Tag Archives: Lichfield

Recognition for The Lichfield Blog just keeps on growing…

When I first got involved in The Lichfield Blog back in February this year I had no idea that six months later I’d be writing a business plan for a brand new social enterprise.

The Lichfield Blog banner up at Fuse Acoustic '09
The Lichfield Blog banner up at Fuse Acoustic '09

I never thought I’d be looking at stats showing an average of 11,000 visitors each month (equivalent to over 10% of Lichfield District’s population* and a third of the circulation of leading print weekly, the Lichfield Mercury). Nor did I imagine it would spur such cool things as Lichfield Social Media Cafe and Lichfield Social Media Surgeries (both still in planning). I would have laughed if you’d have told me I’d be live-streaming local artists at Lichfield’s Fuse Festival. A look of disbelief would accompany the thought of our MP, Mike Fabricant advertising on the site.

I knew we’d do lots of very cool things with it – as seems to be customary now my brain buzzed with ideas for exciting developments as soon as I saw it. I’m taken aback by the way things have played out though.

When I first started working freelance in November 2007 my aim was to be a leader in my industry. The heavy involvement in The Lichfield Blog and the recognition it’s seen has proven to me that I’m starting to achieve that.

That recognition has seen a massive boost over the past few weeks for two big reasons. The first is securing Michael Fabricant MP as an advertiser on the blog. He was our third advertiser and (we think) the first MP to advertise on a hyperlocal media site. Rick Waghorn of Addiply (the ad system we use) took the opportunity to shout about it that very afternoon at NewsInnovation London. I saw the tweets rolling in and I could barely contain my elation at having made such an impact.

Second reason, and the inspiration for this post, is that today Lichfield District Council have (after I sent them a cheeky tweet) changed their “Local Newspapers” section to “Local Media” and included The Lichfield Blog. They’re even syndicating us! I’m still undecided as to whether to check the other 353 local government district web sites to see if Lichfield is the only one to do so…

Both of these also come after what I consider to be a huge compliment from Birmingham Mail who recently started syndicating us along with our friends, Tamworth Blog and local blogger, Brownhill’s Bob. I call this traditional and new media meeting and getting along nicely – aka a sneak peak into the future of local media.

I know this is just the start though. All this has been achieved with the only expenditure being less than £100 and the time of a small team of dedicated and passionate volunteers (I say only, but it takes a lot of time). With the extra help and support we’re hoping to get as part of our future plans it’s obvious to me that The Lichfield Blog is going to move on leaps and bounds.

I can’t wait!

* based on data from the Office for National Statistics.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Ratemyplace WordPress Widget

I’m a massive fan of WordPress and like what Stuart Harrison has done with Ratemyplace so I thought I’d get my hands dirty and write my first WordPress plugin.

It’s really rather simple – I didn’t wanna get too in depth on my first plugin outing. It creates a WordPress widget for showing the Latest Inspections javascript badge that you can grab from the Ratemyplace site.

There’s also an options page so you can decide which local authority you want to show from the ones available, or if you want to show all of them.

I’ve tested it with a standard installation of WordPress v2.8 and it seems to work okay. It’s ready for localisation so if you fancy translating it, please do.

It’s released under the GPL and you can download it here.

*It will be available on the WordPress.org site in time.

Citizen journalism: Friend or foe to traditional media?

Recently I’ve become involved in a relative new project, The Lichfield Blog. As you may gather from the name it’s a blog, about Lichfield.

I’m really proud to be part of something that has such a switched on and engaged little team behind it.

It was especially gratifying to watch as the story of a fire in one of Lichfield’s pubs quickly made it onto the blog just 3 hours after the initial call to the emergency services. Obviously we were lucky to have one of our team walk past at the right moment with a camera phone – a photo quickly made it’s way on to Twitter and a few tweets later the post was up.

The blog’s creator, Ross, made a call to the fire service about the incident and learned that no-one else had picked up on the story yet. It seemed we had beaten the local media. Having seen other, more high-profile, stories break on Twitter that doesn’t surprise me but it did make me think about all this “newspapers are dead” talk.

The blog has a few hundred visitors now, which is great, but it’s never going to kill the newspapers in Lichfield. I wouldn’t want it to either – there are plenty of people throughout the world, not just in Lichfield, who like to read a paper.

So the question isn’t, “are newspapers going to die?”, but rather “how can newspapers use citizen journalism?”

A good example is the Pancake Race in Lichfield. Nick Brickett has been providing photography for The Lichfield Blog, his first assignment being the traditional Shrove Tuesday Pancake Race. His photos of the event made their way onto the Express & Star web site (ironically, as I write this, said web site is down!)

This could be the way journalism is going. Another great example is Channel 4 News (who my Twitter followers will know full well I admire).

Their coverage of the Schiphol plane crash was very much driven by Twitter. I sat in front of Tweetdeck and watched it all unfold in front of my eyes, from them picking up the story, contacting an eye witness to putting a Twit on the lunch time news. It was a first for them and possibly for journalism in the UK.

Krishnan Guru-Murphy of Channel 4 News says that Twitter is “just another way of finding people and talking“.

I suspect some journalists will treat services like Twitter and citizen journalism in general as a threat rather than an asset. I’ve heard of publications shutting down because they just can’t sustain themselves for much longer (obviously the ‘crunch’ doesn’t help) but instead of shutting down, I believe they should adapt and grow with the times.

And let’s face it, it’s cheaper to do it online!

Do you think the internet is a threat to traditional media, or should traditional media adapt and embrace services like Twitter as sources for news?

The Guardian should know better

I like the Guardian, probably because it’s so tech savvy, but I was dissapointed reading Simon Hoggart’s column (via The Lichfield Blog) having a bit of a moan about Michael Fabricant MP’s use of Twitter.

Hoggart takes the typical response to seeing Twitter;

“I don’t understand it, therefore it’s just full of toilet trip talk and sandwich fillings from people who have nothing better to do than seek all the attention in the world as best they can in 140 characters.”

His article was, in essence, an elongated version of exactly the kind of drivel he assumes Twitter is constructed from. There’s about as much interesting reading there as there is on a pack of B&H.

I can sympathise with his viewpoint though. After all, Twitter is faster than traditional media at reporting the news.

Does nationalism matter?

 

Image courtesy of geishaboy500
Image courtesy of geishaboy500

I was walking past Lichfield police station today, watching their grubby Union Jack flapping around in the wind and I wondered why the Lichfield District Council building just down the road didn’t also have a Union Jack proudly waving around.

In fact, why don’t all Government buildings have a Union Jack?

I’m kind of a nationalist – in the sense that I like to feel like I’m part of something, like I belong – but not in the defensive ‘screw everyone else, let’s be completely independent’ sense.

One of my favourite phrases is “no involvement, no commitment” because I think applies to so many things. I’m of the mind that a greater sense of nationality (similar to what the U.S. seems to have) would help society to function more cohesively. Maybe flying the flag is one part of that.

What do you think? Does nationalism matter? Should Government buildings fly the flag? Do you fly the flag?

 

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Feels Like Home

It’s funny how you get that ‘feels like home’ feeling.

Come Wednesday I’ll have lived (apart from a short stint from March to October of this year) in Lichfield for 3 years.

Today, I’m back at my parents house where I lived for 20 years. The house I was very nearly born in.

I feel incredibly comfortable here and I’ve only just really noticed it. I’m instantly more relaxed than I am back at my flat. Maybe I should work here every day.

What is that? Is that some deep psychological instinct going on? I dunno, but I like it.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]