Category Archives: Development

The Best-Ever Publishing Festival Line Up

PPA-festival-line-upI’m producer of the two big content streams at this year’s PPA festival, where along with CEO Barry McIlheney and his team we’ve put together the most fantastic line-up. Four stages, 60 speakers, CEO’s, MD’s Facebook, Google and…Mushpit!

The festival is Thursday May 12th, there’s still a few tickets left, buy them here.

Rock n’ roll meets corporate finance

What's-next-for-banksAlong with my colleagues Andy Pemberton and James Lumley, I’m presenting at this top-notch event next week. Our agency Furthr has teamed up with White Light Media to challenge your expectations with a provocative line-up of speakers with backgrounds in business investment, disruptive thinking, brand development… and rock music.

It’s an invitation-only, free event for senior comms and marketing professionals in the banking sector from 4-6pm on Thursday 24 September at the 71A gallery and bar in Shoreditch, London. If you want to come, drop me a line! See more

Mergers, aquisitions and permanent beta. My media predictions for 2014.

End of year reviews are fun, but I’m just a little bit late for that. Besides, I’m much more interested now in what happens next. Here’s five big ideas that media brands need to grapple with in 2014.

1. Realise the value of their audience
Trust and recognition can take decades to build. With every brand in the world now able to deliver a content proposition, media brands have a genuine head start when it comes to building meaningful audience relationships. Expect mergers and acquisitions.

2. Understand that a strong point of view is an obligation
Content is everywhere, so brands must be highly disciplined with their content strategy to maintain attention, credibility and point of difference. This means more focus on brand values, and then delivering stories that reflect them with a point of view that really means something.

3. Create better sponsored content
Instead of the rubbish that turns up in everyone’s feed, brands have to realise their sponsored content must be entertaining, useful and non-promotional. Every. Single. Time.

4. Get the website balance right
The hardest nut to crack, but if the content and the user experience is valuable, users will pay – particularly for specialist brands. If titles can get their story straight and support it across every platform, then metered content, paywalls and added value subscriptions will succeed. A different business model will also reduce the requirement to yell at the audience with a bunch of screaming MPUs.

5. Accept permanent beta and budget accordingly
Media brands need to wake up to the fact that visual design IS content. User expectation is now so demanding, that brands need to accept continual development when it comes to look, feel and function. Whatever the platform, if the experience doesn’t feel right within the first three seconds, people will wander off.

Same as it ever was.’s 10 design principles are simply a work of genius

The website was voted ‘Design Of The Year’ in 2013, the first time a website has ever won this prestigious award. I wrote about it on coverthink back in April, but now, reports Andy Pemberton from Furthr, the people behind the site have detailed exactly how they get such great results.

  1. Start with needs*
  2. Do less
  3. Design with data
  4. Do the hard work to make it simple
  5. Iterate. Then iterate again.
  6. Build for inclusion
  7. Understand context
  8. Build digital services, not websites
  9. Be consistent, not uniform
  10. Make things open: it makes things better

Read more here at furthr.

The big surprise behind successful editorial brand development

A cracking talk last night from legendary agile exponent Kelly Waters at Skills Matter in London. Titled ‘My Agile Journey: If Only I knew Then What I know Now’, Kelly gave us a walk through of his impressive CV, delivering loads of insights and wisdom along the way.

Kelly has just finished a six month stint as interim director of digital engineering at The Guardian, responsible among other things, for moving the whole site to a new .com url. Previous to this, Kelly worked at RBI and IPC media, where he implemented agile practices across the whole business.

The principles of agile are simple, but successful implementation is another thing entirely. As an example, here’s last night’s list of things Kelly believes business leaders need to do in order to make agile work.

1. Think big, start small. Hold onto the big picture, whilst breaking the work into manageable parts.
2. Collaborate. Too many leaders expect everyone else to do that, other than them.
3. Focus on value.
Concentrate on what value the work can add, not just cost.
4. Do less.
Focus on what’s really important.
5. Learn fast.
Test early and often.
6. Empower teams.
And really mean it.
7. Explore and adjust.
As Mike Tyson said, ‘Everyone’s got a plan until they get hit’.
8. Accept hard truths.
Don’t shoot the messenger.
9. Lead by example.

I’ve worked in agile delivery, but the interesting thing here, is that these best practices are universal, not just exclusive to software development.

The fact is, so much of the editorial brand development process is agile, without it ever being recognised as such. Editorial brand development is all about developing user identification, tone of voice and point of view. But just like releasing code, it’s about launching new product into a fast moving and constantly changing environment. And as always, the best results come from empowered teams, frequent feedback loops, MPV, clear priorities, stand-ups, process visualisation and all the rest of it. In other words, Agile.

All of Kelly’s slides and a podcast of the evening can now be seen here at skills matter. His excellent blog is at