Thursday, 16 December 2010

Three trends for 2011

What are the three key digital trends for 2011? Here are some thoughts.

1. Location
Location based services haven't taken off yet, but smartphones are starting to go mainstream. 20% of adults currently have a smartphone in the UK, and this will rapidly increase in 2011.

Expect consumers to start using location to find their friends when they are out socialising. And expect retail brands to quickly start offering deals to groups of people who buy or eat together, as Gap, H&M and McDonald's (client) have already done in the USA. 48% of 18-24 year olds already have smartphones, so expect all of these to take off fastest for youth brands.

Smart brands will start to think about how to use this in more imaginative ways. Trade conferences, party political conferences, meetings, festivals and live music events are all obvious places that could use location effectively.

2. Social
Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerburg has repeatedly said that almost any experience is better if it's social. In other words our offline friends really matter to us - and make our online experience much better.

And Facebook's Like button has spread like wildlfire across the internet, showing that people love 'liking' things.

Personal endorsement by a friend is massively powerful - so it's not surprising that corporates are quickly catching on to the value of social plug-ins (such as 'Like' buttons and embedded Fan page boxes which show you what your friends have liked, commented on or shared). 2011 will be the year that social plug-ins move to become as popular as sharing buttons have.

And expect marketers to start becoming much more inventive in extending the socialness of their campaigns, whether it's photo tagging, Facebook's social plugins or simply incorporating fan pages into advertising and PR.

3. Data
Direct marketers have known the value of CRM databases for years. And webcentric businesses like Amazon have been very effective at using customer data to provide quality recommendations.

In 2011 more and more marketers will extend the use of this data across their marketing strategy. For instance:
  • Web traffic analysis from firms such as Hitwise (client) allows firms to understand what their target audiences do online, cross referenced with customer databases such as MOSAIC, and to benchmark themselves against their competitors.
  • Auditing and monitoring online allows firms to use the internet as a continual rolling focus group - telling them how consumers are perceiving advertising and experiencing products every day.
  • Narrative and messaging can be easily tested online before launch. A/B testing on websites, and pay-per-click advertising on Facebook (client) and Google allows firms to quickly and cheaply test creative concepts, tactical approaches language and competition.
  • Crowdsourcing and customer forums, such as those run by GiffGaff (client), Starbucks and Dell are a great source of creative ideas and day-to-day feedback on product experience.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Why digital can transform organisations

Here are three good reasons that digital can make organisations much more effective:

a) You can join up communications that are currently done separately - so reducing duplication and wasted messaging. So for instance you can create an integrated stakeholder, consumer and internal communications programme, rather than paying for 3 streams of activity.

b) You can also reduce duplication between the functions of the main business and communications. For instance integrated customer services and communications potentially allows your brand marketers to get daily customer insights at very low cost.

c) Measureability of digital is far better than conventional communications - so it's easy to rapidly understand what is and isn't working. This can be applied both at the strategic end of planning a campaign (e.g. testing alternative competitive spaces, testing messages) and at the execution end of the campaign (which media coverage actually drives sales?).

For a great example of a company that has put digital at the core of its entire corporate strategy, have a look at GiffGaff (a client of ours):

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Improving your personal brand online

How can you make sure that you have an effective personal brand online that attracts potential employers and clients?

It’s surprisingly easy to rapidly improve your showings in search engines and make yourself more findable. Here are five easy things to do:

  • Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date and complete. And make sure that your ‘public profile’ (which is what Google indexes) is complete. Somebody we know recently updated his profile and got a series of former colleagues to recommend him. A month later he was working in 10 Downing Street.

  • Invite your contacts to be your connection on LinkedIn. It’s extremely easy to upload your entire address book from Outlook and invite hundreds of contacts to connect. The more people who are connected to you, the easier you are to find.

  • Link up your Facebook profile, Twitter account, LinkedIn account and anything else you do online. Services such as Posterous and Hootsuite make it very easy to share one piece of content (for instance an article you have written) on your blog, Twitter feed and Facebook page / profile all simultaneously.

  • Upload any public presentations you’ve done recently onto Scribd. Presentations on there are very visible for search engines – especially if you tag your presentations appropriately.

And if you want proof that these points work – Google ‘Rob Blackie’.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Getting people to attend your events

Thanks to my colleague and campaign guru (and author of the great Obama London blog) Karin Robinson for these hints about using email to get people to attend events:

Most people, if they see [an email telling them about an event]... might think, "That sounds interesting, I might try to come along" but having made no explicit commitment they are highly likely to be "busy" when the moment comes.

However, if you ask them to e-mail you if they want to attend then 1) you can hint that there are limited spaces making it more attractive because a slightly rarer opportunity 2) you can then reply to them saying "Thanks for coming! I'll let the team know you're coming and we'll make sure to save you a place." - thus manufacturing a deeper sense of commitment and 3) You can then follow up with an e-mail just to the RSVPs reminding them that they've confirmed to come - people are more likely to attend an event if they get a personalised reminder.

Friday, 26 November 2010

What can we learn about digital from JFK?

In 1960 the first Presidential debates were held.

Richard Nixon, incumbent Vice-President, campaigned until a few hours beforehand, hadn't fully recovered from an illness and refused make-up (which he thought was effeminate).

Among voters who heard the debate on the radio Nixon's experience trumped Kennedy's youthfulness. But the larger audience who watched on TV thought that Kennedy had won. Kennedy subsequently pulled ahead in the polls and went on to win the election by a nose.

Nixon essentially lost the election because he didn't put on make-up. Or more broadly his advisers didn't understand that TV debates would be different from traditional town halls or the radio. The technology had changed, but their strategy hadn't.

What mistakes are being made in communications today which will look as basic as refusing make-up in 1960?

My starter would be mistaking digital for just another way of broadcasting your message to your audience. Yes it is valuable for broadcasting to large numbers of people - but that's a very narrow way to see it. Facebook's genius is that it realises that a lot of the time, most of us prefer spend time consuming relevant content produced by our amateur friends than from professional entertainers.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Tracking the impact of a story online - a partial solution

Many 'influence trackers' online implicitly assume that all mentions of an issue online are equally meaningful. This is clearly rubbish - not least because different websites have very different sized audiences online.

There's no easy way to crack this - because there isn't a public directory of the number of users that most websites have.

However on Twitter at least you can see how many followers a user has - which allows you to have a decent stab at estimating reach for stories which are discussed on Twitter.

The helpful website aggregates followers for each mention of a specific URL and gives you a reach figure. So for today's BBC story on a camera that can take photos round corners, it gives a Twitter reach of 281,000.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

A basic online campaigning guide part 3 - message

Your overall messaging is a bigger picture than will be covered by this guide. But people often neglect how online analytics can help you refine your message.

Here are four easy things you can do to test your message:

1. Do split tests on emails that you send out - with different messages in the subject lines of messages to different people, to see what is most likely to persuade people to open the emails.

2. Use the click analytics on these emails to find out which subjects people want to find out more about. This is obviously has similarities to 1. but you can test a wider range of subjects.

3. Web page comparisons - as with emails test how people respond to different messages. An excellent example of how this was done is provided by the Obama Presidential campaign.

4. Use advertising metrics. Facebook and Google adwords make it very easy to test different versions of adverts that are shown to the same audience. You can rotate primary messages, wording, pictures etc. and measure how your audiences react.

Corporates routinely use market research to inform their campaigns. And they routinely use message testing tactically for individual email campaigns. But it's surprising how few are using online testing to test their overall corporate narratives, or even competitive creative treatments on different marketing campaigns.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Why influence scores are fairly meaningless

Number 10 Downing Street is given a Klout score of 51. While WiredUK is given a (higher) Klout score of 56.

Nicely illustrating that your ability to gather lots of friends, and even disseminate your message online, is not really the same thing as influence.

Tools like Klout, and the influence tools offered by most online monitoring services, aren't completely meaningless. But without analysis and insight they are fairly meaningless.

Monday, 25 October 2010

A basic online campaigning guide - Part 2a - Strategy for building your databases -Building your Facebook support

The most important single thing you can do to boost your support on Facebook (a client of mine) is to use Facebook pages.

Why Facebook pages
Facebook page status updates appear in your fans' newsfeeds, so allow you to appear where people spend 80% of their time on Facebook.

Unlike a personal Facebook profile, where you are limited to 5,000 friends, there is no upper limit on the number of fans you can have.

Install a Facebook page widget on your other websites
If you do this people who visit your other websites will see a window on your site showing some of your fans on your Facebook page. People who visit your page, who are also logged into Facebook (extremely common now), will see their friends who are already your fans endorsing you.

Obviously since a personal endorsement from a friend is extremely powerful, this is a great help in recruiting more fans.

Look to the right of this post to see an example for me.

Advertise your page in offline materials
The easiest way to promote your page in offline materials such as leaflets and advertising is to get a vanity URL such as - which is both easier to put on offline literature and better optimised for search engines such as Google.

Facebook's self service advertising can be highly targeted based on a combination of:
  • Workplace
  • Education
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Interests
The quality of the targeting means that a high proportion of clicks should convert to fans - so in some circumstances it can be very valuable. I find it particularly valuable where a brand has a well defined set of fans who are already enthusiastic.

The official Facebook guide to adverts is worth a read.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A basic online campaigning guide - Part 2a - Strategy for building your databases

Most online campaigners naturally want as much control over when they send out their messages, to who and exactly what they say.

The most common online databases that need to be maintained now are:
  • Mobile numbers (increasingly there is an overlap between mobile text messages and internet use)
  • Email addresses (used by almost everyone online)
  • Facebook (used by the majority of the online population)
  • Twitter (still relatively small but useful in many circumstances
Here are some simple things you can do to boost the numbers of people you have in each.

1. Building email and mobile phone number lists
  • Gather up all your existing emails from everyone in your organisation. Clarify the permissions you have, and, if necessary, contact people to re-confirm their opt-ins
  • Make email sign up forms prominent on your website, and on every offline response slip you create
  • Use email as the primary way to register for events
  • Collect emails at events
  • Use petitions where the primary way of signing up is by email. This is the main recruitment mechanism used by Avaaz.
  • Create a funnel of people who might be interested to sign up and ask them if they want to sign up. Conversion rates can be very high. Sources include Facebook friends and pages, Twitter followers, email contacts (many people have hundreds saved so even in a small organisation there are a lot) and Customer relationship databases / other general databases. Simply contact these people and ask them to sign up.
This will be the subject of a separate article, but in brief the key things you need to do are:
  • Use a Facebook page, not a group, because your status updates appear in your fans' newsfeeds (where people spend 80% of their online time)
  • Get a vanity URL such as - which is both easier to put on offline literature and better optimised for search engines such as Google.
This will also be the subject of a separate article, but as with Facebook and email one of the crucial elements of building a following is to cross-promote your Twitter feed via Facebook and email and vice versa.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

A basic online campaigning guide - Part 1 - Contents

Over the next few months I'm creating a brief guide to basic online campaigning - one piece at a time, as a reference material for all the people I work with on this.

Here's a brief overview of the process:

1. What's your objective? Commonly this might be to gain votes in an election or to persuade a council to build (or not build) something.

2. What is your strategy for using online campaigning? Which online channels do your audiences use most? How can you build your support on Facebook, increase the number of email addresses you have or increase your number of Twitter followers?

4. How can you get your message to as many people as possible? Usually this is a mixture of outreach to popular websites (etc.) and using your own databases to direct contact people.

5. How can you creatively make your message as effective as possible at translating into action? What has worked in the past?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Google's creative internet

A great source of ideas here from Google. 119 slides - so exhausting to try and consume in one go.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Monday, 13 September 2010

Digital trends and inspiration for September

Here's our digital trends and inspiration email for September. If you'd like to sign up just click here:

Who is influential online?

HP labs, who operate at academic levels of rigour rather than the back-of-an-envelope level that’s common online, have come up with some interesting research on who is influential online. Find out more here:

Getting holiday recommendations from friends
If you sign in to Tripadvisor using Facebook, it tells you which of your friends have been to your possible holiday destination. So when I look up Los Angeles, I’m told that my friends Jonathan and Simon are currently living there, LA is hometown to Jerome and 34 others have visited on work and holidays.

Facebook places
Facebook places allows you to tell your friends (and brands) where you are, and launches in the UK soon. For instance, you can go to your local pub and find out which friends are nearby and arrange to meet them. We’re convinced that this will be one of the most important technological innovations of this decade. Have a look at the launch video:
(Disclaimer – we work for Facebook)

A couple of good Twitter feeds for you from Blue Rubicon (if we say so ourselves)

Googling foreign policy
The US State Department have had an innovative approach to using the internet in foreign policy. Jared Cohen, who has headed this effort is now moving to Google’s ‘think/do tank’.,0

Obama’s internal communications
We continue to think that the internal communications of the Obama campaign were underappreciated. Here is Obama campaign manager David Plouffe explaining why Obama supporters should make phone calls, and give money, for this November’s American election. The video is low key and unglamorous but we expect that the impact on the 23,000 people who watched was significant.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Is this the beginning of the death of magazines?

‘The death of....’ is usually rubbish. But this one makes me wonder.

A new iPad application called Flipboard turns online content into a magazine on your desktop. And it makes it looks like a magazine (closer to The Times magazine than Hello at present).

It bridges a very important gap. Professionally produced content tends to be presented well, even when the content is poor. User generated content tends to be presented badly, even when the content is superb.

Flipboard means that there is a level playing field for content, and is prioritised on the basis of its interest to the reader (as Facebook does on the basis of your behaviour, but also prioritising things like the people you interact with and retweets). So it’s rather cleverly combined the best of UGC with the best of traditional media.

It’s a long video on Scobleizer’s blog, but worth a watch:

Posted via email from Rob's posterous

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Crowdsourcing an iPhone app

Giff Gaff* is a people powered mobile phone network - who get their core business mainly done by their customers.

So I'm pleased to see that one of their customers has designed an iPhone app for them, now in the Apple Store.

As my digitally native colleague Lisa (who spotted this) says 'bloody brilliant'.

*Declaration of interest - a client - but this is actually a result of their core business model rather than something we've done for them.

Posted via email from Rob's posterous

Monday, 12 July 2010

Building a website for free in 15 seconds

Around half of people I talk to about new websites just need a Posterous site.

In a nutshell Posterous is very useful because:

·         It creates a website for you instantly and for free, just from sending an email to

·         It can then re-post this material to any other websites you want. I get it to automatically post my blog postings to Twitter, Facebook and my Blogger blog, as well as sending photos to my Flickr account.

·         It’s search engine friendly – so comes up prominently in Google without any fiddling.

·         There’s no need to brief anyone or build anything difficult.

This is why I often recommend that people use it.

Posted via email from Rob's posterous

Monday, 5 July 2010

The worst use of polling I've seen for months

Childwise have done a poll on whether children are scared by adults drunk. Potentially quite an interesting issue.

But their interpretation of the results is bonkers. They say that one third of children are scared by adults who are drinking too much. Which is sad and clearly matters.

But they then go on to say that nearly half of children aren't bothered by drunkeness - and that this is disturbing too.

So basically it's disturbing if children are scared or not scared by drinking.

Posted via email from Rob's posterous

Friday, 4 June 2010

Social media monitoring

What's the best way to assess the relevance of an article or brand name appearing online?

One way might be to consider how many people might have seen the article or brand name. Essentially that's what PR and advertising have traditionally done by publishing Opportuities To See (OTS).

The cost of good audience measurement tools like Comscore means that this approach is very rare (apart from being applied to the biggest websites which take part in ABCe). Not only that but it doesn't give useful measurements for the huge audiences in the long tail (e.g. it can't tell you how many people read this blog)

Another way might be to recognise that some eyeballs are more valuable than others. So if you are trying to sell pensions, readership by lots of teenagers is probably irrelevant.

Demographics data is also expensive to buy, and isn't very relevant to most brands. Afterall if you are selling aftershave then you probably want to market to people who buy aftershare.

So a slightly more sophisticated way of social media measurement might be to assess whether potential customers (etc.) have seen your brand online. Again virtually nobody does this.

Amazingly the approaches that social media measurement firms sell essentially come down to two measures:

1. How many times is the brand mentioned online?

This is utterly barking, implicitly saying that the small/exclusive readership of this blog is the same as the BBC's website. Yet I have recently seen major campaigns assessed on the basis of them receiving 250 mentions online - without any idea of the audience of each mention.

2. Is it influential- as measured by the number of links to the article and similar measures?

This is slightly less mad, but you can imagine there's a lot of wriggle room for what 'influential' means. Radian6 - one of the widely used social media monitoring tools allows you to combine 'on topic mentions', links, comments, and a few other things to create a measure of influence.

Still a bit odd, but it doesn't really reflect that who you are trying to influence and why you are trying to influence them may be important. For instance you may find that Burnley football discussion is very influential on Alastair Campbell, but that doesn't imply that you should start in depth lobbying on capital gains tax on Burnley's football discussion forums.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Huge Facebook poll points to hung Parliament

Facebook users vote for hung parliament in ground-breaking ‘snap election’


-Social media election kicks off by revealing that a third of women voters are still undecided-


The UK is heading for a period of political gridlock according to a ground-breaking ‘snap election’ on Facebook, held within hours of Gordon Brown’s election announcement.


Voters on Facebook put the Tories marginally ahead with 33.0% of the vote. But due to the quirks of the electoral system, Labour’s vote of 28.6% could still be enough to make it the largest party, potentially leading to the first hung parliament since 1974 and weeks of wrangling over who will form the next government.


If these results were replicated nationwide, 6 May would see 293 Labour MPs returned to Parliament, 265 Conservative and 59 Liberal Democrat. This would mean that for the first time since 1974, the party with the most votes would not win the most seats.


With 2010 dubbed the first ever social media election, 16,000 Facebook users participated in the snap election today, just 90 minutes after Prime Minister Gordon Brown had publicly declared an election and three weeks after Facebook launched its Democracy UK fan page, bringing people and politics together.


Within 20 minutes of the snap election being called, the results put the Conservative Party in the lead with 33.0% of those planning to vote on 6 May, the Labour Party in second place with 28.6% and the Liberal Democrats on 17.5%. A large block of voters – 20.8% - are rejecting mainstream parties altogether.


With a month to go until polling day, the snap election reveals that almost a quarter of voters – 22.5% - have yet to make up their minds. And the results show that women could be the ones who decide the outcome of the 2010 general election, with just under a third (29.6%) undecided about whom they would vote for – twice as many as men (14.6%). 


The rapid results show that although voters are turning their backs on Labour, they are not necessarily endorsing the Conservative Party as their preferred alternative.


Over half of respondents were 18- 24 year olds, the majority of whom will be voting for the first time this year. Amongst 18-24 year olds 32.1 % backed the Conservatives, versus 29.5% backing Labour. But the results show little variation across the generations – even when weighted for age, the snap election still shows a hung parliament with Labour the largest party.


Richard Allan, Director of Policy, Europe at Facebook said:


“Facebook users have today delivered their verdict on who they would like to rule the country and it’s clear that although people are rejecting the Labour Party, they are not yet endorsing the Conservatives. The election remains too close to call and a significant number of voters are undecided


“With a month to go until the UK heads to the polls it’s clear that if they want to secure election success parties will have to convince those undecided voters, women in particular, that they have the policies and people to make a genuine difference to people’s lives.


“With 16,000 people voting in only 20 minutes in our snap election, it is clear that social networking sites like Facebook will play a massive role in helping voters to make up their minds.”


For more information

Please contact Sally Aldous, Matthew Burchell, Lotte Jones, or Laurie Erlam at or 0207 260 2700


Notes to editors


1.    More than 16,000 people voted in the Facebook snap election which took place between 12:40 – 1:15pm. Ballot papers appeared in the right-hand side of Facebook user’s newsfeeds.


2.    Users were asked: With Gordon Brown calling the 2010 general election, have your say TODAY in Facebook’s snap election. Which political party will you vote for in the general election on 6 May?


·         Labour

·         Conservative

·         Liberal Democrat

·         Other (e.g. Green, UKIP, SNP, Plaid Cymru)

·         I haven’t decided who I’m voting for


3.    The results were:






Snap poll results





Weighted by age






























Projected seats




Projected seats (weighted by age)







Snap poll results



Weighted by age




















4.    Seat projections were made using

5.    Facebook’s general election fan page is:


Media enquiries should be directed to or you can phone 020 7260 2700 and ask for a member of the Facebook team.

Posted via email from Rob's posterous

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Hyper local bloggers report better than the Guardian

It’s a bit of a complex story, but a summary is that local bloggers are often now doing a better job than the national media.

In 2005 in Kennington a secondary school called Lilian Baylis got moved to a new site.

The use of the old site has been much debated locally since then.

The Guardian today majored on a report that claimed that Lambeth council is about to become a ‘John Lewis’ council, using this site as the primary case study.

It turns out, if you do good old fashioned journalism (as the Lurking about SE11 blog has), that the Guardian have been completely spun by the council’s press officers – and have bought the story that the lovely council have saved the site from being privatised – and instead have turned it into a lovely cuddly mutual. Instead it seems that the truth is a lot more complex.

I won’t try and explain a very complex story any further, but it struck me as interesting that even the Guardian (with relatively large journalistic resources) have failed to do basic journalism (like talking to more than one side of a story). Lurking about SE11's email and article are below:

Former Lilian Baylis costing tax payer £380,000 per year. Election Looming. Answers please.

Posted: 18 Feb 2010 05:12 AM PST

So, I may not be the South London press and I might not get paid, and I haven't been to Journalist School (see Jason Cobb's recent comment battle on the SLP), but this blog has a fair old readership now, so I think it's fair to point out, once again, that the former Lilian Baylis site is costing Lambeth taxpayers £380,000 per year to maintain, there's been no progress in terms of developing it or selling it to a community organisation or private buyer, and there's an election coming up.

Back on October 22nd 2009, I sent a query about the former Lilian Baylis site to Steve Reed, asking, "Has the council issued statement on status of former Lilian Baylis bid by ANC? Rumour says the bid is off, but pls confirm." I received a Direct Message from Steve Reed, advising that the council were, "Still negotiating a consortium to run the old school site, details public soon, intending it shd represent the whole community not just part".

Fair enough. I can wait, I thought. After all, the thing only kicked off in 2005, so we wouldn't want to rush matters. (For a comprehensive post, and history, see my catchup on the definitive history of the former Lilian Baylis.)

Eventually, on the 14th December 2009, Lambeth council issued a decision to decommission the project from having as its focus the All Nations Church (ANC). Reasons as to why they did this vary slightly, depending on whom you ask. There was some local opposition to the ANC (a faith group) having the "lead partner" stake in buying a Council building that is currently essentially a community resource. However, there are also rumours that the ANC were, by last year, only able to buy the building for a considerably smaller amount than they had originally offered (bear in mind that the Council would have given them a favourable rate, compared to the land's market value). The Council state in a report dated 14th December, (this one is quite an interesting document which I'll dissect below), "Ultimately, the terms of the offers by ANC presented an unacceptable risk of challenge to the council and other elements of the proposed leasehold terms were also unacceptable in principle." and also, "The offer proposed by ANC entailed a substantial discount below market value, which the council could not justify through demonstartion of public benefit."

Remember back in February 2009 (see old council .pdf here) that the "hub" group were to comprise the ANC, the Sport's Action Zone (SAZ) and Ethelred Nursery. It appears now that the ANC have been "dropped" from official plans (although, apparently, "The decision not to progress negotiations with ANC does not prejudice or preclude ANC’s involvement in alternative delivery arrangements."). However, the new December 14th plan is to try and move forward with both Sports Action Zone (Kate Hoey is the patron of this organisation) and the Ethelred Nursery. It is highly unlikely that either of these organisations have any money (SAZ isn't even a legal entity), so...

What might Lambeth Council do?

Let's see what they suggest in the December 14th plan:

1. "Pursuit of a maximised social and community outcomes approach is likely to be an overall capital cost to the council council, i.e., the cost of development would be greater than any capital receipt."

Translation: It costs money to pay for community facilities, when we wouldn't make money from those facilities. And in any case, we're not terribly interested in providing Leisure facilities. See Jason Cobb's post on the privatisation of Lambeth leisure facilities.

2. "The overall capital gain to the council would be maximised if the site were disposed on the open market."

Translation: Actually, we'd make more money (and we don't have much of this right now), if we were to sell the development.

[I can see that this one is going to be a bit troublesome, come the election, since the Lib Dems wanted to sell the building off, before they changed their minds, a few years ago... So, you can see the accusations flying, Labour: "you wanted to sell", Lib Dem: "you said you'd develop, Lab: "you changed your mind", Lib Dem: "we didn't exactly... but in any case, you want to sell now", blah, blah, blah, let's pre-empt that boring old battle...]

3. "Potentially, the overall capital gain might be greater if other sites in the area were included in the redevelopment process allowing for the reconfiguration and consolidation of community outcomes on particular sites and realisation of the full development value of other sites."

Translation: We could make even more money, if we were to sell off some other bits of land. (This might allude to the Beaufoy, Lollard St playground and Kerrin point (or all of them). Would be useful to know the proposals because it's a far reaching statement.

4. "Note that the listed building status conferred on the site restricts the scope for development and agree for officers to investigate how this might be addressed in order to enable suitable development options." and "The listing of buildings of this period is not without controversy and presents a number of problems and constraints in this instance."

Translation: Let's try to get the building delisted, because then we can sell it off for more money, and don't have to worry about English Heritage. Interestingly, even the car park is listed (a result of some kind of ancient Council vendetta). We need to get all of this stuff delisted ASAP, so that we can get this building off our hands.

5. "To date the council have resisted pursuing the possible delisting of the site on the basis that there is little prospect of the Secretary of State agreeing. The council failed to stop the listing originally and no new evidence has been forthcoming to challenge the English Heritage assessment of the building’s special interest."

Translation: We're a bit doomed, really!

6. "Increasing this estimate by construction inflation and factoring in the likely further deterioration in the condition of the property, a capital investment of as much as £10m may be required to bring the buildings back into an acceptable condition."

Translation: We're even more doomed. These buildings cost a fortune to repair, we have no money, and nobody will pay enough for them, considering that they're listed, and we can't figure out how to delist them, and the Secretary of State will never do it. Wah!

7. "The site and buildings are insured as part of the council’s building insurance contract which includes a regular programme of health and safety inspection. It is possible that future inspections will identify works which would need to completed in order to ensure continuity of use and as a consequence may affect the Council’s ability to maintain the continued insurance of the property."

Translation: If the building fails a health and safety inspection, we don't have enough money to fix it, and nobody will be able to use it at all. We need to sell it off really really quickly.

8. "Since 2005 SAZ have been successful in attracting considerable external investment (Nike, Barclays Spaces for Sports, Football Foundation) and voluntary investment which has helped to transform the complex into a successful community facility. SAZ is negotiating currently to bring in up to £4m of capital funding for a community basketball initiative, with an ambition to provide a basketball facility and venue of international standard."

Translation: Even though the building might fail a health and safety inspection, we really like this SAZ organisation, and they're good for the area. Also, they're backed by Kate Hoey, so it would be politically embarrassing to try and dispose of them.

9. "Over the past month more detailed work has taken place across Council departments to specify the outcomes sought from the site, in particular with Cultural Services with view to a significant sports/leisure focus of activity on the site and with CYPS around education, young persons and play facilities, including provision for a new ENCC."

Translation: We installed a 12 metre (yes, that is right) swimming pool. What else do you want?


To be fair, at the 14th December meeting, Cllr Ashley Lumsden (Opposition leader), ask whether the Council outcomes stated in the December 14th 2009 report were the same ones as desired by the residents. Well, you may indeed ask! I certainly would.

Make of that what you will, but I doubt any movement (in terms of either sale or significant development) will be made in, ooh, let's say, the next 12 months (even with a change in administration). I'll write another post next year, around February 2011, keeping you up to date.

The question is, Cllr Reed, who is the consortium you said would be running the old school site? The clock is ticking, and the election looms....

[Believe it or not, I had not read Peter Walker's Guardian article here, in which he seems utterly unaware that the current administration has suggested selling the site (and possibly other sites) to maximise capital, but it's a prime example of why hyperlocal bloggers do possess a much broader picture than some of the national press.]