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Monthly Archives: June 2016

  • Some Musings on Banksy, Online Publishing and Apps

    Thanks for all your shares and comments about the Banksy Bristol Trail app. I’m Richard Jones, the publisher at Tangent Books and I wrote, rewrote and edited most of the text for the app. I’d like to tell you a little bit more about the app and also to focus on the comments here and on the Bristol 24/7 page commenting that the app should be free.

    New Banksy at Bridge Farm Primary School New Banksy at Bridge Farm Primary School

    About 10 years ago, I commissioned Steve Wright (who was then Venue magazine’s art editor) to write a book about Banksy. Mark Simmons and Pete Maginnis provided a lot of the pictures and we were also sent shots by Banksy fans and people who worked with him and given permission to use them.

    Steve did a brilliant job and Banksy’s Bristol: Home Sweet Home was an immediate success. A lot of the money from sales went into funding other projects such as Children of the Can, Bristol Black and White, Art & Sound of the Bristol Underground, Wild Dayz and others which wouldn’t have been commercially viable without the revenue from Banksy’s Bristol.

    Banksy's Bristol: Home Sweet Home, now in its 4th edition. Banksy's Bristol: Home Sweet Home.

    Banksy’s Bristol is now in its fourth edition and continues to sell well, though nowhere near as well as in that first year or so.

    It was in this climate that we decided to explore transforming the book into an app. I’ve worked with Jon Rolfe at Cactus for many years – we co-published my first book in 1992, Court in the Act: A History of the Ashton Court Free Festival 1974-1992 – and over the last few years Jon has developed an app engine based on map locations.

    Banksy's Bristol, the app Banksy's Bristol, the app

    We’ve got three apps on the go, Banksy, Bristol Cider Trail and the Treasure Island Trail. Cider and Treasure Island are being upgraded and Banksy is being converted to Android.

    The plan is that Cactus provides the technical expertise and Tangent provides the content. That content is original and has been written by professional authors who are paid for their work. We are confident that a combination of the technical expertise provided by Cactus and the writing excellence from Tangent will make the apps great purchases. Several people have commented that they expect the apps to be free. I’m sure that these people don’t expect their food or clothes to be free and they certainly don’t work for nothing.

    The payment goes a small way to covering the production and writing costs. Yet still people expect digital content for free. This raises an interesting point and highlights a dilemma that became apparent in the mid 90s when magazines and newspapers began to move their articles and pictures onto the internet and those finely crafted bon mots and expertly constructed photographs became known as ‘content’.

    I was working for Future Publishing at the time as the editor of Total Football magazine and Managing Editor of The Official Manchester United Magazine, Glory Glory Man United and The Official Chelsea Magazine, so I observed the birth of internet publishing at very close quarters and quickly became aware of the threats, opportunities and the internal power struggles between on and offline publishers and advertising executives. There was an absolute lack of any coherent philosophy about the direction of online publishing and the consequences for traditional magazine and newspaper publishing.

    Total Football Cover Total Football Cover

    At Future we were always told that a magazine is just two things.

    1. Brand
    1. Content

    Virtually overnight editors were expected to give their content to the online teams so that they could use it free-of-charge on the internet. We had given away 50 per cent of our unique selling point.

    TotalFootball.com had its own sales and marketing teams and it’s own editorial team. The problem was that the print magazine had developed a very strong brand as an intelligent fans’ mag. We weren’t too laddish but were certainly heavily influenced by the brilliant magazine editor James Brown and the Loaded phenomenon.

    Over a number of years we had clearly established our brand as being for the football fan who enjoyed the culture of football (the pies, the folklore, the rivalry, the stats) as much as they enjoyed the game itself. Total Football identified with this sort of fan regardless of their sex, colour creed, age or race.

    Incidentally, at the time Future was owned by Pearson whose chief executive Marjorie Scardino said in a major interview that her favourite magazines were Total Football and The Economist – Marge is a Nottingham Forest Fan, as is former Justice Minister Ken Clarke and James Dean Bradfield from the Manic Street Preachers.

    The editorial team at TotalFootball.com were perfectly pleasant people, some of them were football fans but they were mainly there because of their expertise in building and maintaining websites. They didn’t understand why Total Football magazine ran surveys to find the best pie in UK football, or why we ran features on football superstitions, animals on the pitch or the worst ever away strips (Coventry City’s chocolate brown monstrosity of 1978/79 season since you ask). In short they didn’t understand our brand. Also because the website was delivering content on a daily, even hourly basis whereas we published the magazine every month, the two products were bound to be different, yet the website used the Total Football name and logo – which looked terrible online, but fine in print.

    Image: www.chrisgriffinsays.co.uk

    After years of being told how vital they were, at a stroke Total Football had given away its content and its brand. Of course we weren’t alone, virtually all traditional media organisations got it horribly wrong in the rush to online publishing in the 90s and it’s taken a long time for the wounds to start to heal.

    One of the consequences of all this is that many people expect digital content to be delivered free of charge. I firmly believe that well-researched and well-written articles, great photography and expert coding comes at a price.

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