Fixing the BBC Sports website: The start of a conversation

September 23, 2016

Corporal Jones

The BBC is currently asking users to comment on its Sports website.  I will do, but feel that setting out a few thoughts for wider discussion among LWD subscribers may also be useful

Over recent months I have found the new BBC sports website sadly lacking in the information I have relied on it to provide. It no longer can keep up with the speed of information, and the quantity of information generated by the minute.

Not for want of trying

This is not for want of trying. The BBC new sports website has presumably been changed to meet challenges of delivery to mobiles, iPads as well as PCs. The information is increasingly presented in a format I do not want, such as videos which are not far removed from clickbait.

If you haven’t come across clickbait, it is a means of attracting visits to a location which mainly turns out to be less than was promised. The BBC, ironically, outlines how the system works, and why Facebook is working out how to deal with it

The BBC challenge of sport reporting

I choose as an example tennis, a sport which the BBC lavishes considerable attention to, two weeks of the year, during Wimbledon fortnight. But for the rest of the year, including the other three slam events, tennis is poorly served. When I want to know what is happening, or even what might have happened the day before, I now turn reluctantly to twitter for rapid news.

Typically, the BBC website ‘news’ focuses on a few top tennis stories unable to provide the wider picture. At present (The US Open) the site has been unable to cope with the big stories.  But even the GB players have not been covered, for example Andy Murray’s older brother Jamie in his doubles performances that took him briefly to world No 1.

A web-site design which emphasizes its weaknesses

Even with increased budget constraints, the design seems to have failed to be fit for purpose of delivering what users want, immediacy of news.  The technical challenges are immense. But the chosen design asks too much of the user, too many clicks to get to a sport such as tennis. (I suppose this is the antithesis to clickbait). The design also sends out an obvious signal that the BBC has not been able to provide a complete service.

No market leader

Fortunately for the Beeb, no other site has emerged as the dominant leader in sports information either. In the UK, Sky sports, for example, is hardly ripping up trees, making rain, making the earth move (choose your metaphor). The Sky coverage of the football transfer day on August 31st was mocked for its weirdness. ‘Reached new surreal heightsas the Telegraph put it.

It may well be that such a market leader will emerge from the slick websites of one of the popular red tops such as The Daily Mail, which arrived early into web-based sports news.

Politics and the BBC

The BBC has become something of a political football.  Governments of the right have been sympathetic to the view that the BBC is given an unfair advantage over the poor private sector news businesses such as Rupert Murdoch’s News International.  This has undoubtedly contributed to the travails of the Corporation.  Nevertheless, there is still scope for a creative response to the challenge of delivering news in general, and sports news in particular.  Whether there is time is another matter.

To continue the discussion

Please contribute your thoughts on this matter. There may be someone ready to listen and act somewhere in the BBC, if the posts can attract enough support.


Mike Ashley to run for leader of the Conservative party

June 8, 2016

shirtless-newcastle-fan.jpg

It is rumoured that self-made billionaire Mike Ashley is to run as leader of the Conservative party. The plan was put in place after secret meetings with Donald Trump, Lord Alan Sugar and Simon Cowell earlier this year

Mr Ashley’s chances of becoming leader of the Conservative party was rated as “a good bet at 1000-1” a figure now famous for the odds available at the start of the season for Leicester City Football Club winning the league. Now, after his effortless intellectual bettering of the Commons Select Committee this week [7th June, 2016] the odds are likely to drop even further.

Getting a safe seat

He is, at present, ineligible to stand, but  a safe seat in Parliament has been identified from a short-list of current MPs who are in danger of being deselected, declared insane, or imprisoned for various criminal offences.

The Press Magnet

Sociologist Tony Scrivener of Urmston University says that Mr Ashley has the characteristics needed to get to the top in politics.

“He has a track record of success in business. He is seen as not a member of the ruling elite. He is a ‘press magnet’, a larger than life charismatic personality, not afraid to take on the establishment. He will build on what he will call his triumph over parliamentary attempts to lock him in Big Ben for contempt.

His physical bulk, and his macho image also work for him, often appearing in the style of President Putin, stripped to the waist surrounded by adoring fans at Newcastle, the club he owns.”

Abolitionist firebrand

He intends to bring in advisors to help in his plans, which include the abolition of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies, as ‘wastes of time and space’, the creation of five million zero-hours jobs, and winning the World Cup with the English football team.

The Ashley team

We have not been able to confirm the names of the advisors, but they are believed to include a top BBC football pundit who once worked for Mr Ashley, and possibly the Portuguese media specialist Hose Nourinho, to strengthen his PR department.

The Queen is safe

He intends to preserve the monarchy until after the demise of the Queen, but after her departure he is believed to  favour of an elected head of state who knows a bit about business.

My Pal Donald

He believes he will turn the criticisms about his own business affairs to his advantage. In this, he is being advised by someone he refers to as “my boony pal Donald”.

Other parts on his brilliant vision include the purchase of The Sun from another of his close friends, Rupert Murdoch, and holding mass rallies at Newcastle United Football Club. During each of these,  he will descend in a massive balloon bedecked in the club’s famous Black and White colours. [The balloon that is, not Mr Ashley], who will emerge, shirtless, displaying his Putinsque Six Pack, to the thunderous chords of Local Hero.

Stop Press

I have been unable to confirm [8th June, 2016] that Mr Ashley is about to join the Remain campaign to add his formidable communication skills in a last desperate attempt to win over supporters swayed by the brilliant rhetoric of  Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, and particularly Michael Gove.

 


Independent Judgement. I will miss you greatly

February 15, 2016

Obituary for a dear friend

Indy Paris RotatedThere was an inevitability about the passing of the print version of The Independent. I will miss a quirky friend who made morning coffee the more enjoyable for several decades.

My not particularly guilty secret. I became addicted to the print version of the Independent for a bundle of reasons. Now I have a tough decision. What will take its place in my affections?

But that decision is for the future. Now is time to recall the best of friends, brilliant, contrarian, instinctively liberal.

The Indy was not always reliable. It could never be guaranteed to turn up as regularly as I could have liked. In the three Newsagents closest to me, one always ordered a reasonable supply. One gave up stocking the paper a few years ago, and the third resolutely refused to double its numbers of copies, meaning that at times I was thwarted by someone else with a minority taste in the news they preferred, and the way in which it was presented.

A cause a day

Then there was a period a few years ago when every day was time for a new cause waged against a national or global injustice, until I felt slightly desensitized in my enthusiasm for for the ‘Cause of the day’.

Looking back

The Indy was born as a reaction against the last big disruption to the print media.

In the UK. Rupert Murdoch was successfully breaking the hold of the old print Unions. A handful of journalists opposing the Murdoch dominance formed The Independent.

The project was always fighting the economics of a declining market recognized so shrewdly by Murdoch whose Empire had the financial muscle to run promotional campaigns that further weakened its competitors. The Independent would have gone under far earlier if it had not been bought in 2010 for nonfinancial reasons for £1 by Evgeny Lebedev who has bankrolled it since to the tune of £60m

Its innovations included messy changes to a tabloid size, and occasional excessive exuberance in design ideas that never quite lined up with user appeal.

Now creative destruction will hit a fair number of the staff, even some among a talented bunch of journalists.

Chess

One of the reasons I stuck with the full rather than the little Independent.

The chess column shows tireless interest in the game by Grandmaster Jonathan Speelman. Maybe the e-paper will give him a nice new platform for his daily offering.

Obituaries

Its obituaries by Meic Stephens gave me a link with my school days. Thanks to Meic I was not even the best poet in the village. Don’t know if he will get a chance to write an obituary or a poem in memory of the print Indy.

Not just a Viewspaper…

Viewpaper accusations by Tony Blair were taken on board unashamedly, as the Independent ironically admitted the importance of opinion pieces. Mr Tony was uncomfortable about the paper’s uncompromising stance over Iraq, and several other of his policy decisions.

Great journalism

I’m among the readers who dote on Mark Steel’s brand of satirical commentaries., Robert Fisk’s foreign affairs polemics, and Rupert Cornwall’s effortless demonstrations of his deep insights into politics to match those of his step brother David, aka John le Carre.

What next?

Do I seek out a new morning partner to gaze at over my coffee? These are early days after a heart wrenching loss.

 

 


The Three Iron Laws of Political Coups: From Ed Miliband to Sepp Blatter and Rupert Murdoch

June 12, 2015

TriangleJournalist Steve Richards examines how political leaders are overthrown. Is he offering suggestions relevant to other kinds of leader such as Sepp Blatter or Rupert Murdoch?

Steve Richards writing in The Independent states that there are ‘iron laws that apply if a party wants to dislodge a leader’. While I would prefer the term working principles, the three ‘laws’ he propounds make a great deal of sense.

He argues that for a successful coup:

 1 There has to be at least one popular alternative candidate

2 the risks are considerably lower than those for retaining the incumbent leader

3 The coup must not generate bloody internal battles.

Read the rest of this entry »


Put not your trust in leadership books: but don’t ignore them either

November 2, 2014

Here’s how to deal with a dilemma of trust and authority

You are about to take a flight on a business assignment. You are enticed in to the book store in the Departure Lounge where you are confronted with a multitude of brightly-coloured books on leadership.

Some are shiny new reprints of classics still selling by the zillion, such as Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People or the granddaddy of self-improvement books How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Others are the hot hits of the year, placed for maximum impact. Among them are those books positioned as impulse buys, alongside the other last-minute hi-calorie temptations as you approach the check-out.

How do you decide which book to buy?

It is a question I have put to several thousand business executives over the last few years. The Airport Departure Lounge provides a highly specific situation. It is one which encourages intuitive judgement over careful analysis. The decision is arguably a trivial one from a strictly economic perspective. What’s important is that the purchase puts the author in a powerful position of owning your undivided attention for several hours. It may take you half a chapter to decide you are better off with the in-flight magazine or video choice, but by then it’s too late.

A suggestion

One approach is to examine the books for the claims made. The more the author asserts without a lot of evidence, the more the book needs approaching in a spirit of testing the assertions. With practice it becomes easier to avoid buying a real dog.

New ideas as retreads

It is difficult to come across a really new and useful business idea. In general, the ‘new idea’ tends to be a re-tread of older ideas. That does not of itself make the book useless. But the more you can see the connections with other authors you have read, the easier it is to assess its contribution. I prefer books which indicate which earlier writers influenced the authors, and how.

Don’t start from here

Another suggestion comes from the old Irish saying that “if you want to get there, I wouldn’t be starting from here.”

You pre-planned a lot of other aspects of your business journey. It only takes a few moments to pre-plan your reading. You will find ‘business books of the month’ and ‘business books of the year’ published on a regular basis in various print and on-line journals. The criterion of ‘best-sellers of the month’ may appear a rather rough guide to quality, but the additional information easily obtainable at least provides you with a few to put on your short-list before you reach the departure lounge.

The Financial Times shortlist

So, for example the six books on The Financial Times shortlist for Business Book of the Year in 2014 were:

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration  by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace

Hack Attack: How the Truth Caught up with Rupert Murdoch by Nick Davies

House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It From Happening Again by Atif Mian and Amir Sufi

Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty

Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance by Julia Angwin

The list shows the wealth of interesting and well-researched business books published every year. Unsurprisingly, the six are the sort of books most available to purchase in that airport departure lounge.


Pick up a Penguin

October 28, 2012

Pearson, which owns Penguin and the Financial Times, has been holding talks with Bertelsmann, the owner of Random House. But will Rupert Murdoch come to the party?

The new this week, [October 25th 2012] of talks between Penguin and Bertelsmann, could lead to a reshaping of book publishing, if it came about.

This one is a biggie

The industry sector is undergoing a revolution as e-publishing gathers pace. Mergers are likely. This one is a biggie. Splitting out the publishing figures shows that Penguin currently has annual sales of almost £1bn, and Random House £1.4bn. The merged company would become a top-six player in book publishing.

Enter stage right

But as the news broke, fresh stories from The Australian that Rupert Murdoch is interested in bidding for Penguin.

And that would make the tale even more interesting.

The merger between Pearson and Random House was rapidly confirmed. By Monday [October 29th 2012]

According to sharecast:

Under the terms of the agreement, Penguin and Random House will combine their businesses in a newly-created joint venture named Penguin Random House.

However, it will not be a merger of equals, with Random House’s parent firm, Bertelsmann, to own 53% of the joint venture and Pearson taking 47%.

Bertelsmann will nominate five directors to the board of the new company and Pearson will nominate four.

Marjorie Scardino, Chief Executive of Pearson, said the combination would “greatly enhance” Penguin’s fortunes and its opportunities.

To be continued


Is Gina Rinehart Australia’s next Rupert Murdoch?

June 19, 2012

Australian officials have expressed concern that billionaire Gina Rinehart’s increased stake in Fairfax Media may compromise the organisation’s independence

According to the BBC:

Australian officials have expressed concern that billionaire Gina Rinehart’s increased stake in Fairfax Media may compromise its independence.

The mining magnate, who now has an 18.67% stake, has asked for three board seats and the right to make editorial decisions. Ms Rinehart, who oversees an iron-ore prospecting empire, is a vocal opponent of the government’s mining and carbon tax plans.

Gina Reinhart, recently labelled the world’s richest woman, is the heiress to an iron-ore prospecting empire.

Her current plans appear to involve acquiring three seats on the board of Fairfax Media, and the right to get involved in hiring and firing employees.

Unlike Rupert Murdoch, this is a tycoon who is intent on staying on her home turf in building her business empire. This may explain why she has largely avoided global attention for her leadership activities.

The Australian government may be following the Leveson inquiry into Media Government relations with more than a passing interest.

Succession planning

There seems little likelihood of smooth succession planning for the 58 year old business woman. She is locked in a bitter dispute with her siblings over alleged involvement with their trust hunds.

Image

Image is from the appeal by Fairfax Newspapers for Gina Rinehart to declare support for editorial independence

To be continued