Minutes of meeting – QPR and fan websites 12 November 2013

The latest meeting between various unofficial QPR websites, message boards and podcasts and the club’s media team was held at Loftus Road on Tuesday November 12.

From the club:
Press and media manager Paul Morrissey (PM) and multi-media officer Adam Hulme (AH)

From the sites:
Paul Finney (PF) from the Open All R’s Podcast; Ron Norris (RN) from QPR Net; Simon Dorset ‘Roller’ (SD) from the Not606 board; Matthew Woolf (MW) from WATRBs; Ian Gamber ‘Bushman’ (IG) from QPR Report; Steve Sayce (SS) from Indy R’s; Clive Whittingham (CW) from LoftforWords.

The meeting began with Adam Hulme introducing himself and his role at the club. As multi-media officer at QPR Adam oversees the club’s social media channels, YouTube account and QPR Player. He’s been here since August 2011 after spending three and a half seasons at Chesterfield – one full time, and the rest during his studies in media and sports journalism at Huddersfield.

PM praised AH’s impact, saying that during his time with the club the official Facebook page had gone from 18,000 likes to 225,000 likes, Twitter from 8,700 followers to 148,000, and YouTube is now averaging ten videos a week and 200 videos have been uploaded since the start of this pre-season.

1- QPR Player Video Quality

The video quality on QPR Player – a subscription service – is of inferior quality to the footage the club is posting onto YouTube for free.

AH said the club is also unhappy with the quality of the video on QPR Player, particularly given the work that is being put in by the media team on the multi-media front at the moment. The club film with HD camcorders and cameras, send the footage into the Perform Group which operates the Player service and it is shrunk down by them. Other clubs have the same complaint and HD quality will be rolled out by Perform in 2014. AH says this is the first time a date has been mentioned by Perform, so hopefully improvements will be seen soon.

The club invested in new camera equipment prior to the Barnsley game – before that all game footage was taken from DVDs, which meant lower quality and not in widescreen. The new camera captures raw footage on a matchday at roughly 120gig and the club is pleased with the outcome so far.

PM said that obviously the number of cameras at matches has reduced since the club was relegated from the Premier League, and there is often now only the one main camera at games. Up until the recent purchase of the new equipment, for home and away games, the footage is burned to a DVD which reduces the quality and is then uploaded to QPR Player which reduces the quality further because of the platform’s limitations – this doesn’t make for a good end result. The new camera equipment enables QPR to start with a much better quality. If fans compare the YouTube highlights uploaded since Barnsley to those from the start of the season there is a significant difference.

AH also pointed out that QPR Player often defaults automatically to the ‘low’ quality option and advises supporters watch out for that and switch it to ‘high’ if it’s happening for them. The club has contacted Perform to ask them to change this so it automatically defaults to the ‘high’ quality option initially.

MW raised the issue of not being able to watch QPR Player on an iPhone or iPad.

PM said an odd situation has developed because the Football League developed an app while QPR were in the Premier League. Having dropped back down a division Rangers have found they’re not providing the same service that other longer-serving FL clubs are able to but as Perform are working on a new, replacement app they don’t want to spend time and money sorting QPR out with the current app because it’s going to be replaced in 2014 anyway. A frustrating situation for QPR to be in.

However having dropped down to the Championship the club has found rights much more relaxed and they’re now able to post match highlights for free on YouTube. Currently you cannot show Premier League action on YT although there is a suggestion that the dropping of a recent legal case may see that relaxed.

RN asked whether the club saw YT as a way of driving subscribers to Player, or something altogether separate.

AH said the club are restricting YouTube highlights to 60 second packages at the moment and the aim is to drive people to Player for the extended highlights. The extended interviews, press conferences and post match interviews are exclusively for Player. AH said the club did expect subscribers to drop with them giving out more free content on YouTube but that hasn’t happened.

YouTube and QPR Player content is never shared between the two platforms.

PM said the difference between YouTube and Player is YouTube is very behind-the-scenes focused whereas Player is much more interview and highlights based. He added the club is keen to push away from is the current financial set up with Player, where subscribers pay a flat ¬£35 a year. In an age when there is so much footage readily available for free it’s an outdated model and is something to be looked at. A PPV, iTunes style system was mentioned as a potential alternative.

PF asked if the scheme that makes QPR Player free to Platinum season ticket holders could be extended to all season ticket holders.

PM said the club is restricted in its marketing of Player at the moment because the media team believes it’s a product which they would like to see changed and updated. That said, the income the club gets from the QPR Player subscriptions is “absolutely not insignificant.”

SD raised the point of exclusive content from Player later appearing on London Call In for free.

PM said London Call In would only ever air a shortened version and the media team are conscious of not devaluing the QPR Player subscription.

MW raised a point from WATRB posters that the tunnel cam was much better when it was handheld by AH – it’s recently changed to a fixed rig GoPro set up as Adam now films the players coming off the pitch. MW said it was now almost like dull CCTV footage whereas previously there had been some interesting moments to come from the footage.

AH took the feedback on board. He said the club owns two ‘roaming cameras’, one of which is set up for the post match press conference leaving only one for the tunnel/pitch cam, so they have tried to fix the Go Pro camera in the tunnel. Tunnel cam has proved to be a popular feature with supporters.

2 – QPR Player commentary

SD and others raised issues that, as the commentary is provided by BBC Radio London, it frequently cuts away to get updates from other London matches, which is not ideal when you’ve paid a subscription to QPR Player. This was a particular issue during the recent match at Millwall when the stoppage time equaliser was missed while the QPR Player commentary was receiving an update from the game at Watford.

PM pointed out that as QPR aren’t always the main game, even if you were in London and able to tune into local radio you wouldn’t always be able to get a full commentary without a QPR Player subscription. However there are occasions when QPR are the main game and there is a duplication between Player (subscription) and the radio (which is free). BBC London is the club’s media partner and pays a significant sum to be that. Part of that agreement is providing commentary for QPR games home and away. The arrangement has many benefits for the club: providing a reliable, professional commentary team home and away, with no issues regarding equipment, sickness or problems getting to long distance away games. It means the club know every game will be covered. The flip side is there isn’t a QPR bias, which you may want when you’re listening to the QPR website for the commentary, and when it is the live match they go to other grounds. PM was off on the day of the Millwall game and as he listened to the commentary he was equally as frustrated with what happened there.

CW said that in the past the BBC London commentators had continued to commentate for the QPR Player audience while the radio audience were taken off around the grounds but this doesn’t happen anymore.

PM said the issue with doing the commentary ‘in-house’ is finding skilled commentators who are available home and away throughout the entire season. A budget could be put in place, but it would be difficult to find QPR supporters with the skill set who would be available and willing to go to every game home and away and do it.

SS said the quality of the BBC commentary is very good, and Phil Parry covers the club well, but agreed the cutting away was an issue.

3 – Other online/Player issues

PF wants to see more coverage of the Story of QPR and the work the club is doing in the community via the Player and YouTube channel.

PM acknowledged problems with the mobile site. He said the traffic to the site wasn’t consistent with industry standards which reflected on the quality of the product. Perform is rolling out improvements from next month and a redesign early in 2014. The club is fully aware of its current limitations. PM said it was encouraging that Perform is starting to put dates to the suggestions, rather than a vague ‘we’re looking into it.’

MW raised issues from WATRB users reporting very poor customer service from Perform, with queries often going without an answer at all.

Adam Hulme asked to be CCd into all future customer e-mails to Perform (adamh@qpr.co.uk) so that he can personally ensure that all problems are dealt with properly. Contact the club directly if complaints go unanswered.

4 – Programme

PM said the club has looked into interactive online versions of the programme, and potentially later on this season it will be trialled and feedback sought. With regard to a PDF version, that has been looked at and a trial have taken place at other clubs but the return was low and it’s not deemed viable at the moment. There is a financial implication of one PDF copy being downloaded and passed around many different supporters. If there is a suitable demand for it then the club will look into it.

PF asked if classic programmes could be reproduced within the current ones, as an insert in the middle. Particularly from the club’s European campaigns which younger supporters may not know about.

PM said the club was constantly addressing the challenge of putting the historical side of the club into the programme in a way that doesn’t just have the younger readers skip straight past it.

5 – InsideR

Although the InsideR has been universally well received, there have been some download issues with the size of the publication, particularly on Android devices.

PM said the amount of images and videos embedded in the publication made the size of it a challenge. At the moment you can download it on Apple and Android tablets, but you can’t download it on Smart Phones, which is where the issue lies. The publishers say the user experience would be poor with the size of the screen, and there are cost implications of them producing a new, separate version that works for mobile.

Problems opening the InsideR with a Google Chromebook were also mentioned and this was noted and will be looked into.

There is an interview with Joey Barton in the fourth issue which is very extensive and addresses a lot of issues including him joining the club, the fall out after the Man City game, the move to Marseille and his return to the club. There is also a feature with John Gregory, Steve Wicks, Ian Gillard, Gary Micklewhite and Warren Neill as well as several other exclusive interviews with players past and present. It’s out December 18 and the club is always keen to hear fans’ feedback on it.

The idea of videos and clips that can’t be included in InsideR being sent out to the fan sites and embedded in articles and on message boards was raised and quickly agreed upon so the InsideR can be cross promoted across the various sites, and fans get access to more content.

The club will also start e-mailing out embed codes to the YouTube videos it publishes so that sites can embed them on their own platforms.

6 – Alec Stock

The recent article in The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2013/oct/30/forgotten-story-alec-stock-qpr-manager) about the way Alec Stock was treated by the club was included on the agenda and developed into a wider discussion on how the club treats and deals with former players/managers and how it can be improved.

IG suggested naming the South Africa Road stand after Stock and inviting his family down to an unveiling. Other ideas included placing Stock’s name on home shirts for a game and naming the executive boxes after legendary figures from the club’s history.

RN pointed out that rushing to do something for Alec Stock could make it look like the club was simply reacting to the article and it was agreed by all parties present that the club needs to be more proactive, rather than reactive, and make more effort in this area in general.

Many clubs have an ex-players committee, often run by volunteers, to arrange fundraising dinners and such like to help former players with things like medical bills. Examples of successful schemes elsewhere included Portsmouth, Everton and Tottenham. The lack of a similar set up at QPR has previously been raised by former winger Dave Thomas who says he is regularly contacted by Burnley and Everton but rarely by QPR. CW said that without a similar scheme at QPR issues like this will continue to occur and the club, mainly through the media team, will have to continue reacting to negative publicity generated.

RN raised a Hall of Fame idea, with an annual induction of one footballer and one non-footballer (Daphne Biggs was mentioned), which could be included as part of the Player of the Year dinner. Alec Stock could be the first inductee. This would be something more substantial, proactive and long term than simply reacting whenever a negative story comes out.

PM admitted that the article on Stock painted a ‘shocking’ picture of QPR but the important thing now was to react in the right way and get something in place to improve

7 – AOB

IG raised the issue that no board members sat on the panel for the latest fans forum

SS added that Tony Fernandes had actually attended a recent forum at Loftus Road for the Junior R’s while the main forum went without board representation. There was a feeling that it was more of an ‘Evening with Harry Redknapp’ affair than a fans forum – a good evening, an entertaining evening, but not a forum and not a lot of serious discussion. There was a feeling that without such a big gap between forums, and with the team performing better on the field, the reception for Phil Beard or another board member may not be quite as hostile as it had been at the first forum earlier in the year.

PM said Tony Fernandes went to the junior forum simply because he was in the country and at the club on that day. He added that Tony Fernandes certainly doesn’t duck issues and is determined to be as open with the supporters as possible.

SS raised the issue of the chairman trailing big news, such as hints about the stadium or a new kit supplier, on Twitter and then often nothing happens.

IG raised the issue of whether the club should issue official statements distancing themselves from and denouncing poor behaviour by supporters at matches.

PM took the points on board but pointed out that the club didn’t want to set a precedent where they had to issue a statement every time somebody was arrested at a game however serious or minor the offence. He said the club can show a firm hand by banning people for certain incidents, but doesn’t feel it necessary to announce it every time that happens.

SS acknowledged improvements in the way the club staff are using Twitter, but did wonder why head of press Ian Taylor trails forthcoming news via his own account before it has been announced officially, which can often lead to incorrect speculation about what it might be.

PM said the reason behind it is to create interest and buzz around an announcement. The official club Twitter feed is there solely to announce news. The change in approach on Twitter is a direct result of the consultation with the fans groups and has been positively received.

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