Tameside MBC has been running a weekly news service on Youtube called 60 Second News; it's anything but as bulletins can often run to two or three minutes long. This gives you an idea of the time telling wizards we are employing here.
The service was launched to much fanfare in April 2008, a month before the local elections, yet two years later an average video gains just 63 viewers per episode. According to the population estimates in 2006 by the ONS, Tameside had a population of 214,000 people. Given the unlikely situation that all those 63 viewers live in Tameside, each Youtube video reaches out to just 0.029% of Tameside's population.
So what's the cost of this flop? Well in 2008, I did a FOI for the costs and found that each episode costs £182 per episode or £9,464 a year. Now many will describe this spending as a "drop in the ocean" compared to Tameside's £351.1m budget, but compare this to £7,500 in funding for audio books for the blind was cut earlier on in the year. I asked Tameside Council's Assistant Chief Executive with responsibility for media, marketing and communications if the project had met Tameside Council's expectations. He commented:
"TTV (Tameside TV) news was an innovative approach to keep residents of the borough, and other people from wider afield informed about council services and activities. Usage of the service has been closely monitored since the service was launched and the number of people using the service has been pleasing.
To date we have been pleased with both the take-up of the service and the feedback we have received."
A similar reply from Tameside Council was given to the press when I did a FOI which revealed that Tameside Council spent over £36,000 on a virtual town hall in Second Life, but that was scrapped as the council declared the project as "not being of measurable benefit" which actually means they weren't tracking how many people used the service. Perhaps it's about time that Tameside Council pulled the plug on 60 Second News?
Liam Billington is a TPA supporter from Tameside, and former editor of the blog Tameside Eye.