Sunday, 29 November 2009

David Cameron to water down plans for tax breaks for married couples

If a report in the Mail on Sunday is accurate, then David Cameron is already facing up to the same problems faced by President Obama in Amercia - gaining power during the global recession means it is near impossible to implement policies dreamt up in opposition.

For Cameron this could be especially damaging given the fan fare made over the announcement that the Tories would 'support marriage' and this formed the basis of his cure for fixing what he called 'broken Britain'.

If this report is accurate then expect problems in the coming weeks for the Conservatives as they struggle with the release of policy plans in an election campaign where their best strategy is to commit to as little as possible.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Neil Benson is right to look at new revenue streams but newspapers shouldn't seek to rival PR agencies

Following Trinity Mirror's deal with Northumberland Council to provide hyperlocal websites, Neil Benson of Trinity Mirror has argued that newspapers should team up with councils to provide 'arms length' PR services:

I admire the sentiments, as without new revenue streams then the regional print media will continue to die, but offering 'PR services' is not the way to do it.

To succeed in PR you need a myriad of skills, the most important lying away from the public face of 'press releases' and focusing on business planning and client management. In short, in takes years to master and is constantly evolving and this would come as an expensive shock to those newspaper groups who fail to commit to it properly.

In a pitch situation, it wouldn't be possible to hold an advantage by being linked to a particular newspaper group, as that would destroy editorial independence and would cause uproar, a crisis for the PRCA and that's just for starters.

Instead of trying to succeed in a different and shark infested sector, newspaper groups should focus on setting up and growing online micro communities so the move to online news doesn't destroy the communities represented by regional news. Rather, it's a massive opportunity to provide even more relevant and local news to the people who want it. So, the content of local news could differ depending on the profile of the reader. This could also help local democracy - especially during local council elections.

To acheive this dream newspapers need to stop trying to survive in the old world and further develop their hyperlocal offering, which aren't yet hyperlocal enough.

Finally, there's a great post by Rick Waghorn on this subject where he compares the NUJ with the old monks trying to fight off the printed press:

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Tony Blair loses EU President job but dodges a bullet

So, Tony Blair hasn't been chosen as first EU President and the job has gone to the Belgian Prime Minister, Herman Van Rompuy.

Although the former PM hadn't officially thrown his hat into the ring, he had clearly given serious thought to the role.

The news that he has been 'overlooked' is welcome, as his profile and influence would immediately been greater than most of the Prime and First Ministers in the EU countries, all of which are elected.

Furthermore, there's no denying that his role in the Iraq war would also have helped far right parties across Europe promote an anti-EU agenda, especially in the UK with the BNP. UKIP would also have benefited, although they are of course not an extremist party in that sense, so this is merely a comment about the effect on Labour votes at council and marginal seat level.

A Blair presidency would also have given David Cameron a chance to unite both sides of his party in an area much closer to the Tories' natural right - this could have provided him with a massive boost on the one area that still genuinely worries the Conservative leader.

So, the man who can breathe a sigh of release is Gordon Brown, especially given the new prominent role of Lord Ashton - a Brown favourite.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Newspaper circulations continuing to fall

The latest newspaper circulation figures show a decrease in circulation of between 0.5-4.5% for all the nationals, bar the Times and the Financial Times, who should be applauded for marginal increases.

It will be interesting to see how the online figures compare - I'm sure Rupert Murdoch is especially interested as he continues to push forward his plans to charge for online content.

Either way, with circulations decreasing at this rate the industry will need to propose a blanket solution to the problems before some of the national papers follow the lead of the regionals and fold. At the very least, some may need to consider going completely online as printing millions of copies to sell less than a third is not sustainable.

The problem is that no one wants to pay per article or per paper, as competition is too intense - there will always be a free source of news.

The BBC also poses a problem as it provides top quality content for free - that's reflected in the way so many in the media are clamouring to take pot shots at the BBC.

I'd like to see a DCMS review into the future of the industry made up of an expert panel of suitable talent such as Greg Dyke, for example.

It's essential for democracy and needs to happen sooner rather than later.

P.S. the Telegraph decline is interesting. Does this show a move to online readership or does it prove that in today's media marketplace, no matter how big the scoop - MP's scandal - a reader's loyalties cannot be sustained beyond the next story...

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Observer shuts three out of its four monthly magazines

News that the Observer is shutting its sport, music and woman monthly magazines is shocking only in that it's not a wholesale closure.

I enjoy the Observer and will miss the sport magazine especially, but in a marketplace made ultra competitive by online news and features, blogs and gossip, only truly niche offerings will survive. That's what the Observer has in its food magazine, an unrivalled quality of supplement, proudly measuing up to the weekly offerings of writers like AA Gill.

So in the long term, the move will be seen as a success if it helps focus resource on keeping (or making) the Observer a competitive newspaper and perhaps also allow it to direct more time and energy into the successful Guardian blogs and Comment is Free sections.

That being said, it's probbaly the first of many changes to our national press as we know it and that's why, as I mentioned in a previous post, News International is trying to stay as master of its own destiny by an aggressive approach to online news content, the BBC and the Labour Government.

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Sun: Prime Minister refused to apologise to dead soldier's mother

James Murdoch is trying to restore The Sun's fearsome political reputation and Gordon Brown is the victim. Rupert Murdoch, a quasi-ally and fan of the Prime Minister, would never have sought to vilify him in the way The Sun did today.

The story over the mis-spelt letter to the deceased soldier's mother is one of the most personal attacks on a British PM in living memory and is set to get worse tomorrow - when the Sun publishes a transcript of the PM's call with the mother, claiming he didn't say sorry.

Make no mistake, this is James Murdoch seeking to destroy the PM and reimpose The Sun's reputation as the paper of influence. And that's why his Father is happy to support the move, as it's an aggressive strategy in line with how News International aims to survive the changing media landscape - with ruthless aggression.

This is further evident by Rupert Murdoch's threat that he may sue the BBC over plagiarism of content:

Tough times for Gordon Brown and make or break time for News International. I know who I'd back to survive...

Friday, 6 November 2009

Nadine Dorries and Kerry McCarthy need less haste

The Daily Mirror story about a Tory MP accused of slapping the bottom of a female Labour MP has dragged two of Westminster's most prominent tweeters into the gutter.

Both @NadineDorriesMP and @kerrymp have begun a series of 'tit for tat' tweets, with further accusations of indecency and unproffessional conduct by MPs on both sides, flying around faster than a second home allowance.

My plea to both these MPs is please take a breath and not let the election play out in such a childish way - it will only turn off voters at a time when we need to build trust.

Both MPs should be applauded for their use of twitter and promoting open politics but please - there must be standards, even online.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Virtual Berlin wall campaign from Reporters Without Borders

The often innovative Reporters Without Borders have launched a virtual Berlin wall which the public can destroy via text message.

This is a brilliant idea and I'm keen to find out which creative agency is involved. I hope that they also include a provision for Twitter - Facebook is mention in the Indy report - and that plenty of historical images and facts are used to ensure the message of freedom and democracy shines through in the correct context, especially to educate younger people who don't remember the wall.

The media played a vital role in the collapse of the wall, especially reporting on the night the wall came down, so it is a fitting way to mark freedom of an industry still threatened today, as shown by the Guardian Trafigura affair (

5Live step in to cover the story of the Dorking Albino Squirrel

It appears as though the hit and run murder of 'Percy', the famous albino squirrel from Dorking, is set to go national.

Someone from 5Live has been in touch via Facebook to appeal for memories for tonight's drive time show:

CXXX from 5Live here
We're looking for someone to tell us about Percy's life, his death and the hole he'll leave behind.

We want someone who can be near a phone for 5-10 mins just before 7pm.

Are you that person?

My number's 02*** *** ***



Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Lisbon Treaty ratification spells trouble for David Cameron

News that the Czechs have signed the Lisbon Treaty is a massive blow to David Cameron. He will now be forced to confront the reality that a post ratifcation referendum is a null and void task, meaning he must make a decision now as to how to pre-empt ratification.

This means he will undoubtedly need to upset the right of the party BEFORE the election - giving Labour an opportunity to show voters the Tories aren't the cohesive unit they claim to be.

If, however, Cameron can keep control over both sides of his party until after the election, then he has earned his shot at power.

Will Labour be able to seize this opportunity to crank up the pressure on Cameron? All of a sudden, David Milliband has a chance to step back in to the spotlight and make amends for a poor 12 months in the mainstream political arena.

How Milliband performs could decide if he gets the chance for a David v David election battle next time round.

Food and drink trends in 2010

I've been involved in Biss Lancaster sponsoring a report from Food and Drink Towers into 2010 trends in food and drink.

Our MD, Brian Beech is quoted throughout. It throws up some interesting points on what is a niche market - especially regarding the use of celebrity to promote brands, a move to positivity and quality and how brands need to tap into moods.

Here's some snippets from the report:

The ‘Marks and Spencer Effect’:

Brian Beech, joint managing director, Euro RSCG Biss Lancaster Public Relations:

“In times of austerity, consumers are turning increasingly to two main things: value and quality. Those brands operating outside these two parameters find themselves ostracised. Crucially, brands are turning back the clock to produce anachronistic marketing campaigns, which emphasise their history and origins, providing a link to consumers that reminds them of ‘safe haven’ memories of when things weren’t so bad, childhood or even the first time they saw or heard of the brand. This produces the best friend effect for brands and as far as consumers are concerned, you never forget your best friend”.
Quality and Price:

Beech at Euro RSCG Biss Lancaster Public Relations believes the current market trend is a paradox:
“Consumers with lower budgets are looking for quality at value prices. As the global downturn levels out in 2010, consumers will focus on the quality, origin, sustainability, value and simplicity of food and drink as the recession has seen a return to ‘back to basics’ family meal times. This means simple ingredients at lower prices; the process of cooking has once again become as important as the brand name. The challenge for brands of a local and national level is to prove they can provide the ingredients for families to cook and eat together. If they can do, they may just find an opportunity to infiltrate the family circle, meaning the opportunity is there for those brands brave enough to spot it”.


“Celebrity has never been as prominent in modern popular culture as it is right now,” said Beech at Euro RSCG Biss Lancaster Public Relations. “Food and drink markets are densely populated with rival brands and products competing for shelf space in every supermarket or deli. The use of a celebrity icon can trigger pester power among families and a sense of implicit trust amongst consumers.”

However, Beech believes that the mistake many brands make is choosing a celebrity ill suited to their brand, an over exposed celebrity or not checking out a celebrity’s credentials for their brand. “A good example of a meaningful celebrity link is Coca-Cola’s relationship with Wayne Rooney to help their Zero brand penetrate the male consumer drink market. Rooney is an icon to many men and the genius of the campaign is that Rooney is yet to do anything than play football in any of the advertising, meaning straight away the link between Coke and football is ingrained in the consumer’s minds. It also plays to the strengths of the celebrity and avoids trying to make the celebrity become something they are not.”

jonowelshy83 sent you a video: "A hazelnut dinner with an Albino Squirrel"

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jonowelshy83 has shared a video with you on YouTube:

A video tribute to the Dorking albino squirrel
I join the white wild albino squirrel in St Marys church graveyard for a light lunch of nuts.
© 2009 YouTube, LLC
901 Cherry Ave, San Bruno, CA 94066


As revealed on the @JamesCrawford blog yesterday, the 'famous' Albino Squirrel of Dorking is dead:

New scandal has broken though, as the town asks - "who killed the Albino squirrel"?

This is set to be THE murder case of 2009.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The Truth is Darren Bent is ahead of the game

Premiership footballers suffer from poor reputations - as revealed in the recent PR Week survey (

Despite the importance of footballers to multi-million pound marketing campaigns and the great reputation of the game compared to other sports, the players themselves currently suffer from disconnect from fans. Many have attributed this to increasing wages and money in the game, whilst the price of following a club has led many 'ordinary' fans to watch from afar, unable to afford a ticket to see their team.

That's why it's so refreshing to see @DBtheTruth - the Twitter account of Darren Bent - amassing a real popularity amongst football fans, especially after the recent exposure on Soccer AM.

Now Darren is no stranger to Twitter and was widely lampooned for venting his frustration on the site whilst waiting for a move away from Tottenham.

Rather then let this episode put him off social networking, Darren Bent has redesigned his page and learnt from his mistakes. The launch of the new Umbro football boot, complete with his Twitter username and Twitter logo, shows his team have also realised that Twitter can be a valuble marketing tool for the Darren Bent/Umbro partnership too.

This is especially interesting given the fact Darren Bent is one of several strikers trying to get on the plane to the World Cup. Could the reputation and openess of Darren Bent's Tweeting actually help drive a groundswell of support for the striker over the next eight months?

It's an interesting question and something I'll be watching closely. But hats off to Darren Bent for opening the golden gates of Premiership life and engaging with the public. If he continues to be a success it could lead the way for more footballers to consider their own public reputation rather than just the bank notes gained from marketing campaigns.