Monthly Archives: December 2009

Benji’s Bands: RIP

Image: Simon Clayson on Flickr / Some rights reserved

Today I decided to lay Benji’s Bands to rest. Since my attention migrated to this blog, its demise was increasingly inevitable. But it was good fun while it lasted. The aim was to visit as many London gig venues as possible, reviewing the settings as much as the music.

And here were my five favourite gigs, in no particular order:

Abe Vigoda @ Barden’s Boudoir
WhoMadeWho @ Cargo
Taraf de Haïdouks @ Union Chapel
Yo Majesty @ Barfly [pictured above]
Soil & Pimp Sessions at Roundhouse

Here’s a map that accompanied the blog, with links through to the rest of the reviews. Do have a browse.


The future of magazines?

December has seen some exciting visualisations of ‘the magazine of the future’. This morning, a Bobbie Johnson piece in the Guardian embedded the following video of Bonnier’s Mag+:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This follows hot on the heels of the Sports Illustrated digital magazine concept earlier in the month:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And thus, an isolated incident begins to look like a chain of events. Magazines seemed destined for the dustbin of history – indeed, their glossy incarnations probably still are – and yet suddenly it seems like a reimagined version could play a real part in the media landscape of the future.
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Daniel Bower on magazines

Daniel Bower is Head of Publishing at eConversions. He’s also an old buddy of mine. Here, he responds to my post on the Future of Magazines, explaining why he thinks there’s life in the old dog yet, why the new tablet platforms seem to understand the inherent value of the magazine, and why device wars imminent.

“From what I can see, niche magazines have seen a bit of a resurgence in recent years. The success of Monocle and Tyler Brule’s new ‘lifestyle brand’ approach to publishing, the re-launch of Wired in the UK, and the innovative Stack Magazine are just a few of the sector’s recent successes.

In an age when we swap and share news in a matter of seconds, it’s no wonder that newspapers have struggled to keep up… but magazines have never had to deal with this problem. Their value has always been in the longer, essay-style piece; information that can – and probably should – be consumed over a longer period of time. Readers inherently understand this role – magazines sit on coffee tables and in bags, and are saved for moments when the user (too soon?) has more time to appreciate them. Magazine readers also understand the time and effort that has gone into producing them. They are displayed on living room and offices shelves with pride, rather than in the recycling with corn flake boxes.

In short, people understand the value of magazines. Which suggests that they also understand that they’ll have to pay for them. And therein lies the market.
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Augmenting reality in London

Vodpod videos no longer available.

posted with vodpod

As I discussed a few months ago, augmented reality could change the way we travel. In fact, it’s so futuristic that I fully expect it to make a small tear in the space-time continuum and eventually destroy Switzerland. Anyway, I played around with various AR apps in London for the Guardian, and as far as I know, most of Central Europe is still there.
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Stop! Hammer time

By some strange aligning of everything that is good in the world, I was invited to talk on the Stop! Hammer Time podcast on Wednesday. Yup, I was actively encouraged to talk crap about West Ham for 37 minutes. In many ways it was a form of therapy; like a cathartic West Ham vomit. I felt considerably lighter when I emerged from that tiny little office on Marylebone Lane.

The podcast was hosted by Sam Delaney, who is the editor of Heat Magazine. In the pub afterwards we agreed that he could stalk me on my next holiday and pap me naked on the beach. I was joined on the panel by Jim Grant, a school teacher from Sevenoaks, who offered me nothing.

We discussed the horrifying possibility of a Gold-Sullivan takeover, our superbly bad performance against Man United, and the fact that Katy Perry recently sang “Bubbles” to Russell Brand (having already worn a West Ham basque to the EMA awards).

Beyond the feature: Caribbean camping for the NYT

This weekend I had a spread in the New York Times Travel section on camping on the Caribbean island of St John. The article focuses on the Maho Bay Campground, a truly special place that, as things stand, could disappear in 2012 when their lease expires. Their only hope lies in the Trust for Public Land, a non-profit conservancy that could purchase the land on Maho’s behalf.  Read more about their campaign here.

The NYT also ran a slideshow on the island, as snapped by NYT photographer Steve Simonsen. Steve is a truly multi-faceted chap, dividing his time between travel photography and being Stoke City’s reserve goalkeeper.

A little extra
Anyway, here is a funny little story from the island, that didn’t end up in the piece. It features the father of the atomic bomb, an Orthodox Jewish sect, and footballing policemen.
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Is hyperlocal all hype?

Hyperlocal news is going hyper. Monday’s news that has raised $7m from CNN is the tip of an increasingly large iceberg, as detailed by

CNN invests in … MSNBC buys … the New York Times has launched its hyperlocal effort called “The Local” … AOL has its hyperlocal project called Patch … the Huffington Post is getting into hyperlocal blogging … the Seattle Times is collaborating with hyperlocal blogs … Fisher launched 43 hyperlocal sites in Seattle and is expanding that model in other areas … the Guardian (UK) is starting a hyperlocal news network … other UK newspapers are also going hyperlocal … and so on and so forth.

So what’s happening here? And does it all add up?

The “need” for hyperlocal news, and the enticing gap
The existence of hyperlocal news is morally vital. The accelerating decline of local newspapers leaves a dangerous void in its wake – a void in which, as Clay Shirky has predicted, “casual endemic corruption” flourishes in the absence of a fierce journalistic watchdog. Thus there is a “need” for hyperlocal news. That need, it is believed, will be served by a new breed of ‘citizen journalists’ blogging from their bedrooms.

But the void left by the decline of local newspapers is not only a moral one, it is a financial one. Big media organisations are noticing this, and see the perfect opportunity to come to the rescue of small communities bereft of a local watchdog, while simultaneously expanding into new revenue markets and audience streams. In an ideal world, large news organisations would be able to corral thousands of local bloggers and sources into their very big tent: an army of “correspondents” manning incremental parts of a gargantuan news organism.
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