We’re currently looking to expand our team of SEO specialists to help increase our audience from search. These specialists could have either worked previously as part of an SEO team advising editorial teams OR are journalists with proven examples of optimisation and Google wins. The focus here is very much on content optimisation, as technical optimisation is already covered. If you’re interested in working across a variety of brands for a publisher that creates amazing content every day – please get in contact via email@example.com with CV and examples of your work. The duration of contract would be between 3-6 months minimum working both from home and from our London office.
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Edit and/or complete metadata on topics and articles
Editorial background with experience in a digital publishing environment
This year I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a month-long introduction to Design Thinking with work and it’s been a really rewarding experience. There were about twenty of us in total and our focus during the course was to try and find solutions to some of the challenges faced by charities during this pandemic.
I’m not going to repeat the methodology we used – you can read that elsewhere – but I just wanted to highlight two areas I found really useful. The first was just basic audience research: we were given a series of questions to ask friends/family/people-we’ve-never-really-actually-spoken- to-for-yonks-on-Facebook to find out a) if they donated at all and b) if their perception of charities or general donating behaviour had changed over the last year. We were also asked to note how animated people became when giving feedback on a certain topic and to explore why that might be.
The feedback I got was really varied but there were four main themes that resonated with our group – (a) a general scepticism about the actual impact bigger charities make; (b) an increased emphasis on ‘supporting local’; (c) people wanted very easy ways of donating and (d) people were looking for incentives to donate. Now, all of these points aren’t exactly rocket science but it was really powerful to collect all these opinions ‘direct from the source’ so we could really hear those emotive responses which you just can’t get via a survey.
Anyway, following this initial audience research we brainstormed a number of possible solutions then agreed as a group on a top three that we would take forward to the prototype stage, finally selecting one for our final ‘pitch.’ One of my ideas did not make it to the final round – and that was because it became very complex, very quickly.
I wanted crate a funny version of the Bear Grylls show on Netflix ‘You vs The Wild.‘ This has a basic story arc: you have to help Grylls to get from A-B and on the way there 4 or 5 ‘either/or’ decisions you have to make. I wanted to take this model and apply it to a ‘Make your own Charity promo video’ scenario – you would choose between a number of good and very bad decisions in the creation of your promo video. Instead of helping Bear Grylls, you would be helping a well-known funny celebrity personality who would be trying at all times, to get you to select one of the bad decisions. The point of the whole exercise would be that you’d something learn about the challenges charities have faced during the pandemic, the value a charity can bring to those in need PLUS it would all be hilarious resulting in a final video that could be shared on the socials.*
To be fair, even as i typed that paragraph I reminded myself that that even a simple ‘Choose A/Choose B’ format can quickly become complex, especially if you’re trying tick off a number of objectives in addition. I started to draft the script but then quickly realised I had to sketch out the whole scenario from beginning to end to make any sense of it. And when I started to do that, I realised I had to get feedback on the structure and the whole project in general – in short, I had to sketch a wireframe prototype, discuss with others, making quick amendments as I bounced from zoom call to zoom call. I think with more available time, I would have eventually refined the model into a decent state – but we had a hard deadline to hit so I had to ditch it.
Anyway, my key learn from the whole exercise was simply this: if you have an idea that you think could work, but as you discuss it, it starts to feel complex – sketch it out. The very act of a sketch invites feedback and suggestions for improvements. Confront the unforeseen challenges early in your project and that will save you a lot of time further down the line!
Also, I humbly salute anyone out there creating any kind of visual project – especially if you have to deal with people like me who say things like ‘hey, this would make a cool video, should be pretty easy to do, right?’
For that, you win all the gold stars.
*During this project I never actually said ‘this video will be hilarious’ simply because when people say ‘this will be hilarious’ you can guarantee it won’t be.
I wanted to write a few words now that we’ve had a year of living with this pandemic. In many ways I wish I’d kept a diary just like Eno did for a completely different reason but, unlike Eno, my thoughts over the last year have been a chaotic mess with me in the middle flip-flopping from one project to the next. After the brief euphoria of being able to paint my garden fence during my lunch break, the sad realisation slowly crept in – I was going to be looking at that fence for an awfully long time. Cue endless cups of tea and tying to figure out what was coming next.
I didn’t have to wait long.
It was early March and my wife became ill for four days with heavy ‘flu-like symptoms’. At that time we were still unsure where or even how she could get tested – and then I started to feel unwell. I remember sitting watching the TV with the kids and then feeling so tired it was a real effort just to stand up. Eventually, I went to bed, sweated a lot and listened to a 5th century Welsh folk tale all about dying and going to hell – which wasn’t ideal at the time. When I woke up, I felt a bit groggy but logged into work as usual. What then followed was about seven days of feeling increasingly ‘meh’ until I finally crashed and spent an entire Saturday in bed listening to all the Brian & Roger podcasts. I find that all a bit funny now but, back then, it was more than a little surreal.
When I recovered, I made a promise to myself that I would do everything I could to try and stay fit just in case I got ill again. This has resulted in an awful lot of running – in fact I’ve now clocked up about 1500 miles which makes me your stereotypical Forest Gump. But, do you know what the most difficult part of this has been? It’s seeing the scared faces of other people as you’re running because they’re afraid you might not give them a wide berth. Fortunately, I live in the countryside so I can put about a field between me and you – but I don’t go running now without one of those running-neck-warmer-thingies so I can use as an impromptu face mask. I think the immortal words ‘Strange Times’ are reverberating all around these leafy glades – I wonder what Kenneth Grahame would have made of it all?
Speaking of which, another thing that has changed over the year has been my desire to write a book – all of that has gone completely out of the window. Before the pandemic hit I was really motivated – I went to all the writer classes, read a lot of those ‘How To Be A Writer’ books, listened to a lot of ‘How To Write a Bestseller’ podcasts (actually, that one’s quite good) and generally bored a lot of people with the “well, it’s about this teenager in this medieval fantasy world who triggers a multiverse calamity when he starts meddling with magic and ends up in Hounslow in 1991″ spiel. But then, covid kicked off and I started to feel that anything outside of the core requirements (like working or being with the family) was pointless. Thinking about it now, it might just have been an excuse I told myself to escape the whole process. Either way, I gave up.
But it did get a little better. One day I was watching something on YouTube and really went down this rabbit hole about how to make music with Ableton. I’d dabbled with the software before but now it all looked a lot more easier and the computers didn’t crash. Fantastic. Now, I’m pulling what little hair I have out to try get a decent stereo mix and decide on the right kind of synthesiser – it’s like I’m trapped in an episode of Flight of the Conchords…
Still, it’s been a lot of fun. There’s nothing like trying to solve a problem that you alone have created and you alone can fix – partly because everyone else is bored with the incessant ’dist – dist – dist’ coming from your headphones and – no – they don’t want to listen to another version of your track which you think ‘sounds a bit like INX.’
Anyway, this all brings me to my main point. There must be so many people out there right now creating great music, or learning to cook, or code or even sculpt pottery goddamn it – I just hope that we’ll all have the chance to share what we’ve learned. Maybe 2022 will become the ‘Year of the Amateur’ – where there’s going to be absolutely no dance shaming and if someone wants to read their poem about fish then let them go straight ahead and read that poem about fish.
I for one will see you at the front of the crowd, waiting patiently for you to echo your first words – albeit perfectly sealed in my floating bubble like a scene from The Prisoner.
My daughter was recently listening to the brilliant Writer’s Routine podcast and mentioned a book written by Jaroslav Kalfař called ‘Spaceman of Bohemia.’ I was so intrigued by the storyline I bought the book immediately. A Czech astronaut heads into space to explore a mysterious dust cloud and ends up going mad (or does he?) after meeting a intergalactic philosopher spider with a serious addiction to Nutella -what’s not to love?
It should have a been a brilliant book, I wanted it to be brilliant – but, alas no. There’s a merger of Czech political history with a failed personal relationship and it’s all a bit of a tangle. It would, undoubtedly, make an excellent Netflix movie however, someone give Ben Whishaw and Andy Serkis a call. Oh, and Nigel Warburton would do a decent voice-over as the furry theoretician. Oscars here we come.
A recent email from my hosting provider prompted me to consider taking this blog offline completely. After all, I’ve not written anything for a while so maybe I should chuck the whole thing in. Then I began to think about this last year with Covid, about how insanely busy it’s been both at work and at home trying to return to some sense of normality, about the book I stopped writing because I told myself it was all too self-indulgent in a time of crisis, about the ultramarathon I did because running seemed to be a whole lot easier than writing, then about the synth I bought because I needed an excuse to wear headphones in a house full of screaming kids – so I thought ‘you know, there might just be a few things I could write about here after all.’
So watch this space. Hopefully, it won’t be for another year.
If you are fans of this blog (and by fans I mean you must be staunch acolytes as I only seem to be capable of posting every six months) you’ll know that I’ve been spending most of my spare time this year trying to write a novel. Along the way I’ve completed an online creative writing course, joined an actual real-life writer’s group (with actual real-life people) and produced more than ten thousand words of absolute dribble. Now, because that’s significantly better than previous years (prose poetry anyone?) I thought I’d celebrate by sharing with you some of my top reads have kept me sane throughout this whole writing process. Whilst most end of year roundups are super informative – this one is completely self-indulgent and of no practical use whatsoever. So, make of it what you will – even if that’s only a somewhat curious and unsolicited literary review of my brain.
To all writers out there: I salute you.
Geraldine McCaughrean – Where The World Ends/Fires’ Astonishment McCaughrean is my 2018 literary ‘bae’ – as it were. I’m extremely thankful to Philip Reeve who recommended ‘Where The World Ends’ on the Tea and Jeopardy podcast a while ago. I might not know St.Kilda where the book is set, but I’ve spent enough time around the Kyles of Bute to recognise the landscape she depicts so well. Reading this, I realised that there must be thousands of fantastic stories out there marketed to kids and entirely ignored by adults. What a waste. Probably, my fav book of the year…
…until I read Fires’ Astonishment. McCaughrean does something really very interesting in this novel – you’re never entirely sure if something magical is actually happening, or if it’s people wanting to believe what’s happening is magic. It’s such a brilliant tension, our assumptions as readers are constantly challenged. If nothing else, it’s a beautiful depiction of a time when myths and magic were woven into our understanding of the world. Does a dragon really have to exist for us to believe in one? Insert thinking emoji here.
Neil Gaiman – American Gods/Neverwhere What? I haven’t read these classics before – outrageous!
I know, I know. Like I mentioned above, American Gods is a superb study in how to slip between the real and the fantastical (often in the same sentence) effortlessly. One thing you learn from Gaiman – you really don’t need to offer much by the way of explanation to your readers before making the fantastical thing happen – you just make it happen. I loved the way the main character Shadow starts off as an outsider but is really complicit in the alternative universe he ‘discovers’. Plus, all those nods to classic comic book scenes are just genius.
Neverwhere: a central character finds his world view rocked by a series of unfortunate events. This particular execution is very reminiscent of Douglas Adams and I tore through it in 4 days. A fantastic read. You’ll never look at a London Underground map in the same way again.
Andrew Crumey – The Secret Knowledge At one point in the year I was writing a time travelling story set in Paris during the Fin de Siècle era. Someone recommended this to me and I was hooked. The hook: imagine a secret power hidden in a musical composition that can only be unlocked by the right kind of musician in the right frame of mind. Interesting concept…
The 7th Function of Language – Laurent Binet …and a bit like this one. Imagine a secret power (in this case the power to influence people) hidden in the rhetorical use of language. Now, imagine only being able to unlock this power once you’ve understood the whole mind-boggling post-structuralist debate circa Paris, 1970. Jeepers. Sounds extremely dull and literary, but it’s actually a really fun whistle-stop tour through some otherwise dense philosophy. A Derridean whodunnit. Now that’s meta!
Ken Grimwood – Replay More time-travelling antics. Man becomes god (being able to predict the future ‘cos you’ve already seen it) and wishes he were a man again.
Philip Reeve – Mortal Engines/Predator’s Device/Infernal Devices/A Darkling Plain I found a copy of Mortal Engines in a local second hand bookshop and bought it for my son for about 50p. He was so impressed with it I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about. Wasn’t disappointed. Imagine taking a story and throwing everything you’ve got at it, including killing off some of your key characters. Then imagine your publisher asking you if you could write a second or third book. Doh! Chapter One of Mortal Engines is like an acorn, containing within it the unfolding logic for all subsequent chapters – it’s perfect. If you’re writing your first speculative fiction book, this would be a good place to start. Hint. Hint.
James Baldwin – Another Country If you’ve listening to a podcast and a writer tells you about a brilliant scene from a novel – then go read that novel. The first hundred pages or so concerning the jazz drummer Rufus Scott are exceptional. This is all about writing what’s right in front of you and that’s actually quite a hard thing to do.
Stewart & Riddle – The Edge Chronicle: Beyond the Deepwoods We listened to this audiobook on a long drive up to Scotland and loved it. What, pirates flying tall-ships? Lots of nasty creatures trying to stop a boy who just wants to find his place in the world? What’s not to like? Ace.
Kurt Vonnegut – The Sirens of Titan When I wasn’t writing I used to think writing was easy – just look at Vonnegut, I bet he knocked them stories out in a few days, right? And then you realise it’s a relentless process, chipping away until you’ve deleted most of the page. And that’s if you’ve got a decent story to tell in the first place. Oh well, at least Vonnegut seemed to have a lot of fun along the way and that’s something I try to remember when tossing balls of paper into the wastepaper basket. Must. Have. Fun.
Michael Moorcock – The Elric novels/The War Hound at the World’s Pain When I was nine I went to this school in the middle of nowhere. Once a month we were visited by a mobile library and we had about five minutes to choose a book before it whizzed off. Before it did the aforementioned whizzing, I spotted the artwork gracing the cover of an Elric novel and was hooked. Whoever said you can’t judge a book by its cover? Nonsense! This year I re-read the whole series again and thought it was pretty bad, with a few brilliant moments. By far the best book in the series is ‘Elric of Melnibone’ which I think was the last to be written.
‘The War Hound’ was another Moorcock novel I discovered at school. It’s such a curious oddity – a mercenary captain is trying to survive Europe’s thirty years war and gets enlisted by satan to find the holy grail. Bonkers. This book blew my mind at nine and it blew my mind times ten reading it again this year.
James Blish – Vor Loved this classic B-movie fodder. An alien lands in 1950s America. America attempts to communicate with it before losing patience and tries to blow it up. Nothing too deep here, but then you realise it’s all about ‘communication’ in general and how poor we humans are at it. Boom! Mic drop. Walks away.
This Thursday (March 8th) we’re launching a brand new podcast merging the world of true crime and classical music. You can read the full details here – the first one features the gruesome story of Haydn’s missing head which is just a flavour of what’s to come. So subscribe now and let us know what you think when it launches Thursday!
Last week we launched The Global Awards from London’s Eventim Apollo. It was an incredible night, featuring some great acts and moments from the blue carpet. We’ve posted the Global Awards video highlights here but you can watch the full version below. Needless to say we had a great response, not only during the public voting stage, but also whilst live streaming across social and onsite. Enjoy!