Beloved Advertisers. And Spit……….

Advertisers are the lifeblood of the regional paper I edit. Without a cover price, advertising revenue is our only revenue. Advertisers therefore pay to print the paper.

Sadly, unlike donations to Dog rescue centres, elderly people do not tend to leave their worldy goods to their local newspaper when they pass on to the next phase.

Most of our advertisers are a joy to work with – enthusiastic, hard working people, developing and growing their businesses, whether small, local shops or larger, national enterprises. Most people have a good idea of how advertising works, and have their shit together – logos, the font they like, pictures, colour information and a good idea of what they want to say. And then, there are the others……

There are indeed a significant amount of people out there who seem to struggle to comprehend the most simple of tasks. Even booking some space in the local paper and deciding what words to put in that space to best bring attention to their particular business is an uphill battle to some, leaving us to wonder how these folk actually manage to run their businesses.

Some book space for an advert, and appear with some notes scribbled on toilet paper as their advertising copy. Others book the smallest advert we have on offer, and then turn in a sheet of A4, crammed with tiny writing, and are disgusted and outraged when we have to point out that they have only booked enough space to fit ten words, and not the 600 they’ve decided on.

This morning, one of our lesser-favoured more elderly advertisers appeared, resplendent with attitude, walking cane and a literal armful of scraps of paper.

I ignored him, as in the past he has found my greeting of ‘Hello there, what can we do for you?’ an abomination against basic manners, and has turned and walked out, refusing to speak to me. I now allow one of my long-suffering colleagues to deal with this particular customer – how joyous for her.

This particular client spends a grand total of £20.50 with us at a time, giving us a profit of around £1.50 after print and distribution costs have been taken out. Last month, we spent around half an hour with him, deciding on the exact ten words he had room for in the booked advert.

After standing at the counter for around five minutes, my colleague politely suggested that the gentleman return when he had the piece of paper he was frantically searching for, which contained the changes to the advert he’d spent half an hour the previous visit deciding that he wouldn’t change.

Upon returning to her desk when he was unable to find the advert changes on the relevant scrap of paper and finally left the office, with a promise to return, she wiped the shower of spittle she’d been subjected to from her face.

Who says we don’t work hard for our revenue?! Another visit or two from this most-treasured and long-standing advertiser, and we’ll certainly have earned our £1.50!




Saying a loving goodbye to SSiW’s ‘old dog’…

A beautifully written piece on grief, prompted by the loss of a much-loved canine companion. Something I wholeheartedly empathize with, sadly.



Very few of you, of course, were lucky enough to meet Caleb Alban, our Scottish terrier.  And yet, in a way, you all know him – because Caleb was both our young dog and our old dog.  Every time I was trying to think of a new sentence for the Welsh lessons, Caleb would be there somewhere – sitting under the desk, stalking a cat in the background, barking somewhere out in the garden – and there’s no doubt that’s why we have quite so many examples of young dogs and old dogs in the lessons (the cat stuff is really just an attempt at balance!).

This post ought to be about last week’s remarkable Bootcamp, or about the imminent changes to our site design and social functions – but those will have to come later – right now, I need to write about Caleb, because after becoming suddenly extremely ill…

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Plan Ninety Days of Blogging in Ninety Minutes (Or Less)

Great piece!

The Daily Post

If you’re having trouble keeping your blog on track, a calendar may be just what the blogger ordered. We always have ’em for The Daily Post and Hot off the Press — they help us organize and space out the topics we want to cover, and they let us relax knowing that come April 5th, 15th, and 25th, post ideas will be at the ready. We may re-organize as we go or toss in new posts based on how the blogular winds are blowing, but we can trust in the basic structure.

Even if you’re not posting every day, a calendar can help you stay motivated, develop good blogging habits, and grow your readership. Take a few minutes to work through these five steps, and sketch out a solid 90-day blogging plan.

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Proofpoint and rotten Apple…..

Arriving at work this morning sunk me into the depths of despair.

As soon as I walked in the door, I remembered in vivid detail the horrendous four hours I had yesterday afternoon, attempting to get Apple to deal with the fact that a non-entity company called ‘Proofpoint’ has decided to block our IP address from all Apple customers.

An hour on the phone to two complete morons at Apple, who informed me that there was ‘no one at Apple who could deal with anything to do with their servers, or answer any technical questions about servers or the internet’, I was on my own, and they quite obviously do not care about their customers, who were having emails blocked from their accounts.

Many, many emails to sodding Proofpoint, and we’re still blocked. The joys of modern technology – not.

One of the graphic designers we use cannot now be reached by email, so heavens only knows how we’re going to work this month.

And I don’t have time to do anything about it today as there is actual work to get on with, and four hours of catching up to do.

Technology should be introduced to a giant hammer on occasion.

The smog remains….

So, who the hell am I, and where am I coming from? Fair question, I’d say.

Firstly, a condensed view of the industry as it currently stands…. Bear with me, it’s a one-off, promise.

The media business (and I’m talking printed news here) is still a mystery to many. The public tend to imagine there are still tribes of journalists lurking at every corner, notebook in hand, ready to scoop that big story. The truth these days is somewhat different.

Most publications are financially propped-up by international organisations, and the rise of print and distribution costs continue.

Next time you pick up a paper, check out the print run (how many copies are printed in each edition), see how many pages there are in each edition, and multiply by the number of editions. Then see how much that amount of paper costs to buy.

Next, work out how much it costs to print each page, again multiply. Then, factor in vans distributing pallets of said printed papers around to distribution points, ready to be delivered by any number of people at the bottom end.

Add on costs for payroll, accounting, insurance, equipment, software and so on.

If you also factor in wages (generally not high in the industry) and utility bills, you’ll see why most publications don’t cover costs – let alone hire teams of lurking journalists to spy on your every move. The only revenue in to any paper is often advertising or/and a cover price – news publications are struggling.

If you’ve only paid 30p for that paper you bought today, it’s a good deal, trust me. If you’re lucky enough to be in a part of the country where you still get a local paper popped through your letterbox for free, then raise your hands in thanks, as that’s pretty much a miracle right there.

Thankfully, the world has moved on as costs have risen, and technological advancements have changed the way we work. News stories can be sparked by social media – and often are. A neighbouring paper recently ran a front page covering a teenage death, utilising comments made on social media – leading to some of those whose comments were published to regret their decision to have their personal pages ‘public’ for all to see – and use as they wished. Very little ‘journalism’ was utilised; a few facts checked, a couple of calls made, and a lot of copying and pasting from Facebook.

The downside to this technological advancement and rise of the communication age has been the loss of staff who, over years, learnt and told the histories of their local communities, working at local papers around the country. Now journalists carry digital cameras and get the name of the person featured incorrect, whilst the photographers are being laid off by the hundred.

Quality declines, facts are missed, spelling and grammar checks go out the window as sub-editors join the redundant photographers and melt into the mist. Yet the public desire for news continues, and not all like ‘reading the paper’ on a tablet, PC or Mac (my, how language has changed!).

Therefore, for now we prevail, from the smallest four-page village newsletter right up to the big dailies.

So, that’s the industry in a very basic, generalised format to give you a soaring overview of where we stand and the industry I belong to, am part of. Now, the blog.

Why?! We deal with the public all day long – and rarely to any of us get the time to write our own thoughts or observations on daily life in the office down.

We’ve moved with the times and now not only spend all day answering phones (with the addition of mobiles to landlines) and talking face-to-face with the public, we also answer emails, update websites, keep an eye on Twitter and Facebook.

At some point, we’re also supposed to complete quite a hefty workload, be it selling or designing adverts in order to raise the cash to print, collecting the editorial content and editing it or building the paper itself. As well as taking on the work of another of course, be it the photographer, the sub-editor or the runner.

It’s one of those rare office jobs where there is still a huge level of actual production involved. It can be a stressful vocation to dedicate yourself to, wherein comes the requirement to let off steam occasionally, as well as the desire to share amusing anecdotes which make themselves available to us on a regular basis.

So, welcome to the blog. It’ll be as honest as possible whilst remaining within obvious legal confines, and will hopefully provide some honest insight into day-to-day life as an Editor. A laugh or two would not go amiss either, one would hope at least.

Enjoyably for me, there will undoubtably be spelling mistakes. At some point I may just kick punctuation to the curb altogether – and I won’t care.

The dusk is drawing in outside the office window as I type, tinged with yellow due to the continuing sand and pollution in our skies. Strange times indeed. Time to drop the ball and chain and head home.

A grey, smog-coated Thursday

The office has been busy today. Our annual April Fool story continues to get them arguing in the supermarkets and pubs, and a procession of concerned residents has passed over the doorstep over the past few days, either to congratulate or to complain bitterly at having fallen for it. Nothing worse than being taken for a fool…….

Over the years we’ve had fun publishing warnings of a fish flu pandemic, the conversion of ancient monuments into second homes, tartan sheep, man-made tropical off-shore marine reserves, the removal of ALL teeth upon reaching the age of 13 and much more.

What never fails to amaze us is the vast difference in response from the public at large – from those who offer up a chuckle and pop in to grab an additional copy of the paper to ‘spook grandma with’, through to those who spend much time venting their absolute rage at us in letter form. 

We particularly liked our readers this month who turned up at the advertised meeting place and eagerly awaited their free iPads at 10.30am on April 1st. Upon re-reading the diary entries in question, they realised that they had misread and the entry actually offered free apples to those waiting at the right place at the right time………sadly, despite the best of intentions, I had forgotten to turn up myself, resplendent with a glorious box of apples to hand out.


Well, here we are……..

Sitting at my desk in a stuffy room which is at the heart of our community newspaper, I cannot count how many times I have threatened to get myself a blog as the incidents of ‘you just couldn’t make it up’ escalate over the years.

You literally couldn’t make half of it up. Nor imagine half of the people who cross our path.

So, here it is. A blog. The insides of a community paper. Laid bare.