Commonplace Reading - Issue #26

Hello, and thanks for opening.

First, a bit of news. This will be the last issue of Commonplace Reading. However, the newsletter's not going away. You'll receive another issue next week - and so on thereafter. But it is changing name —to Engaged Reading Time — and I'll explain why, after the links. Because it's more than just a change of name.

In the meantime, here's your irregular collection of good reading from the interwebs:


Here's a few positive things, in amongst the gloom of recent weeks…

The Oral History of The Nib Magazine

The Oral History of The Nib Magazine

The Nib is a wonderful crowd-funded magazine full of journalistic cartooning. I'm a massive fan of cartoonists - hence my on-going association with Drawnalism - and have been since I was a student. Read this — and then subscribe to the mag.

Ten Years Ago, Almost Everyone in Media Got Fired

Ten Years Ago, Almost Everyone in Media Got Fired

It's worth remembering that the current media bloodbath is far from the first one in recent times. This piece is a useful slice of context. (But not actually that positive. Sorry.)

Fewer nosy neighbors and data overlords: This German publisher is trying to build a hyperlocal social network

Fewer nosy neighbors and data overlords: This German publisher is trying to build a hyperlocal social network

Fascinating story about local journalism innovation. One user: "I do not want to stay in touch with avoidable contacts in Dubai or London. I want to know who lives in my neighborhood and wants to get to know these people."

The kids are alright. Grandpa’s the problem

The kids are alright. Grandpa’s the problem

Jeff Jarvis in "writing good stuff again" shocker. The venerable journalism ideas man digs into research that shows that older people share more misinformation than younger ones. Add your own Brexit reference here.

Video Break

I'm a sucker for things like this — an old piece of footage, speed corrected and stabilised using digital technology. It makes those early films feel so much more compellingly real.

Late 1890s - A Trip Through Paris, France (speed corrected w/ added sound)

The joy of blogging

One of the things I've missed about the old days of blogging, is that you run across far less gentle, ruminative content than you once did. Everyone now has to be blogging for a purpose. So, here's a few more gentle, traditional blog posts that you might enjoy:

Sunday Rains & Random Runimantions

A lovely piece from journalist turned blogger turned entrepreneur turned VC turned blogger Om Malik.

Nature Notes

Nature Notes

Just a lovely piece of nature writing, to be enjoyed as it is, not to sell you anything.


Euan Semple on the reality of our digital lives.

Making Memories – Climb to the Stars

Making Memories – Climb to the Stars

Steph Booth on how we choose to spend our time - and what that means for the memories we make.

An English Girl in New York

OK, not actually a blog. But it's a blog-like personal newsletter from a former student, who is living the life of a journalism in New York. Encourage her to write more by signing up!

How LiveJournal pioneered (then lost) blogging

How LiveJournal pioneered (then lost) blogging

Nearly 18 years ago, I first blogged on a platform called Livejournal. This wonderful piece explores the history of the platform (which still exists) - and touches on how it was rendered irrelevant by one of its users, a certain Mark Zuckerberg.

Visual Stimulation

The Eerie Hometown of the Jackson 5

The Eerie Hometown of the Jackson 5

A photo essay on the decline of a once vibrant city. Haunting, but hauntingly beautiful.

Finding Lena Forsen, the Patron Saint of JPEGs

Finding Lena Forsen, the Patron Saint of JPEGs

One woman became the face of the JPEG - and thus photography on the internet. And the fact that her image was scanned from Playboy may be the very beginning of the "bro culture" of the internet. WIRED set out to find her…

By the way…

One Man & His Blog has had a huge visual refresh - and I've been blogging up a storm there over the last couple of weeks. Check it out, and let me know what you think.


I’m Marie Fucking Kondo and You Can Keep All Your Fucking Books, You Ingrates

I’m Marie Fucking Kondo and You Can Keep All Your Fucking Books, You Ingrates

Oh, yes she is. (Yes, this is humour…)

Next issue: Engaged Reading Time

Big announcement time:

From next issue, this newsletter will be called Engaged Reading Time. And it will come in two editions.

  • The normal, free, "interesting links" newsletter
  • A new, paid newsletter for people interested in audience engagement.

Let me explain the rationale:

I met with a former student a couple of weeks ago, who works in a senior audience engagement role for a national newspaper in the UK. They mentioned, as part of the discussion, that plenty of other newspapers keep trying to hire for audience engagement roles, but they don't really know what they are looking for. A week later, I was talking to a journalism academic, and I mentioned this. And they said: "Surely, that's where you come in?"

The penny dropped.

I've been keen to do more consulting work, and to find a way of making more money from my enforced "at home" time. (I  work four days a week, and two of them have to be near home, because of the school and nursery runs.) I've always avoided the social media consulting area, because there are so many good people in that space - like Matt or Sue - preferring to lean into general digital journalism skills.

After the Facepocalypse of last year, the journalism industry is finally realising that just shoving links into Facebook is not the future it thought it ways. And to build sustainable audiences, you need an audience engagement strategy. That's exactly what I've been doing for the past 15 years.

Audience Engagement is a broad-brush, multi-disciplinary skill. It takes in social media, SEO, video, community building, podcasts, newsletters, content strategy and analytics. It's the art of understanding your audience, reaching your audience - and building content offering around that audience.

As an industry, we're still pretty lousy at it - as the weeks of layoffs show. And I want to help do something about that. In the coming days, I'll be launching an explicit audience engagement consulting practice. I have a course running already (one place left, as I type this.) And I'm introducing a paid newsletter.

At least once a week, I'll compile the best links and learning I've found on the topic, add some analysis, and wing it out to my paying subscribers. At weekends, this "fun links" newsletter will still circulate.

If you just want the fun links - you need do nothing else. It will still just keep coming. If you're interested in the other part of the newsletter - the practical guidance for engaged editors and journalists - I'll details how to sign up later in the week. (But, as a clue, there's a sign-up link at the bottom of this newsletter…)

I'll be honest - I'm nervous. I've never, in my seven years in self-employment, offered a product like this before. It's possible no-one will care - or so few people that it fails to be sustainable.

But I also know that I care deeply about it, that journalism needs to develop and share these skills if it is to survive. And I know that I can help.

Until next time,