Start-up Birmingham

The Startup Britain campaign have released some new stats about how many companies were started in the UK in 2013. They have analysed data from Companies House and have produced  a nice infographic.

The headline figure for Birmingham is that 16,281 business started up. Impressive. However, that’s actually a figure for the B postcode rather than for the Birmingham local authority area. Given that Startup Britain have also released the data they used I though it worth a quick analysis.


  • In postcodes that are wholly or partly within the Birmingham local authority area there were 11,248 start-ups.
  • B postcodes in Sandwell produced 1200 start-ups.
  • Solihull had 947 start-ups.
  • The top three performing postcodes in Birmingham are Birmingham City Centre (B2), Edgbaston/Lee Bank (B15), Winson Green/Hockley (B18).
  • The fourth and fifth best performing postcodes are within the city centre (B3, B1).
  • Castle Vale had the lowest number of start-ups (35, 0.3%) .
  • Digbeth (B5) had 268 start-ups, 2.3% of the total (13th in Birmingham).

You can the acces Birmingham data and some tables here:

Top 20 Birmingham postcodes for start-ups:

Postcode start-ups % Area
B2 998 8.9% Birmingham City Centre, New Street
B15 994 8.8% Edgbaston, Lee Bank
B18 804 7.1% Winson Green, Hockley
B3 781 6.9% Birmingham City Centre, Newhall Street
B1 383 3.4% Birmingham City Centre, Broad Street (east)
B11 372 3.3% Sparkhill, Sparkbrook, Tyseley
B28 331 2.9% Hall Green
B13 311 2.8% Moseley, Billesley
B19 306 2.7% Lozells, Newtown, Birchfield
B16 305 2.7% Edgbaston, Ladywood
B12 290 2.6% Balsall Heath, Sparkbrook, Highgate
B9 274 2.4% Bordesley Green, Bordesley
B5 268 2.4% Digbeth, Highgate, Lee Bank
B23 262 2.3% Erdington, Short Heath
B24 251 2.2% Erdington, Tyburn
B21 244 2.2% Handsworth
B8 243 2.2% Washwood Heath, Ward End, Saltley
B20 226 2.0% Handsworth Wood, Handsworth, Birchfield, Perry Barr
B10 221 2.0% Small Heath
B14 198 1.8% Kings Heath, Yardley Wood, Druids Heath, Highter’s Heath, Warstock

Twitter search – finding old stuff

I was helping someone out with finding old stuff on twitter from a particular user. When I say old, I mean beyond the 3,200 limit of a single user’s tweets (that’s how many it stops at when you do that endless scrolling down on a page). I was also interested in searching hashtags used at particular times.

So this is really about searching between particular dates. The advanced Twitter search page doesn’t show how you can search for dates but you can do so by putting the following in your search:

  • from:username since:yyyy-mm-dd until:yyyy-mm-dd

So the url search for @stephenfry’s old tweets would be:

Or if you want to find a hashtag, word or phrase between particular dates:

  • #digitalbritain since:yyyy-mm-dd until:yyyy-mm-dd
  • digitalbritain since:yyyy-mm-dd until:yyyy-mm-dd
  • “digital britain” since:yyyy-mm-dd until:yyyy-mm-dd

You can also simply adjust the url instead of using the search box. For example, the urls for the above three searches (for dates from 1st October 2009 and until 1st December 2009):

In the url you should notice that:

  • %23 is a hashtag
  • %20 is a space
  • %3A is a :
  • f=realtime is the same as clicking ‘all’ in the search (gives you everything rather than ‘top’ tweets)

Hope this helps (it serves a reminder for me if nothing else). Welcome additions/corrections in the comments


Hyperlocal Publishing in the UK – A 2013 Snapshot

UK hyperlocal map

(Again, as soon as I get my login back I’ll cross-post this to but if I don’t write it now I never will).

Last year I did some stats about how many news stories are produced by hyperlocal websites. I used the Openly Local database as the listing source and then counted the stories pushed through the RSS feeds of the sites (there was also a degree of tortuous manual counting as well. The method is described in a research paper – PDF). The big headline from that research was there’s a hyperlocal story published once every two minutes (during the day).

In summer 2013 I revisited the database and applied the same method of counting. Here are the findings. Some of these (mainly the geographic spread stuff) will be published by Ofcom in a report on ‘Internet Citizens’ in the next few weeks.

List of main findings:


  • The research draws on a list of 632 hyperlocal websites listed on the Openly Local database as of 7 June 2013.
  • 496 of these sites were ‘active’ and operating in the UK. ‘Active’ was defined as a website having posted a news story at least once in the 5 months prior to the sample period or functioned as a forum-only or wiki-based website.
  • 133 are no longer active. This figure is a mix of websites that have closed or have not published in the 5 months prior to the sample period.
  • The research sampled the news stories published by ‘active’ websites from 18-28 June 2013 (11 days).


  • During the sampling period 3482 stories were produced by 224 sites (46% of ‘active sites). The number of stories produced in the 2012 sample was 3819 items by 313 sites.
  • The average number of posts of those sites that published in the 2013 sample was 15.5 posts per site within the sample period (12.2 in 2012). The median number of posts of those sites that published was 6 (7 in 2012).
  • 260 sites (54%) produced no story during the sample period (133 in 2012).
  • 38 (8%) sites produced just one story (39 in 2012).
  • 106 (22%) sites produced 5 or less items (133 in 2012). These were responsible for 8% of the posts (9.3% in 2012).
  • 87% of news stories (58% in 2012) were produced by 20% of the sites.

Commentary: the lower number of published sites is largely down to a reduction in output from ‘Local People’ sites . These sites have undergone radical change in the last 12 months with the large network of journalists writing for them now disbanded. The lower figure from these sites might also be accounted for in a refinement of the methodology, which attempted to avoid capturing adverts that were published in the news stream.


  • Overall, an average of 13 items per hour were produced by Hyperlocal websites (15 in 2012).
  • During weekday daytimes this average rose to 22 items per hour (24 in 2012)

Geographic distribution

  • Number of sites in UK nations:
    England: 445 (+45 on 2012)
    Wales: 26 (+11)
    Scotland: 20 (+7)
    Northern Ireland: 3 (no change)
  • Number of sites in English regions:
    London: 96
    South West: 81
    South East: 73
    West Midlands: 59
    Yorkshire and Humberside: 39
    North West: 38
    East Midlands: 16
    East of England: 36
    North East: 7

Birmingham has 26 active sites (-2 on 2012) – the most in any UK authority area.

(A PDF summary of this. This report builds on data from the 2012 report ‘Hyperlocal Publishing in the UK – A Snapshot‘)




Asset Mapping Hyperlocal

Asset Mapping - #TAL13

[As soon as I get my login back I’ll cross-post this to]

Best to have a quick glance at the set of pics of this asset-mapping session on Flickr to give you an idea of what I’m talking about below.

Members of the Creative Citizens research team (myself, Jerome Turner and Andy Williams) attended an ‘unconference’ (#TAL13) on Saturday 29 September 2013, staged by our project partners Talk About Local. Having attended many rather more formal academic conferences throughout the year, this made for a a refreshing and invigorating change. Attendees at the Middlesborough event (hosted at MIMA) were drawn largely from the hyperlocal practitioner community with a sprinkling of members of the locally-based arts community.

Like the other strands in the Creative Citizens project we plan to make use of an asset-mapping methodology which aims to support community groups to consider what digital, human, physical or relational ‘assts’ they have to support their endeavour. It’s effectively a tool for reflection. At #TAL13 I wanted to pose the question:

‘What assets does your hyperlocal have?’

Initially I thought I might ask if it were possible to asset-map an ‘ideal’ or ‘sustainable’ hyperlocal, but that might result in participants trying to second-guess what I was implying by those terms so I left it more open and asked them to imagine their own hyperlocal operation in the centre of the map.

The detail of the method is outlined in a post from last year by Catherine Greene. Emma Agusita discusses how she used it with a community media organisation in Bristol.

In practical terms, participants put whatever they think more important closer to the centre of the map. Different shaped objects represent different things (spaces, infrastructure, media, groups and businesses, people, other). We had about six people contribute to our hyperlocal ‘map’ (there was a bit of drifting in and out). Here’s my take on what we found:

You don’t need an office, a nice café is handy, but a pub is essential.

Access to broadband was seen as essential but it didn’t necessarily matter where that access was. Cafés and pubs are good for “wifi, events, conversations” and it’s handy to have a “pub landlord who likes to be local hub of odd happenings”.

People with passion and a degree of skill are vital.

From “Paul, the web guru” to “John, our eager photographer”, you need people who have time to keep your hyperlocal ticking over technically and content-wise.

Public sector connections provide content.

It’s fair to say that many public sector organisations, from the police to local councils, now treat hyperlocals the same way they treat mainstream media. Even where they don’t, the degree to which the public sector has taken to Twitter means that hyperlocals are never short of access to stories or quotes.

Revenue matters / doesn’t matter.

This was placed both near the centre and at the edge of the map by two different people. We had Simon Perry from On the Wight with us who talked about needing to get serious about income-generation but others were less concerned about making money from their operation (why this was the case wasn’t made clear). It was noted that the same person who places revenue at the edge also placed ‘passion’ near the centre.

Other people’s stuff on the Internet provides content.

By which I mean, Creative Commons licensed images and Youtube. Several people mentioned trawling such sites for local images and discussed the value they create for them.

We don’t need apps.

In fact there were quite a lot of the ‘media’ icons placed around the edge. This partially represented a rejection of the need to engage with existing media but also a notable lack of interest in bespoke apps.

Thanks to all those who took part in the session. Any thoughts on this, let me know.


My PhD – Hyperlocal’s place in the Public Sphere

Another excerpt from my PhD (previously…). I have to deliver 20k words to my supervisor by late September and I’m currently knee deep in the various positions taken on Habermas’s idea of the ‘Public Sphere’.

This is my way in to this section. I pick up on a recent piece by a NUJ rep (PDF) and then suggest that the ongoing discussion about hyperlocal publishing can be see as a negotiation about its position in the public sphere. Later, after this excerpt, I get all complicated and discuss alternative public spheres, plebeian public spheres, counterpublics, subalterns…. I could go on but anyway, here’s that intro.

Hyperlocal’s place in the Public Sphere
Chris Morley, a senior officer in the National Union of Journalists and a former local journalist, has argued (2013) that the ‘havoc’ wreaked by media owners wanting to extract as much economic value as possible from a declining local press means that the case should be made for local newspapers to be seen as community assets and therefore allow them to be ‘rescued’ by citizens under the 2011 Localism Act. Without a robust local press, who will do the job of: “holding the rich, powerful and those with vested interest to scrutiny and account in the public good, while standing up for those that do not have a voice” (Morley 2013)?

Morley is lamenting the “apparently remorseless advance of the market as the arbiter of the nature, the content, the form, the labour relations and mode of production and the ownership of the local press” (Franklin and Murphy 1998: 22) Morley’s non-market-led vision of local journalism’s future reveals, as much of the commentary around hyperlocal does, attitudes to the role of local news-making in the public sphere. There seems an assumption that an endeavour such as hyperlocal has a role in helping citizens form their views about democratic processes at local level and understand the political alternatives facing them.

James Curran notes the “divergence of approach between liberal and radical perspectives [on the public sphere] also give rise to different normative judgements about the practice of journalism” (Curran 1991: 32). Liberal judgements seem to infuse the current discussion on hyperlocal, essentially seeing it as playing a useful role in the democratic functioning of society. It “feeds the democratic imagination” as Luke Goode argues (2009: 1294). In the process it further supports a liberal ideal of ‘mending’ communities: “I do think the growing belief in hyperlocal media needs much more thought, especially in Britain. We have fractured communities here and there is an urgent need to find some glue” (Greenslade 2007). For Chen et al, hyperlocals “serve not only as a traditional information source but also as a forum for ongoing discussion of local affairs and a mechanism for building and strengthening relationships among local residents” (2012: 932).

Normative ideals about how citizens should be able to participate in decision-making in society are articulated in Jürgen Habermas’s work on the public sphere. In his key work The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1989’ originally published in 1962 in German)

etc. etc. etc…..

Below is the bibliography as it is at the moment for the public sphere section (much more to come here, it’s very much a work in progress):
Atton, C. (2002) Alternative media. London: SAGE.
Chen, N.-T. N., Dong, F., Ball-Rokeach, S. J., Parks, M. & Huang, J. (2012) Building a new media platform for local storytelling and civic engagement in ethnically diverse neighborhoods. New Media & Society, Vol 14, No 6, pp. 931-950.
Comedia (1984) The alternative press: The development of underdevelopment: Comedia. Media, Culture & Society, Vol 6, No 2, pp. 95-102.
Curran, J. (1991) Rethinking the media as a public sphere. In: DAHLGREN, P. & SPARKS, C. (eds.) Communication and citizenship: Journalism and the public sphere in the new media age. Routledge. pp. 27-57.
Downey, J. & Fenton, N. (2003) New media, counter publicity and the public sphere. New Media & Society, Vol 5, No 2, pp. 185-202.
Downing, J. D. (1988) The alternative public realm: the organization of the 1980s anti-nuclear press in West Germany and Britain. Media, Culture & Society, Vol 10, No 2, pp. 163-181.
Franklin, B. & Murphy, D. (1998) Making the local news: local journalism in context. London: Routledge.
Fraser, N. (1990) Rethinking the public sphere: A contribution to the critique of actually existing democracy. Social text, No 25/26, pp. 56-80.
Fraser, N. (1995) Politics, culture, and the public sphere: toward a postmodern conception. In: NICHOLSON, L. & SEIDMAN, S. (eds.) Social postmodernism: Beyond identity politics. Cambridge Univ. Press. pp. 287-312.
Garnham, N. (1992) The Media and the Public Sphere. In: CALHOUN, C. J. (ed.) Habermas and the public sphere. MIT. pp. 359-376.
Goode, L. (2009) Social news, citizen journalism and democracy. New Media & Society, Vol 11, No 8, pp. 1287-1305.
Greenslade, R. (2007) The peoples’ papers? A new view of hyperlocal media [Online]. The Guardian. Available: [Accessed 26 March].
Habermas, J. (1992) Further reflections on the public sphere. In: CALHOUN, C. J. (ed.) Habermas and the public sphere. MIT. pp. 421-461.
Habermas, J. R. (1989) The structural transformation of the public sphere : an inquiry into a category of bourgeois society. [Cambridge]: Polity.
Harcup, T. (2003) `The Unspoken – Said’: The Journalism of Alternative Media. Journalism, Vol 4, No 3, pp. 356-376.
Harcup, T. (2005) ‘I’m Doing this to Change the World’, : journalism in alternative and mainstream media. Journalism Studies, Vol 6, No 3, pp. 361-374.
Harcup, T. (2011) Alternative journalism as active citizenship. Journalism, Vol 12, No 1, pp. 15-31.
Harcup, T. (2013) Alternative journalism, alternative voices. London ; New York, NY: Routledge.
Kaufer, D. & Al-Malki, A. M. (2009) The War on Terror through Arab-American Eyes: The Arab-American Press as a Rhetorical Counterpublic. Rhetoric Review, Vol 28, No 1, pp. 47-65.
Landry, C., Morley, D., Southwood, R. & Wright, P. (1985) What a way to run a railroad : an analysis of radical failure. London: Comedia.
Morley, C. (2013) How Regional Media Companies Brought Themselves Down. Available: [Accessed 21 August 2013].
Simone, M. (2006) CODEPINK alert: mediated citizenship in the public sphere. Social Semiotics, Vol 16, No 2, pp. 345-364.
Squires, C. R. (2002) Rethinking the black public sphere: An alternative vocabulary for multiple public spheres. Communication Theory, Vol 12, No 4, pp. 446-468.
Wahl-Jorgensen, K. (2007) Journalists and the public: newsroom culture, letters to the editor, and democracy. Cresskill, N.J: Hampton.

How to teach children about the Internet


A couple of weeks ago I was invited by my daughter’s teacher to do a talk about ‘The Internet’ to the year five group (30 x 10 year olds). They had been doing e-safety stuff and the teacher felt that although it’s useful to know how to protect yourself online, it might also be worth knowing some good stuff as well. So, not realising I’m a cynical grump, she asked me.

Here’s the truth upfront:


That is, I am not pedagogically equipped to teach children of this age and lack a deep knowledge of the digital literacy agenda as it relates to ten year olds. All I could do was show them stuff they might like, that wasn’t the rather scary e-safety stuff and was generally positive in tone.

I decided therefore to take the Seinfeld approach: “No learning, no hugging” (I actually began the talk by saying “you might think I’m going to show you stuff that will then build to a point where you will learn something – that probably won’t happen.”)

Although I stuck to the ‘no hugging’ rule I tried to slip in a bit of learning by first throwing in a vague ‘the Internet is kinda like a load of connected computers’ slide and later, telling them about another 10 year old, Martha Payne

The slides are below. Plenty of cats.

They all sat on the floor at the front of the class, were polite, asked questions, and all (30 of them) wrote me letters afterwards. They were awesome and so was their teacher.

There are 4,695 digital businesses in Birmingham

Now you know me, always interested in stats. Particularly creative/digital economy stats about Birmingham. Being interested in such stats isn’t as much part of my job as it used to be, but I think anyone teaching the media and preparing students for a life in ‘the industry’ should have a fair grasp of the size and scope of said ‘industry’.

Mapping the UK’s Digital Economy
A new report is out. It argues that the way the UK usually counts digital businesses (using SIC codes) may not give us the whole picture. Using a model called ‘Growth Intelligence’  it says there are 270,000 digital companies in the UK rather than the 167,000 previously thought. They are responsible for 11% of jobs in the UK. ‘Growth Intelligence’ is a ‘big data’ approach that uses Companies House info along with other sources to create a more nuanced set of classification for companies and thereby seems better able to identify which are or aren’t digital. It results in a list of 1.868m companies but that will still be an underestimate (20% of companies fail to put themselves against any SIC code).

What’s a Digital Company?
One whose outputs, the product or service they offer, are digital. So if you use a computer system to help you sell bananas, that doesn’t make you digital: “we restrict ‘digital content’ to sectors where the only or principal outputs are digital products or services. For example, we exclude large parts of the architecture sector, but include firms specialising in CAD and technical drawing. By the same token, we exclude supermarkets, but include retailers whose principle offering is digital (such as digital music stores)” (p: 9)

What about Birmingham?
I’ll cut to the chase. Via the SIC code system, Birmingham had 3,116 companies regarded as digital. This new method says there are 4,695 companies. These companies are actually located in the wider Birmingham TTWA (Travel to Work Area) which goes up to Tamworth and down to Redditch. In this area are about 600,000 people of employment age. By contrast, Manchester’s TTWA has about 700,000 in it and has more digital firms in it also (7,324).

Is this good news?
Yes. There’s a section in the report that says that other areas have more ‘clustering’ of digital firms but a city like Birmingham has too diverse an economy for digital to show up as a distinct cluster (though there are clearly significant local clusters in areas like Eastside and Jewellery Quarter).

What the report does and doesn’t tell us.
The report doesn’t tell us much at a local level other than the number of firms. However the information about a typical  UK digital firm is interesting.  Digital firms are slightly younger than other firms (about 9 years old rather than 10). There’s the same number of start-ups as in any other sector. They tend to employ more people on average. They tend to have lower revenues.

Will the number of digital companies grow?
Yes, says the report. Largely because of the number of firms ‘inflowing’. That is, more existing firms are becoming digital firms – moving from analogue to digital as such. However, data suggests that digital firms are as susceptible to the ups and downs of the economy as any other sector.

Not just London.
What’s really useful about the report is that it goes some way to correct the view that ‘digital’ is just something cool firms in East London do. It’s clearly not. Although there’s definitely a concentration in the South East,  Birmingham and other regional cities are very much playing their part.

138,309 hyperlocal news stories

Local News twitter

Last year, as part of my work on the Creative Citizens project, I set up a twitter account to keep track of news stories that were coming out of hyperlocal news websites. I had a hunch that if you counted the collective output of such sites the figures would be moderately impressive.

My hunch was right and the statistic of ‘one story every two minutes’ piqued the interest, to varying extents, of the BBC, Nesta and Ofcom. I’ve just had published a journal article (online, open access) that draws on the data I produced. Research colleagues of mine have produced a content analysis of some of the stories.

All I wanted to use this short post to do was point out that the @alllocalnews Twitter account I used has now come to the end of its life. It was ‘powered’ by a bundle of RSS feeds that were run through Google Reader. This bundle had its own RSS feed that then triggered an recipe, pushing an update to Twitter.

The death of Google Reader means the updates have stopped. No doubt I could use any number of services to restart it but I don’t really have a research reason to do so right now and none seem to easily facilitate ‘bundling’ in the way that Google Reader did. I have re-run my ‘counting’ for 2013 and I will shortly publish some new stats about the volume of news stories published by hyperlocals one year on from the original ‘count’.

So, during its life, 25 March 2012 until 2 July 2013, the @alllocalnews Twitter account published 138,309 hyperlocal news stories. That’s about 300 per day, 12 per hour. Not bad I think. I would say that figure is way less than the number of stories produced by the local press but perhaps way more than might be produced by the forthcoming crop ofLocal TV stations

You can access the @alllocalnews archive as a searchable web page or download a .csv file of all the tweets.