Posts Tagged 'Post & Mail'

A new Post & Mail?

The current Post & Mail building on Weaman StreetI’ve been putting off this post because it covers so many things I hardly know where to start.

December was a strange month for me because this blog somehow got me into the group of people developing the new Birmingham Post website (there will be an update on this soon – promise!).

After taking us back in from the cold, I think Trinity Mirror decided it better do something interesting with us… and quickly. I guess the planned move to Fort Dunlop made for the perfect opportunity.

Since then, things have got a little crazy around here.

The laptop is part of it. Apparently, when we all move over to our new site at Fort Dunlop, everyone will be swapping their antiquated Mac Classics for one of these Compaq 6710bs. I suspect the good battery life and the 3G connection are all part of the plan to make Post & Mail journalists more flexible and mobile. From what I’ve heard (although I don’t know for sure) this leapfrogs us over most other Trinity Mirror publications in the technology stakes.

The reason I have my laptop early is because tomorrow I start a new distance learning postgraduate course. It is a Trinity Mirror collaboration with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) and is built around the university’s Journalism Leaders Programme.

It’s in its second term, but two people dropped out and it was decided that one person from The Post and another from The Mail should take up the places. As part of the recent madness, I got asked if I wanted to do it. Well…it was a bit of a no brainer really.

Seminars for the course happen online and that’s why I got the laptop early. I needed a machine that could cope with online conferences. The first seminar is tomorrow afternoon… and I’m nervous. It’s like the first day of school again.

The course looks at the transition of the newsroom as a result of converging technologies and investigates what is required to manage that change… or at least that’s how I’ve interpreted it.

It’s quite a big thing to take on, with at least eight to ten hours of study expected each week. We also have residential weeks every couple of months that seem fairly intense.

But of course I’m excited about it – three months ago I was utterly despairing at the backward technology we have here, now I’m being asked to go on a training course that not only deals with current developments, but also looks to the future. Who wouldn’t be excited?!

There are other things going on around here that suggest to me we’re rapidly time travelling from 1998 to 2008. A rather lovely shiny new Mac has appeared on a desk near to me and a few people are fresh back from video training.

I am under no illusions that fast-forwarding a decade is going to have its problems. You can’t expect people who have been working on Mac OS9 for at least the last seven years to suddenly switch to a completely new system (and continue producing a paper) without a few teething troubles.

But we are finally moving towards the sort of operation I’ve been longing to work for since I arrived and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Anyone want to help design the Birmingham Post website?

Yes it’s true, it looks like the days might be numbered for icBirmingham. We are finally getting a new website!

When Trinity Mirror decided to keep the Post & Mail, part of the announcement alluded to the fact that an upgrade in IT and our websites was on its way.

Now it looks like a shiny, new Birmingham Post website will be launched at some point next year.

To my surprise and delight I have been picked to be part of the development team (I guess it was a good thing those bigwigs were reading my blog after all!).

Part of my job is to shape what sort of content the site should have. I’m going to be studying what’s out there on the web already to see if there’s stuff I think could be useful – and to try and avoid some of the mistakes that others have made.

Now, I know there are some things I want from a news website: a home page that is constantly updated with breaking news; rss feeds for categories of news that I’m interested in; email alerts for breaking stories; an easily searchable archive and the ability to post a comment at the bottom of a story. I am also stupidly addicted to links to the day’s most read and most emailed stories.

I also think there’s a place for video content, especially if it’s giving a slightly different angle to a story – maybe showing the drama of breaking news or, perhaps, the human side of a business deal. One video that caught my attention was a feature from the New York Times on Paypal founder Max Levchin. That really worked for me (except the damn stupid ad before the video).

Speaking of ads: My ideal news website would also have its advertising in a sensible place and certainly NOT have any of those horrible things that follow you around when you scroll.

But, the thing is, I’m just one person.

How I used news sites is different to how others might use them. I know, for example, I’m very biased towards the news side of things. But news websites can also provide other content too (features, share prices, weather, traffic information, directories, etc.)

So, I wondered, what sort of content do other people use news websites for? What features do other people find useful? I guess this post is a call out to people to find out what you might want from a new, improved, Birmingham Post website.

We’ve got a meeting on Monday to start putting all this stuff together. I’m really excited about it as we could soon have a website that I’m proud of, rather than one I have to constantly apologise for.

[Edit: If you want to see the sites and features I’ve been looking at, I’ve bookmarked them on del.licio.us tagged as Jo’sResearch. I’ll be discussing these at the meeting on Monday. Is there anything I’ve missed?]

More Blog Angst

So, there I was: ploughing through my Google Reader in an attempt to find something to blog about.

I found something on Martin Stabe’s site about the NUJ possibly admitting their first full-time blogger.

“Ah-ha!” thought I, “something that would work as a blog post”.

Then I realised what I was doing.

It’s all gotten the wrong way around. The thing is this whole blogging marlarkey was meant to be a repository for the thoughts I was having during my day-to-day life. It was NEVER supposed to be a hungry monster that I had to feed with new material.

I think the problem has arisen because (through uncontrolled events) this blog appeared on the radar of Post & Mail bigwigs rather early on. Too early on, to be honest (sorry, to those I know may be reading this).

I had hoped to keep it relatively quiet for a few weeks, maybe months, to find my feet with it. Perhaps that was a bit naive really.

And, to be honest, it is great how supportive and enthusiastic everyone has been and how happy they are about letting me get on and do my own thing.

BUT, of course, knowing that these people are reading the blog has sort of messed up my perception of it.

It’s gotten even more complicated since I blogged about the NUJ and started appearing on their radar. Don’t get me wrong, the debate has been fun – I’ve always longed to have the opportunity to thrash out my views in this way.

But the result is that it’s changed the way I approach the whole blogging thing. I realised the “let’s blog about the NUJ story”, was me doing what I’ve been trained to do – writing specifically for those people I think are reading.

That’s turned my blogging into out-and-out publishing and I don’t like that at all.

There are things I like – the Any Qs and Answers for example. But I don’t want to feel bad or guilty about blogging about fireworks, my cold or something someone said on the bus. They may be the last thing other people want to read about, but then this wasn’t really done for anyone else.

I’ve liked the fact that I feel part of a community of people online, but I’m starting to wonder if maybe I should have blogged anonymously. I don’t really know, maybe I’m just trying to have my cake and eat it.

After 50 days of blogging, I’m back feeling angsty about the whole thing. ūüė¶

Answers: Sly Bailey

Well! I didn’t get an interview with Her Slyness after all.

But we were introduced and I did have a short chat with her (without my notebook).

We chatted about Web 2.0 and my recent rant about Roy Greenslade’s departure from the NUJ.

She said that she realised that there was a desperate need to invest in new technology because without it (nodding her head towards my iMac running OS 9) young journalists will just leave the business and find somewhere else to work.

She was keen to stress she was excited by the explosion of the web but was, of course, keen to find a way to generate the same revenues online as generated from print.

Then she said her plan was that the Post & Mail was going to have a new IT system and websites that would “blow the competition out of the water” and we would soon be far ahead of what any other newspaper group was doing.

I asked her if she thought Trinity Mirror would be able to create sites to rival The Guardian. She said yes, and The Telegraph too.

She said she had been doing a lot of research on what made a good news website. She said she recognised the good stuff that had been done by competitors but that there had been “dead ends” that they had gone up too, that she would like to avoid.

But, she said, the good thing about the web was that there was an opportunity to experiment with new ideas in a way that wouldn’t financially impact in the same way as doing it in print.

Her parting words were that she would “watch my career with interest”, which was unnerving.

As one colleague suggested, perhaps in the current climate the best I can do is to return the favour.

Any Qs: Sly Bailey

Sly Bailey[Answers are here]

Ok, this one is a HUGE longshot and I probably shouldn’t be blogging about it. But… what the hell! I’m excited!

It appears that Sly Bailey, chief executive of Trinity Mirror will be in the Post & Mail house tomorrow (Monday)… and The Birmingham Post has requested an interview with her for the Media & Marketing page. That means I’ll be doing the interview! Cripes!

We’ve not had any confirmation yet on whether or not she’ll do it (I’m not even sure how long she’s going to be in the building). But, if this actually comes to pass, I think I’ll be asking her to outline her digital strategy for the Trinity Mirror Midlands division, now she’s decided not to sell it.

If you have got any others, let me know ASAP!!!

Fort Dunlop

One of M Moser's office designsOK, while we’re on the subject of the trials and tribulations of media organisations, you may be aware that¬†the Post & Mail¬†management team recently departed.

Before they went on their way, they emailed us an update on Fort Dunlop, which I thought I’d share here:

We confirmed last week that the departments based in the Birmingham office in Weaman Street will relocate next summer to the Fort Dunlop development.

You will have seen I am sure some of the coverage in our own titles, and wish to know more about the move and its implications for you and your colleaguesWe have signed the lease on the entire top floor, some 53,000 sq. ft. of open plan office space, which at an acre is the largest single open plan office in the country outside of London.

The design is incredibly modern and comes with 24-hour access, security, on-site parking and a bus service. This is a free, dedicated Fort Dunlop service that will pick up and drop off at stations and other main locations in Birmingham city centre.

You will probably have seen the 100 bedroom hotel let to Travelodge, on the side of the main building when passing. On the ground are a Daily Grind Coffee coffee house, Vinappris Wine Bar, The Flower Room florist and a Funky Monkeys kids activity centre. It also boasts a 150m roof garden expanding the length of the building. Coming soon to Fort Dunlop will be a Select convenience store, a gym and a nursery.

We have agreed with the developer, Urban Splash, that staff can be shown around our floor in small groups prior to the time of moving. However, now that building works have begun to prepare our floor for habitation, visits will commence in the New Year.

You can of course visit the building in your own time when you will be able to see and access the ground floor facilities mentioned above.

Design Consultants, M Moser Associates, will be working with us helping us make the most of our new space in terms of the environment, personal space and furniture requirements.We know that there are lots of questions to be answered about workspace, shifts, equipment and not least, travel, transport and parking.

We will, over the coming weeks and months, address everything you want and need to know. We do, however, ask you to be patient if we don’t have all the answers until further into the planning stages and nearer the time of the move.

We are very excited about Fort Dunlop and we are sure you will be too, especially when you have visited the building. On seeing the space we will occupy and the enormous opportunity it creates for a change in atmosphere and culture of an office, we hope you will be encouraged by the significant benefits of this move.

So… there you go. Thoughts?


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