People Web/Tech Weblogs

Weird scenes inside Charlie Hoult’s goldmine

Actually, not weird at all – but gave me an excuse for a gratuitous Doors song title reference in the headline.

For those who keep an eye on these things, you’ll know that Charlie Hoult has recently changed roles at Loewy Group – from CEO to VP of corporate development. He remains the largest single shareholder and is now casting his not insignificant entrepreneurial eye to new projects. As his Opencast Project blog says, he’s looking for the next big thing in digital marketing and business. If anyone is going to find it, don’t bet against Mr Hoult.

Expect a steady stream of interesting developments over the coming months from Opencast.

People Web/Tech

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading

If you are looking for fresh ideas to stretch your mind, look no further than TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) has been around since 1984 – a greater array of great minds and great ideas would be hard to come by. The TED Talks are well worth a look. Be inspired.


People Technology PR

Journalist Nick Booth takes it on the chin – literally


I’m sure some PRs would dearly love to see certain journalists get a punch in the mouth – so you have to hand it to IT writer Nick Booth for volunteering to get beaten up in front of a paying audience. Albeit in the name of charity.

The fight took place last Thursday night at the Chiswell Street Brewery, EC1. I’d seen the rather amusing press release announcing the bout earlier in the week (the inaugural Computer Reseller News Fightnight, a night of white collar boxing – the mind boggles as to possible future combatants in the ring).

The bit I liked best was:

Astonishingly, a new survey says only 54 per cent of all PR people would pay good money to see a journalist beaten up. However, a further 46 per cent said they were pretty sure they would. But they’d have to check first, and would get an answer before the end of play. Or maybe Monday?

Anyway – view above for Nick’s valiant but ultimately doomed titanic battle with the Toshiba Titan, Jason Philips

People Web/Tech

UK tech journalists who made millions via the Internet

I read today that UK online auction site QXL is closing down after 11 years. And it reminded me of how a couple of Brit tech journalists made their fortunes in the early years of the last dot com boom.

Those with long enough memories will remember that QXL was founded in 1997 by former Financial Times journalist Tim Jackson. I knew Tim from before this when he was with the Independent. I kept in touch with him when he went to the US to research his book on Intel. I also remember meeting up with him on his return and his enthusiasm for a then nascent start up over there called eBay. Shortly after that, he went ahead and founded QXL. Tim did approach me about handling PR for his new venture. But he had no money at that point and my then employers were not comfortable about working in lieu of future shares in what seemed a highly risky venture at the time.

Clearly hindsight is a wonderful thing. QXL later went on to float on the Stock Exchange, and at one point, was valued at £2bn. Tim’s own shareholding was (briefly) worth £272m at this time. Although, he didn’t cash out at this point, he certainly made enough later to not to have to worry about his future financial security.

But Tim wasn’t the only tech journalist to make it big. Perhaps even more remarkable was the story of Richard Jones. I knew Richard from his early days at VNU’s now long defunct Personal Computer Magazine (there was clearly something about this magazine – Richard replaced Drew Cullen on the title, who went on to co-found The Register. Their then boss, editor Ben Tisdall, is somewhat of entrepreneurial talisman). Richard ended up moving to EMAP and launching Network Week. But around 1996, went off to set up a new Internet venture. Richard was a quiet, unassuming individual – so it was somewhat of a surprise to get e-mails from him saying he was in New York, sleeping on friends floors, trying to get VC investment for his business. The rest of course is history. Richard’s venture was Fortune City, one of the early success stories of the Internet years. The company floated on the Neuer Markt in Germany in 1999, and achieved a valuation of several hundred million dollars. Richard was able to cash in on this and moved to Monaco.

So where are today’s would be Web 2.0 millionaire entrepreneurs amongst the UK’s tech journalist fraternity? As Nick Denton commented after the last Internet bubble burst:

Business success, in the internet as much as in financial speculation, is down to timing as much as any other quality. In the go-go years of the new economy, commentators talked incessantly of the first-mover advantage that accrued to the entrepreneur first into a particular market. They forgot to mention that the virtue of being, not just first in, but first out.

People Technology PR Web/Tech

Journalists being promoted by Google Ad campaigns?

Looks like Cliff Saran, Tech Editor at Computer Weekly, is being promoted via a Google Ad Campaign.

Try typing “cliff saran” site: into Google and sitting at the top of the list is a sponsored link for his blog.

Would be interesting to know what impact this has on Cliff’s blog readership. Will his pay be linked to the cost of the campaign and the level of response?

I read all the necessary information on and decided to buy Ambien Without a Prescription.

Current Affairs General PR People

Do the public think PRs are liars?

Roy Greenslade at The Guardian has picked up on a new survey that looks at public attitudes to PR:

According to a study by Ciao Surveys, 60.3% of people in Britain believe that PR officers often lie, while only 3.3% are convinced of the opposite. Additionally, only 17.9% of the respondents think public relations have a positive effect on society, against 26.5% who disagree.

Despite these findings, the survey shows that nearly a third of Britons believe the PR industry is a necessary one at 32.7%, as opposed to only 21.1% who believe it to be unnecessary.

Respondents evidently showed a good understanding of the industry because, when asked about their impression of a PR officer’s main job function, they stated it is strongly related to: media relations (49.6%), event planning (18.2%), advertising (9.5%) and word of mouth marketing (7.9%).

According to Ciao, 55.1% of respondents seem to be aware of the symbiotic relationship between the PR industry and the media, as they declared that the two are biased by each other.

Some people recognise that the media are the main vehicles for the PR industry’s messages, with 13.8% believing that up to half of the content in daily newspapers is initiated by public relations, and a sizeable group think up to 80% of the content in consumer magazines is PR-related.

I’m curious to know how the word “lie” is being defined in this context. Do they mean outright untruths or lying by omission? If PRs were uttering outright porkers to the extent the public appears to believe from this survey, I think we’d know about it. I suspect it is more an unspoken distrust of PRs (apparent) attempt to influence by careful selection (and omission) of facts.Recently, I got a problem to fall asleep, I was spinning for a few hours, Ambien Without a Prescription but sleep did not come. I think there is a qualitative difference between simply wanting to put your best case forward and deliberately trying to bamboozle your audience – the latter, surely, an ultimately doomed strategy – the truth will always out.

digital pr General PR Media People tech pr Technology PR Web/Tech

Measuring the ROI of a blog post (or the Law of Unexpected Consequence)

The reaction to my post yesterday about Can Journalists Write Great Marketing Content has been interesting.

It is by no means my most widely read post (my snippet on Mike Magee’s last hurrah for PR gets that honour – though that one clearly benefited from a Stumbleupon recommendation). It has however generated comments from the likes of David Meerman Scott, Sally Whittle and Ian Betteridge. And as my blog posts get automatically posted to the Marcom Professional social network site, others have picked up on it there.

I also had a comment from Joe Pulizzi at Junta42 in the US – I’ve never had any dealings with Joe before, so I took a look at his website – and what do you know, there is some good content there. Indeed, he has a useful e-book on content marketing – which he is happy for people to freely share and distribute – so in the spirit of co-operation, here it is. Get Content, Get Customers – Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett

However, the really interesting feedback to yesterday’s post was in relation to a new business lead. We’d been recommended to someone and arranged to talk to them today. A few days earlier, I’d suggested checking out our website and my blog to get an idea of our approach and ethos. Speaking to our prospect this morning, they remarked how interesting this particular post had been – it also encouraged them to look at David Meerman Scott’s site and gave them a pile of ideas as to how they might approach PR and marketing.

Now at this stage, I’ve no idea if we will win this business or not. But even if we don’t, I’m sure that this person will recommend us to others.

So what has all this got to do with measuring the ROI of a blog post?

First, I hear from a lot of people who are very cautious and sceptical about the value of blogging and its ilk. They want to know what kind of return you will get for investing time and energy in this activity.

The point is, when I wrote this post, I could never have predicted the response it would get (and this is only in the space of 24 hours). My reward for spending, at most, 15 mins reading some RSS feeds and writing the subsequent post could be worth £000s of business. Even if this particular lead goes nowhere, it has helped to enhance our word of mouth reputation a little further. And brought to my attention useful info I probably would never have come across in any other way (and by definition, it brings it to the attention of my readers as well). So a kind of Law of Unexpected Consequence is at play here.

I don’t want to go too overboard about one blog post – but if someone asks you about blog ROI, ask them how they would best maximise 15 mins of their valuable marketing time. And then point them point here.

Humour People tech pr Technology PR

PR is “deader than the journalistic trade”: Mike Magee

Mike Magee, founder of The Inquirer, co-founder of The Register and one time editor of PC Business World, has penned a rather amusing departing shot from Incisive Media. In a self described “final act of ennui”, he gives us the definitive Guide to Modern 21st Century Journalism.

He has seven rules for the budding tech hack (reproduced in full below). As Peter Kirwan says, it’s a sensible rant against Google-driven hackery.

Rule 1 did get me thinking though:

Totally ignore PRs. The PR profession is deader than the journalistic trade. What place is there for an agency PR person when all the vendors throw up press releases instantly copied by serried ranks of “data gatherers” so cutting out the middle bunnies?

Amidst the satire, there is a serious point about the role of a PR agency today. Clearly there is a role to be played, but it almost certainly doesn’t resemble the PR stereotype of yesteryear. Sadly for Mike, it will involve knowledge of SEO, analytics, etc – but should still include the basics of good content skills and media relationship talent. And personally speaking, I don’t see why booze needs to be cut out of the equation.

Finally, as Intel and AMD’s PR departments break open the champagne, Mike says he will be “at his wit’s end at the end of the month at what to do”. I think the Coach and Horses beckons – for old time’s sake.
I decided to buy this drug on Cheap Ambien Possible side effects are dry mouth, drowsiness during the day, constipation, etc.

Those rules in full:

Rule 1 Totally ignore PRs. The PR profession is deader than the journalistic trade. What place is there for an agency PR person when all the vendors throw up press releases instantly copied by serried ranks of “data gatherers” so cutting out the middle bunnies?

Rule 2 A Modern Journalist never leaves the office, never has a drink, unless it’s a non-alcoholic Pimms, never double checks a story, never takes a chance, and has a pathological fear of a telephone unless the Health and Safety Inspectors clean the mouthpiece and earpiece every morning before the tidy world begins.

Rule 3 Google is the robotic news editor which rules the roost towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century. A Modern Journalist can do nothing except spur Adsense sales by endlessly re-writing stories that appear on Google News, which may never have actually been broken by anyone but first processed by the more important class of “data gatherers” who get early access to the er, press release.

Rule 4 The Modern Journalist never “breaks a story”. That would court the ire of the serried ranks of news management spinners and would breach Rule 2 to boot. Plus, even if a story fell into her or his hands, it would have to be “gathered” and then “processed” through the serried ranks of lawyers who act as an expensive filter to ensure that no boat is rocked.

Rule 5 The Modern Journalist must have gone to “journalist school”, where she or he will be taught all the tricks of the trade, such as sitting in serried ranks, never going out, never using the phone, re-cyling the endlessly re-cycled, and shamelessly cohorting with legions of other “professionals” such as people that went to “PR school” and those that drink non-alcoholic Pimms. They must be taking other stuff to get them high, surely? An old-fashioned hack would never do that. We think.

Rule 6 Show your adherence to 21st Modern Journalism standards by mouthing marketing slogans in your copy at every turn. If you have a news editor, and she or he wants you to “break stories”, complain through levels of the organisation that you’re being pressured and abused because she or he is complaining that you’re just recycling either press releases or re-cycled chunks from Google News.

Rule 7 Make sure you ignore this so 20th century saying: “You cannot hope To bribe or twist, thank God! the British journalist. But seeing what The man will do unbribed, there’s no occasion to. – Humbert Wolfe, Over the Fire” Accept bribes gracefully.


Guy Goma/Kewney most popular BBC footage of 2006

Says Guy Kewney.


Farewell to Scotland’s oldest paper boy

My father’s funeral service took place last Thursday, January 18th, 2007 at Fetteresso Church, Stonehaven and he was buried at Fetteresso Cemetry, Kirkton, Stonehaven.

My tribute delivered at the funeral is below – not sure I did full justice to 92 years of life, but I hope he would have appreciated it. Many thanks for all the kind words and support from an army of people over the last two weeks.

The life of Alexander Bruce Smith was both long and extraordinary.

Born in Drumlithie in 1915, he grew up on a small farm called Cuttiesouter, up the Auchenblae road – Alex’s descriptions of his early childhood could have come straight from the pages of Sunset Song.

From these tough, but happy, beginnings – and like so many fellow Scots before him – he developed an early wanderlust.

His chosen route away from the Mearns was through the RAF. However, his mother didn’t want him to join  – so she put his draft papers on the fire. Undeterred, he reapplied and with typical Smith stubbornness, eventually joined, albeit a year later than originally planned.

It was the beginning of an amazing period of travel and adventure.

The British troop presence in the Afghanistan/North-West India Frontier region is a regular feature in the news today – and we shouldn’t forget that 70 years ago, British forces were performing a similar role. Alex was one of their number – and the sights, sounds and experiences of that time must have seemed a world away to him from the North East life.

One of his jobs was to drive a truck through the Khyber Pass – others seemed to return with vehicles riddled with bullet holes. He was never shot at once. This was the beginning of what he himself described as a “charmed life”.

During the Second World War, he never saw action once. As he put it, wherever he went, the enemy either surrendered or retreated. He was Britain’s secret weapon – he once joked that if they’d sent him to Japan, perhaps the Americans wouldn’t have had to drop the atomic bomb….

Returning to Britain after the war, he met and married the love of his life, our mother, Enid May.

They settled in post-war Coventry. He wasn’t afraid of hard work and at one point he held down three jobs at once to bring up a young family. He was also a great believer in self- improvement, studying in his spare time and attending evening classes.

It helped him to achieve a good job with Midland Counties Dairy. But in 1970, he was made redundant. However, always a “glass half full” man, he saw this as an opportunity to finally run his own business.  He moved along with the rest of the family back to Stonehaven to run a milk delivery operation.

More hard work turned this into a going concern. It also saw the emergence of one of the most famous fashion items on the street’s of Stonehaven – the balaclava.

The business grew and in 1973 he opened a newsagent shop in Mary Street. He enjoyed talking to customers and they could always count on what could diplomatically be called “high calibre debate” whether about psychology, politics or sport.

Of course, any reference to Alex’s life needs to mention sport. There were 4 areas that were particularly dear to his heart:

–    football – he was Aberdeen FC’s biggest fan – and critic. He always said that if won the lottery, the first thing he’d do was buy the club. At least he departed with a victory for the Dons over Kilmarnock.

–    tennis – he was a very good tennis player – according to Alex, if not for the war, he would have won Wimbledon.

–    cross country running – ran for top athletic club Coventry Godiva Harriers

–    draughts – he was one of Scotland’s leading draughts  players.
His draughts playing also took him far and wide – to the Orkney’s and to Ireland and many places in England. He represented his country and won numerous trophies. I know he had many friends from the Aberdeen Draughts Club and the wider draughts community who will miss his competitive spirit.

Turning to his later life, when mum died in 1995, he immersed himself in tracing the Smith family tree. He pursued this activity with his usual energy, enthusiasm and determination.

A good example of his single-minded focus were the trips he made to Canada to seek and find long lost relatives. You have to admire him for simply booking a plane ticket to Canada and literally turning up on people’s doorsteps and introducing himself.  Of course, he was welcomed with open arms – and his natural charm went a long way in helping to trace the family tree – by his own reckoning he’d discovered 400 Canadian relatives and 200 in the United States – and this was only the tip of the iceberg, he said.

We also shouldn’t forget that he was incredibly active up until only a few years ago. He would still rise at 5am every morning – Scotland’s oldest paper boy.

All in all, a hard-working, funny, loyal and intelligent self-made man who lived life to the full. As he himself said only recently – I may be old, but I’m young at heart. He’ll be greatly missed by the family – Joan, Jim, Stan and myself – his sister Dot, his brother David, his grandchildren James, Jawad, Adam and Archie. In fact the town of Stonehaven has lost a great character. But I’m sure he would not want us to look at this as a sad occasion, but more of a celebration of a long and fulfilled 92 years.

In fact, his favourite phrase before he retired for bed every night was:

“Ah, but it’s a great life.”

I can’t think of a better way to describe his.