The Festive Silence

My unplanned festive break is over. Here's what happened, and where I'm going next.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

It started within hours of my working year finishing. I had a graveyard teaching slot — 3pm to 5pm on the last day of the academic term — but still ⅔ of the class showed up, and we had an enjoyable session. I tidied my desk for the holidays, and then caught the train home. On that train, I started to feel like I had a cold coming. By Saturday evening, it was clear it was an awful cold, if not something worse.

I cancelled some arrangements, including live-streaming a church service, and stayed home until I shifted it, which took well over a week. I felt rough. Really rough. And the fact I had a very minor car prang in the midst of it didn’t help. It was all a combination of a bad cold, being over-tired and burnt-out, I concluded. Not bad enough to stop me doing life’s necessities, but anything else went on the back-burner. Just before Christmas, my wife went down with it. She has many, many fine qualities, but sympathy for unwell males is not one of them. She had assumed, naturally, that I was over-egging how ill I felt, until she got it, too.

Not only that, but she took a COVID test, which I hadn’t done. Guess what?

COVID for Christmas

So yes, the family has been battling COVID through the holidays. I suspect my youngest had it first, but it largely bounced off her, before I caught it, then my eldest, and then my wife. It’s been a rough holiday period in that way, but the upside is that we really have had to disconnect over those weeks. I’ve barely posted to the internet at all anywhere for over a fortnight now, and it was probably a necessity.

By the middle of December I was already on my knees.

I’ve been trying to balance four jobs for a while now:

It was too much (even before taking my volunteering work into consideration), it wasn’t well-balanced and some parts weren’t working, and that’s why I was as down as I was in December. Some disappointing news from a regular training partner was enough to push me over the edge in the closing weeks of the year. But it’s also a wake-up call. I need to reassess and rethink things.

Broadly speaking, I’m happy with the first two on my list. They provide both regular income and huge amounts of work satisfaction. The latter two need attention.

Training and consulting

2023 was not a good year for this part of my work. Virtually no consultancy work, and a notable downtick in training. That’s probably a combination of two factors: the general economic malaise making training and consultants something people can cut back on, and my own lack of time to promote that part of my work well.

So, I need to do something about that. And the knock-back I had late last year makes me think I need to diversify the ways I bring training to the market. While, hopefully, I’ll be continuing my relationship with journalism.co.uk, I’m also going to be looking at alternative routes to market and possibly even selling some training directly. More on that in the coming weeks.

I also need to more clearly codify the sort of consulting work I can offer. I’ve never really sold it per se, just allowed word of mouth and recommendations to allow it to happen. That’s clearly not going to be enough. So changes need to happen. I’m not quite sure how to make those changes, and what form they should take, but it’ll be a priority once the training is on a more stable footing again.

One Man & His Blog

I saw a steady growth in both free and paid subscribers in 2023, but with the former growing disproportionately to the latter. I need to think about what that means.

Likewise, I also have to rediscover my own voice. There’s far more competition in the media analysis and newsletter space than there has been since the 2000s, and I think I’m guilty of competitor capture; letting the approaches of those around me define what I write and think too much. Pay too much attention to your audience: audience capture. Pay too much attention to your competitors: competitor capture.

I have always been something of an outsider voice in the journalism conversation, and I perhaps need to reclaim that more strongly. I need to find ways of both enjoying writing the site more again and growing the audience — or I need to give up on it as a paid site, and just revert it to a personal blog. So, people, buckle up for some changes in style and approach in the coming months.

Side projects

I’ve also got a small selection of side projects which have languished, unloved, through most of 2023. 2024 has to be the make-or-break year for them. No details for now, but once I’m ready to talk about them, be assured. You’ll be the first to know.

Bring it on, 2024

My path for the next few months is clear:

  • Teach two really excellent streams of the Audience Strategy module at City: one for the podcasting MA and one for the Digital & Social MA. The latter is already written, and just needs tweaking for this year. The former will be based on it, but rewritten extensively for the podcasting world. I’m really looking forwards to that.
  • Try to get a few other City-related projects off the ground. I have a couple of events I want to arrange, and some work to do about building an audience speciality community of practice. The spring and summer terms are prime territory for doing that because they have my lowest teaching load.
  • Sort out how I’m selling my training. That means reassessing my courses, figuring out what’s best sold through journalism.co.uk, what could be sold in other ways, and finding ways of getting myself back on people’s in-house training radar.
  • Find a way of maintaining this site that both supports those other pieces of work, re-ignites my joy in writing it, and excites readers. (Is that all? Easy! *cough*)

Let’s check back in on that in three months and see how I’m doing.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 25. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.

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