13 March 2007

FT Digital Business editor...curious...

We moseyed along to Peter "Fullrun" Kirwan's little event last night excited, along with all the other kids (Christ, we felt so old...) to see Peter Whitehead open his kimono and give us an insight into what makes the editor of the FT Digital Business tick.

It was...well...curious. Kirwan introduced Whitehead as "the man who never answers his phone" which Whitehead explained away by saying that because the supplement is not news driven, he doesn’t see the need to take phone calls from PRs. He wants to be e-mailed with ideas. Preferably based on statistically valid research

Whitehead then shared his views on some of the hacks he uses, like Mary Branscombe: "when she remembers who she's writing for, her copy's OK" and Danny Bradbury: "based on the Pacific North West, but still seems to interview too many people based in London." Chris Nuttall also got a ticking off for filing copy that began with lines from a poem about a train journey from Hull to London: "why does our San Francisco-based reporter who is supposed to be covering all the hot news from Silicon Valley begin a story with reference to places in England that will have no meaning for an international readership?"

He stressed the FT’s policy on accepting hospitality, in that they can’t accept foreign press trips. Invites to rugby matches at Twickenham seem to be acceptable, however, as Firefly took him to the England v France game on Sunday on behalf of client Adobe; though he cheerfully admitted he’s never written or commissioned a piece that mentions Adobe, and there is no increase in the likelihood that he will do so now…still, "it was good for building relationships..." and seeing the rugby for free, of course.

Interestingly, Whitehead didn’t seem to have much idea as to what his readership thinks of the supplement. He said that they had carried out surveys in the past – but these were “self-selecting” i.e. didn’t really represent the overall readership...he freely admitted he really hasn’t a clue as to whether or nor readers find the content useful or helpful.

I'll freely admit that I haven't a clue whether I found the content of last night's event useful or helpful. Did you?

32 comments:

Me, myself and I said...

I was at last night's "Talking Shop" too. It was pretty useful as a follow up the the Ben Hunt event - to see what changes have been going on behind the scenes.

To be fair to Peter, he openly admitted a lack if in-depth tech knowledge, but as he put it "our readers only need to know enough to be able to talk to the CIO with some competence".

The FTDB being issues based is great but I'm not sure about his affinity with Second Life...

Caroline Tarbett said...

It was good to hear from a journalist that isn't afraid to say: "I love meeting the PR community"..I wonder if he will come to regret saying that?! A useful session, we thought, he comes across as thoughtful and considered and, I suspect, a bit more in control than his predecessor. What we found particularly interesting were his thoughts around global content and contributors - good to know for those of us who may have interesting but unknown foreign clients. He is clearly a man that knows a thing or two about business at large and that is precisely what the section needed. In theory his willingness to listen to ideas and to debate issues offers many of us a chance to stretch our intellectual legs - most welcome.

Anonymous said...

Have you got a touch of PMT this week TWL?

Out of all the journalists to pick on to make an example of, Peter is one of the least likely suspects. I have always found him really responsive on email and open minded when pitching ideas.

As for publishing his comments on some of the freelancers he works with, personally I think that's below the belt. It's no way to encourage editors to open up to the PR community.

peter kirwan said...

IMHO, a bit harsh. . . For most of the points you raise, I'd add some context. . .

* Use of phones. Each to their own, I'd say. And Peter's quick to respond on email. . .

* Writers. Peter's commissions have been running in FTDB since around July. So what he was referring to last night I took as the usual teething problems re: commissioning. Par for the course, really.

* Hospitality. I teased Peter about this during the event, but -- to be fair -- the hospitality thing isn't straightforward at the FT. That's probably something for Mr. Barber to sort out.
* Research. Yeeess. . . It would be useful to see some new stuff. And Peter would probably agree. Better by far, of course, if we still had a Banner-style survey for our market. Then again, there are bigger problems than FTDB's readership floating around -- eg: what's the UK's best-read whitetop online?

PS: Glad to see you pimpernelled it in and out of TUC HQ without disclosing yr identity. . .

Peter

....the world's leading.... said...

Fair enough, fair enough...Peter's a decent bloke, of course he is.

Perhaps we took a few comments out of context, but anon: "As for publishing his comments on some of the freelancers he works with, personally I think that's below the belt"...off the record was it? Nothing is...as any half-decent media training course will tell you. Taste of their own hack medicine, I say.

Anonymous said...

I was more facinated by the rotweiler in the first row who all but heckled Peter and then refused to give her name and company details when asking a question - why? Easy there - how on earth do these people hold down careers where relationships are important?

....the world's leading.... said...

I know, I know...I hate it when people are happy to criticise but then refuse to reveal who they are.

Oh, hang about...ummm, err...(shuffles off quietly)

Andrew Smith said...

Heckling? I don't think so. If you think that's heckling, you've led a very sheltered life. I didn't notice Peter Whitehead getting particularly ruffled by it. As for describing the "heckler' as a "rottweiler", I don't think anything could be further from the truth. I think you'll find her career is doing just fine. As for not giving her name, its a free country - she didn't have to - perhaps, she felt the question was more important than her identity.

Mark Walters said...

In response to:

"Heckling? I don't think so. If you think that's heckling, you've led a very sheltered life."

The post actually said "all but heckled" - not implying that any heckling took place, merely that it seemed to be going that way.

It is a "free" country, you're right, but I seem to remember her question being more rhetorical and referring to the FT hospitality policy - this did not seem all that important and came across as more indignant.

Surely if said rottweiler believed that she was making a valid point she should have the courage to put her name to her statement.

Anonymous said...

Anonymity is hardly guaranteed at an open forum. If the 'heckler' had been recognised by any posters on here, then she could easily have been named...unless she was wearing a false beard or something...

I also think its a bit unfair to criticise TWL for reporting Mr Whitehead's thoughts on his freelancers. If he didn't want his opinions known, I'm sure he would have kept his gob shut...

Anonymous said...

Wow!. As in Mark Walters that used to play for Villa?

Who'll comment next, Dennis Mortimer, Peter Withe?

peter kirwan said...

Mark,

Now I'm worrying that my Excel skills have gone to hell. I don't see you down on Monday night's guest list. . .

Where do you work?

(Sorry to the rest of the world, this is all getting a bit OT, I know. . .)

Peter

Anonymous said...

Heckling is perhaps a strong word but she was having a bit of a dig and there were a few wry smiles when she wouldn't disclose her identity.

It felt a bit like controversy for controversy's sake and I hate it when people are all too prepared to voice their opinions but aren't confident enough to stand by them publicly. Perhaps if she's reading she might like to respond - anonymously, of course!

mark walters said...

No need to worry Peter - no-one has slipped the net - but I am glad you picked up on it - it exemplifies the fact that putting your name to something you say is important. Part of me thinks that "andrew smith" may be the heckler - at least a fake name is better than no name.

Andrew Smith said...

I've sent her an email to alert her to this little comment storm - so I'm sure if she feels strongly enough about it, she'll be in here - anonymously or otherwise - to put her side of the story.

bridget fishleigh said...

I am the aforementioned dog. Wow -someone was fascinated by me. How very flattering! I didn't say my name because The Two Peters know my name as do my mates in the audience. As does John-Paul Kamath! I didn't realise anyone else in the room would care. I'll shout it out loud and clear next time.

peter kirwan said...

Dear all,

Being the last named person on this thread is a bit like walking blindfolded through a room of bipolar surrealists.

Name-free heckling? It's a dying art. I think it should be encouraged, a bit like anonymous posting.

Meanwhile, I'm holding out for a comment from ex-Villa captain and 1990 World Cup hero David Platt.

Having taken a look at Peter Withe's fizzog on Wikipedia, I'm not sure he's got broadband. Or dial-up, for that matter.

Peter

peter kirwan said...

Oh, I see there are some other blindfolded people in the room with me.

(Hi Bridget. These rapscallions have been taking your name in vain all day. . .)

So, Mark, are you, erm, really real?

Or really a retired Villa footballer famed for his step-overs (and now coaching at weekends at Coventry Prep School). . .

Andrew Smith is definitely *not* a figment - he's real and he makes podcasts, too.

Peter

david platt said...

Well done Bridget - highly commendable.

My ex team-mate Mr. Walters would be very proud that someone finally listened to him!

Anonymous said...

Wow - I stumbled into a storm in a teacup here! I'm confused what JPK has got to do with this though Bridget?

il cavalier ridente said...

What a work of art is this thread!

Now here's the thing. I notice that TWL is moderating comments. . .

. . .and they get put through *very* quickly.

Mmm, TWL, how's the day job?

Il Cavalier

Andrew Smith said...

Yeah, I'm real - the rest of you of course could just be the creation of some Descartian evil demon. I'm off down the pub for a real pint. Have a good evening everybody.

....the world's leading.... said...

il cavalier...it's been a while.

You think you have us rumbled, but no! Since you were last with us, we have trained a team of crack blogwatching hamsters to moderate comments on our behalf...any coarse language or clearly defamatory comments prompts a small electric shock which causes said hamsters to reject the related comment. It's foolproof!

Anonymous said...

Peter, you say:

"Oh, I see there are some other blindfolded people in the room with me."

I am intrigued - how can you see with a blindfold on?

Mark Samuels said...

Did someone mention Aston Villa? Gosh, how exciting.

And David Platt (looks quite a bit like 'Dancing on Ice's' Jayne Torvill) is a claret and blue legend.

Oh, them were the days... The late 1980s and early 1990s, Graham Taylor in charge - cheering on God McGrath, funny-headed Platt and a young Dwight Yorke.

Now it's boring 0-1 defeats to the Arse on a Wednesday night.

Up the Villa!

Anonymous said...

>>"I am intrigued - how can you see with a blindfold on?"<<

The force is strong in Peter Kirwan...

Anonymous said...

Dammit, and there I was thinking that we were talking about David Platt of Corrie fame!

peter kirwan said...

OK. Alllllright. I was peeping out of the bottom of the blindfold. Surreptitious, like.

Meanwhile, I see (er, let me take that blindfold off for a minute) it only took 21 hours before Mark Samuels smelled the mention of Aston Villa.

Impressive.

Mark Samuels said...

>> Peter Kirwan said: Meanwhile, I see (er, let me take that blindfold off for a minute) it only took 21 hours before Mark Samuels smelled the mention of Aston Villa. Impressive. <<

Impressive? Peter, I think the word you're searching for is 'incisive'...

As for all this silly stuff about "smelling" and "21 hours", you wrongly assume that - like you - everyone spends twenty-four hours a day monitoring gossip on blogs.

I only check for the odd mention of Aston Villa and the West Midlands - and then post annoying, localised rubbish.

Like this: West Bromwich and Sutton Coldfield are two of the three largest towns in the UK without their own council. Interestingly (or not, depending on your take) Huddersfield makes up the three.

Paul said...

West Bromwich? On a PR blog? Boing Boing Baggies Baggies.

Famous PRO Albion fans - me aside -include Peter Hehir, he once of Countrywide Porter Novelli head honcho fame.

peter kirwan said...

Mark

Actually, I thought 21 hours was pretty good going. It shows that this blog has a upstanding and well-attuned readership.

That's a disgrace about West Bromwich and Sutton Coldfield. They really should have their own emasculated local representatives, like everyone else.

PS: Have you got "Aston Villa" set up as an RSS feed from Technorati?

Mark Samuels said...

>> Actually, I thought 21 hours was pretty good going. It shows that this blog has a upstanding and well-attuned readership. <<

Oh Peter, you sweetie. And thanks for backing the 'Town Council for West Brom and Sutton Coldfield' campaign.

All we need now are the badges and car stickers. I take it can count on you to sort out the novelty hats...?