Archive for January 2009

Speed Tweeting

January 25, 2009

Forget Christmas. January is the worst month for being single. The dark, dreary and depressing weather means you’re stuck indoors with nothing to keep you warm except your furry hot water bottle and the remote control. You’re both a few pounds lighter and a few pounds heavier after spending and eating so much at Christmas. You realise being fat and skint is the worst combination and curse yourself for having polished off that box of After Eights and buying that expensive dress, which you don’t even fit into anymore.

As punishment you’ve set yourself a month of detoxing, dieting and detention at weekends. You’re all too aware that yet another Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and you fret more about it now than at the time because, lets face it, by February 14  you’ve managed to reinstate your social life and surround yourself with friends and champers, all necessities for day-to-day living.

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So you can imagine my despair and disgust when, not only did I find out the Welsh have their own Valentine’s Day (St Dwynwen’s Day) which falls tomorrow (25 January), but to rub salt in the wound, I sat down to read the Guardian only to be met with a free Guide to Dating: everything we needed to know about how to go on that first date, second date, speed date and blind date. Who made them the experts?

Not feeling like I wanted to be reminded that I am neither dating nor have any potential to be in the near future (simply because I’m too busy of course), I decided to read my news online.

As I logged into my email account, I was confronted with dozens of new emails telling me that ‘Ed59’, ‘Nice Dave’, ‘BeccaOnline’ and a whole other plethora of people were now following me on Twitter. And on and on it proceeded throughout the day. I’ve been a Tweeter for three months and now, today of all days, my site has suddenly begun to explode with followers. I don’t know whether to be scared or flattered.

So as I mosied through the profiles of my new-found cyber friends, deciding who I was or wasn’t going to follow, I realised it was taking me all of 30 seconds to make this crucial decision. If their Tweets or profile page didn’t impress me then  I wasn’t prepared to follow them.

With the Guardian’s article on speed dating still freshly in my mind (I had a sneaky peek, simply for research purposes), I started to wonder if anyone had yet formed a relationship through Twitter. A quick glance at someone’s page, a read of their bio info, a visit to their website and maybe even a quick scroll through their followers and you’ve formed a definite picture. Why, you can find out more about someone in 30 seconds on Twitter than you ever could in three minutes at a speed dating event.

I can see it now. Boy follows girl, girl follows boy, boy Tweets girl, girl falls in love. A few passing Tweets, followed by a few flirty @ replies, swiftly followed by a few risque direct messages. The next thing you know you’re sitting in a bar with a red rose beside you waiting for the mystery Tweeter. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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Last week, I blogged that Twitter was the new Facebook. I think I underestimated its powers. Twitter has the potential to be the new Cilla Black. It’s only a matter of time before we get the first Twitter love birds and I expect many more to follow suit. You heard it here first. I’m off to buy a new hat.

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P.S. I do not condone the meeting of strangers who have met online and anyone willing to do so should proceed with extreme caution!

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Twitter Strikes Again

January 17, 2009

Another day, another news story broken by Twitter. It seems that little bird we have all come to know and love has once again forced me to eat my words. My “Twitter is just a souped-up version of a Facebook status bar” words to be exact.

The first pictures of the Hudson River plane crash was taken by Janis Krums. Not a journalist, just someone who happened to be on a ferry. Mr Krums took the picture on his mobile phone and immediately posted it on Twitpic.

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Within minutes, the photo had travelled to Japan, Iran, China, Norway, England, and hundreds of other locations across the world. News networks were still trying to organise a helicopter to go and get that all important iconic picture. Oops, looks like you were cut to the chase. Better luck next time.

The Hudson River plane crash is a monumental story in its own right but it has almost been overshadowed by the story of Twitter. Anyone who didn’t know about it or former cynics are now jumping on the Twitter bandwagon.

Yesterday Rory Cellan Jones tweeted:

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It seems Twitter is spreading like wild fire. It is rapidly changing from a messaging tool/status bar to a widely used and trusted multimedia service where more and more people are breaking news.

Twitter, and indeed, citizen journalism stikes again. Reporters in New York tried to get to the scene of the crash as quickly as they could, the only problem being that the plane was already beginning to float downstream. Other news outlets were still trying to get their choppers in the air to get a picture. By this stage Janis Krums probably had a few hundred more followers.

The media revolution has once again enabled us to add another iconic image to an already vast collection, most of which were taken by mere bystanders who happened to be in the right place at the right time. It’s little wonder then that journalists everywhere are constantly looking over their shoulder, worried about losing their jobs or having their power usurped. The economic downturn was bad enough, now we’ve got the boy next door to contend with.

Facebook is so last season darling, Twitter is the new black. Next time I meet Alan Rusbridger or any other important editor type peeps, I’ll expect them to ask me if I Tweet, and that’ll be another drink I owe Glyn, who introduced me to that little bird we have all come to know and love.

The Death of Media Wales?

January 16, 2009

The familiar cries of the Media Wales vendors as you walk through Cardiff’s Queen Street often go unnoticed. The men who make their living by selling the South Wales Echo and Western Mail in the city centre have become as commonplace and well-known as the Aneurin Bevan statue which stands at the end of Queen Street, looking proudly towards the castle, another iconic landmark of Cardiff.

What if the castle were to suddenly disappear? And the founder of the NHS gave up his rightful place in the city centre? Or if the vendors, who are relied on to deliver a daily dose of local Welsh news to hundreds of people, simply weren’t there anymore? All three seem unfathomable yet the latter of these may happen in the not so distant future.

Media Wales is going through big changes. Job cuts, redundancies, amalgamation and, most recently, a name change. Media Wales is no more. Owner Trinity Mirror announced this week it would be merging its Wales and Liverpool divisions and renaming it Trinity Mirror North West and Wales.

This announcement, accompanied with the job losses of two regional bosses, is just the latest in a long line of a series of blows to Wales’s media outlet. In November 2008, the editorial department was faced with an announcement of the fourth round of redundancies since the end of 2003. Staff at Media Wales are, unsurprisingly, uneasy and worried about their futures. The economic downturn, declining circulations, high profit expectations, falls in advertising revenues and uncertainty about how to secure sufficient volumes of future digital revenue have combined to prompt grave concern and talk has been rife about exactly what the end of Media Wales will mean for Welsh identity and democracy.

NUJ Father of Chapel, Martin Shipton, believes the future of the company is uncertain, and that there is considerable threat, not only to hundreds of jobs, but to an essential element of Welsh democracy.

Simon Farrington, Media Wales’s Business Development Editor, believes a Wales without its own media is “unthinkable.”

He said: “The Western Mail, for one, is synonymous with Wales, if it didn’t exist there would be a huge void in news values, especially with the government and sports.

“The Celtic papers and the South Wales Echo are the heartbeat of local communities. People turn to their newspapers everyday to see what is happening in their area. It’s what they do on a daily basis, its part of their lives.”

– Simon Farrington talking about the future of Media Wales.

He believes, despite the changes, Media Wales will continue to do what it does best. “Despite any recent decisions, we still produce and will continue to produce excellent, quality newspapers for the people of Wales.”

Circulation figures for Media Wales have dropped considerably, with the Western Mail selling less than 40,000 papers a day and the South Wales Echo selling just 44,624 per day, down almost half from 82,117 since 1994.

The growing number of people switching on their computers for their news rather than opening a newspaper plays a large part in the decline of these figures. The future of journalism certainly seems to be swaying towards the internet.

“Change in journalism has been constant for many years. Going online is just one more change,” said Mr Farrington. “A journalist is a journalist, they are news gatherers and writers. It does not change what they do, whatever medium they use.”

Mike Hill, former head of multimedia at Trinity Mirror Regionals and editor of the South Wales Echo, believes online should compliment the paper rather than replace it and seems optimistic about his new role and the future of the company, despite the figures.

“Whatever we do, circulation will probably go down but our total audience across all our platforms is going up,” he said. “It’s not just us, its happening to papers all over the world. The online version should be used to compliment the paper because a lot of people still value the physical product.

“We are re-launching the South Wales Echo soon, I think the new look will better reflect Cardiff and the people who live here. That’s the one thing I noticed about the paper when I started. Cardiff is going places and is a great place to live but the Echo didn’t reflect that.”

It remains to be seen whether this new-look Echo will boost circulation figures or not. Or will there come a day when news stands throughout Cardiff won’t bear the titles people have been waking up with for most of their lives?

Mark Davies, 30, of York Street, Canton, said he can’t imagine a Wales without its newspapers: “For as long as I can remember there was always a Western Mail and a Wales on Sunday in our house,” he said. “It’s something everyone in Cardiff grows up with. For these to disappear would be terrible. Wales is a nation in its own right and we deserve to have our own paper.”

Media Wales forms a big part of Welsh identity. Buying and reading their titles is an everyday activity for thousands of people. Selling them is the livelihood of several men who stand day after day in the city centre. Whether or not this activity, these jobs and this identity will remain lies solely with the boardroom in London.

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