Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Richard Meade

Richard Meade is editor of the world's oldest business newspaper and it's just gone digital-only! Lloyd's List was founded in 1734 and is widely regarded as the definitive source for news analysis and data for the global shipping industry. I caught up with Richard at a meeting with our good friends at Holman Fenwick Willan this week and took the opportunity to quiz him about the move to digital-only, which media commentators are calling a landmark moment. 

"I became editor of Lloyd's List three years ago and everything I have been doing since then has been leading up to this moment: it was the main reason behind my appointment." Knowing how nostalgic some Lloyd's List readers are about the hard copy edition, and how some readers are quite baffled, even a little angry, it has been laid to rest, I asked Richard how they gauged the right time to make the move. "We are very close to our readers and track their habits meticulously. Over the last three years we have watched our online offering steadily grow and the print version wane. The tipping point came in June last year when our annual readership survey revealed that more than 97% prefer to access information online and that fewer than 2% read the print version at all."  Echoing FastFT editor Megan Murphy's sentiments (interviewed in this blog in June 2013), Richard explained how a digital platform allows them to do so much more and vastly improve on the value they give to readers: "Digital means readers can get news updates as stories break, wherever they are in the world and in whichever time zone. At its best, all the print edition could ever do was give you a fantastically accurate and insightful snapshot of what happened yesterday... in fact what happened two or three days ago, if you were a reader in Asia waiting for your hard copy to arrive!" 

As you'd expect from an editor of such an esteemed journal, Richard has a gift for words. I love how he puts across the point that people's news consumption habits are changing and so why the media is being challenged to evolve. "When Lloyd's List first appeared in 1734, it was a notice pinned to the wall of a coffee shop in London, a report for the merchants and financiers who backed them on the ships going in and out of harbour and the cargos they were carrying. Nowadays, its readers can sit in any coffee shop and have access to the "paper" through their smartphones and tablets." 

But it's not just real time information that's the big difference, he says: "It's also how we can tell stories in a digital medium. I was shocked myself to learn that our most read story of 2013 was not in fact a story at all, but an interactive infographic!"

Well, if ever there were a story to prove the digital revolution is real and our reading and media habits are never going to be the same, this is it! Don't just embrace the future, enjoy it!

So did you know the link between international commerce law giant Holman Fenwick Willan and iconic star of stage and screen Vivien Leigh? No? Neither did I until this week. I must have walked past that clock on HFW's ground floor a thousand times over the last six years but never knew it once belonged to this emblem of Hollywood's Golden Age and star of such timeless classics as Gone With the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire. The story of how the clock got to be in HFW's offices is even more surprising: Viven's first husband was none other than barrister Leigh Holman, nephew of one of HFW's founding partners Frank Holman and closely involved in the firm's early work.  Vivien used his name to create her stage persona - before leaving him (and her clock) for Laurence Olivier. She remained close to Holman throughout her life however, which is perhaps why the clock ended up in his possession.  On digging in to this fascinating story, another incidental detail about the firm's history comes to light: that a junior assistant in its early Lime Street office was William Ernest Lawrence, elder brother of the novelist D.H. Lawrence.   

How did it take me so long to unearth these priceless jewels?! Never ones to brag, you won't find these gems on the History section of the HFW's website...
The fun with Google Glass is just beginning, lawyers told us this week, as a driver ticketed for wearing sci-fi spectacles was acquitted in a US court.  In this case the court couldn't tell for certain on the facts that the driver was actually wearing the glasses, which operated as a computerised recording device, hence the acquittal. So no principles set in stone.  The case is more significant in signalling that this new technology is opening up whole new areas of legal action. 

With built in monitors, cameras, microphones and with full internet connectivity, Google Glasses enable wearers to record, save and upload anything they can see or hear.  Other uses for Google Glass have been discussed elsewhere in the press, (not all of them appropriate to be described in a respectable blog), and lawyers have been poring over the legal possibilities and pitfalls.  According to the ABA Journal this new technology is "set to become a law suit magnet".  I bet lawyers everywhere are crying in to their beerglasses ;)

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