Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

The truth about entrepreneurship and journalism

Posted in Entrepreneurial Journalism by Adam Westbrook on April 2, 2012

Photo: KelBailey on Flickr

Why are there not as many entrepreneurial ventures in journalism and publishing as there could be? 

It’s a well rehearsed argument that it costs virtually nothing to start a web based business: you can start it from home, in your own time.  Meanwhile the potential to reach niche audiences with well crafted content about your own passions in life continues to grow.

It has nothing to do with the economy and education, or with business or journalism, or with the question about whether it is possible to pursue both of those things.

Instead it has everything to do with us.

Embracing the new age of publishing, however you do it, is essentially promising to start and finish something. Starting something (a book, website, new magazine, documentary, Kickstarter project etc) is an act of breathing life into an ephemeral concept that exists purely inside your own head. Taking a tiny spark of an internal idea and converting it into something solid and real with its own website, readers, fans, collaborators and maybe even its own company registration is relentlessly difficult.

Top tip #1: there is no scenario where it is not difficult.

In fact, I’d go a step further and say it is a fight, a daily punch-up with both your own demons and the apathy of everyone else. Look at the boxer in the banner above: are you interested in a life of stepping into the ring and getting the shit kicked out of you every day?

I’ve been doing a lot of hard thinking over recent weeks and months and I’ve decided that, personally, I am up for the fight. Not everyone is of course, and fair enough.

But if you are attracted to embracing these exciting digital opportunities, don’t be under any illusions about just how hard it is. The trick is to accept the fact it is going to hurt – and do it anyway

Top tip #2:the Inside the Story Facebook page is now live – make sure you give it a thumbs up!

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Five things that make a great news business idea

Posted in Entrepreneurial Journalism by Adam Westbrook on January 31, 2011

Entries for myNewsBiz, the student journalism enterprise competition are open and we are starting to get early entries through.

If you haven’t heard of it, myNewsBiz is open to any undergraduate or postgraduate journalism student at a UK university. There’s a prize of £1000 for the best new idea for a journalism business, be it a product, like a magazine, or a service. A runner up gets £500.

But what makes a good business idea?

That’s a difficult question, if you’ve never thought about starting a business until now. If you don’t know where to begin, here are five different starting places for your search for that winning business idea.

.01 Fill a gap

Any concept (entrepreneurial or otherwise) has to service a need that a large enough group of people have, in order to survive and thrive. So a good place to start is to ask ‘is there a product or service which is not being provided right now?

Murdoch’s much anticipated iPad only newspaper The Daily can be viewed in these terms. The iPad’s been around for just over a year, and yes, there are plenty of magazines and publishers with their own iPad apps…but there is no single dedicated iPad news product. It’s a gap. And News International appear to be trying to fill it.

.02 Scratch an itch

Image credit: corrieb on Flickr

Great business ideas ‘scratch an itch’, by which we mean solving a problem that a group of people have. The best place to identify an itch is on your own body. What’s bugging you right now? What do you see which can be done faster? Cheaper? More accurately? More locally or more beautifully?

TheBusinessDesk, a successful online news startup in the UK, clearly scratched an itch its founders had: there was no good source for regional business & finance news. They scratched their own itch, and in doing so created a thriving business.

Scratching your own itch has a big advantage: because it’s your itch, you are best placed to tell whether your solution is scratching it properly.

.03 Improve something

If that doesn’t work, why not try improving on someone else’s idea?

There are plenty of magazines, websites, services we all use which get us grumbling. “This coverage stinks!” “Their infographics are rubbish” “They could have done that website so much better!”

If there’s something out there which is not up to scratch – make your own, improved, version.

That’s part of the thinking behind studio .fu, my online video production company. There are lots of independent video producers out there, but I could see lots of things they were doing wrong.

I improved their offering by just focusing on online video, and by steering clear of an office or (any) staff, I can offer the same thing at a much more affordable rate.

.04 Begin with you

Instead of looking for a business idea straight away, start with you and your strengths and passions.

What do you love doing? If you could wake up tomorrow morning and commit one act of journalism, what would it be? Designing? Writing? Data interrogation?

Once you’ve identified that, you want to wrap a business around it. Look for markets for your passion, and build a business from there. This philosophy sums up the approach taken in my book Next Generation Journalist, which starts with a look at your real interests.

After all, there’s no point in pursuing a business idea you’re not interested in, just because it looks like a workable idea. I have a brilliant idea for an environmentally friendly kettle. But am I going to make it? No. Because manufacturing, retail and, err, kettles, don’t do it for me right now.

.05 Start making something – right now

Image credit: David Haygarth on Flickr

Finally, once you’ve got an idea – or maybe if you still don’t – start creating, right away.

Ideas are one-a-penny, but they don’t count for anything until you’ve turned it into something tangible. So if you’ve got an idea for an online magazine, get the webspace and domain, upload a WordPress theme and get creating.

Why? Because you’ll only know if your idea is any good once it’s real.

If you don’t have an idea yet, then start creating anyway. Whatever it is you feel like. If you think you’d like to start a business making infographics but aren’t sure what gap it would fill or itch it would scratch, keep going. Start designing infographics and put them online. See what the feedback is. Are people biting? This way you can develop your business idea organically.

Only once you’re making something can you know whether it’s got legs.

Remember the deadline for entries for myNewsBiz is the 1st of April 2011 – so you’ve still got plenty of time to put something together.

And in February we’re publishing awesome interviews with some of the top journalist-entrepreneurs out there, packed with advice on how to get your news business off the ground!

Future of News bootcamp: make money in travel journalism

Posted in Ideas for the future of news, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on July 29, 2010

It’s a journalists dream: getting paid good money to travel the world or live abroad. Travel Journalism still remains one of the more glamorous genres inside the trade and with good reason. But it’s been hit hard by the changes as much as anywhere else; is there still a good business in it?

The answer from the seven journalists who attended the second Future of News Business Bootcamp this week was a wholehearted ‘yes!…but you have to be clever about it.’

If you’re not familiar with how the bootcamps work then check out the explanation here; but essentially they work on the premise that smaller numbers, an informal location and some bottles of wine equals good ideas and creativity.

Joining the bootcamp this week were Sarah Warwick, Rosamund Hutt, Will Peach, Patrick Smith, Lexi Mills, Tony Fernandes and James Carr; all of them have done the travel journalism thing and want to keep doing it. So how did we do?

The right questions

We frame the bootcamps by asking a series of business orientated questions, applying them to a specific area of journalism.

What’s the value? The team suggested things like inspiration & escape as well as basic language and currency information. Patrick Smith made the very good point that the real financial value in travel journalism is the fact it is actionable: people will buy holidays, for example, off the back of an article.

What are the target markets? We broke into two groups to come up with creative and unusual niche markets for travel journalism. Very popular was the expat market inside a given country (a model proved successful for hard news reporting by MexicoReporter.com); business travellers; the PAs of business travellers; the children of diplomats and even servicemen & women looking for things to do in their various locations.

Where’s the pain? This final question is the basis for many of the most successful businesses of the last century. What pain can you solve with your idea? For us, we’re looking for pains which can be solved by a travel journalist’s information, writing or multimedia. Some great ideas emerged, including products for old people who want to do adventure holidays, a way to help people avoid getting ripped off at the airport and even for people who are ‘bored & abroad’.

It’s not the journalism, stupid

I think the greatest realisation at the end of the evening though was agreeing on what makes money on a website or mobile device. Now, this might seem shocking or controversial to some of you; I suspect others realised this long ago. But collectively we pretty much agreed that on any “news” product, the journalism itself doesn’t make any money. It never will. It never has. It never should.

Instead it facilities a wide variety of other products which do make money; a subscription service, a shop, a sponsored mailing list, events etc. They cannot make money without the journalism, but the journalism cannot exist without them making money.

It’s an interesting symbiotic relationship which I think would form the base of any future news business in the online world. What do you think?

Either way, most of our bootcampers left with new ideas and optimism, so that’s mission complete! We’ll be doing one more in August, before the public meetups return in September.

Thanks very much to Patrick, Lexi, Tony, James, Sarah, Will and Rosamund for taking part in the experiment!

Introducing studio .fu

Posted in Adam, studio .fu by Adam Westbrook on July 13, 2010

Did you know one of my big projects for 2010 is to launch a new business?

Some of the others included writing an ebook (which I’ve done) and doing some kind of sporting event for charity (I ran the London 10k on Sunday).

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!

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Can “1,000 fans” be a new approach to journalism?

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on June 3, 2010

You’ve probably heard of the Longtail theory about making money on the internet.

It was dreamed up by Chris Anderson in an article on Wired back in 2004 and goes a bit like this: traditional retailers make money by targeting the bulk of customers to the left of the chart above. In other words, Waterstones makes most its money on bestselling books, which appeal to the mass market; it makes less money selling niche titles to the few niche fans (that’s the long tail). On the internet, Anderson argued, the long tail is bigger: there are more niche customers, and therefore it is possible to make a living selling niche titles alone.

Amazon, Chris says, makes most of its cash selling a wide variety of niche items to niche customers, and there’s enough of them to keep the company going. Anderson later went onto say we can all become millionaires online by giving stuff away for free, so let’s not take everything as a given, but the Long Tail approach has led to another concept, alive and well online.

1,000 ‘true fans’

The Long Tail is good for consumers and good for people like Amazon. Not so good for the content creators: artists, photographers, writers, musicians, film makers – and journalists – all finding it difficult to make a living in the digital world.

What if, as journalists, instead of making content to be seen by millions for free, we make stuff to be seen by just 1,000 people – who will all pay for it. It’s the concept that 1,000 true fans are better than 10 million sort-of fans.

A ‘true fan’ is someone who will buy absolutely everything you create. They love you so much they’ll drive 150 miles to see you speak at the Hay Festival, they’ll buy every book you write in hardback and paperback, they download everyone of your podcasts, or buy your documentary on DVD even though they’ve already seen it online. You might not think you could attract even a thousand fans, writing about industry or farming. But if your journalism was exceptional, if what you say is remarkable, there are enough people physically out there to become your own “fans.” Columnists in the national newspaper have that appeal, writing all sorts of crap. Why can’t you?

Never mind the millions –  get just 1,000 of these true fans, and you could make a reasonable living. What if we applied this approach to journalism? Would that work? Just an idea at the moment, let me know what you reckon.

What every J-entrepreneur can learn from a single mum

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on November 12, 2009

Meet Lauren Luke, a 27 year old single mum from South Shields near Newcastle, UK.

She dropped out of school at 16 and became a teen mum.

In 2007 she started video blogging from her home, when her son was asleep upstairs. Little more than two years later she is an in-demand fashion expert on TV and in print, and has launched her own make-up range. Hell, she’s even been featured in Time Magazine.

All pretty amazing, but not unique.

Lauren’s success story stands out because she is the perfect example of how to turn demand into money: and journalists thinking of  start-ups should get their pens out.

The elusive niche…

“I hope what I do makes people more confident to experiment.”

There’s loads of talk about this right now. ‘Journalism’s future is in niche and hyper-local’ we’re told. And that’s probably true.

But simply having a niche isn’t enough. As with all business, your niche must be in demand.

And Lauren’s niche is certainly that. Unwittingly, she tapped into a massive market of women who wanted practical, accessible help with their make-up. Her videos did just that. Her Youtube channel, Panacea81, has been viewed more than 8,600,000 thousand times, and has nearly 400,000 subscribers.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said recently “build something people want” and Lauren’s a true example of that.

So, if you’re planning a news start-up (and you don’t want it to rely on grants or donations) you need to ask yourself “is there a demand for this?”

…a position of authority…

“I just think there is a standard that is set by the beauty industry that is unobtainable by the vast majority of us normal people who pay for it. We are all entitled to have products that work and bring out the best in us and create looks that we can actually wear”

Lauren can teach us a thing or two about building a position of authority. Does Lauren have a qualification in make-up? No. Has she done make-up for the stars? Nope. Does she even work in a salon? Nope. In fact, when she started the videos,  she was working for a taxi firm.

But this hasn’t stopped her becoming an expert, a person of authority on the subject. It’s one of the great things about the internet age. Career guru Jonathan Fields says that’s tough for some but great for everyone else:

“…for an increasing number of career paths, demonstrable mastery and/or expert positioning regardless of pedigree are the keys to success. That may scare and anger a whole generation of people who came up under a different set of rules, but…this phenomenon spells opportunity.”

So: it’s possible to build yourself into a respected expert, by publishing high quality content.

…extra products…

“The book will feature a range of celebrity looks, everyday looks for the office, as well as casual and bridal looks.”

8 million hits does not necessarily mean money. But Lauren’s business sense shines through again: recognising demand she has turned her knowledge (which she gives away for free) into tangible products. She has published a book, and launched a new make-up line.

For journalism this produces a host of opportunities. You might not sell your content, but can you sell the platform? Release iPhone apps? Run courses? Sell guides? Don’t just think of making money from your words (because you won’t!)

…and ambition.

“I want to make a huge change to the beauty industry”

The final key Lauren clearly possesses is ambition. She was not content with just becoming a youtube star. She wanted to release a make up brand & publish a book. And now she’s got the big players in her sights.

From make-up, to Yoga, to music…it is possible to make a good living doing what you love. Why should journalism be any different?

Thinking of a journalism start-up? Here’s a checklist

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on November 5, 2009

If the future of journalism is indeed entrepreneurial, we have to start thinking with a business hat on.

It’s a big change in mentality for some journalists. I’ve been to several events and meetings recently where hacks have insisted people will have to pay for news “because journalists have to eat”.

This is upside-down thinking. People don’t buy iPhones because Steve Jobs needs to eat. They buy them because they are an innovative product which satisfies a demand people are willing to pay for.

And so it must be if journalists are to be entrepreneurs. I’ve put together a list of criteria a new business idea might need to satisfy to see it become successful. I don’t think a successful business will need to satisfy all of them, or maybe even 50%. But ignoring these questions means another financial failure…

News start-up checklist

  1. Is it a new idea?

  2. Does it have a defined target audience?

  3. Does it provide niche (i.e. hyperlocal) content?

  4. Does it satisfy a desire that is not being fulfilled by someone else?

  5. Or does it do something better (faster, cheaper, more effectively) than someone else?

  6. Does it actually have income potential, or will it rely on funding?

  7. Does it use the power of crowd-sourcing/community?

  8. Would it be fulfilling for journalists to work for?

  9. Does it publish/exist on more than one platform?

  10. If it has content, is it sharable?

  11. Does it require a lot of money to run?

  12. Does it have boot-strapping potential?

  13. Does it scale?

  14. Does it fulfill a public service?

  15. Is it a legally sound idea? What about copyright?

  16. Would it appeal to venture capitalists, angel investors?

  17. And…does it have a cool name?

That’s what I’ve come up with so far. I think if you answer these questions at the early stages, you’ll have a greater chance of your start up succeeding. What it says is a sustainable business – journalism or otherwise – begins with a solid well-defined customer base.

You need to know who these customers are, and be really clear about why you are providing something they can’t get elsewhere. Innocent Smoothies was begun by three British students in 1999 who realised there was a demand for healthy fruit smoothies, which wasn’t being satisfied by anyone else. It now has a revenue of £128m.

US start-up “incubator” Y-Combinator is looking for new media business ideas which embrace this form of thinking:

What would a content site look like if you started from how to make money—as print media once did—instead of taking a particular form of journalism as a given and treating how to make money from it as an afterthought?

Add more to the list in the comments below if you have any. And while you’re here, read the comments of one reader on an earlier blog entry. Some interesting criticism of the notion journalism is entrepreneurial at all…

Get your copy of 6×6: advice for multimedia journalists

Posted in 6x6 series by Adam Westbrook on October 26, 2009

6x6 advice for multimedia journalists

My e-book 6×6: advice for multimedia journalists is now available for download.

I put it together after the popularity of the blog series of the same name back in August. It sums up the advice in that series and updates it. It’s also packed with bonus tips which you won’t find in the series itself, plus a page of resources and links to help you on your way.

The six chapters cover the technical skills, like video, audio & storytelling, plus the non-technical skills, like branding & business.

Best of all, this 32 page e-book is 100% free – you won’t need to register or anything – just click on the big download button below to get it!

And please hit me with feedback, good or bad. What did it miss out? What would you put in?

Click to download for free!

More good video journalism

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on October 7, 2009

The New York Times has come up with another stunning display to remind the rest of us how multimedia journalism should be done.

Inside the Private Equity Game - Business and Financial News - The New York Times_1254898058756
Flipped takes us inside the dark and mysterious world of private equity, and it’s affect on the market, business and jobs…OK, I’ve lost you already haven’t I.

Well this is exactly why Flipped is so good. It fulfills two things journalists of the future will need to do no matter what changes in technology come along. Firstly they need to keep telling us about complicated things in an accessible way. And secondly they need to find a way of grabbing us by the collars and saying “this is really important!”

Flipped does that. I have never had an interest in private equity, but the style, brevity, flair of Flipped kept me watching through all 10 videos. 15 minutes of my time, and I was enlightened.

And that’s what this is all about, right?

So what lessons can we learn from Flipped?

  • It is made up of 10 short (2-5 minute) videos, instead of one long one. This makes it easier to digest.
  • It has an easy to navigate flash carousel, which leads you through the story.
  • Videos appear instantly inside the window (very important).
  • The subjects (mostly NYT reporters) are extremely engaging, and very good at breaking down the issue
  • It doesn’t take itself too seriously, with short cartoons to help understand the complicated bits
  • It puts a human side to the story, with workers who’ve been screwed by the system

Mindy McAdams writes on Twitter it could have done with key words on the side to help chose which videos to watch. I agree, but I got most value from watching all the videos and understanding the whole story.

And there is huge value in this isn’t there? Matters of huge interest, broken down and made accessible, relevant and engaging. Private Equity is a creator of huge wealth…but also huge debt, and impacts all our lives.

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Ghana @ 50: a leading light?

Posted in International Development by Adam Westbrook on March 5, 2007

Kids in AccraThe oldest independent nation in Africa, Ghana is – in my not very important opinion – a model for the rest of the continent to follow. A sound leadership, but backed by tangible credible democracy, and because of that a strong economy.

And best of all, peace. Whatever people say about the “gentle giant” John Kufour, he’s helped lead Ghana into an enviable lack of violence, discrimination or intimidation. And that’s in spite of sitting between two rather less peaceful neighbours – Togo and Cote D’Ivoire – and the ramblings of the old dictator Jerry Rawlings, who it still amazes me gets at least one newspaper front page a week. And this is backed up by some promising figures.

I was contacted this week by the World Bank believe it or not, who gave me some of their latest research on Ghana as she turns a golden fifty. They’ve concluded the following:

  • There’s been strong improvements in the business climate, political stability and press freedom.
  • Inflation’s decreased from 40% to 10% and the economy’s growing by around 6% a year, compared to 4% over the past 20 years.
  • Poverty’s down to 33.4%, from nearly 40% in 2000 and over fifty percent in 1990.

And most amazing of all:

  • Ghana may be able to halve poverty by 2015.

That would be a phenomenal acheivement – even Britain’s pretty poor on poverty, especially among children. The World Bank says it thinks the chances of Ghana becoming a middle-class country in the next few years as “high”. Accra street

That, I think, is down to the reasons above, but also many others. Not least the fact people in Ghana seem pretty unhappy unless they’re aiming big and changes are happening.

Check this article from BBC News’ Alexis Akwagyiram in Accra. It’s a report about a debate held between a government minister Frank Agyekum and a group of young Ghanaians. “Despite the air conditioning,” Alexis writes, “the minister is sweating”.

“Sitting amongst hundreds of young Ghanaians, the government spokesman is being forced to defend his administration’s record against a barrage of criticism. Issues ranging from corruption and economic mismanagement to the country’s education system are being held up as examples of failure.”

So despite amazing and unrivalled improvements over the past ten years, people aren’t satisfied. And that’s so important because it means complacancy will never set in. And the fact that a government minister can be held to account to without fear is almost unrivalled too:

“…most of the crowd, which consists almost entirely of people aged between 20 and 30, make it clear they disagree by murmuring and heckling.”

Ghana kings …there are some country’s where that kind of behaviour gets you in trouble.

The crowd were worried most about corruption and I seem to remember from my time in Ghana that was a problem – but tiny compared to corruption in Burkina Faso and Mali.

There are 25 heads of state plus delegates from 60 countries arriving for tomorrows jubilee celebrations. And I hope everyone else joins in as well…Ghana has a lot to celebrate!

Keep it simple!

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on February 11, 2007

Training to be a broadcast journalist is a bit like being taught a new language. When it comes to writing, you have to ignore all those rules you learned at school and university and the result is something between C++ and poetry.

One of the golden rules hammered into us is to keep things simple. And keep. Your sentences. Short.  Listeners and viewers can only take in a news report once. Even in the impending “on-demand” world, they’ll only want to take it in once.

So if you turn on the TV and radio you usually hear short sharp conversational sentences with all the fluff removed.

Usually.

Admittedly, Channel 4 News tries to be different. It aims to be a bit more creative, but from what I gathered from chief writer Felicity Spector when she came into City a few weeks ago, it still has to be concise.

So, what on earth is this all about?

It’s a report on the Chinese president’s visit to Africa this week, by the usually excellent Faisal Islam: ex City student and Channel 4 News‘ business correspondent. It’s an interesting piece, but check out Faisal’s first line (watch it here):

“The Chinese presidents twelve day tour takes in eight nations including Sudan the most controversial of the host countries where Chinas unconditional aid policy has angered western governments many of whom say Beijing should use its economic weight to end hostilities in Darfur.”

Say what?

It’s 43 words long. That’s nearly twice the recommended length of any sentence for broadcast.  It could be broken down into no less than four separate sentences:

“It’s a breakneck tour for China’s president: eight countries in a dozen days.

But Hu Jintao’s been criticised for visiting Sudan.

Western leaders want Beijing to use its economic muscle to end violence in Darfur.

Instead in its eagerness for ties with Africa China’s giving aid freely.”

Admittedly that’s not great either. But I think it’s easier to understand, and a bit more conversational.

But it goes to show that even with the best journos working for the best stations, the basic rules sometimes still get broken.

The million dollar question (literally)

Posted in News and that by Adam Westbrook on February 5, 2007

Dollar signThe big story of the day for all Claphams yummy mummys is undoubtedly the news that the education system for 11-14 year old’s to be shaken up.

“Useless” EU languages are going to be scrapped in favour of economically more fruitful ones like Arabic, Urdu and Mandarin.

Brilliant. I’ve always wanted to learn Mandarin, and besides I never use my French anyway.

But seeing as we’re on the topic of economically useful subjects, here’s one that really gets me:

Why were we never taught money at school?

As I flounder in a panic-stricken state, smothered by the giant pillow of £22,000 debt beneath a 13-tog* duvet of rising interest rates and an exploding property market I’m wishing I got told how to manage my money instead of being taught William Blake was a mentalist.

I have little idea of loans, APR, taxes and I only discovered there was such a thing as a credit rating and that failing one is bad news….when I failed one. Cheers for that one education.

And clearly I’m not the only one. Personal insolvency in the UK went up by a whopping 59% last year. In 2006 a record 107,000 thousand people were declared bankrupt and probably now live on a diet of cat food and cardboard, like me.

The government moans and blames the banks. But successive education ministers have been too proud to look at themselves – schools are to blame, not banks. Well, banks are a little too.

So great, teach kids Mandarin, and Urdu and Elvish, whatever. But why the hell aren’t we taught how to manage our money in a world where money’s everything?

It’s the million dollar question.

* you need to have worked a summer selling people duvets to know that 13 tog is a really thick duvet that you have when its cold.