Reflections on JEEcamp

Well, I’m sure over the coming days that many of yesterdays attendees at JEEcamp will no doubt be posting their views on how yesterday’s event went.

EDIT: Tom Scotney already has – see what he took from JEEcamp here.

A success

There is no doubt in my mind that yesterday’s event was a success. I personally took a lot of information, and insight from it (more later in the post), and others will have taken their own opinions away from it.

I was part of the blog team, along with a few other students, who were relaying the day’s events to the viewers of a live blog, (via CoverItLive), and others were twittering away as the speakers delivered their speeches and pitches.

An RSS feed of all of the attendees twitter accounts, and anything tagged ‘JEEcamp’, can be found here – some of it makes for some very interesting reading.

436

Rick Waghorn, founder of myfootballwriter.com, began the day’s proceedings with a keynote speech about how his business came to be, amongst other things.

Rick said that his site attracted 33,000 unique visitors in January – and whilst that may be down to the transfer window opening, it is certainly impressive.

The more interesting figures that Rick mentioned are 436 – the average number of seconds that a single user spends on the site, and 3.5 – the average number of visits his site will get in a month.

Laura Oliver of journalism.co.uk has written more about Rick’s keynote speech, which can be found here.

Funding

Once the speech was over, the conference split up into its discussion groups, which included Online News Models, Communities, Legals, Fundings, and Business Models. I covered funding, which was hosted by Rick Waghorn.

Alex Gamela has given a brief overview of the other discussions, and key points to come out of yesterdays events.

The main things to come out of this discussion, other than a sustained attack on Google’s advertising models were:

  • To be successful, you need a five year financial forecast. Rick uses iReport, for which CNN bought the domain without even giving it a thought, or doing anything with it. Rick hasn’t an idea what his domain is worth. (He paid £16 for his site.)
  • Why doesn’t the Trinity Mirror set up a fund like the Knight Foundation for smaller companies?
  • Some local papers panic and put everything online, in an effort to keep up with the nationals.
  • You have to earn over $50 with Adsense before you can claim your money
    How many sites must there be UNDER that threshold?
  • Demographically, if you took out everybody over the age of 60 in local newspaper circulation, where would you be?
  • The fundamental challenge is to persuade potential investors to invest in your product/site, without OVERspending or releasing too much equity into the project.

Pitches

The most well recieved of the day’s pitches was Nigel Eccles‘ project Hubdub – a news prediction website where users bet on the outcome of certain news stories using ‘play’ money. This clearly has the potential to grow very quickly and Nigel was a man who was most definitely in demand after his speech. (It had 42,000 unique visitors in its first week!)

However, a key point raised during his pitch was ‘Should Hubdub place ethical restrictions on its questions?’ – because currently, a user is able to sign up and pose ethically incorrect questions, such as something regarding a missing child. We posed this question to the viewers of the live blog – 42% agreed that it should, while 58% didn’t).

This was the most well recieved of the three pitches (Which included scribblesheet, and qotz – a project still in development).

Panel Discussion

The day ended with an informal Q&A session with Mark Comerford, Martin Stabe, Kyle MacRae, and Sarah Hartley.

This was definitely where I picked up most of the key points from the day.

The panel believed that advances in technologies, such as mobile, RSS, and broadband – just make people use what was originally present more often. Mark believed that traditional media have no real strategy for utilising output on mobile phones, and as a result “Newspapers aren’t dying – we’re committing suicide”.

The panel then went on to discuss Qik – software for mobile phones that allows users to stream video directly from their mobile phones. They believed that such software changes everything, and anybody can now walk around with a live TV camera in their pocket.

Such advances allow journalists to change the way they tell their stories – and it allows the public to tell their stories back to journalists. Mark believed that journalists are tired of being seen as ‘the voice of the people’, when they are simply A voice IN the field (of journalism).

This raised the age old debate of ‘Do we need Journalists?’ which was quickly answered with ‘Who is a journalist may not be as important as “What is Journalism?’. The panel agreed that it was an issue of trust – and if journalism isn’t transparent, the public will go to a news source that is – which may not neccessarily be a journalist.

If journalists want people to engage with them, they need to bring the stories TO the public, rather than waiting for the public to go to the press. Most news organisations clearly try to get UGC (user generated content) for free, which is detrimental to the medium. What they should be doing is working together to become part of a ‘sharing partnership’ – which would benefit both freelancers and news organisations.

Young Journalists – The future?

Mark’s final point was the one that really drove home with me.

He mentioned that young Journalists are more technically skilled than their older superiors, but they are being put into difficult positions – where they have the neccessary journalistic skills, but not the power or the experience needed.

“It’s the same as leaving a bunch of kids in a car park for long enough and then expecting them to know how to drive.”

Referring to my final year project, and a discussion that I had with Pete Ashton at the end of the event – Initially I was worried that I had to design and run a website and a CMS – and that was my biggest stumbling block.

I realised by the end of the event that I shouldn’t have been worried about how the website might look or how and where I was going to get it online – I should instead place more of an emphasis on how I’m going to drive traffic to the website and keep users coming back to it.

The very last point from JEEcamp was also VERY relevant:

“Now is the best time to be a journalist. The demand is for journalists who WANT to tell a story. All of the contacts, features, etc, are in place to become a great journalist. This is THE time to be a journalist. It doesnt get much better than this.”

And that is pretty much that, roll on next year!

PS – I also gave a video interview to the European Journalism Centre – I’ll link to it once they get it online.

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4 responses to “Reflections on JEEcamp

  1. Pingback: JEEcamp - when the cottage news industry met mainstream media « Online Journalism Blog

  2. You say:
    Mark believed that journalists are tired of being seen as ‘the voice of the people’, when they are simply A voice IN the field (of journalism).

    What I thought I said was that *the public* is tired of seeing journalists seeing themselves as THE voice of the public. The problem is that journalists *still* see, and want the power to be, the voice of the public. This is one of the things that is causing the crisis of identity and confidence within journalism. The issue of ownership is central. Journalism no longer owns the news, no longer owns the voice, no longer owns the means of distribution and no longer has the monopoly power that we traditionally have had as gatekeepers.
    That is a hard lesson to learn. Those of us (individuals and companies) that learn it will survive and quite possibly thrive. Those that do not will die.

  3. Mark,

    Apologies if I misquoted you, or misunderstood what you said.

    I do agree with what you said about the issue of ownership being central. Anybody has the power to now become a successful journalist, but quality is another issue – which comes through trust and transparency – and the idea of branding – of which Tom Scotney has wrote an excellent post.

    I had a meeting with Paul Bradshaw, Rachael Wilson, and Graham Powell of ‘Guinea Pig Design’ yesterday. Graham is a product designer by trade, and held some very dated views about Journalism, and authority.

    Within a few hours of discussing this, we ‘opened his eyes’, if you like to the points raised at JEEcamp about trust, and transparency – No doubt Paul will be blogging about this soon.

    This morning I recieved an email from him:
    “It (the discussion) certainly made me think about my old fashioned prejudices regarding journalism and how new thinking can really make some positive changes (which is obviously good).”

    The more people that think the same way will clearly make the industry seem more appealing for potential journalists in the future.

  4. Pingback: JEECamp Digest « O Lago | The Lake

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