First things first – the thank you.
Clearly to NESTA and all their ‘DestinationLocal’ works, but equally to the people of Loddon who – in pretty short time – rallied to the #21VC cause; helped in no small part by the fact that Ben Olive has bust his proverbials over the last two years to keep LoddonEye at the heart of that community’s affairs.
In many, many ways, today’s funding announcement is his reward. I would read this; and the comments. There’s one very proud Dad to be found there; and rightly so. Ben deserves this as much as anyone.
As, in fairness, do the Diocese of Norwich, whose determination to restore Holy Trinity Church, Loddon, to the ‘hub’ of that community underpins our ability to deliver this project. Willi and the Parochial Church Council rallied to the cause; come the autumn they can not only download audio tours of the church, they can also slash their insurance premiums by having live CCTV cameras on the roof combating the threat of lead theft – to the delight of English Heritage as their Grade I listed buildings find a digital ally.
I’m not about to re-visit the role of the church and its far-sighted Bishop with his twin passions of rural issues and media; nor return to the inspiration that was Starbucks’ US tie-up with Yahoo… supporting free wifi in their coffee shops via channels of ad-supported content wired around that wifi ‘doorway’.
We did that in the summer of 2010.
The point of this piece – now we have funding in hand – is to ponder what it might mean for the wider, UK media landscape. Where right now nothing works, but everything might…
Unless, of course, you’re Lynne Anderson. In whose world, everything’s fine. A world in which King Canute is still king.
For the rest of us of lesser thinkers getting local media to work in a sustainable and networked fashion is one of the greatest challenges of our age; everyone continues to wrestle with it.
Is the future even local? Or is it actually America? And is it simply a case of being open – can we start to understand this space by floating a cheese barge down the Grand Union Canal and offering the world courses on how to be funny?
For me, I think we have to start from the very scratch; find the lowest form of editorial *and* advertising life and work from the bottom up. From, in effect, a blank piece of paper.
Set ourselves a bar. To find £100 a week so that someone that is both authentic to and trusted by their community can report on the matters that really matter to that one local community.
Many of which are likely to be found at the monthly parish council meeting.
How do we address that democracy deficit in a sustainable way?
By re-establashing a part-time village correspondent at the heart of that community’s life. Whose bread and butter is the village pars; the fetes and the funerals, the awards and the charity walks.
They are, in a very real sense, the molecular building blocks of new, journalistic life. There are, roughly, about 3,000 people in the combined villages of Loddon and Chedgrave. Look again at LoddonEye and Ben has 323 FB likes. Its the kind of penetration statistic that the Newspaper Society would delight in. If it involved a tree and a paper boy.
But the other point to #21VC is the opportunity to marry the lowest form of advertising life to his editorial content.
A text ad for Loddon Jub Club’s website is unlikely to vie with Three Pigs in terms of sketching out the future of the UK’s media landscape; nor is it about to be on the red carpet at Cannes mingling with the finest digital marketing minds of WPP, MicrosoftAdvertising and Google.
But then that ad is not about to go to California and back to get on Ben’s site. It doesn’t need a fancy algorithm to get there.
And at say a tenner a month… to the audience that really makes a difference to them… that’s some 10% of Ben’s weekly ‘wage’ covered.
That’s eight hours labour a week, parish council meeting included; that’s all – for now – we have any right to expect or ask.
The parish magazine for Loddon has 82 adverts for local SMEs within its pages when I last looked. Of those 50-odd came with a website attached. Even the butcher has a FaceBook page.
Ben edits the parish magazine.
Loddon also has three other businesses. A small, village super-market, a bank and a chemist.
Otherwise known as Co-Op (Local), Boots The Local Pharmacy and, er, Barclays Bank plc, which is known by a lot of different names.
But they can now get that if they drop national brand into such a local space, then they can drop that brand into at least 2,800 other local spaces… All we do is put LoddonEye on the map.
That and find their national and/or regional marketing agency and give them the sell about the value to be had in backing such local, community initiatives.
How much will we charge Barclays Bank plc for a banner ad on #21VC Loddon branch…
A small fortune. Because, you know what? They can start to pay to keep both democracy and decent community values alive in the rural village of Loddon.