Casual Games, Social Software by Duncan Gough

Sick of the Guardian, sick on news in general.

It’s all significantly out of date as soon as it’s printed, and a combination of BBC news, Google news and special interest websites (,,, etc) provide just as good alternatives.

Combine this with iPods, Zunes, Nintendo DS’s, iPhones, Nokia N800s, smart phones and so on, and it’s pretty clear that within 5 years most people will be reading news on devices. As the lack of jet-packs shows, the future isn’t at all like the predictions, so I think we can ignore the need to wait around for smart, internet-enabled paper, and focus on devices for reading. Most likely this is devices for reading whilst on the move, so it’s not a leap to imagine GPS directional units like the Tom-Tom to be a part of this. Toss in podcasts and reading isn’t such an issue, either. Podcasts have brought back the spoken word, and vodcasts have proven that there is a healthy amount of people of want to produce and present them.

Now, America has the Huffington Post, but in the UK there’s not a lot of competition in terms of online news. The UK as a news gathering location still has plenty of goodwill as currency, with papers like The Guardian earning favourable glances from liberal Americans. However, the Guardian has spiraled out of control since it’s switch to a Berliner format, for a multitude of reasons, significant among them is the same fear that all newspapers have at the moment. That is, ‘how long have we got left?’.

There’s a wild, free-for-all, cover-mounted, giveaway, world-cup-special, glossy, recyclable and free whirlwind tearing through the tabloids and broadsheets right now. They patently don’t know what’s hit them and which way to fight back. The BBC news website is a mammoth and rightly popular success, however it has no personality. The Guardian online is a CMS driven wreck, with no coherent identity and an even bigger split form it’s parent, the print newspaper. Mourning the uselessness of it all has got me nowhere, it’s time to play Fantasy Newspaper Editor.

Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Location: Manchester. For obvious Guardian-related reasons, but also because the BBC will soon move a lot of staff up there. Manchester is well served for good pseudo-neighbours (Liverpool, Newcastle, Birmingham) meaning that it provides a different perspective on the country, whilst tapping into mindset of the North. Even more importantly, though, it is *not* London. That alone will make a huge difference, even if London continues to be the source of so much news.

Motto: Quite simply, this is a paper of Culture, Media and Sport. As Johnny Vaughan once said, “I do all three in the bath”, so that’ll do for me.

Sports editor: This isn’t going to be a react-to-the-news kind of online newspaper, rather a reflect-on-the-news one. There was a time when you could laugh at people who read newspapers back-to-front, sports first, news later, but now, in the face of so much vapid or sensational journalism on the front pages, starting at the back looks like a wise choice. So, to reflect on the state of sport, well, football, I’d have to pinch John Nic from He would dictate the tone of the entire sports output. Added to that any sports journalist from BBC Five Live who might want a bit of freelance and you’d have the strongest football output online.

Film editor: Mark Kermode. Quite frankly, he could handle the entire Arts output for my Fantasy Newspaper, but let’s stick with film to start with. Mark Kermode podcasts once a week with Simon Mayo on BBC Five Live and that, in itself, is a hugely popular event. None of these podcasts are archived, in typical BBC blind-stupidity, and none of Mark Kermode’s work for them is committed to text, put online in a searchable format. In a textual format, for heavens’ sake. So, pinch Mark, put his content online in a semantically correct format, and then I’ll have the most quotable, most impassioned film section online in the UK.

News editor: This I haven’t decided yet - who to govern the tone of the daily output? George Monbiot would be ideal for a feature or two, but this is a difficult choice. Given that there is so little jumping out, it’s an indication of the problem this fantasy newspaper is set to solve. In that case, then, the answer is simple. Pick a blogger. Pick seven. Rotate them daily or weekly and let them decide the tone of the news, which stories are picked up, and which are given prominence. That’ll shake things up.

As for the design, that’s simple. Black text, large fonts, white background. This is going to be read by people on monitors, tvs, mobiles, whatever. Make it legible, readable and breathable. Use whitespace, web standards and don’t fuck with the hyperlinks. Ads? No. I want an audience not a demographic.

Lastly, the name? I’m stumped. Some kind of folk-reference would be ideal. Suggestions?

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