After six years, 520 posts and who knows how many words, this is the last thing I’m going to write on this blog.
It’s a decision I’ve been thinking about for almost a year and I’ve kept putting it off, partly because I still had things I wanted to figure out and share with you, and also because – believe it or not – this blog does make a bit of money!
But 2o12 has been a year of reflection and contemplation for me and ultimately of heading in new directions. Over the last few years my interests and passions have developed to the point where I now no longer think of myself as a journalist, but more of a producer and publisher. What I write about has gradually shifted from news to storytelling, to cinema to entrepreneurship, and I know that’s not what many of you come here for.
At the same time, how I think about creating stuff has changed and I want to focus my energy on building things that matter: films, magazines, books, businesses and more. Sadly a weekly blog post, and hours spent on Twitter don’t fit into that.
I’ve spent some time bringing together 20 of my favourite pieces from the last few years and written five brand new ones, and put them all into a one-off collection. If you’re here for the first time and want the highlights this is for you, or if you want an intensive burst of ideas and inspiration in one sitting then I recommend it too. It’s completely free: you can have the pdf right here, no email address or nuthin’.
In a few months I’ll be leaving my life in London behind and seeking some new adventures. I’ll be heading to Paris in January and then to wherever the wind takes me. There is no plan or strategy, just embracing uncertainty, putting faith in having no plan.
I’ve got some bold new projects I want to start, some experiments I want to try and I’ll generally be gettin’ busy gettin’ messy. I’m still insanely passionate about creating insightful, intelligent and thought-provoking factual stories so a lot of my projects will be trying to solve this problem.
I’m also crazy about storytelling structure and visual storytelling and still have loads of questions about it. The response to the Inside the Story project earlier this year was awesome, and I have plans to develop it in early 2013, most likely in magazine form. If you’ve downloaded a free copy of the ebook, then you’ll hear about it later this year. Click here to get a copy if you haven’t already.
I’ll be location independent so I’ll still be working with clients in the UK and elsewhere and I’ll continue to be available for film, motion graphics and writing commissions. Click here to contact me about that. I’m also still consulting and training, and there are still a few spaces left on the next video journalism workshop in November. At the same time, if you’re an organisation committed to creating great narrative experiences anywhere in the world then drop me a line too, maybe we could work together one day.
Finally, and most importantly, I want to say a huge thank you to you for reading all this over the years. You can double that thanks if you’ve ever left a comment after a post, triple it if you’ve retweeted, reblogged or shared a post, and quadruple it if you’ve ever bothered to send me an email. Knowing that something I’ve written has inspired another person, given them a new idea, or helped them do something awesome always puts a smile on my face.
After all this time blogging about journalism, what advice can I offer? Well, there’s a spot open for someone to share more new ideas about how journalism can be done better. If that appeals to you, then remember: be positive, not critical, share and inspire and above all be immensely generous.
Blogging is a great way to crystallise your own ideas and get feedback, not to mention a great way to learn, build a platform and a reputation. It worked for me and it was great fun, so go on, get busy writing. Here’s a series I wrote a couple of years back with advice on how to start your own blog.
I have honestly no idea what will happen next in my life but here are some ways you can keep up with whatever the hell does happen.
My Journal: I’ve slowly been building a personal online journal. Is it just another blog? Sort of, although it is really a blogazine, with each article individually designed, as a way for me to practice web design. It’s a 100% personal site, so if you’re interested in me as a person then take a look. Inspired by Robin Sloan’s brilliant tap essay I’m going to be making tributes to people, things, places and stuff that I really love.
My homepage: My main website is still there – it’s the best way to contact me.
Twitter: I’ll still be tweeting and tumblring, although a lot less frequently.
Hotpursuit.co: This is my new publishing venture..it’s just a top co right now, but will develop more in the future. Still you can sign up to the mailing list if you really want.
• • •
And lastly, I’m not stopping this blog because I have lost faith in the future of journalism or the industry. Quite the opposite. In the lifespan of this website we’ve seen journalism hit hard, and its foundations thoroughly shaken. But the last two years have brought an energetic burst of new ideas, platforms and experiments from ordinary people that I’m certain will propel us through to a remarkable new age, where stories are told, ideas are spread and the truth always challenged.
If you ever despair, remember: we are just at the beginning.
It’s nearly December and already it feels like the New Year is nearly upon us!
Time to prepare for the usual barrage of “best of 2010” and “predictions of 2011” posts from every blogger and every magazine in the land. And right here, it’s no different!
Except, as fans of the blog will know, I like to do it in video.
Last year’s film went down a storm, so I’m busy putting together my top trends for 2011. This time, though, I’m looking for your help.
What’s your prediction for what will happen in journalism in 2011?
Last year we talked about paywalls, hyperlocals and new startups. Next year – who knows? Data visualisation? Kinetic Typography? More whistleblowing?
After running through my top 10 predictions at lightning pace, I will select the 11th prediction from the comments in this blog post. So get thinking, and get suggesting. Surprise me! Intrigue me!
You have until Friday 10th December 2010 to post your ideas in the comments section below. I’ll select the most interesting, unusual or clever prediction to end this year’s film!
Journalism aside, do blogs make a difference?
Today, two victories for two campaigners who have been using blogs to get their message across, heaping pressure on the establishment and building a community of support.
Fighting the law…
Firstly, in Hull in the North East of England, John Hirst also known as the Jailhouse Lawyer won a victory he has been waiting five years for, with reports in the press that the British government have (reluctantly) decided to give prisoners the vote. It comes after John won a landmark case in the European Court of Human Rights back in 2005, which ruled Britain’s disenfranchisement of prisoners violated their human rights.
Now whatever you think about whether prisoners should have the vote, John’s legal victory did not mean a change in the law like it should have. The previous Labour government stalled on the issue quite shamefully, and led to people like me making photofilms like this.
For a background on this story, check out this film I shot for the VJ Movement back in May 2010.
From his small terrace house in Hull, John persisted with his campaign and his blog became his main voice. He blogged everyday and built up a not insignificant following. He’s been interviewed on countless news programmes, and as I said earlier this year, he’s even been able to make money from advertising deals on the blog.
…and fighting companies
[UPDATE December 2010: WordPress took down the original blog, but it has now been moved to this address.]
Secondly, and closer to home, my mum and her partner Toni have finally been awarded a claim from financial company Welbeck Wealth, after a persistent campaign via a blog. Owed several thousand pounds, and ignored via the usual routes, they started Welbeck Group, I Want My Money Back!, and blogged regularly about their treatment.
Toni’s clever use of SEO and a growing readership soon put the blog in the top three results when you Googled Welbeck Wealth. As you can imagine, this irked the company somewhat, who – quite remarkably – threatened to sue for defamation (a claim they soon retracted). More importantly, Toni’s blog brought out a community of other unhappy customers, and even at one stage, a whistleblower, who gave her an interview. She was, in some ways, acting like a consumer journalist on this one story.
And today, the company finally paid out – again, reluctantly.
Neither victory would have been possible without the dogged persistence of both John and Toni, who kept going, even when it seemed no-one else was interested anymore. But online publishing – free, quick and easy – gave them another weapon to change the world.
Can blogs create change? Maybe, just maybe.
I’ve been freelancing for a little over a year now, and I’ve learned lots of lessons along the way – most of them the hard way.
It got me thinking about the tips and tricks I wish someone had told me before I started; so I put together a list of 10 things every freelancer should know.
It’s a bit of a red-letter day for me.
This month marks exactly one year since I quit my full-time job in radio, moved down to the big city to make a break of it. In an attempt to measure success & failure, I’ve just been looking back through all the different things I’ve been paid to do in the last year, from making films to writing books.
The big question: has this whole thing been worthwhile, or did I make a massive mistake? Should I have just stayed where I was, kept my head down and hoped for a pay-rise?
The measure I gave myself when I quit was this: ‘just aim to make as much (or more) than you would have done if you’d kept your full time job’. The good news is I made more than I would have done staying put (phewf!)
A portfolio income
What looking back over the last year has really highlighted for me has been the benefits of having what some people are now calling a Portfolio Career: several revenue streams all contributing to a net income. To make that point, and hopefully to encourage more journalists to think about this as a valid career option, I’ve decided to publish my first year finances to the world…
…well sort of.
Here’s a pie-chart showing the rough percentages of everything I’ve earned since going freelance. Naturally, I’m not going to tell you what the percentages financially add up too! 😉
As you can see teaching & academic research makes up the most significant chunk, but documentary work, broadcasting and print contribute roughly a third. This pie chart shows 9 of the different things I’ve been doing this year, although there have probably been around a dozen.
Why have lots of jobs?
I guess the point is this: I love doing every single one of these things: the writing, the teaching, the filming, the directing, the radio…but none of them would I want to do every single day. I’ve learned that having this sort of portfolio income gives me a really exciting variety, and also protects me against the loss of a single revenue stream.
I really think more journalists, writers, presenters, and film makers should consider this way of doing work. And it’s more suited to the 21st century work environment too, with growing numbers becoming self-employed and working from home. The internet is slowly making the office (and maybe even the dreaded commute) more and more redundant.
And even though it’s been a success, I still catch myself thinking, sometimes, even if it had failed – even if I had gone bust and had to go and live with my mum or something – I would still look back at this year and be glad I did it. I have had more adventures, opportunities and excitement than even a top reporter gig on a big radio station could give me, and that’s what matters.
So here’s to year two!
It’s been quiet on the blog so far in September, as I’ve been working hard starting and completing around half a dozen new projects (who said multitasking couldn’t be done?!)
I know it’s not what you stop by here for, so I’ll keep it brief.
Two commissions from the VJ Movement have kept me very busy this month. The first, a challenging story on the uncertain fate of refugees in Britain, was published a week ago. I spent some time with a Kurdish refugee who doesn’t know whether she’ll be kicked out of the UK. Her legal files are in a pile of boxes somewhere in south London; she’s in York. Click here to watch it.
An article on the closure of Refugee and Migrant Justice also appears in this week’s edition of Big Issue In The North.
A second commission, on the surprisingly expensive problem of Japanese Knotweed, is delivered this week. I’ve had fun trekking through woodland, stalking through quarantine facilities and taking a look at the new Olympic site on this one.
Some more films
Meanwhile, studio .fu, my production company is slowly gathering pace. I’ve been working on building a portfolio of work, and building relationships with potential clients too. I’ve finally completed a short about the artist Toni Lebusque, and I am delivering two films for two clients this week (phew!).
Great fun has also been had beginning a series with presenter Matt Walters about green living…which began by filming his car being demolished – I’ll share when it’s up!
Some words and sounds
I’ve been appearing in various forms elsewhere on the internet. Check out my views on paying for journalism on the Tomorrow’s News Tomorrow’s Journalists blog; I’ve also appeared at owni.eu (in French) and the European Journalism Centre this month. More time is being taken up by blog.fu, studio .fu’s own storytelling blog. And I’m also becoming slowly addicted to Tumblr too.
And a couple of weeks back I appeared alongside Richard Wilson and Jon Slattery in Judith Townend’s Meeja Law podcast. It’s called I’m a Blogger Get Me Out of Here and here’s my segment talking about being a blogger and keeping on the right side of the law. (Click on the play button to listen)
I’ve clocked up more track-miles talking to journalists and academics about social media. I was in Glasgow at the start of the month talking about how universities can use social media more; a couple of days later I had the privilege of running a training session at Trinity University College in Leeds. More training plans are in the pipeline as we speak.
There’s some really cool Next Generation Journalist stuff on the way in the next week or so. I shot interviews with several of the interviewees for the book – you’ll get to see them soon. And there’s also a Facebook group to join. Don’t forget copies are still available – and now there’s five good reasons to get a copy too!
And back to the classroom
And as September rolls around its time to think about the new academic year; I am returning to Kingston University in London on a more permanent basis this month, and teaching both undergraduate and post-graduate video journalism modules.
It’s also required me to return to the classroom as a student, and take a Post-graduate certificate in Higher Education Teaching. Crumbs!
I promise to keep blogging useful stuff as much as I possibly can. And as always, thanks for reading!
Did you know one of my big projects for 2010 is to launch a new business?
With those out of the way, it’s time to focus on the business, which is why I’m very excited to announce studio .fu, a new multimedia production company. Those of you who have read Next Generation Journalist: 10 New Ways to Make Money in Journalism will recognise the model from Chapter 8.
I’ve spent a fair bit of time rattling through a business concept, target audience and finance plan – and I’ll be sharing all my discoveries along the way. I’ve set it up because I really believe online news products, NGOs and small businesses need to embrace high quality digital storytelling – but shouldn’t pay through the nose for it.
Much of the past few weeks, and the next couple of months are being spent building up a strong portfolio of digital stories, talking to potential clients and other journalists interested in collaborating in projects.
Because it’s a new business in journalism, I have promised to write about it once a week on this blog so you guys get some value out of it as well. The business is in a soft-launch phase ahead of the autumn, and already has just missed out on a commission (more on that soon).
I’ll be sharing as much of the process as possible, the ups and the downs as well. The whole thing may well fail…and in a strange way, I’d almost be quite relieved if it does – as long as it fails quickly (see this advice from the Knight Foundation!)
Changes to the blog
studio .fu also has its own blog – blog .fu which means there’ll be some changes on this site over the coming weeks.
blog .fu will focus on techniques and examples of digital storytelling as a craft. So all the stuff about how to tell stories, how to create awesome online films will appear on there from now on (you can subscribe by clicking here). If you come to this blog to learn about how to do multimedia journalism, I strongly recommend you subscribe to blog .fu!
All the posts from this blog, such as this one and this one, are now available to read on blog .fu. You can also follow the company on twitter (@letsfu)
This blog meanwhile, will focus on entrepreneurial journalism, the business of journalism and the future of news. There’ll be information about the Future of News Meetups which I continue to organise, and my own research into journalism business models.
Right, that’s it. Wish me luck!
The PPY is different from, say, the Concentra Video Journalism Awards because it’s aimed at photographers, and still asks for film work rooted within photojournalism.
It’s extremely exciting to see new film makers, photographers and journalists experimenting with different styles – and the winners we chose really reflected that trend. The PPY called the category we judged ‘digital cinema’ a term which I think sums up the notion of the cinematic aesthetic quite well.
The first and second prize films were both shot on Canon 5d MKII digital SLR camera – another increasing trend.
I’ve just summed up our thoughts on the winners over at the DSLR Newsshooter blog – check it out here.
Half way through the year already? Where’s it all going?
In case it’s going too fast for you to keep up with all the awesome posts here, here’s a summary of the best articles since March. (You can see previous summaries here).
Next Generation Journalist
My ebook Next Generation Journalist: 10 New Ways to Make Money in Journalism has been on the digital book shelves for about a month now, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the response.
The best responses though have come from the readers themselves – to everyone who has got in touch to tell me what you think, thank you! The ebook is still available, via PayPal, Google Checkout & Lulu – just head this way.
From the inbox…
Thanks so much for 01 under “Five Things you should know.” I’ve been living the artisan life for the fast few years mostly out of necessity. I had to have several clients just to make my cash flow. And I’ve been doing lots of different things, so many I can’t give a single answer the question “What do you do?” Thanks for validating my experiences.
I’ve been reading this book and your other e-book and I find that both are very inspiring. While I continue to look for full-time work, I’ve decided to go into freelance multimedia journalism which is why I find your books motivating and useful.
Loving the book by the way, I’ve been thinking of doing a few things for a while now and your book has just given me the ‘nudge’ I needed… You’ve confirmed many things that I have been thinking about but previously questioned my own thoughts, not any more!!
Nik, NT Media
Thank you very much for your help. I successfully downloaded the book and it looks terrific!
Dennis, United States
From the Twittersphere…
Next Generation Journalist is worth every penny. encourages me to branch oput from traditional journo career
decided to ditch the web design stuff – not really for me. getting some great ideas for next move from @adamwestbrook‘s new ebook!
Have you bought @adamwestbrook‘s entrepreneurial how-to ebook “Next Generation Journalists” yet? I highly recommend it!
Just bought @AdamWestbrook‘s book on Next Generation Journalism. Recommended.
@AdamWestbrook bought your book… and it is great for ideas. Starting an alumni website providing best of University of York’s journalism.
@AdamWestbrook I like that. The top points are basically what’s killing journalism. Entrepreneurial is the future. I shall be buying a copy.
From the blogs
Adam Westbrook has done it again. His first e-book, titled 6×6 Series was a great read for journalists wishing to learn what new skills they’ll need to face the challenges of a changing media landscape. Now Adam has added another e-book, Next Generation Journalist – 10 new ways to make money in journalism, and I am loving it.
As a budding entrepreneur myself, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this thought-provoking and highly optimistic ideas. In 68 pages, he moves seamlessly from one idea to the next, describing how you can make each work for your personally and what small steps can be taken immediately.
Tracy Boyer, Innovative Interactivity,
Guess what distinguishes each of Westbrook’s strategies for landing a gig? The recognition of the fact that there are scarcely any gigs left to pursue — and that you have to find and make your own opportunities.
Ken Kobre, KobreChannel
Filled with concise, to the point information on new trails to travel depending on the style of journalism you are working in, a rather unconventional approach compared to what’s being taught in journalism schools today.
As a solo video journalist, I realized to stay competitive, I had to find new avenues to pursue in order to keep myself earning an income.
Cliff Etzel, American Video Journalist
I’ve been preparing for a day-long course this coming weekend for photojournalists wishing to make the leap into multimedia.
Run by multimedia evangelists Duckrabbit and hosted by Rhubarb Rhubarb, Photography Still Moving is what the industry needs more of – training with an optimistic edge. I’ll be there running a session on how to get kitted up to do video, audio and slideshows at affordable prices; the day ends with advice on how to turn skills into money.
Interested? Here are some details for you.
The running order for the day goes like this:
- WTF is multimedia?
- Getting to grips with the kit (on a budget)
- Sound for idiots (interviewing techniques)
- I got pictures, I got sound, now what?
- Show me the money
What’s more, at £45 it’s some of the cheapest training you’ll find – and there are spaces still available! So what will you be doing on Saturday? Face-palming at another England howler from the night before? Probably. But then get out of bed, get your camera and come and learn some new skills.
If you’re interested, click here to get yourself a ticket.