Archive for June, 2006

Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell

“I was asked to write my autobiography and I put a letter in the Spectator asking if anyone could tell me what I was doing between 1960 and 1974”. — Jeffrey Bernard

Coach & Horses Jeffery Bernard is unwell Poster

Last night went to see the excellent ‘Jeffery Bernard is Unwell’ staring Tom Conti back on for a 12 week run in the West End after a decade’s absence. The play holds a special place in my heart having frequented regularly the Coach & Horses while at St Martins College round the corner, happily and not so happily pissing away my grant… I never saw Jeff in there I don’t think? He was wheelchair bound having lost a leg by then, but Norman and an ever changing cast of barmen were still there, (Norman only retired in April of this year, his autobiography entitled ‘You’re Barred, you Bastards!’ goes for £85+ on Amazon) And I remember Jeff’s funeral cortege coming down Old Compton Street in ’97 when he finally popped it.

We nipped to the Coach & Horses first for a pre-theatre swifty, just to get us in the mood. I’ve not been in there since what, the late 90s? It’s not changed a bit, not one iota… except the prices have gone up. Then it was off down the Charring Cross Road to the Garrick. The set is a faithful reproduction of the pub, but seen through the eyes of a real boozer, so it’s all wonky edges and lines. The show starts with Jeff locked in the pub in total darkness ..”shit” he says as he hits his head on a table. He then lights a match, and you’re reminded why live performance is ace as the smell of sulphur quickly followed by cigarette smoke hits you.

Go and see it, Tickets are £20 if you ask for the “What’s on Stage” discount.

i>Player and How to make a TV programme #1


Had a session entitled ‘Play’ yesterday headed by Tony Ageh and centred on the future of the i>Player. it was interesting in that a lot of the group thought tagging was going to be one of the best things about the project, but as Matt Locke pointed out, Flickr and don’t really care if you tag stuff.. we do. The other thing about the i>Player is that people believe it’s a bleeding edge technical project, it’s not really. It’s a series of products and services from other companies cleverly put together to achieve an objective. What it is I think is a (and I hate this phrase) ‘hearts and minds’ exercise convincing people, particularly BBC Execs and programme makers, that this is a good thing.

I’ve had some meetings with telly people recently (see below) and blimey the 30 or 60 minute programme format and 8pm slot is hard coded into their DNA. A lot of them just do not get the internet, and those that do just see it as another ‘channel’ to broadcast on or somewhere to host character biogs. They believe in broadcasting in the classical sense, they work in a highly top down ‘this is my vision’ way, they are extremely professional and driven. Qualities that were needed to get things made right? And they probably still are, but not all the time. I wonder who’s going to be the first cross genre multi-skilled Producer to make something 42:78 long that only goes out on the player, while TV gets say a 30min version. Think directors cuts or multiple endings. The leap from black & white to colour TV was obvious, programme makers and the public could literally see the benefit. I want to see the i>Player actually affect how programmes are made and structured, and that perhaps takes a new approach to content…

Which leads us on to this from the big boss at the end of one of his recent mailshots..
We need to preserve the level playing-field between BBC and independent producers, and to find ways to stimulate cross-media thinking across both production and commissioning to make sure that we keep pace with what our audiences expect of us. New Media and Technology will clearly also be vital to helping us do that.

I reckon that could have said ‘New Media PEOPLE will clearly be vital…’ Sounds like a challenge, so I’ve taken it up. Yup, you heard it here first, (unless you work near me) I’ve been working on a pitch for the past 6 months and am in the process of talking to commissioners about getting it made. Can’t say what it is exactly yet. But if it gets the go ahead it’s gonna be ace….

It’s Wimbledon time!

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It's Wimbledon time!
It’s Wimbledon time!,
originally uploaded by

..and here’s a choice image from yesteryear borrowed from the BBC archive. Ahhh wooden racquets, Fred Perry…

And here’s some wimbledon homepages from
2000 and 2001

I liked this page (The Brits), in a ‘where are they now’ stylee

not your everday excuse…

From an email to Rhodri.

How you doing. Fancy a beer some time soon?

hey Andrew – I do, of course. We never manage to get around to it, do we. At the moment I’m up to my eyeballs because I appear to have joined Scritti Politti

When celebrity knocks, you gotta be in I guess.

Home to Roost and the O2 festival

So sometime in the past I must have said something to someone, or given my business card to someone, and the other day an unsolicited envelope turned up with a review copy of ‘Home’ by Rooster from Hudson PR (yeah, the state of the website speaks volumes). Since then I’ve had four different calls from different people at Hudson asking can they have some PR and what I thought of it. I said I’d pass it to someone in Radio1.

The song’s ok, in a middle of the road Virgin Radio white guitar rock 4/4 kind of a way. Too over produced for me and doesn’t exactly give a lot lyrically. Songs about ‘going home’ are always a bit iffy, there’s usually a roads reference, a ‘back to you’ line. What’s ‘home’ actually mean anyway? Like in films when they say ‘let’s blow this thing and go home’. Home’s a nice cup of tea and a sit down, maybe a biscuit or a snooze, that’s home. Remember that ‘Home..where my thoughts are racing. Home..blah blah” that went with the MSN advert? Or was it Windows 95? (I thought that was Start it Up by the Stones?) That always seems a very American view of home to me.

Anyway, my real issue’s with the whole Song BMG –> PR Co. –> Media review CD process I guess – are labels and PR agencies still doing that?. Compared to way say Hill & Knowlton went about promoting the Chocolate phone Hudson’s approach couldn’t have been more anachronistic if they’d faxed me the sheet music. The World and his wife knows these days that that’s not the way to reach the My Space generation.

Belle & Sebastian

In other music news, I went to the O2 wireless festival last night, and saw Belle and Sebastian, (who do sing about cups of tea) and The Strokes. I got on the guest list through a mate, so braved a gormet burger from the VIP area washed down with a £3 can or Carling…went straight through, didn’t touch the sides, at least the guest pen had decent loos. Nice to see a lot of beer throwing in the crowd during the Strokes set, not quite as bad and the bottle ‘n’ can fest I witnessed during the Metallica set at Monsters of Rock festival in 1991, now that was throwing beer around! Tsk! Kids today eh? (I did feel a bit old….gulp).

World Cup Mode Design Work and Feedback

Some of the design thinking behind the World Cup Mode

world cup mode OFF
We dropped the SPP as a container for the switch for a number of reasons. 1. If you want it off, you want it all off. 2. The semantic way readers scan the page meant the on/off mode had to go under the promo, other wise it would have read the promo, then the whole browse column then the SPP etc.
Match mode was going to have GEO-IP served broadband console links, but we couldn’t adapt Sport’s GEO-IP look up. Also people seem to have found the broadband content pretty well. A few more examples are on Flickr. One thing that caused is a bit of an issue was just how to we actually promote it on the homepage.
This is what I jokingly put together first, using a seldom seen ‘top’ promo

I liked the phrase ‘cupificate’ in a E4 tellybox kind of a way, anyway, then me and a writer went through a 100 versions of this
The trouble with this is, you’re not actually offering a choice, you’re offering ‘switch it on’ or… nothing. In the end we went with a traditional EE promo, and did a ‘credit squeeze’ and put a big fat showy jpeg in.

Feedback wise it’s been a great success too. Here’s a top line of some of the feedback we’ve received from the first weekend of ‘world cup mode’. Again thanks to Doug our (ex) feedback guru.

We received 234 emails of which 50% came on Friday with Saturday and Sunday getting roughly 25% each

People that said “Thank you” “Great Idea” “I am going to use this” etc about WCM
Total comments 141
People who like football/WCM ON 18 (12%)
People who dislike football/all sport/WCM OFF 68 (49%)
People who just said thanks 55 (39%)

3 people said this was a bad idea (one mentioned a hatred of football)
1 person asked why we assumed everybody liked football missing the point of why we are offering an ON/OFF switch

2 people supported the breaking news policy

10 people said they just dislike football
11 people left non-football comments

What else should we cover
22 people said we should also do this for Wimbledon
About 10 asked for cricket
14 asked us to provide a switch for TV, mostly on Saturday when out of 48 hours of BBC1/BBC2 TV coverage only 4 hours was football related

Other coverage
8 people wanted Spring Watch updates
15 people wanted Doctor Who
about 10 people said we should promote the latest BBC TV and Drama
7 Want more live music coverage
~5 (I lost count) culture/arts/books etc
~5 want alternative TV schedules during the games

Finally 1 person asked for 24/7 Archers


So the predominant feeling is ‘well done, I’ll have it off please’. Which is a positive negative, but a good thing. This information has been invaluable as it’s allowed us to throw out the schedule and put together editorial promotions based on what users have asked for. Today’s promo is a result of that. Ideally I’d like to have Mrs Jones of Cheadle asked for X in today’s promo.

Another success has been not having to do any world cup promotions like we’ve done in the past. This project has really allowed our small team to concentrate on what we do best, putting together distinct editorial messages from the best has to offer, and leave the juggernaut that is dealing with the World Cup to the sports gang, there’s over 20 of them working 24 hours a day here and in Germany, there’s four of us working 9-5. Hooray for working smarter!

Where next? Well, this would be great for Wimbledon or the cricket, but we can only have one mode in the space at one time, due to the horrendiously complex de-duping of the headlines against each mode. But it would be for non sport things too, Glastonbury springs to mind. Who knows….? Though if England get to the final, well then we’ll have to do something really special.

‘World Cup Mode’ on the BBC homepage

The World Cup, Love it or hate it? And how do we reflect those two oposite feelings on

The greatest Sporting event on the planet is one of the few things that can really polarize people, far more so than the Olympics or any other sporting event. With this in mind me and some very talented people have been working on a special World Cup Mode that will launch this Friday when the Tournament starts, but for now here’s a sneak peak [World Cup] homepage. It’s a kind of ‘steroid’ version of the Breaking Sport Technology that grew out of the Breaking News mode that we did. But it’s able to be selected by viewer preference and has the addition of a few more extras. It also looks a lot better that BYB does. If you go to the ‘what’s this?’ page, there’s a full explination of why we’re doing this and a way you can let us know what you think.

Now if this works out well, I can see it working for things like Glastonbury, the Olympics or the Proms.  I’ll post more of the design thinking that led to this tomorrow, but in the meantime, hope you like it.

Is there a World Cup on? A sideways look at the newswires

wc_subbuteo.jpg wc_stamps.jpg wc_model.jpg
wc_sheep.jpg wc_pies.jpg

Ah, pre-world Cup news stories. Yeah we’ve had all the metatarsal updates and team news, but what I really like is the odd ball stories that form part of the ‘football frenzy’ features in the phoney war before it starts proper. Look at this lot I found on my daily trawl of the BBC incoming newswires. Anything with a St George’s Cross on it is fair game natch, from apple pies to deported Mexican Glamour models…

The rise of the Crouch-o-bot continues apace with the news that Subbuteo are to produce a dancing figure, but Lordy how bad is that photoshoping? That’s just a 15px stroke!

World cup stamps. if you’ve got a model, and some stamps, it’s hard to get them composed in the same close up granted, but I’m not sure sticking them to her face is the right approach.

Best of all is the deportation of hard working glamour model Kiara Guard, got to hand it to her husband though, who turned up carrying “…a placard showing Kiara clad only in the Cross of St George and holding the World Cup” as well as offering this handout image. Surefire way to get your issue up the media’s agenda.

Finally sheep are always good for a laugh, and everyone loves pies right?

Four days to go, then it starts for real. And I’ve been working on something really special for the BBC homepage, but more on that later in the week…

Doctor Who – The Impossible Planet pt I

BBC – Doctor Who – The Impossible Planet.

Hurrah, this series of Doctor Who finally revs up a bit. Is it me or has there been too much reliance on ‘Transmitters trying to take over the populace’ type stories? We’ve had what? The Eye last series, the Zeppelin over Battersea this series, and then last week Alexander Palace. Enough with the transmitter brain take over. I thought the werewolf/Queen Victoria story was grand mind. See I reckon they could have made a great story skipping about time in Crystal Palace. We’ve got a huge transmitter, and in the 19th Century Queen Victoria opened the Palace here. What about some evil that’s been buried after the fire of 1936, and the Doctor has to jump between times, but in the same space solving the puzzle.

Anyway, nice to see it back on form.

Win a Chocolate Phone! at The Chocolate Blog

Win a Chocolate Phone! at The Chocolate Blog. A photo competition to win a choccy phone I talked about here Closing date 12 noon UK time on 30 June 2006.

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
June 2006