Elsewhere: BBC Tuning Guides for Shropshire

I don’t know how many people see things posted on Threads, but I did my not-quite-every-year Happy Birthday post to BBC Radio Shropshire there. This year, I discovered some Tuning Guides from BBC Engineering Information that were published sometime after the launch. I thought they should be preserved on the Interweb.

Post by @curns
View on Threads

Every few years, on St George’s Day, I remember to post a Happy Birthday BBC Radio Shropshire: the first broadcast org to actually pay me for work for them! Earlier this month, I found this tuning guide in a pile of paperwork. Put together by BBC Engineering Information, it’s a couple of years post-launch, but it’s still a blast from the past. Pink was for central and south Shropshire, and there was a green one for Ludlow and a white one for north Shrops

A few years ago, I added a copy of some of their test transmissions to Soundcloud; it’s still there: https://soundcloud.com/curns/4th-9th-april-1985-test-transmissions-edit


Elsewhere: World Radio Day

When I was growing up, I thought radio was the most exciting medium in the world. I wrote something to celebrate World Radio Day,

The Elsewhere category on this site seems to be home for things I have posted on Facebook; and this is no exception. In 2012 the United Nations General Assembly agreed that World Radio Day was a real International Day and, thus, February 13 became WRD. My little contribution to the spirit of the days was posted on Facebook (and a version on Instagram because, if you don’t do all the social media channels, what’s the point?)

Apparently, we are almost at the end of #worldradioday.

When I was younger all I ever cared about was the magic of radio. It was my private world: in my childhood bedroom there was a whole universe created by the Piccadilly presenters and it was all in my head. When I was ten years old, visiting the original Piccadilly studios in central in Manchester was so important in my life I called it ‘my happiest memory’.

Although many people thought it was, it was never about being on the radio but it was all about the world radio created for those who listened and how that world was put together.

For a small part of my life I was lucky enough to be part of the magic: in the late 80s if you called The BBC in Shropshire you may have spoken to me or in the early 90s, if you listened to the Network Chart Show, I often pressed some buttons to make sure it got to your local radio station (or at least I was there in case the satellite that sent it to you ever fell out of the sky: it never did). If you ever heard a Shoe Express ad, chances are I spent all night getting that 30s of audio to your local station (and if, like me, you heard a version, or two, for every town in Britain you’ll guess why shoes are not my thing).

But, most importantly for me, the people who made that magic pointed my career in the direction it’s taken and, although there are too many to mention, I will forever be grateful to them all.

So, thank you radio: we may be listening to audio in ways we never imagined but there’s still some magic in the voices that come out of the ether. Tomorrow morning, why not ‘turn up the feel good’ with ‘more of the songs you love’ that are probably ‘the biggest hits and the biggest throwbacks’ on the ‘UK’s No.1 Hit Music Station’ or, my current choice, ‘The UK’s Country Station’.

Tune in and rip the knob off!

Originally posted on Facebook

Elsewhere: People Power Makes it Happen

I wish the world was looking in a different direction. In fact, I wish it was looking towards South West London. Tonight, AFC Wimbledon played their first league game at their new ground – albeit longtime spiritual home – of Plough Lane.

I just posted something to Facebook.

AFC Wibbledon Logo

The world appears very divided right now. A lot of the world’s attention is on the US. That’s understandable.

But, I wish the world was looking in a different direction. In fact, I wish it was looking towards South West London. Tonight, AFC Wimbledon played their first league game at their new ground – albeit longtime spiritual home – of Plough Lane.

After a controversial FA decision in 2002 to permit Wimbledon FC to move to Milton Keynes there was a groundswell of people power and Wimbledon supporters – grounded by a community that the FA commission somewhat dismissed in 2002 – founded their own club. The new club was supporter owned and supporter run (The Dons Trust is the not-for-profit, democratic organisation that owns AFC Wimbledon football club) .

I’m just an observer – but I have seen AFC Wimbledon play on several occasions and I have been lucky enough to watch supporters put their heart and soul into founding a new club, financing and keeping it running, securing Kingsmeadow and, finally, acquiring the old Greyhound Stadium land that’s just 200 yards from where the original Wimbledon side played for 80 years. Every donation and every raffle ticket mattered.

It’s an amazing story of what people can do when they come together and share both a passion and a dream. When people work together amazing things can happen. In a little corner of South West London, people power meant that amazing happened tonight.

Really, if the world had a few more Wimbledon supporters there might be a a little less division

Elsewhere: Everybody Remembers Long Wave Radio Atlantic 252

In the spirit that this blog is home to content posted elsewhere, I wrote this earlier on Facebook.

UK Radio geeks always remember 1 September

Atlantic 252 logo
Atlantic 252

I don’t remember the pirate radio ships of the 60s; my introduction to the world of the wireless came from the back of an AA Member’s Handbook where all Britain’s local radio stations were listed. In 1979 that list was probably fewer than two pages. The majority of UK radio listening was to national networks and the BBC hand a monopoly on those. The English service of Radio Luxembourg suffered on AM at night. It was only ever “the great 208” when I was on holiday in France, being the only English language radio station I could find.

Local radio was made up of a handful of BBC stations in a fairly random collection of towns and the fledgling Independent Radio Network. Where I lived, BBC Radio Blackburn (from 1981, Radio Lancashire) was our nearest BBC local and Piccadilly from Manchester and Radio City from Liverpool vied for their place as the North West’s biggest station. When I was nine years old, Piccadilly won because the Pete Baker breakfast show had the best jingles.

Today, with wall-to-wall pop hits on TV and radio channels (as well as all the world’s music available in a single app or on-demand videos from YouTube), it’s unimaginable that until 1988 needle time rules prevented broadcasters playing more than a few hours of recorded music. All radio was filled with speech and specialist programmes, or royalty free soundalike covers.

In 1984 somebody took a ship with a transmitter on it out into international waters in the North Sea and launched a 1980s version of the pirates, Laser 558. By then I was living in Shrewsbury and the signal was just about strong enough. Outside of the music rules – and really, outside of most of the broadcast law – it played non-stop pop hits for most of the day. Sadly, it didn’t last long.

In 1989 the Irish state broadcaster, RTÉ, teamed up with the Radio Luxembourg owners, RTL, to create a pop music station with a powerful AM transmitter that reportedly could reach over 40 million people.

On 1st September 1989, from somewhere in Ireland, Atlantic 252 launched an all-day pop format which was unique: there was nothing quite like it on the air. You know the station had an impact because, on this day each year, somebody, somewhere, writes a note about it to commemorate the day. I first did it in 2004 but I see no reason not to do it again.

I guess the station’s peak was the early 1990s. By the mid-90s radio across the UK was able to play more and more music and FM was everywhere. It didn’t stop people launching AM stations. On this day (1st September) in 1994, Country 1035 launched on AM in London and lasted a few years (also, in later years, with input from RTL). It doesn’t seem to have had quite such an impact because you don’t find too many people commemorating that launch each year.

Elsewhere: Get Down Shep

A little like counting the rings on a tree, you can age somebody who grew-up in 1970s Britain by the main television characters they reference.

John Noakes, Flickr, by Si Wilson.

In Radio Reflections I wrote about how, when I was growing up, the media landscape was very different than it is today.   A landscape of fewer channels means that, like counting the rings on a tree, you can age somebody who grew-up in 1970s Britain by the main television characters they reference.  For some it might be Zammo or ‘Gripper’ Stebson in Grange Hill. Maybe a little later it would be Scott and Charlene in Neighbours.  But, I think, for most of my generation the real telltale dating come from your Doctor (mine was Tom Baker) and your Blue Peter presenters.  For me, Lesley Judd, Peter Purves and John Noakes were  Monday and Thursday television.

Earlier today, the BBC announced the death of John Noakes. The Guardian leads their obituary with this story, which I think sums up the adventurer-spirit,

In 1977, the television presenter John Noakes, who has died aged 83, climbed Nelson’s Column without safety harness or insurance, for an episode of the BBC’s enduring children’s show Blue Peter. After shinning up one ladder, Noakes swung himself dauntlessly on to another, tilted 45 degrees from the vertical. “At this level,” said Noakes in a voiceover, “the plinth on which Nelson stands overhangs the column. I found myself literally hanging on from the ladder with nothing at all beneath me.”

Throughout the time I watched, John was always accompanied by Shep, described as ‘an enthusiastic border collie’.  Shep & John went everywhere together: they really were a double act. Noakes was known for his catchphrase, “Get Down Shep” but I wonder if it really was uttered that often?

I think you pass from famous to national treasure in Britain once we’re able to take have a little fun with you. For John Noakes, he may already have been a National Treasure before The Barron Knights released Get Down Step, but this cemented that status.

(I posted a slightly shorter version of this earlier on Facebook)

Elsewhere: The hottest piece of technology on Earth right now

I also saw Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 which is very different. There’s one part that’s still amusing me 24 hours later.


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Film PosterI saw a couple of films over the bank holiday weekend.

Their Finest (trailer) is an excellent film set in London during World War II. Bill Nighy is really very amusing in, what turn out to be, a very warm and moving film. I also saw Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 (trailer) which is very different. There’s one part that’s still amusing me 24 hours later. I said this on Facebook:

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 is a great sequel, with plenty of amusing lines, and a 70s and 80s ‘awesome’ mixtape that, of course, works better in the film than when you play the soundtrack at home 24 hours later. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that, towards the end of the film, there’s a quick reference to a little device from 2006/7 that, amusingly, fewer people in the cinema seemed to recognise than “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass, which dates from 1972.

A few of us here might remember it.

Also: https://www.polygon.com/2017/4/27/15450274/guardians-of-the-galaxy-vol-2-microsoft

Maybe related: Disappointing Frustrating

And She Said, “Life in plastic has been fantastic”

But really, the job I’d really want, is writing the answers to the daft questions people ask.

Earlier, on Facebook:

Voice recognition systems – Amazon’s Alexa or any other – must be one of the most fascinating areas of computing to work on. There are a lot of very smart brains working on artificial intelligence systems that enable Alexa to answer the millions of questions asked of her every day.

But really, the job I’d really want, is writing the answers to the daft questions people ask. “”Alexa, what’s the first rule of Fight Club?” or “Alexa, do you really want to hurt me?” Anybody who job means they get to write “.. and happy birthday to Barbie whose life in plastic has been fantastic for 58 years” must be having a blast.

Mashable has a story today about a woman who asked Alexa about any connections to the CIA – at which point the system appears to crash. Obviously proof that all conspiracy theorists are correct.

The person with that fun job was swift off the mark. Now, somebody’s waved their neuralyzer & Alexa’s been updated and claims to work for Amazon. If it was me, I’d update Alexa’s sense of time and stop responding to my happy ‘good morning’ at 10pm with an equally up-beat ‘good morning’ and make her grumpy and tired.

Or maybe that would be a bit too human.

Elsewhere: A Sticky End

Maintaining the tradition of ensuring a copy of things I post elsewhere are also saved here, earlier today I posted on Facebook about the branding of a company I used to work for:

If the sponsored posts on Facebook are accurate, sometime in the next 24 hours the brand name of a company I used to work for, StickyADS.tv, will disappear as it becomes more fully part of its new parent, Freewheel. Or something like that. They don’t tell me the details.

I spent 18 months working for them as the business grew from one that was primarily focussed on France to one that expanded to Europe and, as I was leaving, an office opened in New York to address the needs of American customers. Earlier this year the company was acquired by Freewheel and, I guess, this is the next part of the coming together of the businesses.

As the StickyADS.tv brand is phased out, and having seen the sponsored post almost every time I open my Facebook app, one thing really struck me that I never truly appreciated during the period I was working there: how well the branding works and how expertly it is used. I don’t recall exactly when the current look & logo were introduced but it’s executed consistently well across all channels. From exhibition stands at major events, to laptop stickers, corporate videos or company presentations there is a consistency that you don’t see that often outside of the biggest companies.

Attaching the logo to the wall of the London office, while levelling the letters and managing the spacing, caused much hilarity for Greg and me in the summer of 2015.

Somewhere, I hope, there’s a cupboard that holds copies of the adtech brands that have disappeared over the years I have worked in this industry (“Engage: Like Never Before,” anyone?). If there is, I imagine the last StickyADS.tv branding will a shining beacon in the vast sea of logos that are no longer in use. I can’t even write the name of the company without automatically capitalising the ADS portion and including the dot-tv; I can’t recall how many times I was reminded about that.

No doubt, today, there’s a larger team of people behind it but Marie should be really happy with all the work she — and all the marketing team — have done to build and represent a brand.

Good luck, Stickers, with the next phase of your adventure.

FreeWheel Acquires StickyAds to Build Full-Stack Programmatic Video Markeplace

Elsewhere: 72 baps, Connie. You slice, I’ll spread.

I felt compelled to note the passing of Victoria Wood and Prince this week. Such shocking news. I wrote something earlier on Facebook that included a link to a lovely piece by The Guyliner that sums up Victoria Wood’s influence on many people’s lives.

What a week it’s been: losing Victoria Wood and Prince – two icons from my childhood.

I was going to write something about Victoria Wood. Somewhere I have the audio of several episodes of As Seen on TV that were recorded with a microphone propped up against the television. It was the kind of thing you would want to listen to over and over. Of course, many of the sketches are now available on YouTube.

However, I think this tribute says it all and leaves me time to go & find another Susie Blake sketch to watch. Very Wise, With Those Hips” – A Tribute To Victoria Wood

As Paul said on Twitter, “Tough week for a teen of the ’80s”.

The Original App Store Was Your TV (or Radio)

Regular readers (ha!) will know that I tend to keep track (or a copy) of significant postings I make elsewhere on this site so that I have a consolidated view of my various ramblings. Don’t ask me why.

Earlier today my friend Austin sent me a link to the video embedded here. My original response was on Facebook but I’m saving it here because the video makes me smile.

Austin Scott shared this video today. It brought back so many memories. It’s funny to think that we downloaded programs from the television & radio in the way that’s shown towards the end of this video. “Stand by for the software transmission” (at 5 mins 30) is very funny but it’s really how we used to do it. Who could have foreseen the app stores? I remember recording programs from the radio which was much easier. Who had a TV that connected to a cassette recorder?

10 years after this TV programme aired, somebody asked me “why do we need email when we have the fax”? Naming no names here to protect the guilty.

Seeing the old BBC Micro really reminds me of my final years at school. My O-level computer project was to design a piece of software and I developed a contact & mailing management system. It was too great a task to undertake in BBC Basic. I finished it but only managed to submit the coursework thanks to my parents spending an evening printing the code (yes, we had to do that) and helping me file it properly. Today, I guess we’d call it CRM. If only I’d kept at it. Perhaps it could have been Salesforce.

Feel free to comment on Facebook.

Elsewhere: Writing the perfect RFP

One of my former colleagues, Louis, has written a piece on LinkedIn about the process some companies go through when putting together a Request For Proposal (RFP) for a major technology purchase.  His essential point, that the process – especially in the larger corporates – doesn’t really lend itself to the best outcome for the ultimate system users, is well made. I’ve been meaning to write something about this process for some time because, so often, it’s a process that prevents a technology seller working closely with the buyer to tailor the response (and, therefore solution) to meet the ultimate business goal. This is done in the name of fairness and transparency which is, of course, a laudable process but if it doesn’t get the best outcome, is it the right one? Although he’s writing in the context of marketing analytics, the words could just as easily be written for the ad tech industry and – probably – for any major modern technology purchasing decision.  Most of today’s tech solutions are complex and can be used in whole (or in part) in many ways as well as being integrated closely with existing systems. What this means, of course, is that there really isn’t a single solution to a customer’s problem from any vendor but a number of approaches that are best discussed and evaluated beyond a series of ‘compliant/not compliant’ statements in a document. Louis suggests some initial stages which are much more discussion than Q&A. I’ve seen – and been involved in – pitches where this works very well.  So, if your putting together any kind of technology RFP then it’s worth reading to make sure you’re giving yourself – and your tech partners – the best chance of success. Here was my small addition to the conversation:

Great advice.  The RFP process in many areas is broken.  I was once part of a team that was begged to complete an RFP for which we were not a good fit by a prospective client: a process that benefitted nobody but a procurement checklist. I really like your alternative suggestions. But, do you really think that your alternative approach requires a lot more time upfront? I don’t think it does but it needs a different kind of relationship with vendors.  In many organisations there’s already a large team putting an RFP together and it’ll go through many iterations before finally being issued so your alternative is just changing the way people evaluate the market: it needn’t take that much more effort. Having said all that, sometimes it’s best to accept that the RFP is the beginning of a process not the end. You may lose an individual RFP but that can mean the start of a business relationship.

Further Reading This piece was written in response to ‘Writing the Perfect RFP‘ by Louis Fernandes and forms the second in my BEWA series. The first was BEWA: Sound the alarm! All the letters have been taken.

Elsewhere: Will The Money Trail Drive Radio Innovation?

A couple of weeks ago, I received a tweet from an Australian chap called Anthony Gherghetta (@wheredidgogogo) who, based on my previous writings about a personalised radio service, suggetsed I consider adding some of them to a collection he was curating over on the writing platform, Medium, about The Future of Radio. I thought about this for a while but, while I was in Melbourne recently, local news about audience figures and money got me thinking about how such a personalised product would be funded. So I wrote Will The Money Trail Drive Radio Innovation? over on Medium (which, I have to say, is a lovely writing platform). As always, I also keep my own copy here but I do suggest you head to Medium to read it!

In the introduction to his 1979 book, The Piccadilly Story, Philip Radcliffe tells how Piccadilly Radio’s broadcast frequency – back then expressed as 261 metres, medium wave – was so ingrained in the Manchester community that shopkeepers would, at a bill of £2.61, simply ask their customers for ‘Piccadilly, luv’.1

For some reason, this – I have always assumed apocryphal – story popped into my mind when sat in a Melbourne coffee shop this week reading about Kyle & Jackie O’s latest audience figures.

By way of a quick summary, last Wednesday’s news was all about the top-rated Sydney breakfast duo who switched stations at the start of the year and, when the first audience figures were released, seemed to have carried most of their listeners to their new morning home. An astonishing switch that generated discussion on my Twitter feed of UK radio pundits. In itself, this has much to say about the power of broadcast radio and why the personalised radio future I envisage, maybe a way off yet.

While there was plenty of commentary about the audience numbers there was, in many ways, a more interesting number buried towards the end of The Australian’s piece on the news. The move had wiped $350 million off the share price of the duo’s former employers Southern Cross Austereo.

Both of these stories – some 35 years apart in their origins – tell of audience scale and it’s relationship to money. Historically, for entertainment media, the two are undeniably intertwined. And this relationship got me thinking, how would the finances of a personalised radio service stand up? In some ways scale and personalisation are not natural bedfellows but does that mean a personalised radio product would struggle to find revenue? In a previous musing on this topic I suggested that sponsored content blocks, mixed with a listener’s own music selection, might be a way forward. But when the audience is combining a unique mix of content selections, can this work? After all, what would the advertiser be buying and can it be sold at a profit?

To help answer that question, and in parallel to any thinking about a future radio product, we have to consider the funding. Is audio content suited to a subscription model so that a radio equivalent of the paywall could be erected? SiriusXM might suggest that it is. But are there many other countries where substantial audiences pay for radio content? None spring to mind. Perhaps there’s a smartphone subscription app-model that may work. But I don’t think that there’s precedent for profitable apps in-car (quite yet) or on kitchen radios. Which leaves us with advertising as the primary revenue model.

There’s a shift in media buying that’s being driven by the connected world whereby advertising space is increasingly traded in real time. On the web, a publisher may offer up an advertising spot to the market in the milliseconds before the advertisement is shown in the browser. One of the leading players in this space, The Rubicon Project, suggested in September 2013 that an average of 40% of online display advertising was traded in this way. In April last year Forrester suggested that almost 25% of online video advertising will be traded programatically by this year.2 The latter figure is important, because this automated trading will become an increasingly important way to generate revenue from television content when consumed online. And if TV goes there, why should we assume radio won’t?

There are many attractions of buying advertising space this way but the ability to easily group audiences that are increasingly consuming fragmented media is one. It’s becoming just as efficient to reach these disparate audiences as it used to be to reach mass audiences by buying, say, Piccadilly Radio.

Interestingly, when researching this piece I couldn’t find numbers for the amount of audio media traded this way. There are companies who specialise in the automated trading of radio advertisements but, when compared to those in the digital display or video space, they appear forgotten. Then again, perhaps it’s not surprising. There are a few stations doing new and innovate things with radio commercials – in the UK, Absolute Radio’s In-Stream is a good example – but they are the exception and not the rule. Therefore where’s the market for the automated trading of radio ads?

It seems to me, radio is missing out. If the advertising world is shifting to more automated way of buying then that means, by necessity, they are buying a connected product. Yet much of radio’s connected offering is simply delivering the same old product in a slightly newer way. For revenue growth, and maybe even for revenue parity, the radio industry has to adapt to the connected world in more ways than just offering up a stream of the broadcast signal.

Undoubtedly, there are many hurdles before there are mass market personalised radio products. Kyle & Jackie O have shown the enormous power of today’s mass-reach broadcast breakfast radio product. Yet, also this week, the BBC announced plans to close the youth-oriented BBC Three television channel. While reduced finances are the reason behind the proposed closure, the channel was selected in part – according to the press release – because it’s young audience “are the most mobile and ready to move to an online world”. A trend that suggests future audiences have different expectations of their media consumption.

There’s a convergence here that the radio industry needs to see: an undeniable shift to consumption on connected devices. This represents opportunities for both sets of radio’s customers. With the right product, audiences will increasingly personalise their radio experience but, I believe it may not be listeners who are the drivers of such innovations. The advertising industry, increasingly looking for ways to better justify their media spend, is pouring an ever growing share of their budgets into automated buying. Radio needs a product to capitalise on this move.

So it maybe that the money trail is the driver of innovation in the radio space and it the advertising industry that pushes radio to reinvent itself for the connected world.

1 Radcliffe, P. The Piccadilly Story, Blond & Briggs, 1979. p9
2 Strictly 24.7% of video spending by 2014.

Elsewhere: Wish I was at home for Christmas

We are past the moment when we all start to discuss if mince pies should be in the shops and are slightly panicked when we meet somebody who says that they have already purchased and wrapped their Christmas presents for the year.  We’ve moved beyond the point when we ask if shops really should be playing Christmas songs to wondering when they’re going to play Slade on the radio.  But, year after year, we never get past the point when it’s OK to ask if Jona Lewie’s ‘Stop The Cavalry” is really a Christmas song or not even though it’s been played continually at this time of year for almost 23 years.

To help – or not – with this debate MyFizzyPop has a Top 10 list of non-Christmas Christmas songs featuring the likes of Living In A Box, East 17 and Steps. Not a sign of Jona Lewie on that list, but given it’s featured on almost every Christmas musical compilation there is I think we can allow the omission.

It is in this post that I have, at last, found somebody who likes an obscure song by a duet that I probably should not admit to liking. So I just had to have my say:

I’ve never found anybody else who appreciates the pure pop perfection of Jason & Kylie’s “All I Wanna Do” which, in my very humble opinion, was much better than the other side but rarely – if ever – played on the radio. “All I wanna do is make you so, so happy”. Indeed.

You’ve missed The Flying Pickets ‘Only You’ from your list and it would certainly be in my top non-Christmas Christmas songs list (although it was a Christmas hit it doesn’t even mention the season). Using that instantly recognisable Vince Clarke tune as a base, which might also feature on your list itself, the a cappella version makes it a cosy Christmas number suitable for parties attended by Great Aunts. For some reason it brings to mind a roaring fire and Val Doonican in a Christmas scarf: wrapped-up, warm and – somewhere – there’s mulled wine.

See other comments and suggestions on the original post.


Elsewhere: The News Bulletin Is Now Mine And I Determine The Running Order

I opened a dictionary today (by which I mean a paper book). I haven’t done that in a while (no sarcastic comments about spelling, please). I wanted to see what the definition of ‘news’ was and if it was substantially different from that currently published online by Oxford Dictionaries1. It’s not. I think it was pretty similar 20+ years ago when I was a student (and probably the same when the term was first used in late Middle English).

“newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent events” [source]

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Of course it’s got a bunch of modern associations taken from the world around us: we’re all used to it being presented as ‘today’s top stories’. Is it what Alastair Hetherington determined it was when he edited The Guradian or William Rees-Mogg when he did the same at The Times? Is it what Tom Bradby or Laura Kuenssberg think is news at ITV? Or what Nick Sutton thinks is news on Radio 4’s The World At One? Of course. But it’s much, much more. There’s a lot of information that’s newly received or noteworthy about recent events that doesn’t cross James Stephenson’s (editor, BBC TV News at 6 and 10) desk.

By this definition there’s more ‘news’ than can fit into any existing bulletin, so for the most of the last 311 years (since 1702 when The Daily Courant launched as Britain’s first regular daily newspaper)2 we’ve relied on news editors to determine a priority and pass this information to us via the press, radio or television (yes, I am leaving the town crier out of this discussion).

Today, I came across an interesting blog by John Myers where, when talking about visiting media students he says,

“I always start my sessions by asking students to tell me about the big national news stories of the day” [source]

and is surprised by the silence he is met with. I too was surprised, not by the silence, but the fact that most of the commenters on the piece tend to agree with him and think it’s pretty bad students are not interested in ‘the news’.

Of course they are interested in ‘the news’. Just not ‘the news’ if it’s narrowly defined as the list of stories on the radio, on television or in the press.

So, to me, the silence is not surprising at all because most of the time there are no ‘big national news stories of the day’ that are common to us all (of course, I will concede, there might be exceptions). This is because most of the students he’s addressing have grown up in a world where you create your own news agenda. News no longer needs to be the prioritised list of events from an unknown (except by byline) editor at my local newspaper or radio station nor what Radios 1-6 think nor anything broadcast by a rolling-news television station. Today, across the world, we create our own news running order from Twitter or Facebook or a million other online tools. It’s continuous stream of stories that mixes the global with the hyper-local and the personal.

So I wrote a reply about it (copied below). One subsequent commenter claims he was

“left thinking that Jon believes no-one should be aware of the news in their local area or in current affairs” [source]

which is, of course, not what I am saying at all. But I am saying no-one needs to be beholden to a far off editor to prioritise what’s important news to them. It may be a breaking world story, an interesting piece about the industry I work in or news of a new birth in the family. I think asking journalism students to name recent stories might show they can read/watch/listen but means we’re training (and hiring) people for a way of working that’s stuck in a 300-year-old history of doing things that’s not fit for presenting the news in the future.

The news bulletin is now mine and I determine the running order.

Here’s what I wrote and you can read it in context at News – who cares?

For more-or-less twenty years almost all digital news outlets have offered some kind of news personalisation services whereby I can opt to see news that interests me. There’s a whole generation who have grown up with the ability to determine their own news agendas and not a prioritised list of items from an editor in another city. On most days, do ‘the big national news stories of the day’ really still exist? Isn’t it ‘my big stories of the day’ from a wide range of sources? Twitter is just the latest incarnation of news. Certainly there are lots of issues with the bias of self-selection but they’re only a new take on age-old editorial bias concerns.

Far from making us ‘dumber’ aren’t Twitter and Facebook The News for some people? If I’ve opted to prioritise Formula 1 news or tech stories from Silicon Valley over today’s political posturing over the ECHR (which is front page on the newspaper next to me)3 then I’ve made a decision that’s no different from the editor that decided to pop that story in the paper. Isn’t Facebook’s timeline just news from my ‘community’ (which is what the news was for most people prior to rise of the mass national press in the late 1700s)?

I think if a copy of Metro on the campus of University of Central Lancashire was leading with the Boris/Ken story for the race to be London Mayor then you have your answer as to why students go elsewhere for more relevant news.

Perhaps better questions for your students or job candidates might be what are their news agendas for the day? I bet you’ll find articulate people fully aware of news (just different from your definition of news) and thoughts on alternative ways to package that news to make it relevant. If they can’t name Tim Farron (he’s on page 4 of my paper)4 then the internet exists if it becomes necessary. I see a bleak future for newsrooms that persist with the one-size fits all agenda whereby one person’s idea of the top stories should be the same as mine.



1.My dictionary (the paper one) is twenty years old. I was checking to see if the definition had changed in any way.
2. It’s a somewhat arbitrary date to pick as the point where news agendas are set by remote people/editors. But I felt the first regular daily paper wasn’t a bad point in time to use as a marker. I took the date from here.
3. I’m looking at i (or do we call it ipaper?). It was free this morning from Starbucks. This is the front cover.
4. According to the newspaper sat next to me he’s President of the Liberal Democrats. I wouldn’t have known that had I been tested (even after reading the paper). I just picked it as a random name ‘in the news’.


The very next day, as if to help prove that nobody wants a one size fits all news bulletin, I read this (and it made me laugh):

Elsewhere: New Apple Patent Could Kill Commercial Radio

Over at Media UK’s radio discussions section there’s a thread about a new patent issued to Apple that allows for “seamlessly switching media playback between a media broadcast, such as a radio broadcast, and media from a local media library”. It reminds me that I have some thoughts brewing on this (update: my thoughts are now written-up here) but this is what I added to the thread (with the typo seen at Media UK cleaned up).

An obvious use of this tech would not just be for targeted ad insertion but also for some kind of content switching when a user’s streaming connectivity drops. Using Apple’s Genius functionality & a station’s playlist, an app could store a list of station-appropriate tracks that are already on my device and seamlessly switch to them. Let the station cache a few idents in the app and I may never notice I’d lost connectivity driving through the tunnel again.

Take it a stage further; could a station save on music royalties (and the listener on bandwidth costs) if it only provided the links and all music tracks were sourced from the user’s local music library (of tracks they own)?

The future of radio is at an interesting point. Even as a self-confessed radio geek I am finding that I spend more time listening to music and entertainment services that could not traditionally be called radio. More to come on this.