Why Twitter is right not to launch a video service

Reports by the Telegraph of an official Twitter video service have since been denied – and it’s definitely the right decision.

Video services have seen tremendous growth – but very few have made any money. Look at the example of Youtube, and the huge risks in terms of the costs of providing a video service, versus the potential ability to profit from it without a lot of hard work.

And how many video companies have either disappeared, or, in the most appropriate example, changed direction significantly – Seesmic was purely a video service before moving into the Twitter client arena.

And when Biz Stone replied to Mashable’s enquiries, it made it clear:

‘Haven’t read the piece but no video hosting. 140 characters of text including spaces. You know the drill!’

Journalists, marketers and job losses…

I need to tread carefully with this post, which came from a link via @davidcushman and @ajkeen. The article in question is Journos Losing Jobs at Three Times Rate of Average Workers which looks at the number of journalists being laid off in the U.S.

To put it in context, I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid losing any fulltime roles, although I’ve been part three large scale redundancies for companies. Plus as a child, my father was made redundant and was unemployed for quite a while (during one of the previous times of crisis for the British economy). But at the same time, I don’t think the current wave of media unemployment is necessarily a bad thing overall (Obviously I know how bad it can be for the individuals involved).

The reason being that this can’t have been unexpected by anyone. The media industry has been struggling for a while, and roles like writing (and I’m also referencing  marketing in this as it shares a lot of the same occupational traits) are always in the firing line. I don’t think there’s ever been a point in my career when I’ve thought about either my editorial or marketing roles as being secure position for life – they’re an evolving set of challenges. We’re not talking about air traffic controllers, brain surgeons or even bin men (garbage men?).

Picture by Jeff Youngstrom on Flickr (CC Licence)

Picture by Jeff Youngstrom on Flickr (CC Licence)

But the modern writer, journalist or marketer has a huge advantage over those other roles – a sacked air traffic controller can’t get sacked and respond by building his own airport, but it’s possible to publish online, on mobile and even in print for free in a matter of minutes. A brain surgeon isn’t likely to build his own operating theatre, but a digital marketer can easily create an online business and find people with a need for their services.

I’m not saying monetising editorial or building a marketing business are in any way easy or guaranteed to be a success. I’m simply saying that the barriers to doing your own thing in the media, whether that’s text-based, audio, visual or promotion-based, has never been easier to my knowledge, and in a time when the big companies are generally struggling, there are advantages to being small and nimble.

Free wifi by Cmicblog on Flickr

Free wifi by Cmicblog on Flickr (CC licence)

And the costs are getting increasingly small – the bare minimum is a Netbook and somewhere with free wifi. Or just ask any techy friends for any old laptops/desktops they might want to give away for a while. Can’t afford an operating system? Use Ubuntu. Can’t afford Word? Open Office. Photoshop? GIMP (not an insult, honest!). Newswires? Build your own feed of information using Google Reader and Twitter. If you want to start earning money, you can put a blog on Blogger for free (about the only hosted free service to allow adverts), or spring for a cheap hosting package from the likes of Godaddy and then go wild with WordPress. Or even publish your own book via Lulu.

And that’s just the start, but it’s perfectly possible to begin creating your personal empire with a donated or sub-£200 computer and some free wifi access.

I’m not saying that you’ll have a sustainable living wage a week later, but the biggest barrier to creating anything like this is time, and that’s something you’d actually have. And even if you’d rather go back into paid employment when possible, in the meantime you’ve built up digital knowledge and a digital calling card for people to find.

And just be glad you’re not a brain surgeon after all…

More details on London Twestival

London Twestival takes place on September 10th, and more details are being revealed about the entertainment for the evening – including a performance by The Hours, after their tour supporting U2.

There’s also music from One Taste and The Parks Dept, 3 DJs, a live, collaborative story from The Dreaming, free drinks, games and more.

Tickets are £15, and it’s in support of Childline, who will also be there on the night to chat about their work

London Twestival tickets are still available – I’ve got mine, so if you’re going, drop a comment below or catch me at @badgergravling if you fancy chatting on the night.

One image shows how news has changed due to Twitter

This picture probably says it all:

image

Taken by @bofranklin :- Image direct link.

Twitter and microblogging really have reinforced and amplified what 24 TV news channels started – ‘newspapers’ should really be renamed ‘paper news archives’.

New Twitter spam attack

Just picked up on a warning via Mashable that 1000s of Twitter profiles appear to have been compromised in the latest attack of spam messages on the microblogging platform.

The attacks seem to be producing waves of spam messages, with hundreds of tweets, and then stopping for a while before starting again. The cause hasn’t been identified and the Twitter team have been informed.

Luckily in this case, the url in question hasn’t been masked with a shortening service, so don’t go to high-profits.org unless you fancy risking your account.

If your account has been compromised, change your password immediately etc…

And finally, think about how you might be affected – is the risk of spam and phishing scams a natural balance to adding 1000s of follows and followers that you don’t know, in order to boost your popularity?

Do you RT without checking links first? Click on links from people you haven’t established any reputation with?

I’m not saying close contacts can’t make a mistake and have their account hacked or phished – it’s happened to several friends with online email accounts – but commons sense and building trusted relationships will definitely lessen the odds of you being affected…

Liveblogging at Media140 – hashtag #media140

This is where I’ll be updating from the Media140 microblogging for news conference in London, dependant on battery life and plug sockets becoming available.

In addition to myself, there is also coverage from:

  • Paula Goes @paulagoes
  • Benjamin Dyer @benjamindyer
  • Dan Martin @dan_martin
  • Mike Atherton @sizemore
  • Ana Brasil @ana_brasil
  • Vikki Chowney @vikkichowney
  • Brian Condon @brian_condon
  • Sheamus Bennett@sheamus
  • Should wifi go down, I’m tweeting at @badgergravling – the content will be tidied after the event, honest!

    2.30pm: Welcome from Andre Gregson (@dailytwitter – Media140 founder) explaining how the event has grown to 250+ people, and the fact it will fund a charitable event next year.

    2.45pm: Keynote speech by Pat Kane, (Writer, musician, consultant, player, theorist and activist @theplayethic). Discussing personal usage of tools such as Twitter and Audioboo, and moving onto posing some of the obvious uses for newspapers and the major questions it poses.

    3pm: First panel discussion on ‘The 140 character story’: How much will twitter and microblogging change the way breaking news is sourced globally by news organisations?’

    Chaired by Tom Whitwell (Assistant Editor, Times Online)

    Panel: Darren Waters (BBC Technology Editor, @darrenwaters), Jon Gripton (Sky News Online News Editor @jongrip), Bill Thompson (Technology critic and commentator @billt), Mike Butcher (Editor of Techcrunch Europe @mikebutcher) and Nick Halstead (CEO and Founder Tweetmeme.com and fav.or.it @nickhalstead).

    @billt challenges the shared traditional media outlook of both Sky and the BBC when it comes to Twitter. Nick Halstead talking about looking at it from a technological point of view – technology can spot things happening faster than humans but then it’s how people take it and use it.

    Mike Butcher moves onto discussing how Technorati would have been the main topic five years ago, and how it’s switched from blog search to microblogging. Mentions an account claiming to be Nick Brown MP claiming when the election would come – first challenge (Did anyone phone him and ask him).

    Interesting point that just because things can be done in real time, doesn’t mean they have to be. @jongrip talking about Sky’s use of Twitter including engaging, chatting and answering back.

    ‘Does the desire to get the story quickly justify going to press quickly  – how do we implement the tools in a defensible way?’

    Nick Halstead wonders if Twitter moving to a search/reputation facility is going to have an effect. Do you trust Twitter users whether or not a story is trustworthy.

    Mike Butcher – We’re putting a huge amount of trust in one platform. Recent changes, unreliability etc – putting so much newsgathering onto one platform is risky.

    Darren Waters on the split between official channels from the BBC and the personal channels from professional BBC journalists – for instance tweets being checked by a second pair of eyes before being included in the official stream from Davos.

    Bill Thompson discussing how as an independant person who writes for the BBC and can have an opinion – and whether professional journalists from organisations being personal on Twitter is like the wizard stepping out from behind the curtain and revealing that the news is written by someone who has personal views on politics etc.

    Panel question for ‘how you source news via Twitter’ – @billt- using it like being a seismologist – you can see something is  happening by the ripples, but can’t tell what it is . Twitter isn’t the journalism – doesn’t believe anything he sees or reads on Twitter. @jongrip – it’s for communicating, talking, sharing and interacting. Nick Halstead – the rise of real time services, and more adoption of real time into news etc in the U.S. – watching trends and looking into them. It’s not just about real time, but it’s also got to be relevancy. The company that gets that right will be the winner, because real time is just a massive stream without filtering. Darren Waters – BBC using a hub to look at trends emerging – personal accounts and interactions mean that the sources tend to converge between news and personal contacts – people whose tweets are valuable and worth following. Mike Butcher – at Techcrunch they don’t have a system of checks and barriers (@billt ‘Who knew!’). If there is a cutting edge it’s people on the tech side who are doing everything – these will be amazing newsgathering tools, whilst also echoing Bill’s comment about doing the verification etc of journalism. Balancing getting stuff out there as fast as you can in as reasonable a manner as you can as well. The users will fact check techcrunch/Mike as much as anyone else – the users are the News Editors – and the Techcrunch team know they’re going to get caught out or be behind in the stream. Leads to the debate between the BBC approach and Techcrunch approach – would the BBC audience accept fact checking?

    Will Twitter make money – ‘answer from BillT – don’t know, don’t care. We want to microblog and someone will figure out the way it can be done.’ Darren – ‘Twitter will sell’. Nick – ‘realtime search could be advertised against, plus the pro account by the end of the year’. Mike ‘charge for tools, not for advertising. The problem is how you can slow down the stream – advertising would screw things up and slow down the stream’.

    How will journalists learn their trade when they’re starting out – Darren – ‘companies which still have money to invest in training, you’d hope will continue to train people in law, court reporting etc. There are also ways to self-train’. Mike – ‘hearing that the BBC might be looking at ‘rock star’ journalists who go out and take on news like a bull at a gate. The times when you did a training course, worked on a local paper, and then went to a national will be up against someone who could have a blog, an audience, and knows what they are talking about.’

    @jongrip claiming 140 characters isn’t journalism. @darrenweaters using the example of Peter Mandleson tweeting Tony Blair lied about the Gulf War, or writing headlines which also power Ceefax would mean it’s journalism.

    The suggestion from the BBC Red Button team on adding Twitter to the TV options.

    Question – with only 2/3s online in the UK, will people be able to get relevant news. Darren (BBC) – taking the point that people can’t get broadband etc and the Digital Britain plan for 2Mbps broadband for everyone that could be transformational. But wishes it could be faster. Nick (Tweetmeme) if people don’t have broadband, how many people have mobile devices. Mike (Techcrunch) report that 1/3 of the country whether U.S or U.K would never be interested in being online – talks about Facebook, and the difference between an 1815 failed uprising of 40 people and two years later when 60,000 people were involved – the difference was the rise of cheap pamphleteering in between. The people themselves are self-organising around their own issues etc. The journalism aspect of local issues is fading.

    4.10pm Frontline journalism with Twitter – Success and Failure in Social Media. A series of quick fire presentations by industry professionals looking at particular examples of news gathering using microblogging and social media.

    Hosted by Laura Oliver (Senior Reporter, Journalism.co.uk)

    Suq Charman-Anderson (Social Technologist @suw), Mark Jones (Reuters Global Community Editor @markjones), Kevin Anderson (Guardian Blogs Editor @kevglobal), Guy Degen (Frontline Club, Freelance @fieldreports), Moeed Ahmad (Al Jazeera, Head of New Media, @moeed).

    Suw Carman-Anderson talking on the Ada Lovelace day movement to blog and post in honour of Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer – inspired by an article which stated women need real-life role models more than men. Was adivsed the aim of 1000 might be too many – 1000 signed up in first seven days and 1900+ eventually posted. Predominantly spread through Twitter including the specific @findingada account. The Facebook page led to Suw signing up for Facebook and discovering it was a lot more closed and less active – names didn’t seem to trasfer into action.

    Spread to different areas – a newspaper column, schools, a web comic, video, audio – huge amount of coverage. Most major newspapers covered it e.g. Metro etc.

    ‘finding ideas which have their own momentum’ – had an idea, tried it, and it took off.

    Kevin Anderson:

    Went across the U.S for the U.S. election. 3rd trip – each with something interesting. First was webcasting. 2004-blogging. Spent most of career as a field journalist – the problems of leaving stories to find wifi or phone sockets etc. Once couldn’t file a story because phonelines etc were down – in 2008 it’s possible to do highly distributed, highly networked journalism. Using lots of services to see what happens – 3 primary ones – Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. This was real time information. Covering a rolling live event, picked up followers and able to Retweet . Driven 4000 miles in 3.5 weeks alone – would not have been able to do as much, in as much depth without Twitter especially.

    Getting introduced to contacts and information on the fly. All into phone rather than laptop. Constantly plugged in. Also pulled sources/contacts into the conversation about the U.S. elections.

    Other use was aggregation – RT and flagging them up. What’s the best way of re-aggregating everything that is so distributed – there’s work to be done on a platform level to make use of tools like geo-tagging. But then how do you aggregate the interaction?

    Guy Degen:

    Independant freelancer using Twitter in the field. What works and doesn’t, and what could be done better.

    Using Georgia as an example – opposition protests in April. Twitter means a solitary reporter isn’t alone in the field. In Georgia producing multimedia work for the UN.  Given a couple of hours before going live on German TV – only tool was a Nokia N82 and a 3G network. Monitoring local radio coverage and had reported on Georgia before – but following a Twitter search for Tiblisi was a useful feed to have to monitor developments. Also trying to reach out to people in Tiblisi or followiing events to get in touch with anything of interest. Pics via Twitpic. Also created audio with Utterli – and live-ish video with Qik. 

    Protests happening over several locations – Twitter for monitoring other sites. By the end of the week a blog and useful network were starting to emerge. Suggestions for helping reports etc, a digital space, training, and also time to practice.

    German shooting media coverage – showed weaknesses – German media weren’t active Twitter users on the scene – one hour after shootings before 1st shot, two hours before getting in touch with the first Tweeter. And the first tweeter said that they had secondhand news, and didn’t have any information for the media, but the media still shone the spotlight on her. They were doing a lot of learning on the run, and probably weren’t ready for doing it with this story. One magazine started a new Twitter account with the German name for a killing spree, and then had to delete it and start again under a more neutral Twitter name.

    Mark Jones: Reuters microblogging and social media:

    Four stages of Reuters tweeting – cynicism, curiousity/anxiety, engagement, addicition.

    Uses: 1. Alternative RSS, 2. Live blogging tool, 3. News monitoring, 4. Socialising public policy events.

    Verdict of Reuters Pakistan experts was that you couldn’t understand what was going on in recent events unless you were watching a particular hashtag.

    Editor-in-Chief was liveblogging in Davos and beat his own newswire.

    Socialising public policy events – public figures coming to Reuters to make a speech and in the old days, they’d be broadcasted.  New way involved @documentally and a Nokia, broadcasting with Qik. Learnt from first event and integrated questions to David Cameron via Tweetdeck – and then David Cameron addressed some later on his own Youtube channel. 3rd event was Robert Zoellick, to do a special social media only session – had 100s of questions come in, and they were the types of questions certain groups might have thought were basic.

    Question to Guy – Are people twittering etc in English, or are there language barriers:

    Tweetdeck has a translation function as a client. Georgian script wouldn’t come through on some platforms because it was unusual – only gave the chance to communicate with a small group communicating in English.

    Question to Guy and Kevin: How do you find these networks ina  breaking news situation, or groups that might not be visible in your language.

    Kevin – Liveblogging debates would lead to people coallescing around them, and could then follow them and hashtags related. Also spoke to political loggers in every state he went to. Plugging into existing communities and conversations. Important to find people who are interested in what you;re doing, and not trying to go viral by spamming people. That way people pass it along.  Using Twibble to find people on a map via profile information.

    Guy – iPhone and Tweetie – being able to see in terms of proximity who is on Twitter, which would have helped.  In Nigeria etc, Nigeria Pulse is an open source network – it’s not just Twitter, thanks to Identi.ca.

    Question: What are your thoughts on Obama’s team changing social media policy after winning:

    Winning an election is very different to governing. Still trying to tap into the community created around the campaign to try to put pressure on Congress for new laws etc.

    Question: If you had a room full of developers in front of you what would you like built:

    Mark – A version of Tweetdeck that sorted wheat from the chaff

    Kev – a version of video, and if mobile carriers could be less bastards,

    Suw – tools around Twitter are designed for symmetrical networks – if you have a lot of people following, the amount of DM’s become unwieldy.  Once you get asymmetrical you risk broadcasting rather than conversing. It’s about how they work when you are dealing with huge numbers of followers.

    Moeed via Skype (connection issues made it slightly difficult to follow)

    Gaza conflict was the first which was happening as much online as on the ground, with a battlefield for ideas. The first thing that happened was the helpuswin website to mobilise people sympathising with Israel. Gaza New Media Resistance, pulling together news as facts from different sources and trying to win hearts and minds online. All tagged with #gaza. Launched a feed to make use of advantage of english -speaking reports on the ground, plus Arabic staff there.

    AJGaza twitter account, plus training teams and reports on how to use Twitter. Instantly get the initial cynicism – overcame it by convincing the upper management.  Also embedded Twitter stream back onto the website – lots of users didn’t know or care about Twitter and would never sign up – but could get that reporting when it was embedded on the main website on the articles. People cared about the immediacy – became fourth most popular page on the website within days.

    Challenges included journalists dropping hashtags because he felt it made the sentence look ugly! Not part of existing work, so getting understanding that it was an important avenue. Also covering Ushahidi crowdsourcing for emergency information to take SMS to report via web, email, SMS over a map. But because communications were knocked out it didn’t really work, so they took the Twitter stream and used it to visualise the data.

    5.10pm: Local News: How will social media and microblogging change the way traditional local news provider source and report news?

    Hosted by Joanne Jacobs (Social Media Cosultant)

    Simon Grice (Founder, Ideas.org @simongrice), Christian Payne (Journalist Ourmaninside.com @docaumentally), Paul Bradshaw (Brimingham City University @paulbradshaw), Joanna Geary (Web Development Editor, Times Online @timesjoanna).

    Joanna Geary: Changing local journalism in the same way as all jorunalism – finding the community, want they want, what they need, and reporting back to them. Just a more visible place to find the people journalists should have already been serving.

    Christian Payne: What I hope microblogging can do for news – make sure it happens where it matters most – where there’s no free press, where there’s no real news etc. Using the example of Zimbabwe  – 30,000 texts sent 3 times a week with news headlines after short wave broadcasts were blocked by Mugabe. We need to take local news seriously in places that aren’t local to us. And asked everyone to add @swranews to find out more soon.

    Paul Bradshaw: Journalists have to do it, not a job for the paperboy online anymore. Opens up opportunities for organisation etc which wasn’t there before. Ieas like flashmob journalism to cover an event.

    Simon Grice:  Had the idea to links people to tweets from the nearest physical local paper to them. People really care about the local news that’s important to them. Very local is very important to them.

    question : How does anyone make money, not just Twitter?

    Paul – partnering with carriers to offer text updates.

    Simon – offering local ads.

    Christian – micro, micro local.

    Joanna – we’ve been selling audiences not content. We need to look at what people need. Maybe it’s how businesses are structured.

    Question: Johnstone press etc suffering:

    Simon – We need to rethink locality when local papers used to decide what was news and local etc.

    Question – Will we have a highly connected, local, but globally ignorant community:

    Simon – We actually need to focus more on local news. The act of aggregation, filtering and context. Different media, same skillset, and instead of 1 newspaper etc, there would be 100s of thousands.

    Paul – No, Yes. Is the internet bad or good, it’s like life – it’s complicated. Future for local news publishers – they have a great opportunity if they’re canny about it. They need a newsroom without walls,a nd if they don’t do it, others will fill the gap and benefit.

    Joanna – social media people can be scary at first – but the big help was meeting people in real life, leading to inviting the scariest person on the website into the newsroom – if people have hung around that long they genuinely care.

    Questions – what about IPTV’s effect on local TV?

    Simon – same local approach.

    Question: How deep into revenue streams do local newspapers have to go?

    Joanna: If we knew the answer we’d have made it. Already a growing amount of experimentation in local media. New products and services, new advertising, trying to own a platform. I don’t know what’s going to work.

    Christian: Only the creative will survive – and I hope only the creative will survive.

    Paul: Digital Britain an allowing organisations to merge or tax breaks is just about propping up an idea of what needs preserving rather than supporting something new. Already happening in America. Mu suspicion is that most publishers will trundle along trying to squeeze something out of what they’ve got, cutting staff, until someone else comes along with something amazing.

    Simon – a comapny said they wouldn’t work with us because they said they should have been able to do it themselves.

     6.10pm Closing Comments

    Jeff Pulver (Technology Anthropologist, Entrepreneur, Early-Stage Seed Investor @jeffpulver)

    More on business strategy in a networked world

    Following on from my previous post on networked business strategy – which was itself a response to a post from Dave Cushman) – I thought it’s a topic worth expanding upon in light of the constant debate over online publishing revenue.

    Flicking through Seth Godin’s ‘Tribes’ reminded me of the work of Ronald Coase, the Nobel laureate in Economics.

    Back in 1937 he wrote the highly influential ‘The Nature of the Firm‘ which looks at the fact that “production could be carried on without any organization that is, firms at all”, he sets out the transaction costs ( which means the cost of obtaining something through the market is generally more than the actual price, plus search and information costs, bargaining costs, keeping trade secrets and policing and enforcement costs) which mean that ‘firms will arise when they can produce what they need internally and somehow avoid these costs’.

    Or as Seth says, ‘we start formal organisations when it’s cheaper than leading a tribe instead’.

    This is where the kernel of your business is located.

    Or for the flipside:

    As my former boss at Bauer Media, Carl Lyons, wrote today ‘people will pay for digital content – if it’s easy enough‘. (Now I’ve left, I can say his blog is well worth reading, without sucking up!)

    The flipside is this:

    ‘Consumers (Customers/users/whatever terminology you like) will accept using a firm for their needs when it avoids the transactional costs of circumventing it.’

    By that I mean that I’ll happily pay for a Pro account on Flickr simply because it was a lot easier and more convenient than finding an alternative when I needed it, despite the fact I know I could find a reasonable alternative. I’ll happily buy books from Amazon (My recommendations are all here) or sell via either Amazon or Ebay because although I could find alternative routes to the market, they involve a cost of time, effort, organisation etc I’m not happy about paying at the moment.

    So the key seems to be:

    1. Figure out what people want to achieve when they are in the area of the market you serve

    2. Figure out what you might offer which allows them to achieve what they want in a way which reduces their transactional costs (Time, effort, cost, etc)

    3. Figure out how you might offer that service in a way which allows your service to benefit from an internal reduction/removal of transaction costs over/above/with the network.

    Does this seem to make sense?

    Applying this to a content model:

    If we accept that there will always be free content available from somewhere, the transactional cost for a consumer is finding it, judging reliability, going into more background, possibly acting upon it, sharing it, discussing it etc (Any I’ve missed?)

    As a content producer, the cost of content creation in many circumstances has already been hugely disrupted by online publishing, digital audio, video etc. The cost of a live broadcast for a major television company over recording it on a mobile and broadcasting via Qik? And the difference in terms of the technology gap will only reduce in line with Moore’s Law.

    But the content curation (rather than aggregation) aspect raises big transactional costs via the network – what relative percentage of trust do you place in Wikipedia? Digg? Reddit? Is it cheaper to organise a network, build a system, or use a specialist journalist? And they have contacts to relevant industries which could come under Trade Secrets in transactional costs etc.

    And this is also why I despair when online publishers only talk about display advertising revenue (or now subscriptions), as if they’re the only possibilities for revenue. (If a blogger puts Google Ads on his site and then claims he can’t monetise he gets a lot of feedback very quickly!).

    The transactional cost for me of finding a product to buy is either in terms of locating reviews and hoping a relevant display advert is close by. Googling it and finding what I’m looking for. Or posting a message on Twitter. And the subscription model has the flaw of inviting/inciting the network to either reproduce content outside, or finding ways to beat the pay wall.

    The end of an era…

    It’s been quite a momentous week for me, hence the lack of blogging. Aside from celebrating my son’s first birthday, the big event concerns my employment.

    After an immensely enjoyable and educational eight years, I’ve left Bauer Media.

    I hadn’t been actively looking for a change, but a couple of interesting opportunities had been put my way, and one of them in particular seemed to offer the right mix of new challenges, new experiences, and the chance to learn some new skills (More on my new job in a future post!)

    And what better time to make a change than with a young family and during a recession!

    But it does mean leaving some incredibly talented colleagues and some incredibly good friends I’ve been honoured to know and work with since I originally joined Emap back in 2001 (The consumer side of Emap was acquired by Bauer Media last year). During just under seven years on MCN, I was involved in two site relaunches, met almost all of my childhood heroes, broke some big news stories and went on some great trips. I also got to enjoy some great motorcycles, hit 170mph+ on test tracks, and rode some of the best UK race circuits.

    And my move to marketing and social media meant I got to know people across the company, working with some hugely talented editorial, marketing and commercial teams, and getting to look at how social media and digital content and marketing works in a number of different settings.

    If I listed all the people I’d like to thank, we’d be here for a very long time, so I can only hope I’ve made decent efforts to mention my gratitude over the years.

    And despite the tough conditions for the publishing and media industries, knowing so many talented people across the Bauer Media business means the company is well-placed to take advantages of the opportunies available and evolve to remain a hugely successful media business.

    It’s amazing how fast eight years can go when you’re enjoying yourself!

    Snow hits UK, but train travel information arrives via Twitter

    The best way to get reliable UK train travel updates during the current light covering of snow appears to be the excellent uktrains service, which publishes updates to Twitter for 25 rail companies. Especially when the official website for some companies appears to be as reliable as the trains themselves.

    Once again Twitter is showing itself as an excellent mechanism for information, following on from the #uksnow mash-up in my last post.

    But although it’s still new enough to get coverage on mainstream media such as the BBC, (@bensmith is talking about UKtrains at the BBC as I type), it’s not without precedent (Not to diminish the great work by Ben Smith (uktrains) and Ben Marsh (uksnow).

    Back in October 2007, Twitter users @nateritter and @viss used the hashtag #sandiegofire to distribute information on fires in California.

    And then there were the earthquakes. US, UK and China.

    There was the tragedy in Mumbai, and the use of Twitter to start alerting people about the status of hospitals and need for blood donations.

    And some emergency services have a Twitter account, such as the LA Fire Dept.

    The interesting thing about #uksnow and uktrains is how the interpretation and use of data pulled from, and pushed into Twitter is evolving to make more effective services for information.

    Plenty of people have talked about how Twitter is moving into the mainstream, or how Facebook made an offer to purchase the microblogging service – but in many ways the mainstream are being sucked into Twitter – exactly as happened with Facebook en route to 150 million+ global active users.