Category Archives: Technology

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.

Five good links

Five-must-reads11From the FT, Adland’s continuing existential crisis, along with good observations as to how brands grow.

Twitter’s troubles, by Emily Bell along with a deeper dive from The Atlantic.

Story of the year; facebook’s interest in AI is going to become our reality. Posts from The Mail and The Guardian.

DC Thomson’s Jacqueline Wilson magazine goes Dyslexia friendly. A brilliant use of a really smart typography.

Dave Trott on the trouble with ‘content’.

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

The best thing about The Daily Mirror’s new website ampp3d? It took just eight weeks to launch

The Daily Mirror have jumped onto the Buzzfeed bandwagon, with this new data journalism called ampp3d, here’s a story at gigaom that explains the approach:

‘The idea behind Ampp3d is to use social-sharing methods — snappy headlines, emotional content etc. — in the service of data journalism’

The speed of the development is impressive, just 8 weeks from decision to launch date. Also, the fact that Trinity Mirror are willing to experiment in this space, having already had a go with something called Which whilst looks fun, hasn’t exactly set the world on fire.

The Ampp3d site is pretty good. There are lots of smart stories, all well told with compelling visuals. The idea of simple data visualisation isn’t new, people from Business Insider to Furthr, have been doing this for ages. The thing that will determine Ampp3d‘s success, is whether users will want to share.

The visual cues are big, with social buttons front and centre at the bottom of the posts. So it’s now all down to whether the headline is engaging enough. There’s been a lot of debate about the new style of headline writing exploited by upworthy and in particular, viralnova. In short, this technique relies on doubling down on the emotion in the story, but stripping out the content. Here’s how Business Insider describes the method:

‘The headline model for the site is laughably smart. First, take a news story, add the phrase “you won’t believe” or “this ____ made me cry, but” and then the kicker sentence: “what happens next will blow your mind” or “then this happened.” There’s your recipe for viral success.’

The Ampp3d headlines are good, but if they can develop a real point of view that maintains a high level of emotion, they could do really well.

But what looks wrong here is the name. Ampp3d is hard to remember, impossible to type, and with a content and context that seems to talk more to the business model than any kind of user experience. The ‘3’ is totally confusing. Is this about the phone company, page three, or perhaps it’s just some hangover from the 3am girls. It may well be that in the digital space names mean diddly-squit, if the stuff is being shared, who cares what the site is called?

But I doubt it.

Update: Since I wrote this post, Martin Bellam, who launched the site has written a fine piece explaining how and why the name was chosen, along with many other insights into the challenges of getting a new launch out the door so fast. Recommended.

Five must-see, must-read links

Genius. Print your twitter feed onto toilet rolls. It’s called #shitter, apparently.

Great post from Neil Perkin’s fine blog, on why big companies don’t innovate more.

Fair comment from Fast Company on Yahoo’s new logo. Given the minefield, I think it’s good work.

This kiosk prints magazines as they’re purchased. Neat!

Will magazine brands get ecommerce right?

Five Must-See, Must-Read Links

Amazon ditches Powerpoint, on the grounds that it’s ‘easy for the presenter, but harder for the audience’. Here’s what they are doing instead.

Mary Meeker’s latest masterful presentation on the state of the web. (Note: it’s on powerpoint).

A great post from Buzzfeed’s Jeff Jarvis on the future: ‘News organizations that they should stop thinking of themselves as content businesses and start understanding that they are in a relationship business’.

15 key facts about content curation. If you’re short on time, go straight to point eleven. Thanks to Anthony Thornton.

Too much connectivity is hurting our productivity. Great post here on Fortune.

Five must-see, must-read links

Great post on how The New York Times should pile in after the success of Snow Fall, and treat it’s showstopping digital features more like movie openings.

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Men’s Health is a massive international brand, so there’s big expectations of it’s new redesign. Take a look at the work and hear from Creative Director Robert Festino at SPD Grids.

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More from Fast Company on how to get the best from long form stories online. Good tips, and AMAZING stats.

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We’ve seen them all before, but these 27 print cock-ups are stil blindingly funny.

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Here’s a handy infographic on the mobile advertising eco-system. Read the full story on Business Insider.