How Created in Birmingham taught me about blogging

If you follow my Twitterstream, you won’t have avoided being pestered to vote for Created in Birmingham for Best UK Blog in the Weblog Awards.

I am careful about partisanship on most topics, but this is one I am happy to put on my campaigning hat for and I want to use this post to explain why.

I came across CiB in 2007 when I was working as Media & Marketing Editor for the Post. I was tipped off about it by someone at Advantage West Midlands who happened to know then-author Pete Ashton.

At first, I think my reaction was pretty typical of journalists: I saw it as a two-bit, amateurish attempt at keeping tabs on the local creative community. Sweet and cuddly, but not REAL news. No threat there.

Except, that wasn’t exactly true. What I quickly came to realise was that CiB isĀ  a unique resource for those in the creative sector.

Pete’s commitment to post at least once a day and the honest style in which posts were written (conversational, links out, making it clear where information came from) was the recipe for its success. It wasn’t long before it was a recognised name within the creative circles in the city.

It bought together the creative community in a way that traditional newspaper articles could not quite do. What was posted was not restricted by page space, nor limited by when it could be published AND it gave people a place to talk, connect and debate.

As CiB increasingly became a resource for my story ideas, I realised there was something in this blog lark that meant it had the potential to be genuine competition to “traditional” media.

Determined to understand more I pestered Pete to meet me (not something he was initially that keen to do – me being “evil mainstream media”). When we eventually did meet we started to realise there was quite a crossover in the work of CiB and my job as Media & Marketing Editor.

It was fantastic to go through that process . Pete started questioning how much of what the blog did was “journalism” and I started looking at the ways in which my work could better engage with a community and how the online news model would work as a business.

It was Pete that suggested I started this blog as a way of experimenting with a more “two-way” type of writing.

There is no doubt that has changed eveything.

My personal experience of blogging set me on a road that challenged all my beliefs about journalism and media. It introduced me to new online tools and helped me develop a new network of interesting sources, contacts and friends.

It has changed the way I think about my industry, about the businesses that form it and the organisations that claim to support it. It has also irrevocably changed my hopes and plans for a career in journalism.

Pete has now left CiB, but his good work has been continued by Chris Unitt and, I’m sure, will be by new author Kate Spragg. It is still a fantastic case study to use when looking at how blogs can impact on traditional media.

So please vote CiB, it helped this print journalist learn more that I can tell you.

Could The Post website use Flickr?

I have said before that the Birmingham Flickr group is a wonderful thing, and I know that others appreciate it too.(thanks CiB for the link).

There are so many fantastic pictures of Brum on Flickr, I would like to see the new Birmingham Post website showing and linking to them. It would certainly help showcase the talent we have in the city.

Indeed, it is something that was suggested when I asked for ideas for the new site.

But not everyone in the Birmingham Flickr community is going to want The Birmingham Post publishing their picture on our website. We wouldn’t have the right to do so anyway, unless we contacted the photographer first to get express permission, or they had relinquished all their IP rights (which is very rare).

So, what could be the solution? Pete Ashton suggests that The Post creates it’s own Flickr group, which people submit Birmingham photos to on the understanding that they may be used in a certain context on The Post website and will, of course, be credited.

But I wonder, with the plethora of specialist groups out there on Flickr, how keen are photographers going to be to submit to a Birmingham Post group?

Any advice and ideas from members of Flickr, and particularly the Birmingham Flickr group, would be gratefully received.