4IP and Slugger teaming up to seek out a new form of networked journalism…

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You will no doubt have heard the news that Channel 4′s 4IP fund is joining forces with Slugger to build a new and bespoke platform to further promote political conversations online (there’s a good piece on the BBC NI site as well). Ewan McIntosh has most of the detail of the deal and what we are aiming to achieve at the 4IP blog. For my part I view it as an opportunity get beyond bewailing how the new media has destroyed the old business models and start to build new ones, particularly if it can help facilitate closer and more intelligent (not to mention more honest) conversations between politicians and local people.The agreement with 4IP sees us enter a relationship. You’ll see the first products of that in the new year when we’ll be launching a brand new platform that in the first instance will enable to disaggregate our content into new regional front pages that enable us to give concentrated attention to the political game in other political hot spots in Scotland, the Republic, Wales, Westminster and Europe.

That will entail a huge resource and network building exercise and it very much remains to be seen whether we can achieve that in the terms we currently envisage. The sums of money are modest and will be focused on small and tightly defined projects.

Lastly the money from 4IP will enable us to tidy up Slugger and bring closer it to the front edge of digital content sharing. The sums of money are modest and focused on small and VERY tightly defined projects. That way we can take risks, manage costs and retain our motivation innovate.

For the more suspicious amongst you, it won’t be paying anyone’s wages. That, if it comes, will likely derive from working with other partners eager to experiment with new forms of digital content production or who want to engage in robust (ie honest) conversations with their stakeholders.

The first seven years of Slugger O’Toole has been both surprising and lot of fun along the way. I hope the next seven years will be just as fun and just as surprising (in the same good way)…

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  • OC

    Congrats, Mick Fealty!

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    I’m as fond of Mick as the next Tory voting West Brit, but what McIntosh wrote was a pile of splooge, specifically:

    I’m particularly fond of Slugger’s ethic of “play the ball not the man”. ‘People want to debate the issues, not the politicians’, believes its founder Mick Fealty. Many of his political blogger compadres would and do disagree. But when we’ve excluded the political hacks and scandal junkies, the vast majority of us want change on specific issues and we want a place to debate them where our politicians see our view. Slugger provides that. In spades.

    It doesn’t matter what metric you use – column [sic] inches, hits, publicity, ‘impact’, comments – but the meat and drink of slugger is *precisely* hackish logrolling, feckless rumour-mongering, and, slabbering loons. It’s, moreover, an as inside the beltway a product as you could dread to find. That’s just one of the reasons why, its virtues to the likes of me notwithstanding, it’s utterly incapable of developing a credible revenue stream (you know, like wot those dinosaurs in the MSM all still manage to limp along with). Hence it’s why a sugar daddy has been sought and found. This is hardly to Slugger’s, let alone Mick’s discredit. It’s exactly the same model ConservativeHome (which doesn’t even manage to attract paid-for ads) uses in the shape of Michael Ashcroft.

    But for those who query why, for example, the state needs to own an ‘alternative’ telly station in the first place, let alone it then engage in sub-Beebish off-remit empire building, the fact that said statist moloch is now muscling in on what was previously the lovely, private and voluntarist world of Slugger is deeply depressing. This is *not* good news, and may well mark the slow but terminal moment for this site. It’s one thing for Mick to think like a civil servant, it’s quite another for him to become one.

  • percy
  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    No. Next.

    One more thing: the Slugger brand isn’t ‘exportable’. In fact, it makes my eyes bleed thinking on the public funds that are going to be wasted trying to convince eg some sadso equivalent of me in Swansea/Sw1 who has an analogue interest in Welsh politics that he should spout off about that under the aegis of Slugger4. It’s not going to happen, but it is going to waste plenty of public wonga in the process of trying and failing. Which means that the civil servicing of this place starts even earlier than I had feared! (Oh, and being a good Tory pessimist, the upshot of doing a Gerry Anderson, cf. ‘Anderson Country’ is that the core brand, the thing that was actually working, will be ruined, through neglect or otherwise being squandered whilst eyes are on other implausible balls).

  • percy

    LTU
    where are you getting this idea of “the state” or “public funds” being involved in the Slugger project?

  • Jason Walsh

    percy

    Ch-4 is after a ‘top-slice’ of the licence fee.

    LTU

    Agree Slugger is ‘inside the beltway’ but am assuming the plan is to take it outside to a wider audience.

  • OC

    I would say that LTU’s salient point is not so much any public funding, but rather the end of an era for Slugger. Be that as it may.

    I see it as a continuing evolution in facilitating a political/social dialogue amoungst the various factions in NI.

    It started, IMO, in the late ’90s with the Belfast Telegraph’s on-line letters to the editor, which was in reality a form of blog where the conversation was started by participants, but monitored for obscenity/copyright/criminal content by BT – an expensive and time consumming labour, where one’s posts didn’t show up until the next day.

    At the same time, other major newspapers began similar on-line experiments wherein no monitoring was done at all.

    Slugger’s policy was middle-of-the-road as far as monitoring user comments, and Slugger O’Toole controlled what topics were to be open for discussion (the true blog). One is not even required to register to comment (and hope it remains so).

    Alas, LTU may be right, but hope he’s not.

    But if he is, the Internet is still wide open for, say, LaughingToryUnionist.com to fill the vacuum.

  • percy

    thanks jason,
    now I know LTU’s fear of “reds under the beds” is actually real.

  • Cynic

    LTU,
    No doubt there’s a few of those “slabbering loons” who, under their tinfoil hats, have always approached this site with the sneaking suspicion that (unbeknownst to the owner) it is a state enterprise. The means to find out what the “loons” are thinking might just be going macro.

    The meat and drink of Slugger is the gift that keeps on (and will keep on) giving …sectarian hatred. But if you can use that hatred and turn it into a key that opens doors and raises your personal profile, then more power to you. The means might be novel but the game is tried and tested and us “slabbering loons” queueing up to take part form an endless line.

    But one suspects the founder, having opened some of those doors,is now gravitating into places where the aforesaid loons are cut with what he believes is much more substantial cloth and will hold on to the original enterprise only as Security.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    Percy, it’s marginally obscure from your post, but just in case you don’t know this, Ch4 is a wholly state-owned company. Personally, I’ve no more desire to see Slugger nationalised than I did to see the banks fall into Brown’s hands.

  • Jason Walsh

    LTU

    Indeed CH-4 is state-owned but, unless top-slicing has taken effect (I haven’t followed the debate for a while) it’s not in receipt of state funds. A curate’s egg.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    I’m not sure what you’re missing Jason, but state-owned is state-owned is state-owned. A trading company owned by the state is state-owned just as much as a postbox is. So all i can do is frepeat what I have said: I’d rather the man didn’t get his paws on Slugger. He’s more than enough to be keeping himself busy without worrying about something that was doing perfectly fine as a voluntary, private concern. And when, as it inevitably will (just wait and see how arguments about commenting change once Ch4 has to cover its corporate arse) Slugger is ruined by the state, either it’s gone for good, or, someone will step into the void and supply us all with another Sluggeralike, unowned by a state-owned company. Personally, being a dull Tory, I’m quite happy with things the way they are.

  • joeCanuck

    Mick,
    That sounds exciting. Change can be very good, indeed, and I, for one, am looking forward to it.
    Hope we can maintain a mainly N.I. perspective in some corner.

  • Jason Walsh

    I’m not missing anything, LTU. My views on the state are complex. Unlike most on the left I am not in favour of nationalisation because it is not public ownership as claimed by its proponents, but rather state ownership – a rather different proposition. In addition, I am aware of the fact that at present private business is on life-support from the state (not that business sucking on the teat of government largesse is at all unusual, it’s just much more obvious at the moment). Britain has spent £1,200 billion so far bailing out banks. That’s free-enterprise in no sense of either word.

    “A trading company owned by the state is state-owned just as much as a postbox is.”

    I agree but it generates its operating revenue as would a private company rather than directly from the taxpayer. It’s a small point, I acknowledge that. Presumably there was some capital investment prior to launch in 1982 but I don’t know for sure. That may even have been private money under the aegis of ITV, such was the previous revenue model for CH-4 whereby ITV did its ad sales for it on the basis of commission.

    Dull, exiting, somewhere in-between, Tory, social democrat, anarchist, socialist, corporatist or anything else, we’ll all see when it comes to pass. I’m not ready to ring the bells of lamentation for Slugger’s passing just yet.

  • oneill

    “And when, as it inevitably will (just wait and see how arguments about commenting change once Ch4 has to cover its corporate arse)”

    I suppose that’ll be the true test of whether the site has retained its independence. I can’t see the typical Slugger comment thread on, off the top of my head, the Orange Order, the NI football team, Jim Allister, doing much for any corporate (even that of C4′s) image. Though, whether a tightening up of the comments’ regime on here would be for the detriment of the site as a whole’s readability and quality is another question pissing in the gale…

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    Jason, the point you are very obviously missing is not that Ch4 is in receipt of state funds, but a.) that it dispenses them, by being an asset of the state &, much less pertinently, b.) by gaining any income, it of course thereby displaces genuinely private activity.

  • Comrade Stalin

    LTU:

    I’m not sure what you’re missing Jason, but state-owned is state-owned is state-owned.

    But your comment might imply that it is funded out of taxation. Which it isn’t, and that’s what needs to be clear here.

  • Jason Walsh

    LTU

    Your latter point is correct (with caveats, such as that its original mandate would be unlikely to displace anything the market would bother to supply, though its programming in recent years would be better supplied by a private channel) but the former is questionable.

    Ch-4 is clearly operating at at least arm’s length from the state, so it’s a stretch to say that it is dispensing state funds. Nothing Ch-4 doles out cash to is directly supporting the state’s current political agenda (whatever that might be) though I do accept that it is always going to have a kind of establishment bias. You are correct that it is unlikely to do much more than, at most, give a little shake the hand that feeds it (the one that gives it a licence to operate), certainly not bite it. From my perspective the whole public-private dichotomy/battle/whatever is more than a little bit phoney.

    For all that, though, isn’t it a bit early to be dispensing doom and gloom? Shouldn’t we just wait and see?

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    My comment ‘implied’ nothiong of the sort: my comment said what it said, which is that Ch4 is state owned. I don’t know how many jesuitical pinheads you can get to dance on the head of an angel, but clearly left wing sluggerettes are determined to be dim as dim can be tonight.

    And just to repeat for the benefit of you lot in the special needs commenting section, when a state-owned company p*sses away its cash on anything, up to and including trans-galactic Slugger 10.0, it’s p*ssing away public funds. Okay, we’re all up to speed now? Ch4 is state-owned: arms of the state shouldn’t be owning Slugger any more than they should be owning newspapers or charities or football clubs.

  • Mick Fealty

    Best conversation on Slugger for a while… keep it going lads!!!

  • percy

    Mick,
    here’s one for you:
    would you be prepared to publish here on Sluggers the terms of
    user?contract you are going to have with your new sponsors?
    That would settle the arguement between Jason and LTU.

  • OC

    I guess that any broadcast media, other than pirate radio, is State owned, as eg the FCC decides which stations are allowed to broadcast, and on what frequencies.

    submit word = somewhat

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    By OC’s argument you may as well say that when those of you who drive to work do so, your cars are state-owned because you’re driving along state-owned words. But as, somehow, this ‘argument’ is still going on, one more time: the Telegraph, Newsletter, Guardian, Times, ITV, CH5, Sky and, oh, Virgin, are all examples of privately owned media companies. Whereas, the BBC, Ch4 and RTE are all state-owned. And if you don’t appreciatew the difference between the two, just you wait until Ch4 gets its hands on Slugger, to whatever extent it’s going to. Slugger’s doomed.

  • Mick Fealty

    LTU,

    “To whatever extent it’s going to…”

    It’s a relationship not a take over. Frankly C4 is in no position to take anyone over. The 4IP is a relatively small amount of tightly managed investment cash. It will help us do some things that I’ve been wanting to do for sometime. It also opens the door for other investors.

    But I don’t want to work with anyone who wants to squeeze the very life out of Slugger that’s give it its career thus far. Disrupting silences is what we’ve been about, and we have to find a way of doing that and monetising it whilst we’re about it.

    I was at pains to point out above the investment is time bound and trained on the making of things. There is NO cross subsidy for blogging. Slugger is and will remain a private enterprise. And I still get to crack people out when they are out of order.

    The first tranche is about building the new site. The second will be for building a new commenting tool which will be open source and available to other bloggers who want to garner serious debate on their own blogs. And I have plans for other developing new approaches to the problem of collapsing journalism models, including more effective monetisation.

  • kensei

    LTU

    And just to repeat for the benefit of you lot in the special needs commenting section, when a state-owned company p*sses away its cash on anything, up to and including trans-galactic Slugger 10.0, it’s p*ssing away public funds

    Is Channel Four currently in receipt of state funds, or did the state simply supply the startup capital and takes a hands off approach? is this money coming out of tax, or general profits for the company? Are C4 profits typically back to the state, or just reinvested in the company? These qwuestions matter.

    If the state is handsoff and has only supplied the start up capital, thenthis is “public money” only in the most etchnical sense. Swap the state for private ownership and there’ll be no tangible difference.

    You might argue that the state could seek to intervene in editorial content, technically. Any evidence the state has done this? The last kick up I can remember dealing with C4 is celebtrity big brother and it was the newspapers not the state that drove the response.

    Getting involved in corporate land tends to be stifling anyway. I’m not optimsitic on the “innovations” to improve commenting.

  • Pancho

    It isn’t so long ago that Mick was appealing for Unionists to join Slugger…remember?…..now we have hacks telling us that Slugger is used by ‘all’…nonsense….A Tangled Web [ATW] from David Vance is more advanced than Slugger, it have bloggers from various countries….it’s just that Slugger has friends in leftie places, hence the Guardian and Channel 4 on board, Stratagem etc etc….I don’t think it’s exportable…it is small time Northern Ireland politics, a odd foray south of the border, little else and many Republicans, some of dubious background.

  • Pancho

    Apologies for typo….’it has’….not ‘have’ on line 4

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    That’s ‘technical’ as in literal, as in actual, as in factual. Thus yet again a thread on Slugger brings us up against the most puzzling fact of the age: why do so many left wing people habitually, on so many different issues, wish to deny reality? Why is the simple, incontrovertible statement, ‘the funds of the publicly owned Ch4 are public funds’, so difficult for so many of our progressive friends here on Slugger to accept? Why is it that they want to tangle themselves up in such silly knots trying to deny this dull statement of fact? What purpose does such silliness serve? Do they even convince themselves, given how far, surely, they must be from convincing anyone else without the same, weird leftist axe to grind?

    And here’s the truly baffling thing: even though we’re long past the point at which anyone with even a titter of wit might try to deny that Ch4 is a state-owned company, hence its funds are public funds, I absolutely guarantee that otherwise sane, intelligent folk will pop up and try to dispute this. It’s astonishing, but it’s seemingly what the Left do.

  • kensei

    LTU

    And here’s the truly baffling thing: even though we’re long past the point at which anyone with even a titter of wit might try to deny that Ch4 is a state-owned company, hence its funds are public funds, I absolutely guarantee that otherwise sane, intelligent folk will pop up and try to dispute this. It’s astonishing, but it’s seemingly what the Left do.

    No one is denying that C4 is a state owned company. That is a straw man that you have built. Any money it generates are strictly speaking, state owned funds, just as any money Man Utd generates belongs to the Glazers.

    But, um, that’s not the point. When discussing “public funds”, the typical and de facto usage is money that tax payers have to shell out and is probably coming from current taxation. This is clearly not happening in the case of C4. It is not reliant, as far as I’m aware, on current state subsidy, unlike several private companies at the moment.

    So, if the state has setup this company, but left it to operate as a independent commercial entity because it thinks it can generate some sort of social good or it will encourage competition in the market or it just wants to flog it later and wants fuck all to do with running it then why exactly should the state interfere to stop this investment? That is state interference of the kind you explicitly don’t want.

    I know there is a few thoughts you need to engage with there, but try to deal with what’s said ratehr than repeating yourself again and ranting about the “Left”, ta.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    Well golly, that didn’t take long, did it? Ho hum, here we go: ‘No one is denying [sic that C4 is a state owned company . . . When discussing “public funds”, the typical and de facto usage is money that tax payers have to shell out and is probably coming from current taxation’. Nope, that’s a nonsensical definition you’ve just invented to try and *keep* advancing this absurd left wing argument that Ch4′s money isn’t public funds, when plainly it is. If we took seriously this nonsense, we’d then have to ask, whose funds are Ch4′s? were they, until he left, Luke Johnson’s? Or the other directors? Or, in a modern version of syndicalism, the employees? Or the stakeholders – perhaps Ch4′s money belongs to some mythical set of ‘stakeholders’? Nope, all tosh: Ch4′s money belongs to the people who own Ch4. Who owns Ch4? Why, as, somehow, has to be repeated yet again, the state, ergo it’s monies are public funds. QE-sodding-D.

    Please, pinkos, let’s not have another embarrassing go round the houses like this again.

  • percy

    ‘the funds of the publicly owned Ch4 are public funds’
    So what. I don’t get it. So fcking what.
    What dya want an electric banana LTU.

    please lay out for us what the consequences mean for us as commentators, and the site.
    what’s the worry?
    convince me the big fear is not just in your nut, but its actually out there?

    will you be required to address me as comrade percy under the new rules. :)

  • percy

    ahh I think I’ve got it. LTU you’re worried that the impartiality will disappear and sluggers will be moulded by commie-pinko liberal media elites.

    And the good old fashioned right-wing authoritarian conservatives will be pushed out towards the fringes.

    Hence the paranoi, hence the conspiracy.. ahhh

  • kensei

    LTU

    Nope, that’s a nonsensical definition you’ve just invented to try and *keep* advancing this absurd left wing argument that Ch4’s money isn’t public funds, when plainly it is.

    No, that is really is the common usage. MPs are flack because the money they are paid comes directly out of our taxes. They are not self funding once you’ve given startup capital, though given the investment in property, you coudl question why they aren’t.

    C4 can spend it’s money on 100,000 pineapples and ti would make a jot of difference to my taxes, or the the public debt. The same is not true of MP expense claims, so there is a distinction here.

    If we took seriously this nonsense, we’d then have to ask, whose funds are Ch4’s? were they, until he left, Luke Johnson’s? Or the other directors? Or, in a modern version of syndicalism, the employees? Or the stakeholders – perhaps Ch4’s money belongs to some mythical set of ‘stakeholders’? Nope, all tosh: Ch4’s money belongs to the people who own Ch4. Who owns Ch4? Why, as, somehow, has to be repeated yet again, the state, ergo it’s monies are public funds. QE-sodding-D.

    If C4 is a properly independent entity, then C4 is an asset of the state and could be listed as such. It could return money to it’s owners by generating profits or liquidating itself, but saying all the entire cashflow it has is state money is a bit of a stretch because then you have fundamentally compromised its independence. Getting involved in the day to day running is political interference the like of which hasn’t been seen.

    What are the objections to public funds:

    1. Waste of money. Sunk costs – C4 public money was spent a long time ago.
    2. It squeezes out private sector captial — was there any offered?
    3. It compromises the independence of the media. Does it affect C4 news?

    It’ll help if you discussed, you know, specific objections rather than sloganising. Personally if C4 is walking and talking like a private sector duck, then might as well make it one. It’ll make bugger all differnece.

  • percy

    kensei
    I think LTU is more worried about where can a
    decent raving bigot go to kick some commie-pinko butt
    should Sluggers go the way of the BBC/Ch4.

    how am I doing Laughing Tory Unionist?

  • percy

    give you this LTU:

    you demand the right to offend.

    I demand the right to be offended.

    Lets call the whole thing off………….

  • granni trixie

    Mick – congratulations – its great that you have the energy for trying new things as well as taking the inevitable flak from bloggers.

    Not sure what the proposed change entails but any possibility of a ‘gender’ dimension eg look at patterns of usage/content/roles to find out why Slugger and probably other sites are so blokeish with a view to rectifying (EOC might pitch in some cash too?).