All entries for March 2006

March 31, 2006

Warwick Podcast – 10th podcast released!

Writing about web page

We released the 10th Warwick Podcast today – Shaun Breslin talking about the development of China.

With another 3 already in the pipeline for next week (gulp) this is really ramping up for us as a communications channel.

Chris May surprised me the other week when he casually mentioned that we'd had 400 downloads that week of mp3 files from the site. I was pretty happy with that considering that we had limited promotion of the service to the University website and listings in a few podcast directories.

A quick calculation – 400 downloads a week for 6 months at an average of 20 minutes each = about 200,000 minutes of content.

Now I know that's crap maths (sorry to any maths or stats people) – but hey, this is PR so I am going to go with that :-)

I'd like to invite anyone who's listened to the podcasts to let us know what they think and what things they'd like to hear about. We are keen to make the casts as interactive as we can and comments help us improve what we do. Richard and I have a particular approach to this – may be right, may be wrong, but we are open to suggestion.

So far my tips for Podcasting are:

1. Keep it as short as you can – under 30 mins is great! Most radio programmes seem to work in short chunks of around 12 minutes. A Radio 4 programme is usually broken into chunks of around 25 minutes. I would guess that there are very good reasons for this.

2. Be relevant – We work very hard to try and relate content to topics and issues of general interest – especially news agenda items. It kind of makes things more interesting and demonstrates that Universities have something to say about broader societal issues. It's not enough to just record a bunch of lectures and expect that to be interesting.

3. Write down your intro and first question – boy does this make recording easier. Flying by the seat of your pants may be exciting but it makes editing suck.

4. Try and use a proper recording venue – the studio on campus is great as it is specifcally designed for this sort of thing.

5. If you don't have a recording studio or need to quickly re-record a question you can quickly rig up a little booth by getting three padded chairs to form an open-ended cube and crouching with your head in the middle alongside the recorder – this worked really well and made Richard and I feel ever so clever when we figured it out.

6. Don't edit out all your mistakes. Umms, Aaahs and similar help keep the recording human. If you want it to sound natural you have to leave some of this stuff in.

7. Don't try and sound smarter that your interviewee – nor should you think you can crush them with your carefully planned questions. You won't get many people agreeing to come back if you try and humiliate them – you are not Jeremy Paxman.

March 28, 2006

Changing Media – Guardian conference

Interesting conference yesterday hosted by the Guardian on the changing media environment – emergance of 'social media', citizen journalists, podcasts and the impact of all of this on traditional media owners.

First keynote by Microsoft's Chris Dobson was very meh! – not much new or interesting and just proved that the real innovation currently lies elsewhere (waiting to be bought out no doubt!). The emphasis on relevance was a useful reminder but not much else.

The 2nd panel was more interesting – Citizen Media – what is the impact of user-generated content on the traditional business model?

I thoroughly enjoyed Jon Snow on this – the issue with citizen media is not the quality but how to process it all. JS rightly pointed out that there must be many editors looking at the best of citizen journalism and thinking that it is better than much 'professional' content. The impact will be to make professional journalists better. Quality will out, as they say.

JS also questioned whether rather than seeing the death of traditional media we are seeing the death of hack merchants – lazy journalists, spin doctors and bad PR people – all of whom will get found out more easily. Transparency will be the norm when it is easy for information to flow. We now have a mechanism of comeback where previously information holders could act with impunity.

I think Ben Hammersley was right when arguing that the way to avoid getting slammed in the new environment was to 'make better products' – but how broadly applicable that is I don't know and there is a dangerous line between defining a bad product and a product that doesn't do what a small coterie of self-opinionated loadmouths want it to do. I do think organisations will be held more accountable for quality – Universities included! – but we need to be careful of the 'who shouts loudest rules the roost' syndrome and organisations are going to have to learn how to manage this new relationship very quickly.

I completely agree with BH when he says "you can't advertise your way out of a shit product/situation".

Much of the conference reinforced the power of Word Of Mouth and the key influence of peer groups – not new but some interesting discussion about how you can (or more likely cannot) utilise these social networks to generate competative advantage. Some very interesting case studies of how organisations are using social networks – Proctor and Gamble's Tremor service was particularly interesting – link – they have built a massive teen network to test ideas, monitor campaigns and create advocacy:

Today, the Tremor Crew is made up of over a quarter of a million influential teens from across the U.S. Our Members help develop product ideas and marketing programs that teens want to talk about. So far, we've executed breakthrough campaigns for many P&G brands and several external clients as well.

And this is explicitly stated – it's a brilliant example of engaging your customers with your business model and giving them a key stake in the future of the organisation and its product development.

The session on Marketing to the New Generation was fascinating – Justin Kirby put pretty simply:

Customer advocacy drives business growth – consumer empowerment drives customer advocacy.

The 'I did that' effect is a powerful one.

The podcasting session was interesting – especially watching James Cridland of Virgin Radio get more excited and daring after Adam Curry said 'Fuck' – I think James was trying to out-swear Curry – oops!

Adam Curry is an interesting speaker and has some pretty smart ideas about consumer generated media:

I have a 5/50 rule – in 5 years, 50% of your media consumption will be generated by you

That's an interesting statement. I think he may be right about 50% being generated by the consumer but it will be interesting to see who is doing the distribution – will the BBC become the largest distributer of consumer generated content? See the Guardian commentisfree site for an example of how traditional and consumer content can work together.

The other interesting issue that came out of this session was whether it actually matters who distributes something. Does it matter that I get virgin radio content via virgin? Is it the channel or the content on it that is the brand? If I access all my BBC content via iTunes, what does that mean for the BBC brand? No answers as yet, but something to consider.

The closing keynote from Tamar Kasriel was excellent – she posed 7 paradoxes about the emerging media environment:

Time Lords vs Time Slaves – the tyranny of immediacy
Infinite information vs Craving for simplicity
Closer to brands vs distanced from brands (the discussion on co-creation of brands needs more discussion at a later point)
Copernican Media Revolution vs Commerical Redistribution
Expanding World vs Shrinking world
Geography is history vs Local is revitalised
Enhancing Human touch vs eliminating human touch


As a final note – I heard more swearing from speakers at this conference than at any other – I like that.

March 16, 2006

Selectivity in education and school admissions

I'll start out by saying my mind is still open on this question – I am not for or against selection and I remain to be convinced either way.

In the last few weeks thanks to the Education Bill I have heard many arguments going back and forth about whether selection in schools is a good or bad thing. I think that this has been an unsatisfactory debate in many ways with a number of glaring inconsistencies on both sides. I would also suggest that the proponents of each argument seem to have little connection with the reality of how kids get into schools in practice and the implicit selection process already in operation.

1) Why is selection at primary and secondary level a big no no when we are more than happy to have a selective system at tertiary level – is there a specific reason why selection at 18 is any more valid than selection at 11? I can see an argument against selection at 5 – but is there a fundamental educational development issue that precludes selection at other stages?

2) We already have a selective education system, one based on wealth rather than ability. If I have lots of money I can move to areas with better schools or choose to privately educate my children. Why is this better than a system that selects on ability? Is a system that rewards ability but could 'leave behind' some children better than one that rewards wealth and leaves behind a different group.

3) Are schools already selective? I seem to remember in my school that whilst you could not select which pupils came to the school they sure as hell selected which pupils went into which class – we were streamed for Maths, science and languages. Why is this ok but the broader issue of selective admission not? Are schools still allowed to do this?

4) Is there a will to properly fund a truely comprehensive system and are parents really interested in an egalitarian education system. Are the resources available to ensure that comprehensives actually work or are we doomed to be a nation of could-have-beens.

5) Are trust schools really an answer to this? I find myself questioning the basis of trust schools on one hand and on the other asking myself how else do we fund improvements in schools. I have not heard a proper answer as to how school improvements could otherwise be funded without the cost being carried by general taxation – now this may be acceptable to the electorate but I would guess that the govt actually thinks it isn't the case.

6) Whose interests are we serving here. Does the comprehensive system benefit the average performer and cause problems for the top and bottom whilst selection helps the bottom and top whilst leaving the middle in limbo. Which scenario is in the national (and the childs) best interest? Is there a middle way which provides for the educational needs of all groups?

March 10, 2006

Greatest Male/Female duets

Went to see Walk the Line last night – brilliant film. Witherspoon deserved the gong for her performance as June Carter.

The film reminded me of just how damn good Cash and Carter sounded together – so who do WarwickBlogs think are the top male/female singer combos?

My selection would be:

  • Johnny Cash and June Carter – especially their signature tune 'Jackson'
  • Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris – anything by them really, but 'Love Hurts' is a gem
  • Nick Cave and Polly Harvey – some might say his pairing with Kylie was better, but I prefer his track with Polly
  • Martha and Rufus Wainwright – brother and sister sound so good together
  • Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston/Tammi Terrell – and you thought Marvin was good on his tod.

Anyone who suggests Elton John and Kiki Dee will be banned!

March 02, 2006

David Bowie – Rock God and now Saviour of Mankind

Writing about web page

Wow – Sheer bloody genius.

I knew Bowie had something about him, but this is great. And Ossie rocks too.

March 2006

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