Syntagma Digital
Editor, John Evans
Holidays

Effective online advertising

Money

The easiest and cheapest way for a small or medium-sized business to advertise online is by inline text link, set in compatible copy. For an example, follow this link: Drug abuse at work

The piece is about drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace, and the advert is for a drug testing company that specialises in workforce testing for drugs.

The advertiser usually provides relevant information, while the site’s copywriter assembles it into a short piece for the website. There are many ways of doing this, depending on circumstances and the advertiser’s wishes.

The system was originally set up to protect the ranking of the site, but was found to be an effective way to advertise in its own right.

It is also a simple introduction to internet marketing for anyone not familiar with the technicalities.

Give it a try. We’re here to help: john@syntagmamedia.com

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Saturday Ramble: It’s not just the national press that’s in dire straits

Local press

Out of a clear blue sky came Hurricane Rupert. With eerie shades of Michael Fish, an unexpected Category 5 summer storm devastated parts of Britain last week. It might well be named “Rupert” as it appeared intent on flattening the life’s work of press and TV baron Rupert Murdoch. Fleet Street has never seen anything like it.

But enough has been said and written about one man and his dogs. Let’s look instead at another, slower-moving, tragedy involving the press: the fate of our regional and local newspapers.

On June 17th, the Press Gazette announced: “Torquay’s Herald Express is to become a weekly newspaper from next month – with an unspecified number of editorial positions under threat. In an announcement on the Northcliffe-owned title’s website this morning, editor Andy Phelan said the last daily edition would be on 15 July and that it will be replaced by a 100-page weekly coming out for the first time on 21 July.”

This is not an isolated incident. It’s happening all over the country, often unreported in the nationals.

Regional newspapers are faring just as badly. Where I live in the Westcountry, the 151-year old Western Morning News (WMN) is in serious trouble. Often its main feature of the day is taken directly from the national Daily Mail, as with Andrew Alexander’s Wednesday column. The Mail’s city editor Alex Brummer is also a regular in both papers.

The WMN’s senior journalist and writer, Martin Hesp, produces so many columns: political, personal, countryside, touristic and general news, that I wonder what would happen if he ever got ill or resigned from overwork. A few other journalists cover far too many arts and culture events. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid an occasional jaded review.

One staffer told me: “You don’t need me to tell you that regional newspapers are in a hell of a plight at the moment – I think we had about 80 editorial staff when I joined the WMN and now we only have 20 odd. People are hanging on to the jobs they’ve got with fingernails scratching down the exit corridors. I know the WMN’s freelance budget has been cut to nothing compared with what it was when I started writing for them.”

It’s hard to avoid the truth that these stalwarts of the local scene are fading away fast. Two years ago I set up an online version of a local newspaper: Devon & Cornwall Online. It seemed obvious that much of the material of town and city-based journalism will go exclusively online eventually.

But there’s online and there’s super-online. Much of the “river of gold” of the local press, classified advertising, is going to specialised national websites, especially in autosales, property, including rentals, and other big-ticket categories. What’s left is appearing on postcards in newsagents’ windows or in a new line of home-delivered freesheets and pamphlets.

My own effort, DCO, grew steadily for a while and then hit the wall. It got stuck at a low-to-medium daily audience and stubbornly refused to budge. Apart from website design and a few freelancers, I’d taken a “toe in the water” approach to funding the project. Either its time had not yet come, or it never would. Looking around at other local projects, I’ve now assumed the worst.

The most vibrant outlet for local news and gossip is, without doubt, hash-tagged Twitter, based, oh so ironically, in California. Take a look at #Exeter, #Devon, #Cornwall. These are wonderful if you run a small, local business. You can quickly build up thousands of like-minded “followers”: individuals and companies. This allows you to “direct message” them. Twitter is very underrated as a business communications tool, and is basically free. What chance local rags?

There are other sources of local news. Here in the West we have two television outfits: ITV’s West Country Tonight, based in Bristol; and the BBC’s Spotlight, in Plymouth. Both are high quality, but ITV’s effort is probably doomed in the medium term because of its dependence on fickle advertising revenues — and Bristol is a bit remote for those of us in Devon and Cornwall. The BBC’s compulsory public subscription is a much better guarantee of survival for the longer term.

In today’s 24-hour news culture, the regional press is not local enough, nor sufficiently national. And truly local journalism is having its existence salami-sliced away by newer entrants with little loyalty to small communities, and by social-media sites.

Perhaps only David Cameron’s community-based enterprise ideas can save it. A voluntary-sector local press could be the last chance to preserve genuine small-town and county-based journalism.

Devon & Cornwall Online will re-emerge soon as a pillar of the Big Society. Who’d have thunk it?

John Evans

… who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.

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DIARY: It’s Christmas, Annoyment: God again, Comprehensive expenses, Gordon’s turkeys, Bloodbath, Red Arrows, Pics of the Week

Santa Kitten I’ve been sat at the computer for at least a day preparing the Christmas advertising offer for our Devon & Cornwall Online newspaper. It’s still early September. Through my office window I can see the sun. The temperature is a warm 70 degrees. Why would anyone even think about Christmas this far in advance?

But they do. Businesses have been musing on their “Holidays” advertising campaigns for some time.

At the risk of sounding like Bryony Gordon, I was out at the crack of 7am this morning, voting in a tedious local election rerun, in a short-sleeved summery shirt. Christmas seemed like another planet.

Mind you, I remember when t-shirts were still being worn in November — 2005, I think it was. Naturally, the Met Office had forecast the bitterest winter since the early 1960s. What would we do without the little darlings?

We don’t have to. The BBC has rehired them for another five years. I expect weather now comes under Light Entertainment.

I suppose the New Zealand forecaster option was ruled out because of the thought of all those Maori weather presenters in grass skirts, bare tops and ceremonial spears.

Now I’m beginning to sound like the Duke of Edinburgh.

* * * * *

Annoyment of the Week

Stephen Hawking’s new book dismisses God as the creator of the universe. It follows that if God didn’t create the universe, there is no God in our terms.

When challenged by the BBC this morning, he said that philosophers had “not mastered the maths”, implying that maths prove that God does not exist.

You see the paradox: How can God be defined by maths if God created everything, including the conditions for maths’ existence? If you dismiss the possibility that God created the universe because maths prove God does not exist, there is an Almighty hole in your argument.

Saturday Ramble: Who, what and where is God?

* * * * *

While we are on the topic of advertising, if you’re looking for a late autumn or winter break take a look at our online newspaper for Devon and Cornwall: DCO. There are ad offerings on almost every page. Thought I’d mention it.

Speaking of which, our new Christmas Ratecard is now up: Ratecard. It’s a bit sketchy because I don’t have much of a feel for the market right now.

With the Comprehensive Spending Review due in October, it’s hard to know what weight of advertising many businesses are planning this year. The marketplace is very flaky and uncertain. Consequently, we’ve gone for lower rates from the start.

My own view of the CSR, is that the blood and thunder approach currently being peddled is deliberately misleading. While it won’t be pleasant, I’m guessing most people will be relieved when it actually arrives. “Could’ve been worse,” will be the prevailing view.

When you think about it, no Tory Government, fighting two overseas wars, would ever slash and burn the Armed Forces in the way we are being led to believe. Stand by for relief all round.

On a psychological note, current propaganda around the CSR can’t be good for anyone. It’s hard right now to plan business for the year ahead when even a well-run construction company in the social enterprise sector like Connaught is forced to the Receivers at the first sniff of public sector cuts.

Their’s was not a good business model for the long term, I grant you, but if cash is on offer, businesses will take it.

* * * * *

With Gordon Brown’s new 90,000 word tome on the financial crisis due for publication this autumn, it would be interesting to know how his previous books have fared.

Many of us will remember his solemn effort on “courage”, a work that uncannily resembled John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. There was a follow-up title that also dealt with, er, courage, among other things, plus two more books on the same theme, according to Amazon, and another titled Britain’s Everyday Heroes.

None was a red-hot bestseller. Indeed they were much mocked because their author conspicuously lacked bravery during his political career, choosing to hide away in his Downing Street bunker when things got complicated, as in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Gordon allegedly let off steam by throwing office equipment at his staff and manhandling secretaries out of their chairs. He was even accused of bullying by a quango that dealt with abuse in the workplace.

For those of us who are published authors, it’s a relief to learn that Brown’s recent book of his collected speeches (2007-2009), sold just 32 copies. At only £20 a throw, shurely shome mishtake.

But then, who but Gordon Brown would buy a book called The Change We Choose?

* * * * *

Bloodbaths are always difficult to predict with any certainty. This is because they are generally motivated by supremely irrational forces. What novelist could have conjured up a character like Pol Pot and his deeds, for example?

Some bloodbaths are easier to predict, especially if there’s a history behind them. The stock market is a case in point. Here’s a stabette in the (less than) dark.

Economics guru Albert Edwards, a strategist at Société Générale, is warning of a “bloodbath” in share markets in the months to come. October is a traditional month for stock market crashes and it’s beginning to look ominous for 2010.

“Equity investors are in for a rude shock. The global economy is sliding back into recession and they are still not even aware that these events will trigger another leg down in valuations, the third major bear market since the equity valuation bubble burst,” he said.

“So far the equity market has shrugged off much of the weaker data that abounds, and has not joined the bond market in a perceptive move. The equity market will though crumble like the house of cards it is, when the nationwide [US] manufacturing ISM slides below 50 into recession territory in coming months.”

We are about to witness a “valuation nadir” last seen in 1982.

I mention this in passing.

* * * * *

I haven’t got back into the political groove yet. So here’s a little sketch I wrote about the Red Arrows a few weeks ago in another age: August.

It’s the sound that gets you every time.

It starts with a bulldog growl, then in seconds becomes a mighty cacophony of noise that scrambles your nervous system. Almost instantly, the Doppler Effect kicks in — appropriately called the Red Shift — when the tone changes as the flight passes overhead.

Then they’re gone.

For a moment you feel like an omlette, before the exhilaration sets in. You have experienced the Red Arrows.

They always fly very low, demonstrating their attack posture when going into battle.

I’ve been “privileged” to live in two houses directly on the flight path of this troupe of daredevils and their flying machines. Once in Bournemouth where I could watch the entire display from a balcony.

These days, my house in Exeter witnesses them overhead as they shoot down to the Dartmouth Regatta and other Westcountry gigs. Is “gigs” the right word for them?

Last week I experienced the familiar roar of jet engines right above my residence. Why do they always pick on me?

For a moment I imagined a stricken airliner from Exeter airport crunching into on my domestic arrangements unannounced. Then I remembered. The Arrows were back.

This morning I saw them again, heading out Dorset way for more displays. A perfect “V” in the sky, with one plane following behind. Along the way, sheep and cows may drop dead with fright, and householders will cower beneath their beds imagining the worst.

Don’t you just love them?

It’s the sound that gets you every time.

* * * * *

Pics of the Week

River Exe

The photograph above depicts the River Exe in the 1800s. To be precise, it’s Starcross, a small village near the estuary. The two craft on the right are The Swan and The Cygnet, ferries plying between Starcross and Exmouth.

Below is the refurbished Cygnet in the Exeter Maritime Museum circa 1991.

The Cygnet

We don’t have such colourful ferries nowadays. Rowing boats like these would certainly be useful in our age of austerity.

Pictures: courtesy of Les Gibbings

John Evans

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Greens move from quirky outsiders to popular mainstreamers

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Not too long ago, playing sport regularly, hiking in the countryside or shooting, fishing and hunting were viewed as signs that you had a healthy interest in the environment – meaning the great outdoors. Then all that became intensely unfashionable as people began to hug trees, talk to plants and protest about saving the planet. Politics became peppered with green MPs.

Now, a healthy interest in the environment means staunchly supporting the green causes – we must all now save energy in our homes, drive smaller, lower emission cars and recycle. Some of the most fabulous looking cars at the Geneva Motorshow earlier in the year were hybrids – electric cars with a back up of a petrol engine. All look like futuristic sports cars, straight out of a James Bond film set.

Getting new car insurance quotes again recently, I was surprised that green car insurance is also becoming de rigueur. Eco friendly car insurance companies are sprouting up all over the place. All provide car insurance quotes for ordinary cars; you don’t have to have an eco-stunning new hybrid to benefit. The green car insurance cover you get is usually from a company that is itself carbon neutral in all its operations. But what seems particularly impressive is that, when you purchase this eco car insurance cover you get the option to offset your carbon emissions that are produced by driving, plus there are some who donate to an eco charity of your choice too!

It may not be the cheapest car insurance available, but it certainly does have a unique advantage.

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Parish Pump: Local Ventures will launch Devon & Cornwall Online

We’ve been beavering away at this for quite a while. Our new company, Local Ventures Online, will launch Devon & Cornwall Online around June 15.

Devon and Cornwall Online

Designed by Swedish web maestro Thord Hedengren, the site is a hybrid between a local newspaper and a classy weblog.

It’s also an advertising vehicle across a number of local and national fields, concentrating on familar categories, like Holidays, Property, Finance, Professionals … and many more.

There are some great deals for advertisers in the first three months, while we tweak and add complexity, so get in quick before all the prime positions are taken. We’ve already got banners for Sainsbury’s, Scottish Widows, World Vision and, yes, Syntagma Media, among others.

Don’t lose out on our bonanza introductory offers. In the first instance, contact: john@syntagmamedia.com for an electronic ratecard.

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