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Live blog: Society of Editors Regional Conference

16.35. The conference and the live blog have now ended although comments are still welcome.  There are now separate HTFP stories online about Robin Burgess’s plans for online paywalls and Eric Pickles’ comments on journalists’ access to council meetings.

16.30. “Holding content offline doesn’t sell more papers, it just makes people look elsewhere,” says David. He calls for the phrase “for full story, see tomorrow’s paper” to be banned.

16.24. David says the switch to Facebook registration for comments on TM websites has all but eliminated abusive comments.

16.22. Public bodies like the police are competitors in terms of content – no point in holding stuff for the paper as they will probably put it on their own websites.

16.19. Most read stories on Birmingham Mail and MEN websites in November was not hard news but the online guides to the Christmas markets.

16.16. Breaking news live blogs have created a “new buzz” in the newsroom says David.

16.11. Final speaker of the day is Trinity Mirror’s David Higgerson. He explains how the company’s new-look newsrooms works – all reporters are platform-neutral, conferences are held with everyone standing up, content is released in time for scheduled online spikes at 8am, 12 noon and 4pm.

15.52. Sarah Hartley, who is also MD of Talk About Local, explains why mobile first rather than digital first is now the new mantra, highlighting augmented reality and geotagging among technologies of the future. “Anybody can be a broadcaster now, anyone can be a publisher.”

15.45. The final session focuses on current digital developments and features blogger Sarah Hartley and Trinity Mirror digital publishing chief David Higgerson.

15.44. No real time for questions on Local TV which is a bit disappointing – there are a wide variety of views about it in the industry.

15.37. One of those reporters, sports journalist Michael Bailey, said he saw it as a good opportunity to learn new skills, although he admitted that not all of his colleagues saw it that way. “If I wanted to work in TV I would have left ten years ago and done it then,” one told him.

15.24. Bob says that out of 95 Archant Anglia journalists, more than 50 have so far been trained in TV reporting skills.

15.15. Bob Crawley, publishing director of Archant Anglia, introduces the session on Local TV. Archant is behind Norwich TV station Mustard TV which is due to be launched later this year.

14.50. Coventry-born Derby Telegraph editor Neil White asks Alun if he has any plans to take his current paper the Coventry Telegraph weekly. Alun responds that there are different strategies for different newspapers, but he has no plans to do so. “It’s a fantastic daily newspaper,” he says.

14.42. “is not making any money, but has built a phenomenal audience,” says Alun. “It was pretty strong competition. We had to work even harder to make our print content more unique.”

14.30. Alun says that what the Birmingham Post didn’t anticipate was that by going weekly, it opened the way to a huge amount of competition – the Birmingham Press, which subsequently closed, and The Business in the West Midlands. “Three men in a broom cupboard created a very strong business brand,” he says.

14.24. The fact that the Birmingham Post still exists means it was the right decision, says Alun. But he admits it was a “painful experience” seeing it first go compact, then go weekly.

14.23. The original idea for the Birmingham Post, namely to turn it into a business-focused daily paper, did not work, says Alun. Hence the decision to take it weekly.

14.14. Alun Thorne said that when he joined the Birmingham Post there were 35 journalists including nine business staff, three of whom were in London. “It was an incredibly expensive newspaper to create…there were just not enough eyeballs.”

14.09. Ed Asquith says it was a question of when, not if, the Scarborough paper moved from daily to weekly publication. He said he only had “a few dozen” letters of objection.

14.00. The conference resumes after lunch with a discussion on ‘going weekly.’ Alun Thorne, who took the Birmingham Post weekly, will debate the issue with Ed Asquith, who oversaw the same switch at the Scarborough News. Oldham Evening Chronicle editor Dave Whaley, who had been due to put the case against, has had to pull out of the discussion.

13.00. The morning session concludes. The two biggest news developments of the conference so far have been Eric Pickles announcement of new laws to widen press access to council committee meetings, and the very strong signal from CN group chief executive Robin Burgess that his titles will move to a system of online paywalls. The agenda for the afternoon includes Local TV and the switch from daily to weekly publication.

12.47. Derby Telegraph editor Neil White asks Robin whether advertisers would accept the lower website usage that would come with a subscription-based system. Robin accepts there will be a falloff in digital audiences but argues that advertisers will pay a higher yield for “better” subscribers.

12.46. Robin summarises his vision of the future – lower overheads, charging subscribers, using content from a variety of sources, multi-media but still committed to print, and focused on quality journalism.

12.40. Publishers will still need to make further cost savings, but also need to accept lower profit margins, says Robin. He says digital revenues and subscription revenues will steadily grow.

12.35. “For some time I have thought that we can’t continue giving our content away…the reader must pay,” says Robin. He says he has not decided when to put up a pay wall at his titles, “but I am fairly certain it’s going to come.”

12.33. Robin Burgess: “In the future there will be fewer journalists. We will have to get smarter about news gathering. Social media will play a part.”

12.27. Trust and localness are the key components of the CN Group’s DNA says Robin. “We have to have people in the community,” he says. Some CN Group reporters are based in a cafe in Maryport or an auctioneers’ in Cockermouth.

12.23. “We will have to put more thought into the digital offering…we need to do more research on how digital advertising works and doesn’t work.”

12.21. “I am not predicting Armageddon, I am not predicting the end of local media,” says Robin. But he says newspapers will become a “minority” part of what we do.

12.17. Robin looks at the group’s titles have performed since 1976. The sharpest period of circulation decline has occurred since 2004, which is when the Internet really took off, he says.

12.14. The final speaker of the morning is Robin Burgess, chief executive of the family-owned CN Group.

12.09. Neil Fowler asks whether there is a need for more joined-up thinking in government over the regional press, citing the Office of Fair Trading investigations into the proposed sale of seven titles in Kent which caused the deal to collapse, and the current OFT investigation into the Local World deal.

12.05. Eric Pickles: “We’re putting a stop those feeble excuses for closing a meeting to the public and press without due warning. Councils must give 28 days notice of their intention to hold any meetings behind closed doors and their reasons for doing so. Any intentional obstruction or refusal to supply certain documents could result in a fine.”

12.04. “Where Mrs Thatcher boldly opened the door, we’ve removed the hinges. Ensuring there is access not just in the main council forum but in its committees and subcommittees,” says the communities secretary.

12.02. Mr Pickles also promises to strengthen the rights of journalists to attend council meetings, threatening to fine those which “intentionally obstruct” access to committees land sub-committees or refuse to supply chain documents. He cites this as a continuation of the work of Margaret Thatcher who originally opened up access with a Private Members Bill in 1960.

12.00. The communities secretary reaffirms his pledge of an “anti Pravda law” in the next session of Parliament

11.57. Mr Pickles attacks what he calls “the sinister spread of town hall Pravdas…pouring taxpayers’ money down the drain.”

11.54. Eric praises the campaigning work of local newspapers, highlighting the Liverpool Echo’s Hillsborough campaign.

11.51. Eric Pickles reveals he has been hooked on newspapers since being asked to edit the school magazine aged 14.

11.45. East London Advertiser editor Malcolm Starbrook and communities secretary Eric Pickles take the stage for a discussion on council newspapers.

11.43. Steve concludes by paying tribute to Nottingham Post editor Mel Cook whose funeral takes place this afternoon. “Mel was great editor, a really smashing guy and great fun to be around.”

11.39. Role of editor is leader, innovator, creator, salesman, campaigner, curator and product developer, says Steve. “He’s got be a great journalist as well.”

11.34. Steve’s Local World vision: 1. Unbeatable local online content. 2. Radically grow local digital revenues. 3. Champion entrepreneurial spirit with local accountability. 4. Continue to love print.

11.28. “The number of editors who have moved out of this industry to do something on the web is interesting….It gives me some hope,” says Steve.

11.24. Local World has no significant debt, no pension liabilities and no printing presses, says Steve. “We have to turn this business into a 24/7 media business,” he says.

11.20. Steve Auckland takes the microphone. “We’re not in a growth business at the moment.”

11.10. Bit of a coffee break while we await the arrival of our next speaker, Local World chief executive Steve Auckland.

10.54. Bob Satchwell: “I fully understand the problem you as regional editors face in saying this wasn’t our problem. Sadly we are where we are.”

10.45. South Wales Argus editor Kevin Ward says there is “genuine anger” in the regional press about the current situation, particularly among small newspapers. “Relatively inexpensive means more expensive than it currently is,” he says of the proposed arbitration arm. “If there is to be unity in the way we go forward, there has to be a much stronger voice for the regional press,” he says.

10.43. Former regional editor Neil Fowler asks whether MPs actually understand the “changed financial model” of local news. Neil also asks what would happen if the regional press joined The Spectator and others in staying out of the new regulator.

10.38. Medway Messenger editor Bob Bounds says: “Where we’ve pulled our punches as an industry is in not engaging our readers with this issue.”

10.35. Lord Hunt says the regional press has “pulled its punches” so far in the discussions about the new regulator. “I want to make sure all MPs know the views of the regional press on these issues,” he says.

10.30. Don Martin: Is the voice of the regional press going to be heard when complaints are being adjudicated? Only one regional press representative on the proposed complaints arm of the new regulator. What happens if s/he is absent asks Don.

10.17. Asked about the potential costs of the new system, Lord Hunt says: “We are close to reaching a solution which will be inexpensive.”

10.11. Question and Answer session begins with Lord Hunt. Are the regional press being penalised for the sins of national newspapers, asks Sunday Post editor Donald Martin. Lord Hunt warns against treating regional and national newspapers separately.

10.08. The new regulator will have to cover the Internet as well as newspapers says Lord Hunt.

10.04. Lord Hunt points out that while Lord Justice Leveson rejected statutory regulation of the press, there is now a “mountain of legislation” facing the industry.

9.56. Press Complaints Commission chairman Lord Hunt gets up to speak. He is seeking to broker a deal between the government and the industry over the future of press regulation.

9.53. Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell highlights recent HTFP stories about councils gagging local reporters. “Councils are trying to stop reporters reporting. It’s just becoming outrageous,” says Bob.

9.50. Good turnout today from serving editors. Papers represented include Coventry Telegraph, Derby Telegraph, Lincolnshire Echo, News and Star, Carlisle, North West Evening Mail, Worcester News, Swindon Advertiser, Sunday Post, Dundee, Kent Messenger, Medway Messenger, Kentish Gazette, Hereford Times, Bolton News, East London Advertiser, Belfast Telegraph, The Leader, South Wales Argus, Scarborough News and Staffordshire Newsletter.

9.45. A few words of welcome from organiser Richard Catlow. Followed by a moment’s silence for Nottingham Post editor Mel Cook whose funeral takes place later today.

Welcome to the live blog for the 2013 Society of Editors Regional Conference, sponsored by Marriott Hotels and HoldtheFrontPage.  We will be updating the blog with developments throughout the day.

The conference at Forest in Arden gets under way at 9.45am and the progamme is as follows:

09.45    Regulation after Leveson. Donald Martin, editor-in-chief Newspapers, D C Thomson will introduce Lord Hunt to discuss regulation after Leveson

10.45    Steve Auckland, chief executive, Local World

11.40    Council Newspapers. Malcolm Starbrook, group editor, Archant will introduce Eric Pickles, secretary of state for Communities and Local Government

12.15    Robin Burgess, chief executive CN Group

14.00   Going Weekly. Alun Thorne, editor, Coventry Telegraph to chair a debate with Ed Asquith, editor, Scarborough News

15.00  Local TV.  Bob Crawley, publishing director, Archant, Fiona Ryder, managing director, Mustard TV Norwich and Michael Bailey, sports journalist, Archant

15.45   An Internet Overview.  Sarah Hartley, managing director, Talk About Local and David Higgerson, digital publishing editor, Trinity Mirror

16.30   Close.

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  • April 15, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Might this liveblog not benefit by being interactive and pulling in the views of us plebs on the outside?! God knows there are enough options for ‘true’ liveblogging now.

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