Yes…it has been a while…

All I can say is sorry-yes this blog has been subject to a certain level of neglect over the last few months-but with VERY good reasons!

At the end of last year we launched a very exciting new project www.bicestertoday.news
This is a hyperlocal website for Bicester and the surrounding areas that is part of the Hyperlocal Today group of websites that are now popping up across the UK.

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This is our lovely new website!

The site is owned by us and we aim to publish content that other local news outlets perhaps don’t want to or prefer not to or simply do not consider interesting enough. We are keen to be seen as an alternative to other local news outlets-and so far-so good.
Since we launched, our visitor numbers are increasing daily and the feedback we have received from the local community has been exceptional. Thousands of people are reading our posts and seeing our ads every day.

Our social media profile is getting better all the time and the range of content that we are producing is interesting and relevant to the people who live, work and study in our area.
Bicester is growing fast-nationally we are known for the Bicester Village shopping outlet, but trust me there is a LOT more to Bicester than designer shops! We have a wealth of brilliant businesses, charitable and community groups and fabulous events happening in our patch-all down to the amazing people who live in Bicester and the surrounding villages.
Since we launched (very quietly!) our team has grown and we are now working with a graphic designer and a marketing consultant as the next step is to grow www.bicestertoday.news even more with even better, richer content, gorgeous visuals and plenty of effective sponsorship and advertising packages, to support all our local businesses who need really targeted but flexible promotional opportunities to shout about how truly amazing they are!
So-check us out www.bicestertoday.news and get in touch!

Journalism remains at the core of everything Mediabird does-whether I am working alone or with selected creative professionals. However, in this ever changing climate it is vital that we have a true entrepreneurial spirit woven into our work.
As well as our new website, we have been very busy creating some fantastic video content with Absolute Films for a big public sector organisation. Mediabird was also involved in producing a series of films to celebrate the UN International Day of the Volunteer.
We have been collaborating with photographers, designers and other writers and content creators, and running lots of training courses in journalism and PR and communication skills for community groups, businesses, the public sector and universities.

Look out soon for details of our next workshops for anyone who wants to learn more about how to write for business and promote your enterprise on a shoestring. We cover blogging and visual content creation as well as social media and media training to help you make the most of every opportunity that comes your way.

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Mediabird is loving this fantastic book by Natasha Courtenay-Smith

Our workshops are always sell outs and the feedback is superb, so if you are interested in finding out more email us today sarah@mediabird.co.uk and we can send you some more info and add you to our mailing list to receive regular updates from us.

Another new venture for us that has been growing for the last two years, is our Positive Life Skills course. Although a bit of a departure from journalism and media work, this course is rooted in communication skills and planning the next phase of your life. Results from clients who have taken part are astonishing-more information coming soon on how to access the course.

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Planning anything  is made a lot easier by using a journal like this fantastic one from Self Journal which we love!

I promise you that you can now look forward to regular blog updates from the Mediabird team as we continue to grow and help more people to communicate effectively and creatively-all from a shed in the garden!

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The future of local news

IS THE FUTURE OF LOCAL NEWS HYPERLOCAL?

Local newspapers are really important, but in an age of increasing overheads, digital platforms and instant access to information are we in danger of losing them forever?

There is no denying that the print industry is struggling and every week another media company reports changes to its organisation. Some are making redundancies, restructuring or closing altogether, others are moving online and some are reducing their frequency. However you look at it, the landscape of local journalism and access to local news is changing-fast.

So how is it then that the Community Media Group in Oxford is not only surviving this downturn, but is actually growing, and printing more papers than ever before? The answer is in the word hyperlocal. Specific news services for specific communities.

Four years ago one community newspaper existed in Oxford, and it was and still is called Leys News. It was published once every two months. It remains the flagship title but is now produced every month.

From these humble but brilliant and inspired beginnings, 12 community newspapers have now emerged. Each one is professionally written, edited, designed and printed and each one has a very specific readership. The newspapers are part of a social enterprise that also provides free training for volunteers and some opportunities for paid employment. The newspapers survive financially through a mix of business activities, just like any other media enterprise and are produced to the same standards as any local newspaper.

Low cost advertising is sold both in individual newspapers and across the entire group which spans Oxford and Reading, and local organisations support the venture by sponsoring pages or sections of the papers. Cash is also raised by selling the business model to other communities who want to start their own newspaper, and funding from colleges, universities and local authorities helps to pay for training.

The newspapers exist in challenging and often historically troubled areas, and areas that are undergoing major regeneration projects. They promote community cohesion and help build relationships across communities by engaging with diverse populations. The newspapers provide hyperlocal news and information services and opportunities for local people to have a say in how they are run and the content that is included. The success of the papers has proved just how well this works.

The enterprise has developed from relying heavily on grants to apportioning just 30 per cent of its revenue to that now. Instead, other business activities have taken over to provide much needed financial stability and more importantly sustainability for the communities that receive the newspapers. This is also attractive to potential funders, whose support is still gladly received, as there is a clear business development pathway laid down by the management team. This demonstrates a strong commitment to the communities that the newspapers serve, and a genuine drive to grow the business further.

Over the last four years, the Community Media Group has trained 200 volunteers and is now working with the National Council for the Training of Journalists to offer the first training step towards a professional qualification in journalism.

Of course, the major financial difference between the group and a large media organisation is the size and scale of operations. With only three part time paid members of staff and a peppercorn rent , the overheads are minimal, and the newspapers are monthly, bi monthly or quarterly. Not daily or weekly.

The pressure that is encountered in mainstream local newspapers has no place in this environment as news is being handled for very different reasons and, indeed, it is fair to say that little hard news is featured in the newspapers. There is strong emphasis on celebrating success and featuring inspiring and aspirational stories to encourage readers to improve their lives.

Of course across the country there are countless local websites that offer everything from a detailed what’s on diary of events to hard hitting citizen journalism that tackles gritty, local issues by giving those most affected a voice and a platform. This is yet another example of how communities have taken the business of disseminating news into their own hands, primarily because of a lack of or change to, traditional local news outlets.

I have worked for many local newspapers during my career, and there is not a single colleague that I can think of who would have ever wanted their newspaper to close down. I trained as a journalist at a time when local news reporters had passion, energy and enthusiasm for the job and I have worked with some of the best. I am quite sure that editors today do not want their newspapers to close either, but unlike the Community Media Group, they have a lot of financial issues to contend with while still embracing the digital age. If the future of local journalism lies in third sector organisations producing community newspapers then so be it.

These are newspapers that have a very different place in our communities but with the demise of so many mainstream publications, you could well find that your community soon has a need for a hyperlocal news outlet too.

Gok Wan, fat backs and supermarkets

Hello dear reader. As we continue to hurtle towards the BIG DAY I thought I should update you on this week’s progress. Following a marvellously successful shopping trip to Ikea a couple of weeks of ago to purchase thousands of tea lights, vases, glasses and the obligatory meat ball and potato rosti meal deal, it was with a sharp intake of breath and overwhelming feeling of blind panic that I realised there was more than a distinct chance I would be saying I do “commando” if you know what I mean?

Finding the right underwear at any time is tricky, particularly if you are ‘blessed’ with undulating curves that refuse to be tamed by any amount of Lycra. The wedding dress I have chosen is a fifties style affair from the fantastic online dress retailer Lindy Bop, and fits a treat but I do have  a little wedge of back fat that keeps trying to ruin my beautiful, smooth silhouette!

I have tried a few undergarments on over the last few months but they all simply move any flab to another area-a bit like the effect you get with balloon modelling. Not a good look. Imagine my sheer delight then, when a beautiful parcel arrived this very morning containing what I can only describe as perfect underwear.

 

Gok Wan I love you!

Gok Wan I love you!

Yes I will admit that getting into it is a little tricky-especially on a very hot day, but it is SO worth it and I am sure you are all delighted and will be able to rest easy in your beds tonight, secure in the knowledge that the back fat is now (almost) under control.

Now…supermarkets. These are my least favourite places but having visited a brand spanking new one today, I have to say what a lovely retail experience it really was.
Yes, Bicester now has a Sainsbury’s hurrah! Of course the coming of the new supermarket has also led to some significant redevelopment in that area of town, and soon we will be enjoying a parade of fabulous and delightful new shops…ooo maybe there will be a H&M? Perhaps a Body Shop? Accesorize? Monsoon? Nope! Instead we are getting Nandos, Peacocks and a Sports Direct. Well you can’t have it all!
The new area is all very Euro with new signage and sort of faux cobbles. I also witnessed small groups of very tanned, well dressed beautiful young people standing around sipping iced lattes and chatting about art (no doubt). This is very un-Bicester, but how lovely to think that the young and beautiful are now attracted to our humble little town and not just the designer retail outlet Bicester Village. What an absolute cultural and retail coup! Sainsbury’s and the town planners must be SO proud.
Or maybe they were just lost and confused in the heat? I am sure I did hear one mumbling that she had tried and tried but still couldn’t find Prada…?