Monthly Archives: July 2007

Rick Waghorn on going solo, the importance of advertising, and where next for ‘My Football Writer’

As solo sports journalist Rick Waghorn relaunches his Norwich City news website in the first step towards franchising the service, I spoke to him about going solo, the importance of advertising, and the likely first places for the franchise to expand.

Originally, Waghorn says, the plan was to offer a franchise “in much the same way as you would set up a bathroom shop and people would buy the kit off the shelf from you.” But the plan has changed.

“I’m not sure that’s realistic in that perhaps that works for someone with a redundancy package to self-start a franchise from us, but I think the way it may work is: I’ve got some funding that we use to actually pay salaried journalists to open a Sheffield bureau or a Manchester bureau rather than someone actually buying a franchise off me.”

The new-look site is an impressive effort from a team of three people – putting most local newspaper sites to shame with clear layout and even up-to-the-minute features such as the ‘most read’ section, podcasts, blogs and a text service. Most impressive is a set of RSS feeds from what, in old media, would have been called ‘the competition’ – Waghorn clearly recognises that making your site a destination is more important than pretending the competition doesn’t exist. “If people only have ten minutes at lunch to go online, they’ll want a site that has all the details.”

In the 14 months since launching with money from a redundancy package, the site has exceeded Rick’s “wildest expectations”.

“It is very much hard work. In year one we roughly took about £35-40,000 which was done on a commission split with my ad man. It has been a huge voyage of discovery.”

Now Waghorn is planning “another voyage of discovery.”

“The theory is that what we’ve done with Norwich should be equally applicable to most other provincial football clubs,” says Waghorn, “so we’re starting to have discussions with different regional journalists. Now the question is how you service that in an advertising sense, but one of the interesting things is if you can start offering, if you like, regionality, then I can start offering, say, advertising in Suffolk to companies in Norfolk.

“Or, let’s say we looked at the three Championship sides in South Yorkshire. If we had those we could serve them all with one advertising rep, but offer someone advertising on all three, and do a bundle sale.”

Teaming up with senior advertising executive Kevin O’Gorman has been crucial, with O’Gorman working “the local beat, bringing little local firms onto the internet who have built their own websites and need to market them.

“We give them a friendly face – someone they’ve been dealing with on a local basis in the last few years, and he holds their hand and helps them online. I do the editorial and he services the advertisers in a very old-fashioned newspaper sense – and then you find a mate with a background in web design and get the lucky breaks, but I’ve found a ‘Team Rick’ which has worked well so far.”

Another key to the site’s success has been its flexibility, and speed.

“It’s very peculiar for football because few regional papers have a Sunday edition, and at Norwich Evening News I was the last match report anyone ever read – at 5 o’clock Monday night when the paperboy put the paper through the door it was 48 hours after the event. In the age of rolling news that doesn’t make sense. Now, arguably after the official club site, I’m the first match report they read because my match report goes up on the website five minutes after the match finishes. All of a sudden I become a Sunday newspaper because I put out my match report, my interviews on Sunday. Now that presents a challenge to local newspapers because what are they going to put in their Monday night newspapers?

“Also, when you’re not part of a local newspaper group you’re nimble. I can hold my hand up to dozens of mistakes we’ve made but because you’re only two or three people we can say ‘Oh, that didn’t work, let’s try that,’ and I think that nimbleness is another of the key factors in dealing with the internet.”

Rick’s advice to journalists wanting to go it alone is to recognise the importance of advertising. “Start talking to your advertising department, because just as much as the editorial department is suffering from redundancies, so is the advertising department. Most journalists will tell you that the only time you bump into anyone from the advertising department is at the Christmas party when you’re trying to get off with one. But these people have skills and contacts, and you bolt the two of us together and that’s where it’s worked, so I’d start taking your friend from the advertising department out for a drink.”

Wiki brainstorming

A few weeks ago I talking wikis with the online journalism students at UCE. I asked them to brainstorm – in 60 seconds – ideas for wikis in their correspondent areas. The resulting ideas were surprisingly good – some would work well as stand-along public wikis, while others would provide strong material for a follow-up journalist-structured piece. In general they suggest the immense promise of wikis for empowering readers/users and tapping into their knowledge and experience. Here they are:

  • Traffic hotspots
  • 11 circle route guide (the 11 bus route has something of a cult status in Birmingham; the suggestion is users could contribute descriptions of spots along the route, which circles the city)
  • Reviews of a particularly important album (I don’t think this would work, as people would edit each other’s words down to a dull middle road; and Amazon does this well already)
  • Festival experiences (a nice way to combine the different stages, acts, etc. all taking place)
  • Memories of a band or venue (taps into collective memory)
  • “I conceived to Al Green” (after the story that so many children have been conceived to a particular song – unlikely to have enough contributors from a publication audience alone, but a cute idea)
  • Gay village nights out guide
  • Experiences of being gay/coming out
  • Women in sport (needs more focus but could take a number of angles, e.g. women’s experiences of watching a ‘man’s game’)
  • Unusual sports
  • Bad experiences with technology
  • Get best out of mobile phone/ipod – hidden features & downloads
  • Experiences of crime
  • My first crime (more light-hearted look at people’s early misdemeanours, e.g. graffiti, litter, petty shoplifting, and runs with the law)
  • Crimes while drunk (cue 300 versions of “I stole a traffic cone/rode in a shopping trolley”)
  • Travel stories – how members of the Polish got to Birmingham
  • Advice by and for the Polish community: schools, settling in, jobs, English
  • Story behind a store
  • Fashion tips
  • History of trends, designer profiles
  • Fashion Week experiences
  • City shopping guides
  • Advice on giving up smoking/etc. (under headings)
  • Experiences of emergency services (better done on comments/blog?)
  • Best & worst schools (likewise)
  • School memories (may work if only one school, and headings for various activities/people; lots of libellous potential too!)
  • Hijab ban discussion (better done on forum or blog?)
  • Guide to school services – yoga, etc.
  • About festival celebrations
  • 10 years after HK became Chinese – how have things changed?

Audio: Convergence in the classroom (Andy Price, Teesside University)

Here’s a second audio recording (again split into smaller sections) from the AJE conference on convergence. This one is on Convergence in the Classroom, presented by Andy Price of Teesside University . The highlight of the conference for me was Andy’s ‘four dimensions of online journalism’ model – I’m hoping Andy can supply a graphic at some point, but for the moment imagine a cross section of Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver, and you have some idea. Here’s the audio:


Audio: Jonathan Hewett on critical reflection using blogs

The following is an audio recording (split into easy to digest 10-minute sections) of Teaching using new media: Blogging as a tool for critical reflection, a presentation by Jonathan Hewett of City University at the AJE conference on convergence. Jonathan blogs at and the PDF of the presentation can be found at that blog too.

The first part of the audio can be downloaded from

Hewett here pauses as he shows the Web 2.0 video from YouTube – shown below:

The remaining 40 minutes or so of Hewett’s presentation can be downloaded from the following links: