Digital Business – Leeds Online Application

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Back in 1995, when The Daily Telegraph launched the first online newspaper, The Electronic Telegraph, the notion that online news would ever become more important than a daily national would have been met with trepidation. Now, with the circulation of national newspapers dropping 20% in the last five years, that idea doesn’t seem so outrageous.

According to The Guardian many national newspapers are suffering notable decreases in circulation. The Independent being the worst with a loss of 44.67% between March 2011 and 2012, although this does coincide with the launch of the capsule I edition.

Regardless of sterling efforts to revolutionise online news from organisations like The Guardian or The Telegraph, news outlets have found it increasingly difficult to monetize online news. This has lead to news organisations having to think of new and innovative ways of delivering online and mobile news.

One such way is an application being developed right now. Due to be launched in February 2013, the app will allow users to access hyper-local news – catered specifically to their interests – through a web browser or mobile device. Drawing inspiration from news apps like Flipboard, users are able to locate news items or events happening simply by clicking on an area of a map.

The app will allow users to interact with and submit content in a way similar to tagging content on a social networking site, such as Facebook. It is being developed by Hebe Media. Simon Zimmerman, Director says: “The service we are creating operates on the basis that hyper-local news content already exists, in abundance. People simply copy the URL where that content exists, drop it into our system, add a geo-tag, add a time stamp, add a tag and click publish.” A geo tag is a way of labeling content by its geographical area, for example, if an event is happening in Millennium Square, you are able to tag this as the area, allowing users to search for the content by area.

The app will have similar content to the site it is born from, Leeds Online. Established by Lee Hicken, the site covers a diverse amount of topics, from sport and local government policy to the local fashion scene. The site is aimed at 18 to 30 year olds and as such is written for them, Hicken says: “We think that young people should know about matters affecting them, but nobody writes political news for young people. At the end of the day, political issues affect young people too, so they should get political news too.”

The funding for the application has been gained from an investment charity called Nesta. It has invested in 10 different organisations across the UK for similar developments. Named ‘Destination Local’ the aim of the investments is to ‘understand and stimulate the development of a UK hyperlocal media sector’. A spokesperson for Nesta, Sarah Reardon said: “All the proposals are new ways of delivering hyperlocal media through mobile devices. This is because mobile technologies offer two important drivers for hyperlocal media: firstly, more people, more often are using mobile to access rich content services via the internet and, increasingly, these platforms are location-aware. We want to prototype services that make the most of these opportunities. For example, augmented reality, GPS tracking, mobile social media.”

One feature of the app that developers are most excited about is the “time-wheel”. This allows users to filter content using a timeline, as all news stories have a date attached to them, users are able to organise and search news in specific areas as and when it happens.  The app will also feature past news content, allowing users to scroll back through time and track what was happening in their area before they were even born. Zimmerman believes this is important as it allows users to connect with their city and learn its history. “News, by its very nature, is time sensitive and one feature of the app, an interactive “time-wheel”, will let users filter content along a timeline. This opens up the possibility for our app to encourage a news archive, with a community of users curating the city’s story; past (“check out the front page of the YEP on 01.01.1901), present (“The Leeds Lights are switched on!”) and future (“Leeds Arena to open today”).”

A light version of the app will be launching in February, shortly followed by a full version with richer content and functionality.

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Review – The Artist

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Director: Michel Hazanavicius

Starring: Jean Dujardain, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Date: 30th December 2011
Certificate: PG

Synopsis
The character of George Valentin is Hollywood’s biggest silent movie actor, yet the emergence of sound — and one Peppy Miller — seems intent on ruining all that he depends on.

Review
Laughter is a sound that Michel Hazanavicius will be more than familiar with. First of all as he was laughed out of the office of almost every single movie studio in Hollywood. But now he is laughing all the way to the bank having achieved the seemingly impossible: creating a black and white silent movie with more charm than Mary Poppins, more to say than Citizen Kane and more style than Singing in the Rain.

Set in late 1920′s Hollywood, The Artist is the story of George Valentin (Dujardin), a silent movie actor who seems to have it all. That is until the arrival of Peppy Miller (Bejo), and the introduction of “talkies”, films with sound set to eradicate the wordless wonders Georges career has become so dependent on.

The film succeeds in the most part due to the outstanding performances of its two leads. Dujardin oozes style and sophistication, this role could so easily have been ruined by over-the-top acting, yet because of the subtle actions and body language of the lead players, it succeeds in delivering a performance that speaks volumes despite the lack of sound. Fairbanks would be proud. Bejo’s portrayal of Peppy Miller is pitch perfect, effortlessly conveying confidence and charisma, but also delivering emotion and turmoil as she sees the life of the man she loves dive as she is catapulted to success.

Verdict
A charming and elegant film, beautifully directed with amazing performances from two relative unknowns. A breath of fresh air and a worthy homage to a bygone era. 5/5

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News – Innocent Until Proven Guilty

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Mood swings, irritability, decreased learning capacity and reduced short-term memory, just are a few side effects of heavy sugar consumption in children according to NHS studies.

In addition, sugary drinks are one of the key contributors to obesity in children, a matter that is becoming ever more an issue. According to documentation released by the NHS in 2012, almost 25 percent of children in the UK are classed as obese.

Over the years, fizzy drinks like Coca-Cola and Fanta have borne the brunt of an ongoing argument linking their high sugar content to the issues above. While the high amount of sugar in these drinks is undoubtedly an issue, they aren’t the worst. Many drinks claiming to be healthy, a lot aimed specifically at children, have just as high and in some cases higher sugar content than their fizzy rivals.

One such drink is Innocent Kids Smoothies. Aimed specifically at children, a 180ml serving of the Apples and Blackcurrant smoothie for kids contains 22g of sugar, that is 26% of a childs recommended daily allowance, a staggering amount when compared to the 13.8g of sugar in a 200ml serving of Fanta.

What is more worrying is that most parents are oblivious to the content of the drinks they are giving to their children on a daily basis. Jane Shaw, a mother of two from Leeds had never bothered to check the contents even though her children drink smoothies regularly, she said, “I just assumed they were good for my kids, looking at the packaging and how they are advertised, you would think they would be healthy”.

In a recent survey of 50 parents conducted by students at Leeds Metropolitan University, 80 percent said they trust the packaging and assumed what they were giving to their children was good for their health. 60 percent believe the packaging and marketing for the drinks is misleading and should be clearer as to what is in them. Mark Truman, a 39 year old father of two says he will think twice about what he buys in the future, “I have to admit, I was fooled by the packaging, with the design and the name, I thought it would be good for my kids. I don’t think it will put me off buying it entirely, but they won’t be drinking it every day from now on”.

Ellie Maddock, 35 is a nurse that has worked for the NHS for 10 years. She knows the effect that sugary drinks can have on her children, even if they are masquerading as a healthy beverage. “The problems aren’t just limited to behavioural issues, it has been shown that excessively high sugar consumption can reduce the immune systems ability to fight off illnesses”.

Another issue with these drinks is the marketing, while there are benefits to drinking them, like the high fruit content, parents are being fooled into believing this is the only factor by clever advertising.

“This recipe is almost as refreshing as eating orange segments on a hot summer’s day whilst doing the surprised hosepipe dance and trying not to get cross with your dad. And with a portion of fruit in every carton and no added rubbish whatsoever, it tastes good, does you good and stops water being boring.” This quote, directly from the Innocent website, along with the labelling of their kids juicy drinks clearly shows that it is marketed at children. However, the nutritional information on the Innocent website displays the recommended daily allowances as that of an adults. This can make the information more misleading, as an adults recommended daily allowance of sugar is much higher than that of a child. When questioned about this Innocent simply wrote it off as a typo, Clemmie, a spokesperson for innocent said, “Oops. This is actually a typo on our website, the heading should say ‘200ml as a % of a child’s Guideline Daily Amount’. Thank you for pointing it out – we’re getting that fixed right away”. This misinformation has since been changed.

However, when questioned numerous times about the nutritional content of their kids smoothies and juicy drinks, they refused to comment. While this may not be an admission of guilt, it does raise questions about whether their drinks are as healthy as they make them out to be.

Other kids fruit drinks with a high sugar content include, ‘Minute Maid Kids’ juices and Tropicana ‘Healthy Kids’ orange juice both with 24g of sugar per 240ml serving. It isn’t necessary to cut these drinks out from your childs diet entirely, Ellie Maddock thinks they are also beneficial, she says, “They can be a good thing, but in moderation. They have a high fruit content and as such contain a lot of vitamins. Just be careful of how regularly you are allowing your children to drink them. If they are thirsty, water is just as refreshing without all the additives you get in a lot of fruit drinks”.

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News – The Boxing Bobby

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Stone policeman Andy Whitehall has recently been awarded an MBE for services to young people following the establishment of boxing clubs to curb bad behavior in young people.

His experience in the Staffordshire Police since 1989 inspired him to think of new ways to keep youngsters out of trouble.

His first efforts saw him open a cafe in Stone aptly named the Stone Youth Café, a different kind of recreation centre for young people to meet and stay out of trouble.

His latest project is The Right Stuff Boxing Club. Currently being run in four areas including Stone and Stafford, young people are able to attend and enjoy learning to box in a controlled environment. It also allows them to give back to the community as each of the participants sign up to a good behavior agreement, meaning they have to earn their position in the club by performing tasks like litter picking, gardening and helping the elderly.

While all young people are able to attend the club, social services, parent support workers, youth offence teams and education welfare officers also refer a lot of participants.

Whitehall was thrilled when he received the award, he said: “It is a real honour and a privilege, it is good to see that the program is being recognised.”

He believes that if people in the area get behind the project and continue to refer people, it will lead to a dramatic decrease in youth crime in the area. “I have been in the force for a long time, I have seen the same young faces coming through for re offences for years now, thanks to The Right Stuff, I have had a chance to work more closely with them and have been amazed by the effect that it has had on their lives. Official figures haven’t been released yet, but for me it looks like it will lead to a big decrease in youth crime.”

Parents of young people involved in the club are very happy with the changes they have seen in their community, Janet Cook’s 14 year old son took part in the program and she can’t believe the changes he has made, she said: “Since he started going he is a completely different person, we tried for years to keep him out of trouble but nothing really worked. The Right Stuff gives him something to do and it is something that he enjoys, the responsibilities he has had to take on with the club has changed him completely.”

PC Whitehall says he will continue to help young people in the Staffordshire area by promoting the club. “I can’t stop now, to see the effect it is having on peoples lives and how youth crime is falling as a result, the only way is up.”

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Profile – Andrew Gilligan

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“The day I knew that I had made it in journalism, is the day that I was invited to take part in a program called Celebrity Surgery, a reality show from the people who bought you, Operations Live”, jokes Andrew Gilligan, one of the UK’s most renowned journalists. “I have probably been subject to quite a bit of surgery in the media anyway.”

Here he is referring to his impressive but by no means faultless career in journalism. Gilligan, 44, began his career in journalism after a placement with The Independent in 1994, he later worked for the Cambridge Evening News and moved to The Sunday Telegraph as a defence reporter.

In 1999 he was recruited for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme with the title of Defence and Diplomatic Correspondent. He worked on the Today programme until 2004 where he resigned amidst the fallout from a claim he made in May 2003 regarding the ‘sexing up’ of the war dossier that led to the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war.

After the release of the Iraq war dossier in 2003, there were many questions about its legitimacy, the most questionable aspect being claims made about how quickly Iraq were able to launch a nuclear strike if they saw fit. Gilligan claimed that the original dossier, according to his source, had been reported as not exciting enough and had to be ‘sexed up’ before it was released publicly.

On 29 May 2003 in an interview with John Humphrys, Gilligan publicly questioned the reliability of the report, labelling it the ‘dodgy dossier’. He said “It was transformed in the week before its release to make it sexier.” This broadcast eventually led to the suicide of Dr David Kelly, Gilligans informant, on 17th July 2003. Kelly’s suicide led to Gilligan being regarded as somewhat of a sloppy journalist by the press and his resignation from the BBC in 2004.

Despite his resignation, Gilligan still remains to this day that he is not to blame for the suicide of Kelly, as do Kelly’s family. He said to the BBC; “Contrary to Nick Cohen’s belief, neither I nor the BBC betrayed Kelly. Neither I nor the BBC ever revealed him as my source, either in public or in emails to an MP, until after his death. It was his employer, the Ministry of Defence, that effectively leaked his name.”

Fast forward to the present day, Gilligan is now London Editor of The Sunday Telegraph. He has some reservations about the future of journalism as there are a number of threats to it in the wake of the Leveson enquiry. Speaking on the eve of the publication of Lord Levesons report into the News of the Worlds phone hacking scandal, he thinks that statutory regulation of the press will suppress journalists and affect the quality of the news they are able to publish.

He doesn’t think bodies like the Press Complaints Commission are to blame for not holding newspapers like The News of the World to account, he blames the police. In a lecture about the threats to journalism at Leeds Metropolitan University in November, he said to a group of journalism students: “There is quite a strong regulation in place already against hacking peoples telephones, it’s called the law. The problem was the failure of the police to enforce the law.”

He believes that statutory underpinning of the press will only lead to its silence and repression, admitting he spends increasing amounts of time battling ‘bizarre and worthless’ claims of phone hacking.

He says that the problem with regulating journalism lies in the differentiation between good and bad journalism: “the problem with regulating journalism, is that there is a great deal of dispute over what good journalism looks like.” He uses the example of a story that won him journalist of the year at the 2008 British Press Awards. A story exposing the ‘cronyism’ of Ken Livingstones supporters. While Livingstone and his supporters saw the story as a ‘textbook example of bad journalism involving smears and lies’, the profession saw fit to award him journalist of the year as a result of good journalism.

Despite his reservations he still believes that there is a future for journalism in the UK. Remaining optimistic about the future of journalism online using the Guardian as an example of innovative pioneers of online media.

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Digital Business – Students Get More Site Launch

Haircuts, food, toiletries, while they don’t sound the most ominous items, they can eat through your bank balance faster than a fat Labrador. Coupled with living in a new city away from your parents, you have yourself a situation.

One possible solution is a new website being launched towards the end of 2012. The brainchild of John Hinchliffe, 28, studentsgetmore.com is a website aimed specifically at students in Leeds. It will enable them to not only see what deals and discounts are available on a wide variety of things in their area, but also pin point specific places providing students with discount. Hinchliffe thinks the integration of maps with the site will be a huge benefit to students who don’t know where to look in a big new city, he said: “The site will allow people to categorise and filter deals based upon their geographical area and what they want. This will be a huge advantage for new students who have just moved to Leeds and don’t know where to go.”

Studentsgetmore.com looks to offer students in Leeds deals and discounts ranging from free or cheap haircuts, cheap rates on household items, tickets for events and advice on the best places to go in the city. It is going to offer a diverse range of offers on products that are a big part of student life. Hinchliffe believes that offering a wide range of offers on products that students need will be the success of the site saying: “we want to stay away from the Groupon mentality and not just offer deals on whatever comes our way. We want to create an environment catered specifically for students.”

The site will go live in early 2012, followed shortly by apps for android and the apple app store. Initially targeted at the Leeds area, there are plans to expand into the big student cities, Hinchliffe plans to branch out into the Sheffield and Manchester area within the next six months.

The site will also operate in a way that differs from most of the other discount sites out there. It will generate profit through advertising driven through daily hits. Most sites generate profit through finders fees they attach to redeeming a deal. All of the deals on studentsgetmore.com will be free to browse and access. John thinks this will keep people coming back to the site, he said, “We want to make sure that people return to our site, if not on a daily basis, then at least weekly. We will do this by making sure there are fresh deals available every day. If we were getting a finders fee through deals, we would become complacent and not update as much. Our way ensures the best deals for students as well as keeping the site up to date”.

Studentsgetmore.com will be up and running towards the end of December with apps to follow shortly after.

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Digital Business – What Does 4G Mean for Leeds?

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4G is upon us, well, some of us, maybe at a little slower speeds than most had hoped for, nevertheless, it is here. Boasting speeds up to 10 times faster than current 3G services, 4G (standing for fourth generation mobile communications standards) offers the next step in mobile internet.

Initially being offered by the EE network, a joint venture of T-Mobile and Orange, the service is being made available to 11m people in 10 different cities upon release.

EE is planning on investing £1.5bn into 4G development across the UK to deliver super fast mobile internet to their customers.  EE’s CEO Olaf Swantee said to siliconrepublic.com: “We’re investing £1.5bn in our network to be the first company to offer mobile 4G in the UK, alongside the biggest 3G network.”

In addition to speeds up to 50mbps, which is the speed in which data is downloaded over the internet, EE is also boasting that 4G services will supply a much more reliable service. But what does this mean for Leeds?

Business

Businesses should benefit greatly from the arrival of 4G. With its super-fast speeds, 4G offers faster internet than a lot of fixed line broadband services. Meaning that people who work on the road will no longer have to put up with slower speeds and be limited to what they can achieve without a wireless connection.

The ability to send and receive larger data files as well as search the internet quickly is a valuable asset to anybody working away from the office. Free wireless is hard to come by and even with an unlimited data package, waiting to download a large file via 3G is an arduous task. Angela Proietti is an area manager for Phones4u Leeds, she says: “I work all over Leeds in different stores and need to be in constant contact with all stores. This involves downloading store performance reports and new training packages. Before 4G I had to take my laptop everywhere, now all I need is my smartphone.”

For the digital and mobile world in particular, 4G will have a marked difference on the way that content is generated as well as accessed. It will open up new avenues for digital and mobile businesses for delivering their product. Lee Hicken, director of Hebe Media and Leeds Online is looking to capitalize on 4G when it becomes more stable in the area, he said: “We are launching our mobile app in the first quarter next year so 4G coming along is perfect timing for that. It basically means, when we are proposing new ideas and features we do not have to rule things out because of speed issues anymore. Our whole mobile thinking is geared towards geo-sensitive data so having a fast mobile network is critical to our development and our users experience.”

It appears that, in terms of time saving and logistics 4G is proving useful for business in Leeds. But is it changing the face of business and opening up new opportunities in addition to just saving time?

The public

Tests conducted on the 4G network produced possible speeds of up to 50mbps. While these speeds have been achieved, they aren’t an accurate projection of what speeds will be available to all consumers. EE forecast average speeds of 10 to 12mbps upon release.

For regular consumers this means cutting down the time it takes to download a music track from 21 seconds to a mere four. Ashley Peat, 21, a student at Leeds Metropolitan thinks 4G will help him, he says: “I think it’s amazing, we are finally catching up with technology. We have been in the dark ages for a while now and it’s about time we got 4G. I just bought a 4G phone, it’s a little unreliable at the moment, but it’s making a difference to my university work already.”

It could also spell the end of storage problems for consumers. With the ability to store and download large files at will online, internal device storage will no longer pose a problem. Aaron Patterson, 22, a DJ in Leeds says: “I don’t have it yet but will be getting it when I can renew my phone contract. I am a DJ and listen to a lot of music, no phone at the minute offers me enough storage, the ability to stream music instantly with 4G will be a life saver.”

Possible Issues

As with any new service there have been some teething issues with 4G, most notably coverage issues. Having been released on 31st October, there are still many areas not getting any 4G coverage at all.

Leeds is one of ten cities boasting 4G connectivity, yet only three of 29 areas receive good coverage, these are Woodhouse, Burley and Armley. Eleven areas receive moderate coverage, the city centre being one of them, along with five areas getting low coverage and ten getting none at all.

EE plans to have 70 percent of the UK covered by December 2013, so it is likely that the coverage issues will be resolved in time.

Another issue in the early days of 4G appears to be price. Firstly, there is no package that offers unlimited data, the most expensive at £56 offers 8GB of data allowance, something that customers aren’t best pleased about. Tafadzwa Mkandla, 22, a student in Leeds wanted 4G to help with his university work, but found the plans to be too expensive and short of expectations, he said: “I want it for university, but if I am paying so much a month, I want unlimited data. I use a lot on 3G at the moment, so I can only imagine that 4G is going to use a lot more.”

With rival networks Vodafone and 02 set to release 4G services of their own in early 2013, it remains to be seen whether this will bring any improvements to the price.

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