I am pleased to introduced Lem Bingley for this week’s Meet the Media interview. He is the editor in chief of the Business Technology Group at Incisive Media. The group’s publications are: Computing, V3.co.uk (formerly VNUnet.com), BusinessGreen.com, CRN and its web site ChannelWeb.co.uk, and The Inquirer……in other words he is a busy boy.
Lem has provided an extremely insightful look into the changes to Computing and the recent V3 re-branding. He also has some interesting views on how social media is changing modern journalism.
Paul Stallard: Have you ever done any PR work and if yes what was the experience like?
Lem Bingley: My job involves shepherding the long-term reputation of the group’s different brands, so there’s an aspect of PR to it. I’ve written a few press releases along the way, and worked with proper PR professionals on internal and external messaging.
Last year we made some major changes to Computing both online and in print, which were not without risk. Good comms was a major factor in the success of that project. We explained the changes and the motivation behind them separately to each relevant constituency: readers, advertisers, sales staff, editorial staff and of course the PR community. A poorly communicated message could have damaged the brand, but fortunately that didn’t happen. Thankfully the project strengthened Computing, as it was intended to do.
More recently we have rebranded VNUnet.com, which is now called V3.co.uk, and again we have worked hard to ensure that the change is understood as a part of an ongoing process of improvement and investment. Fortunately V3.co.uk is a great name – certainly easier to remember and to spell than VNUnet – so it makes the messaging easier.
Those were quite high-profile efforts, but we also do quieter comms – we have just soft-launched the Asia edition of BusinessGreen.com at http://www.businessgreen.asia/
I certainly have a greater respect for PR professionals as a result of this kind of experience, and a better understanding of all the hidden paddling required for serene and swan-like progress.
PS: How has the increase of social media affected traditional journalism?
LB: Personality is becoming more important in journalism. As a reader, it is becoming easier to follow the output of a writer you chime with, and to maintain that attachment if they happen to change jobs. This will alter the way we think about brands online.
I’ve also done a bit of web work for a charity called HOPE, which helps adults with autism and learning disabilities – see http://www.helphope.org.uk/ – and without sites like Facebook and Twitter it would be very difficult for this small charity to reach a large audience.
Small publishers are using the same tricks as charities to build new audiences cheaply, and it’s important that bigger publishers don’t ignore the threats or indeed the opportunities.
PS: Have you had to change your writing style for online copy to incorporate SEO?
LB: Print headlines don’t tend to work online, but beyond that a good story remains a good story, and should be written to be read by people not search spiders. An interesting example is The Inquirer, which constantly invents its own jargon – the antithesis of SEO.
The much more important questions raised by the web and search engines concern what to write and when, rather than writing style. Print has deadlines, fixed dimensions and a page count, but the web is an infinite blank canvas.
PS: Is there a future long term for hard copy publications or will online rule?
LB: Print and online will coexist and do different things, but print publications that resist change will likely die. The middle ground between print and web – digital editions – will become increasingly interesting if publishers can marry the best of both worlds. The self-contained package, sent out at regular intervals, has attractions for readers, advertisers and publishers alike whether it’s on paper or on screen.
PS: What is your pet hate of PR?
LB: My pet hate used to be the phone call to check that I’d received an email, which was always a ludicrous way to open a dialogue. Phone calls are intrusive, so the caller needs to have something to say that justifies the intrusion. Thankfully I get a lot fewer of these calls these days. Now, the most annoying thing I have to deal with is simply the volume of irrelevant press releases in my inbox.
PS: Do you think that most PR professionals read the titles you write for before contacting you?
LB: There are probably too few hours in the day for PRs to regularly read every title they target, but PRs should make the time to read enough, often enough, to understand the media they target and the kind of material those publications want. That is surely a minimum requirement.
There is a lot of diversity in the kind of material we publish in our technology titles, because the audience for each is different. Computing is read by senior IT professionals who are as interested in the business case as the technology. CRN is for resellers. V3.co.uk is read by technology professionals who are concerned with practical issues and products. The Inquirer is a read by technologists who don’t give a hoot for a business plan and just want to know about the bleeding edge. There’s quite a range there, and one PR approach will not fit them all.
PS: What is the worst case of PR you have come across?
LB: I can’t think of any PR disasters from my personal experience that top Apple’s stand-in-front-of-the-camera tactics from 2007 – see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44w-RYurbN4
PS: Bar your own, which news titles do you read?
LB: I dip into all sorts of things regularly, from New Scientist to the FT. The only publication I actually subscribe to with my own money is Bauer Media’s CAR magazine. This title has a long history and came late to the web, but it is currently providing a good example of how to serve the same audience in complementary ways with print and online. I also admire its coverage of the green issues that car enthusiasts need to face.
Previous meet the media interviews:
Previous meet the media interviews:
Alan Cane, FT
Bryan Glick, Computing
Clive Akass, PCW
Dan Oliver, .Net
John Gripton, SkyNews.com
Christine Horton, Channel Pro
Alan Burkitt Gray, GTB