicked, and got this:

(click for the larger size)

Guardian screengrab 28 Feb 2010

28 Feb 2010, 3.50am

Oh dear.

This is clearly a case of a mistaken button push. It came down fairly quickly, and it’s not in Google’s cache anymore, but a search brings up the leftover metadata.

I suppose the lesson here is don’t add anything into a news system which you don’t intend to be visible to the public. I can remember this being impressed upon me during early days at Radio New Zealand. Journalists were actively discouraged from adding private notes in the news system, for the amusement of the newsreaders or sub-editors.

It was pointed out that a court request for information could make the comedy slur of a hapless newsmaker very public indeed, and perhaps lead to legal proceedings! Not fun.

The recent addendum to the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines says much the same thing about personal web-presences for BBC staff: If you wouldn’t say it on air, don’t put it on the web.

TVTropes has a whole category of fictional and some real-life ‘Is this thing still on’ moments broadcast on television.

In the end, I’m reminded of the time I saw the Guardian’s mis-publish, nearly 4am. And surreal things happen in the wee small hours, as the poet, Rives, points out in this cleverly written piece at TED in 2007.  Enjoy.

Written by Robert

12 March, 2010 at 2:12 pm