Thinking about studying MA Broadcast Journalism? Here is how to get some free cash

Cardiff University MA Broadcast Journalism student Sevda Moyassari, this year’s winner of the Reform Media Group’s Sir David Nicholas Award,  with Kamal Ahmed, BBC News’ Editorial Director

Sounds to good to be true?

Not necessarily.

Now is a good time to apply for MA Broadcast Journalism courses. There are, of course, good programmes around the country. I may be biased (and I am) but I think the best is Cardiff University’s long-established MA Broadcast Journalism course.

It has a great track record of success. Graduates get jobs and it has an amazing network of alumni across the industry.

And the curriculum is bang up to date. Students look at social media, MoJo and data journalism, as well as learning traditional skills in TV and radio news journalism.

So, what about this free money?

There are a number of burasaries and scholarships for which students can apply.

The Sir David Nicholas Award 

01ASWKQF; SIR DAVID NICHOLAS Chairman, Talk Radio COMPULSORY CREDIT: UPPA/Photoshot Photo URK 007818/A-19

Offered in honour of ITN’s legendary Editor-in-Chief, this is aimed at BAME students and offers £2000 to help meet the costs of the course.

It is supported by the Media Society of The Reform Club in London and winners are invited to a networking evening with top editors and journalists as well as an additional work experience opportunity with ITN or a similar organisation.

The Sue Lloyd-Roberts Scholarship 

Sue Lloyd-Roberts, Emmy award winning ITN and BBC News correspondent

Offered in memory of the award-winning TV news correspondent, this award covers the full fees of your course and is for any Masters student interested in the issues which pre-occupied Sue Lloyd-Roberts. These include international affairs, human rights, women’s rights, and the environment.

Sir Tom Hopkinson Award

Sir Tom Hopkinson was an active journalist before becoming a ground-breaking teacher of journalism

This award of £1000 is offered in memory of the founding director of the Centre for Journalism Studies at Cardiff University

Sir Julian Hodge Award

The entrepreneur and banker Sir Julian Hodge

This award in memory of the banker and founder of the Hodge Foundation offers £2000 pounds.

Should you be accepted onto the MA Broadcast Journalism course at Cardiff University, you will be able to apply for these bursaries.

It might also be worth thinking about applying for a bursary from the Royal Television Society. These are generally offered to students who are applying to university and have some quite stringent rules attached – but can be quite valuable if you are successful.

And finally, if you do make it onto the MA Broadcast Journalism course you will need to do at least three weeks work experience in a broadcast newsroom. The Broadcast Journalism Training Council offers a £200 placement support bursary to help you cover the costs.

Free money and a life-changing opportunity. Why would you not want to apply to MA Broadcast Journalism at Cardiff University?

Researching for news: why the academic publishing model isn’t fit for purpose in the study of journalism

This morning I spotted a tweet from a colleague at the University of Northampton.

And, as people always do on Twitter, I felt the need to respond with a weak joke.

That felt appropriate, as this morning I spent some time reviewing a copy editor’s comments on a book chapter I wrote on the 2017 election.

I first wrote a draft of this chapter in August 2017 for a conference the following month. That was just a couple of months after the June 2017 election.

While the paper has developed during the past two years, with editorial supervision and guidance, the core concepts and structure are little changed.

As anyone who has published academic papers will know, the peer review system means that publication is slow. Academics review each other’s work on an unpaid basis; publishers set long lead times to allow an unhurried analysis of the paper; and articles often go through several drafts before publication.

It is a thorough process, widely viewed as the gold-standard in academic publication.

But it’s not at all useful in the fast changing world of journalism.

Journalism academics are prone to complaining at international conferences that no-one in the industry is interested in using their research to shape new tools and services.

That’s true. I know from my own experience of designing new services for users that the last person I’d ask for advice would be a journalism professor.

That is because when most academic research is published, if it has value to journalists it is as the basis for a story.

Aside from the trade press, mainstream journalists are not that interested in publishing stories about journalism unless there is a wider political or cultural significance. And that implies timeliness in publication.

If we do think there is value for industry in our research, then we have to find ways of getting it in front of journalists more quickly than academic publication currently allows.

At the moment, I think most academics think the answer to this is blogging.

But perhaps there is a more sophisticated system of knowledge transfer that could be developed? I’ve written previously about the way BCU and Lincoln have developed partnerships to create new courses, perhaps that is an indication of the path researchers also need to follow.

I hope and expect that the book chapter I wrote back in 2017 will still have value once it is finally published next year. But I can’t help but worry that its impact will have been diluted by the passage of time.

Crossing the divide? BCU and Lincoln offer a glimpse of the future of journalism education

As a journalism teacher in higher education I am used to getting it in the neck from both industry and academics.

Neither of them really believe journalism is a university-level subject.

Old hacks like to complain that a degree doesn’t teach shoe-leather reporting or how to handle a death-knock.

While academics moan that it is all skills and little research. And even when journalism academics do produce research, industry doesn’t really care for it anyway.

There is a little truth in all of this. But only a little.

The usual moans of “it wasn’t like that in my day” tend to obscure the good work that universities do in teaching journalism skills, media literacy and critical thinking.

But two developments this week may show a future path for industry and academic collaboration.

Today, Birmingham City University have announced the HuffPost School of Journalism, a tie-up with the digital publisher. Driven forward by BCU’s dynamic head, Sarah Jones, and HuffPo’s Executive Editor, Jess Brammar, this is an ambitious idea that tries to tie academic journalism teaching closely to real world experiences. Brammar writes : “The journalists at HuffPost will set students real-world challenges in modules, because it’s important for them to experience some of the pressures (and excitement!) of working in an actual newsroom. We’ll lead masterclasses and tutorials focused on news, lifestyle, politics and entertainment, and host talks to give students access to the best talent. There will also be the opportunity to spend time with the editorial team and the offer of work experience in the newsroom.”

That’s also the ambition of the University of Lincoln’s new MA International Journalism, which has been developed in conjunction with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

I sat on the validation panel for the MA this week and think it is a brilliant development. It clearly bridges the academic and industry divide. It has teaching both in Lincoln and at TRF’s headquarters in London. And a mix of educators, both academics and experienced international correspondents. There’s also the added incentive of paid internships on offer to the best graduates.

What do these developments tell us? Firstly that there is a desire from big brands to access the best students coming out of universities, that they want to shape the training that’s given to future journalists and to ensure that it reflects their needs.

But it also tells us that journalism education has established its place in the pantheon, providing a link between university and industry to hot-house the future stars of a dynamic and ever-changing profession.

George Osborne should quit as a MP to edit the Standard

Had a blog I wrote for the University of Northampton picked up by The Huffington Post.

You can see it here:

 

My journalism and media predictions for 2017

It has become something of a habit for me to post a few New Year’s predictions for the coming 12 months.

You can see previous efforts here, here and here.

So, what is ahead for 2017?

1.TOO. MUCH. VIDEO.

There is a glut of terrible video available online.

Driven by higher CPMs and the improved user experience provided by faster broadband and 4G phones, publishers have piled into video in a big way.

But too much of it is just rubbish.

Poorly produced and with little thought given to user experience, much online video exists merely to serve terrible 30-second pre-roll ads.

There are honourable exceptions but they are few and far between.

Even YouTubers are seeing a drop off in views.

Supply outstripping demand also showed up as an issue in this year’s Reuters Institute Digital Report.

The top reason for not watching a video – “I find reading quicker and more convenient”. Obviously.

video-report

But this isn’t about users, this is about producers and publishers.

They want eyeballs on content and are prepared to throw out any old crap in order to grow monthly streams.

And the worst, absolute worst, examples of this can be seen on Facebook Live.

Journalists have flocked to make live videos watched by an audience so small it is effectively nobody and have turned out the most godawful tripe along the way.

Even broadcasters, for whom there is absolutely no excuse, have managed to create amateurish, boring, pointless live content.

Please, all of you, stop it now before it is too late.

Live social video is an incredible tool – some of the stories being told are revelatory and revolutionary.

But stop turning out pointless lives for a few dozen people.

Surely by this point we must realise that behind-the-scenes video or extended interviews are the lowest common denominators of digital story-telling.

If you didn’t put it in your main story, what makes you think anyone wants to see the rubbish left on the cutting room floor?

So, here’s the prediction.

Over-supply will cause video CPMs to crash, forcing publishers to make tough decisions about whether to concentrate on quality or quantity.

Most will continue to put out rubbish for increasingly poor returns.

But smart publishers will focus on building dedicated audiences with targeted high quality content with a long tail.

2. Facebook grows up

Fake news and how to tackle it is a hot topic at the moment.

The performance of fake stories in the final weeks of the U.S. Presidential election has put the issue front and centre.

There has been a lot of talk about the importance of more fact-checking, more on the ground reporting, less comment and fewer paid talking heads.

That’s all well and good – much of it is a welcome recommitment to core journalistic values.

But the essential problem is that the distribution method of choice – Facebook – doesn’t feel it has any duties to its news consumers.

Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear that he thinks Facebook is a tech company, not a media one.

That may be true, up to a point.

But in the end, if users lose trust in material they see on Facebook then it is Facebook that will suffer.

That means the company is going to have to start taking its responsibilities to users more seriously.

And draining the swamp of fake stories, propaganda, misinformation and disinformation is a good place to start.

So, here’s the prediction – Facebook will hire editors to improve its fact-checking and act to cut back the wave of fake stories as the start of a process of acknowledging its position as a world leading mass-media company.

3. AI in the newsroom

Smart newsroom products are coming.

We have already started to see experiments and roll-out of automated writing.

That will continue.

But we will also see more use of machine learning in newsgathering and production too.

During the past 12 months I have been providing some advice to a Silicon Valley startup looking at how AI can be implemented in the newsroom.

UGC verification and social newsgathering are obvious places to start, using machine learning to parse huge amounts of data.

It doesn’t mean all of us journalists are going to be replaced by robots.

At least, not yet.

But 2017 will start to see more use of automated and smart products in the production of news, freeing reporters to work on adding value to the basic commodity of information.

4. Peer to peer becomes a peer

Snapchat has become the latest social media platform for journalists to embrace.

Early adopters have seen big returns – Buzzfeed has suggested that a fifth of its total traffic comes from Snapchat Discover.

But it has really only been publishers with heavy footprints in the U.S. and UK that have seen big returns.

That is set to change in the coming year.

As Twitter struggles with open messaging, expect peer-to-peer and closed group chat to grow faster.

And news publishers will want a slice of the pie.

I ran a number of strategy sessions for digital publishers across Africa and southern Asia during the summer.

It was striking how many of them thought WhatsApp with its huge install base was a potential audience driver.

They won’t be alone.

In 2017 expect to see more and more publishers experiment with peer-to-peer and personalised news to phones.

5. What is already hard just gets tougher

2016 was a great year for news reporting.

Taken in the round, audiences have never been larger, we had unmatched international reach, and stories of weight and importance.

But the business of news continues to get harder.

It has become clearer that a business strategy based on scale cannot deliver financial security.

And we’ve all had to get used to the guilt-tripping begging notes asking for more money.

As the impact of Brexit decelerates the British economy, trying to make a media business sustainable via free content and advertising at scale is going to become more difficult.

Smart publishers have already added other revenue streams to their business strategies.

2017 is going to be a year of hard decisions that have already been deferred too long.

More publishers will embrace paywalls, cutting costs through reduced editorial staff, and the decision point for newspapers on when to stop the presses will inch closer.

How bad this gets will depend on the scale of Brexit’s economic shock.

If it triggers a full-blown recession, Shane Smith’s oft-quoted but never quite materialised bloodbath will come to pass.

Publishers can future-proof themselves if they embrace solid business plans with diversified revenue streams, and produce content audiences value enough to pay for.

Otherwise they risk being cartwheel makers in the age of the motorcar.

 

Five predictions for the coming year – let’s see if my track record for accuracy shows any sign of improvement in 12 months’ time.

Cristina Nicolotti Squires poached by Sky News

One of ITN’s most successful and creative executives, Cristina Nicolotti Squires, has announced she’s leaving to become Director of Content at Sky News.

It is a big job with responsibility for news and current affairs across multiple platforms.

And it is a big loss for ITN. Cristina is a formidable presence in the newsroom. Smart, resourceful and passionate about news, she will be a tough act to follow as Editor of Five News.

Like her predecessors  Chris Shaw, Deborah Turness and Geoff Hill, she’s used the editorship of the comparatively small-scale Five News as a springboard to bigger things.

She moves to Sky at a time of considerable change. Many of the old guard are moving on. Not just on-air talent such as Jeremy Thompson and Eammon Holmes but some of the most experienced backroom staff too.

Head of News, John Ryley, is clearly preparing for a future of on-demand digital news as well as a live streamed channel – perhaps no longer delivered on TV nor based in a studio.

Professor Richard Sambrook from Cardiff University has written persuasively about 24-hour rolling news being a product of newsgathering technology that now looks outdated. Even the most traditional 24-hour channels, such as Al Jazeera, are considering what post-TV news looks like.

As 24-hour news veteran, I still retain an affection for the form. But there’s no doubt that it cannot compete with the immediacy of digital news, even if there is still value in a live stream of content. It is hard to gear up to rolling coverage if you lack the platform and resources to produce it.

So I will wait with interest to see what Nicolotti’s Sky News will become – how she’ll balance innovation with maintenance of the existing product. And hopefully she’ll kill off the ruddy awful “The Pledge“.

 

BBC Young cut for BBC Old

 

I was on BBC Northampton this morning talking to Helen Blaby about the decision to take BBC3 online only.

I called it what it is: a budget saving decision dressed up as innovation.

You can listen here – starts at about 1h 10

//

Media predictions for 2016

2016 desktop calendar

What does the coming year hold for the media and what will the impact be on news and journalism?

2015 was a year of enormous change, and there’s no reason to expect 2016 to be any different. So, here are five trends I think will define the next 12 months.

1. Ad-blockers will go mainstream

The current status quo for digital advertising in media cannot continue.

Advertising is too intrusive. Splash screens, auto-playing video, and ads that scroll the screen are ruining the user experience.

On a desk-top this can be annoying but for mobile users it can destroy the user’s relationship with the publisher.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have left an Independent article without reading it on my iPhone because the splash screen can’t be easily removed.

And now I don’t bother reading them at all.

This is no longer a niche experience – mobile is how people consume digital content. If your mobile experience is poor, you will lose audience.

The uptake in ad blockers has increased during the past couple of years. Early adopters have been using them to tailor their internet experience. 2016 will be the year their usage goes mainstream and the impact for publishers will be immense.

Business plans at almost all major publishers are based on delivering eyeballs to ads – even at those who also have a subscription strategy.

If the relationship between content and advertising breaks, then a new settlement will have to be found. Either by denying access to users of ad blockers, finding new forms of advertorial, or by publishers finding a way to manage their advertising in a way that is meaningful and useful for users.

If they can’t they risk being swept away.

2. A choice to make: destination vs distribution 

The content business is going to get a lot tougher in 2016.

The watchword of 2015 has been scale. Those that have it, want to retain it. Those that don’t, want to get it.

As the content bubble continues to deflate some publishers will go to the wall, others will sell up. Consolidation will be a key factor in 2016.

But the key decision for publishers will be whether or not to pursue a destination or distribution strategy.

Here’s the thing: when I talk to students about where they get their news, they invariably say from Twitter or Facebook. Of course, when you dig into this they actually get it from a publisher who is using social media to disseminate their content. But users don’t necessarily distinguish between the publisher and the distributor.

Brand and brand values don’t appear to survive the transition to social media. And that means users treat all information as being of equivalent value.

Look at the rise of fake news sites that publish stories simply to get eyeballs to their sites – how often are people taken in by them? Even journalism students, who should know better, are sometimes fooled.

Publishers have to decide where they want to focus their attention – destination or distribution?

The received wisdom of the past few years has been to emphasise the importance of being where your audience is.

But Netflix didn’t build its business on YouTube.

Why should publishers, so keen to take up Facebook Instants, build their business on other people’s platforms? Give up your brand, give up your revenue streams, give up your platforms, and you give up your business.

3. Innovation will move to the heart of the newsroom

Media businesses are generally pretty poor at innovation – as this excellently argued article by the Wall Street Journal’s Neal Mann explains.

All of us who’ve worked in jobs where we’ve tried to shake-up the existing way of doing things have encountered the same issues. Resistance to change, a culture that demands instant results driven by delivery to daily deadlines, a veneration of tradition at the expense of experimentation.

That has to change and I think newsroom managers will have to bite the bullet in 2016 and create bespoke innovation units.

Journalism and journalists will survive but if the media businesses of today want to have a future they need to embrace innovation as a process rather than always trying to copy ideas from others.

And that means experimenting with everything. Cool stuff can be done with virtual reality, 360° video, and automation. And who knows what else is around the corner? Who would have predicted in the first internet boom that mobile would be key technology of the future? The key question is how can these things be turned into innovative systems that will deliver consistently for users in the future?

If publishers take a structured and strategic approach to this, (experimenting, implementing ideas, measuring success and failure, focussing on the outputs not the processes, spreading success) they can build new products and new revenue streams that at the moment seem like pipedreams.

Of course that may mean setting up things like the Second Life bureau – but learning the lessons of failure is just as important as reaping the rewards of success.

4. Twitter will face an existential crisis

I love Twitter. For me, and for many journalists, it’s a fantastic tool. Filled with ideas, ever-changing, and rumbustious.

But it’s got a problem. It’s just not growing. And with the failure to match other social networks in scale comes a problem with attracting advertising. And that’s not going to solved by adding Moments.

In 2016 I think Twitter will face an existential crisis. What is it for? What is its future? How will it grow? How will it make money for its investors? I don’t pretend to have the answers to these questions, and I suspect no-one knows the answers, but unless Twitter is able to find a new strategy it faces a future of ossification, stagnation and decline.

5. Managing the decline in TV news

2015 was a pretty good year for TV news.

Levels of trust remain high, viewership of the main bulletins has been broadly stable, the election was still fought on TV rather than online and some high profile transfers and relaunches have garnered positive headlines.

But….

There is a long term problem for TV news. It’s not breaking through to younger viewers and, as older ones die off, it faces decline.

I expect that process to gather pace in 2016. Audiences will drop, perhaps not precipitously, but steadily. As viewers drift away from linear TV towards on-demand, the point of having an appointment to view TV news bulletin becomes less and less clear. And if younger viewers don’t pick up the habit of watching at 10pm – the format is doomed.

The TV companies recognise this risk. If James Harding was employed at the BBC in order to bolster its digital coverage, the always impressive Jonathan Munro was brought in to manage the TV coverage; to ensure that quality was maintained during a period of sustained decline in audience as the BBC experiments with different formats for its journalism.

This isn’t a prediction of imminent collapse but I think 2016 will be the year that the declining trend in audience and relevance for TV news becomes more clear.

So, five trend predictions for 2016. But, as they say, the only things certain in life are death and taxes.

Media predictions 2015 – how did I do?

675810372_8c495f7b1a_b
Looking back on 2015

Time to mark my own homework again.

Each year I make some predictions about the coming 12 months – here’s the ones for 2015 – so how did I do?

1. Podcasts are back in fashion.

Not much doubt about this one. You could hardly move for podcasts this year.

Whether it’s the return of Serial ; those that have taken inspiration from its format, such as this one by the media commentator Peter Jukes;  to those that support brands and content marketing;  to the long wait for a new edition of the on hiatus Bugle; media organisations rediscovered their love of podcasting.

The number of listeners seems to be up too – although perhaps not quite as dramatically as Serial’s astonishing figures would have you believe.

pewodcasts
Pew Research Center, State of the News Media 2015

Are they making money? Almost certainly not.

Podcasts that involve reporting are expensive to make. Anything involving studios is expensive too.

But where there’s audience, advertising will follow.

And the old stager The Game, which I set up at The Times back in 2006, is still drawing audience and cross-sold advertising.

2. The TVisation of the web

Have TV companies taken on digital and made it their own in 2015?

For the most part, the answer is no.

TV companies still continue to treat digital as an upstart child that will eventually accept discipline.

And digital native products continue to eat TV’s lunch.

Take the BBC’s strategy of allowing Netflix to licence its back catalogue. Nuts! Netflix has built a business on its content and now looks like a serious competitor.

That’s short term gain for long term pain.

But there are glimmers of interesting experimentation – the millennial targeting AJ+ service has found an audience with sassy video takes on news stories.

And, of course, there is the fact that digital native publishers such as Buzzfeed and Vice want to be TV broadcasters too.

Perhaps they can find a lean-back experience to match the legacy TV organisations in 2016 and inject some much needed life into the sector.

3. Towards a sustainable future for papers

Scale has been the buzzword for newspaper publishers in 2015.

Both The Guardian and The Mail have started to show progress on digital revenues.

But it’s a far from consistent picture.

News UK admitted defeat with The Sun’s paywall and decided to go free. The Times still remains behind the wall, at least for now. There’s some speculation that it too will ditch the paywall. I suspect that would be a mistake. A solid revenue and a loyal audience will have continuing value in the years ahead.

Small steps then, but nonetheless steps towards the future.

4. The content bubble deflates

Up to a point, Lord Copper.

It has been a tough a year in the content business. Swamped by clickbait and repetitious stories audiences have sought better quality content.

Ten years ago everybody wanted to be in aggregation – turns out there’s not much of a future there.

newsreadergraphic

And there’s no doubt that some of the valuations on today’s star start-ups look frothy too.

Take a look at Buzzfeed. It’s a going concern, it made $7 million in 2013. But this year, NBCUniversal bought a $200 million dollar stake at a valuation of $1.5 billion.

Buzzfeed has been investing heavily in editorial and, specifically, video. It sees itself as a key news and entertainment brand for the future.

But NBCUniveral’s making a big bet based on little grounded evidence.

Let’s call it a half.

5. The first UK-wide digital election

All the parties embraced social media for this election. You couldn’t move for Twitter argument, Facebook videos and a roar of furious agreement.

What was curious though was just how limited its impact appears to have been.

There seem to have been two main issues: trust and the self-reinforcing nature of social networks; we follow accounts that publish things we like and unfollow things we don’t.

Over time the cumulative effect creates a bubble impenetrable by news that doesn’t reinforce our prejudices. And if, by chance, we do encounter any it is dismissed as a result of cognitive dissonance.

That’s a lesson politicians need to learn quickly.  Especially those, such as the Labour leadership, who want to cut the mainstream media from their communications strategy.

All up, I reckon that’s three and a half out of five. Not bad.

Predictions for 2016 to follow.

My most popular posts of 2015

2015_vuurwerk_900_450_90_s_c1_smart_scale

Here are the top five most popular posts from 2015 on my blog.

  1. UK election debates to go ahead
  2. My predictions for 2015
  3. First attempts at media punditry
  4. Who will be the new political editors of ITV and BBC News?
  5. New deputy editor of ITV News

No standout post this year, unlike last year’s On John Oliver quitting The Daily Show, (7th most popular story this year) but a steady amount of traffic to all.

Search terms are no longer that interesting a resource, with so much of Google’s searches now encoded. But still a steady amount of traffic looking for information about the former Deputy Editor of ITV News, Richard Zackheim.

A steady if not spectacular year – perhaps not surprising given the paucity of my posting. Must try harder next year.