Saturday, 20 November 2010

Birmingham Budget Cuts ... The Story So Far

Well, the Birmingham Budget Cuts website has been up and running for a few weeks, so I thought I'd share with you what I have been doing and how it has gone.

Essentially I am very happy with how the site looks, the content, the favourable feedback we have received and also the amount of traffic.

From past experience, one of the most difficult jobs is getting people to visit your website, but now with tools such as Twitter, the job has been made much easier.

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The story so far ....

We decided on a name and I regisrtered for a Google account to give us an email address and log in do Blogger which is where we decided to base our work.

I developed the site using a newspaper style template, removing the elements we didn't want to use and changing others so they suited the purpose of the blog.

Next, I registered a Twitter account, started a Facebook Group, Cover It Live account and also a YouTube channel. I also added a link to the CSR page on Wikipedia which to date has been the source of the majority of our traffic.

One of the first tests for our new site was to try Live Blogging for the first time. Hedy went down to London to cover a protest while I stayed home, Tweeting, posting etc to keep the story alive. What I found was that traffic to the site decreased when I stopped Tweeting so it became quite a job making sure interest in the 'event' was maintained.

The next big test was to cover George Osborne's Comprehensive Spending Review speech live. For this I based myself in the Urban Coffee Company, with laptop and headphones, along with a strong coffee and Guinness cake. Hedy went off to meet with union members which I settled in for a marathon live blogging session. This was made all the more difficult by background noise and a fault with the BBC feed where instead of George Osborne, I was treated to Sophie Raworth in the BBC newsroom practising her lines and running through the running order for the lunchtime bulletin.

Despite this, the live blogging seemed to be a success with lots of traffic to the site and an increase in followers on Twitter.

With tired fingers and eyes, I then headed out to the cathedral to cover the UNISON protest against the cuts where I interviewed two union members which you can view below.

Since then, we have added news stories as regularly as they become available.

We also hit the jackpot when information was given to us regarding spending cuts in and around Birmingham which made very interesting reading and allowed us to develop some original and exclusive content for the site.

Despite all this, Google News unfortunately deemed us a site which simply 'aggregated' news rather than developing our own, which is very unfair and shows they did not look too closely at it before reaching this conclusion.

The Google Map which I started has had a major update with many new cuts and job losses included on it with links back to the source of the data. Unfortunately, people connected with many of these cuts have been unwilling to be interviewed on the implications of any reduction in funding. However, this has not been through a lack of trying to secure interviews.

View Birmingham Cuts 2010 in a larger map

At the time of writing, the site has had 3,069 pageviews. The biggest referral sites are Wikipedia, Twitter, Birmingham City Students' Union, Created In Birmingham, Digital Spy, Liberal and Respect Councillor Salmaya Qoob's blog. The search terms through which most people have found the site have been "Birmingham" and "jobs" and I wonder if we had used "jobs" in the title whether that would have led to more traffic being directed to the site.

Currently, the Facebook group has 12 members and on Twitter we have 69 Followers.

As I said at the outset, I am very pleased with how the site has developed so far and hopefully it will continue to grow as time progresses.