Recreating a unique swim – a day in London’s pools


Eight years ago I wrote a piece for The Guardian… which described how I had spent one glorious day swimming in every London Lido.

At the time things looked pretty grim for London’s swimmers. Councils had been consistently closing Lidos since the 80s and there were only ten open air pools left in London.

Tomorrow I am going to recreate that swim – more for my own amusement than anything else – with a twist. The difference is that I am going to tackle four pools that weren’t actually open in 2002.

In the last decade things have changed. Under pressure from local groups, as well as organisations like the London Pools Campaign (which I think has now disbanded) councils and private groups have built new pools and reopened pools that had been in mothballs and earmarked for closure.

The jewel of them all used to be the gorgeous London Fields Lido, re-opened after some vigorous campaigning in the mid 90s. Now it has some serious competition with the Victorian/Edwardian splendour of the revamped Marshall Street baths and Kentish Town Baths .

I’ll be swimming in both of these pools along with my local Clissold pool, which was reopened in 2007. Along the way I’ll be popping into Parliament Hill Lido, and I’ll be finishing with a dip in the Serpentine.

It is fantastic too to see Uxbridge Lido back in business and Tooting and Brockwell Park continuing to thrive.

Back in 2002 there was a very real concern that London could become a third world country in terms of its swimming pools. Tomorrow I’ll be celebrating the fact that, for the moment, things looks a lot rosier.

Could Flipboard become a WordPress for the iPad?


So you are Mike McCue of Flipboard. Even though server failure put the dampeners on your launch a little, you have still created the most swooned over iPad app so far. From nothing you have loads of users who love your swish technology. The question remains though. How are you going to make money from your app?

An obvious route would be to integrate full page magazine style ads between the pages. Brands are going to love that and I bet readers won’t care too much when they see them.

Another option (a complimentary one) might be to develop Flipboard as a publishing platform. Almost like a WordPress for the iPad.

It might sound bonkers but there is a very real opportunity for Flipboard to do this and I think it could make them a lot of money.

The theory goes like this

Almost all bloggers and indie publishers would love to have a magazine type product for the iPad. At the moment they can’t do this as HTML5 developers are pricey and thin on the ground. Also indie publishers are not going to struggle to monetise the iPad magazine as they won’t be able to charge a subscription for the content and finding ads could be tricky.

Enter Flipboard. It already has the platform. It already has thousands of users. It already has loads of love from those bloggers. Imagine if it offered a Content Management System and free hosting too? At a basic level Flipboard could just take a site’s RSS (or even its Twitter feed) and automate the process. In some ways it offers this already. You could curate a Flipboard magazine quite easily provided you give a great deal of thought as to what to feed it via Twitter.

The difference would be some degree of customisation for the publisher. The ability to choose the cover, make basic amendments to the design etc. Publishers could even offer weekly, monthly or even daily versions a bit like print publishing. I am guessing it will be iPhone compatible soon too.

Flipboard could create a community to display the ‘new magazines’ and in theory not have to bother with promoting them via iTunes, as other mags/apps will have to. It could also work with an advertising partner, Glam would be an obvious choice, to monetise the content with Flipboard splitting the cash with the publisher.

The major benefit for Flipboard would be that thousands of small publishers would get their dream of an iPad magazine (plus a little cash too) and just think how evangelical they would be about promoting their content and Flipboard.

I guess that many companies are already working on a free publishing system for the iPad, but Flipboard already has a massive head start.

On the downside the creation of this type of publishing system would be disastrous for mainstream media. If they think they can get punters to pay for subscriptions for iPad magazine apps when masses of similar free content is available via a service like Flipboard, they are seriously deluded.

So how about it Flipboard?

London’s other great indoor swimming pool re-opens


Today is the day that after 13 years Marshall Street baths (Soho’s swimming pool) finally reopens . There is however another classic old school London baths that is back in business and that is the Kenitsh Town baths. I used to woork ronf the corner from the baths in the early 90s and can confirm it was a real hole. It was apparently quite a regular occurrence for people to have lockers broken into and their clothes nicked. The revamped pool looks great and probably cost a fraction of what Hackney paid for my local baths Clissold.

The interior certainly looks very lovely. Maybe Irongmongers Row will get a makeover next.

Some great uses of social media – The Reputation Online Effectiveness Awards shortlist


In case you haven’t seen it Reputation Online has unveiled the shortlist for its first ever Online Effectiveness awards. It is very encouraging to see a strong line up of social media campaigns all of which have come from UK agencies. Last year’s list, had it existed, would have been a lot shorter.

I know I am horribly biased but big kudos to the wonderful team at Shiny Red for their two nominations. Cobra’s Facebook page – is a textbook example of how a brand can develop, and continually manage a vibrant online community. While relaunching Habitat on Twitter was not an easy task but one that the team pulled off with real panache.

My only disappointment is that there are only three entries in the blogger relations award. Surely the work of Disney, Innocent and Pontins with mummy bloggers should have been included and there are lots of UK fashion brands working well with bloggers now.

The full list is here… and the awards are on September 23rd.

Map showing where London tweets – Hackney is #1 sort of


From Strange Maps comes this contoured map which shows where the tweeting classes mostly are in London.

While I accept his analysis that the tweeters are mainly in Soho, Clerkenwell and Hackney these are largely places where people work – and tweet from work.

So the areas that have fewer work places, but lots of tweeters, are a truer reflection of where the tweeting classes are.

So judging by the map I’d nominate the following

1 Hackney
2 Dalston
3 Islington
4 Camden
5 Elephant and Castle

I spose you could also say those areas are freelanceville with lots of home workers too, but we could go on like this all day.

Interesting to see how few tweeters there are on the Isle of Dogs – bunch of bankers I guess

Marshall Street Baths – Soho’s iconic swimming pool is back in 10 days

There aren’t many things that you wait 13 years for, but I am prepared to make an exception for then Marshall St baths. Soho’s iconic indoor poool – think Victorian-esque with the odd art deco flourish, was closed back in 1997 and has been mothballed since. It has meant that every time I wanted a sneaky swim in town I have had to go to the Oasis in Covent Garden, which is lovely, but a tad busy.
The great news is that after a £25 million refit it reopens for watery business on July 26th – ten days from today.
As Goggleblog reports as well as the marble lined pool, it will feature two exercise/dance studios, two fitness suites and a health suite with sauna and steam rooms. Also available will be a range of treatments and therapies. The centre will be run as a public facility by Nuffield Health on behalf of Westminster City Council.
Soooo excited.

Btw pic 2 is as the pool is now, while pic 5 dates from the mid 90s – blimey it looks grubby


Has The Times paywall been a disaster?


It is very early days to be writing the paywall off, but according to a site called Newser… which has been reported on Wallblog… The Times website is tumbleweed.

In a post on the Newser website Wolff writes “My sources say that not only is nobody subscribing to the website, but subscribers to the paper itself—who have free access to the site—are not going beyond the registration page. It’s an empty world.”

Of course someone was always going to write this story, but it does bring to mind two questions.

I is anyone commenting on The Times? If you have subscribed can you see if people are having a debate there. That would be a good gague as to how successful the move has been.

2 Has the Mandelson story done The Times any favours? In a glimpse of what might happen in the future The Times got a great exclusive with Mandelson’s book extract but I am guessing that it hasn’t won them any new subscribers. That was because the last time I looked 687 different news sources had been picking at the carcass of the story. Basically unless you want to read every word, you really don’t need to go behind The Times paywall.

Getting back to the paywall Wallblog says that NI execs are apparently encouraged by the numbers. Only time will tell, but I think this is one experiment that is doomed.

Is content king again? The International Content Summit opens for business


Over the past few months I have been doing some work for the APA – who are the industry body for customer publishers in the UK.

I am really excited by what the group has lined up for November.

On the 24th it will be hosting the first ever International Content Summit where a range of exceptional speakers will be discussing the key issues surrounding content at the moment.

Among the topics lined up for dicsussions are…

1. Future of content for brands
2. What consumers want and how they want it
3. The future of advertising
4. Content and distribution
5. Cross media content and driving brand sales

The list of speakers includes Ben Hammersley of Wired UK, Julie Meyer, the CEO of Ariande Capital, David Seers of the COI and Julia Hobsbawn, CEO Editorial Intelligence.

You can find out more about the conference here

Is Facebook harming online media/blog advertising?


Interesting stuff from Paid Content… on how social networks (well Facebook with a bit of MySpace) have pulled down the CPMs (amount advertisers pay per 1000 views) to new record low levels.

At the same time the blog points out that ad spend has dropped in the first part of this year and media is already experiencing a double dip recession.

For me this underlines a few things

1 Social media is seriously harming online media. If social media didn’t exist then online media would command much higher CPMs.

2 That you can’t put the genie back in the bottle – Media companies have just got to work with this and accept that Facebook et al will keep CPMs down over the next few years.

3 However there may be an upside one day – If brands begin to start valuing online media once again. I don’t really think this will happen until we see new a new media properly emerge with many print titles dying or shifting completely online and brands recognising that the new wave of blogs and websites that have grown in the last few years have influential and important audiences.

Still as David puts it on PC

But there’s still hope for web publishers looking to blunt Facebook’s impact on CPMs. The social net doesn’t want to challenge major publishers directly on premium display and has in fact avoided deploying any of the larger display ads that have captured sites’ attention since the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Online Publishers Association began promoting new standard formats last year. Publishers insist that offering a larger, uniform display format for advertisers will inspire greater creativity.

The thinking goes that in turn, more creativity will spur greater ad spend. That may actually be happening right now. But overall, it will have a limited affect against the never-ending flow of inventory from social nets and the laws of supply and demand that sites like Facebook will continue to exert on advertisers’ finite ad budgets.

Finally I should add that and did a record breaking one million page impressions over the weekend. If the ad sales CPM was $3 that would be $3000 (or rather $9000 as there are three ad positions). The reality is that the real figure will be an awful lot less than that