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Eurotrash: the Interview

1 October 2005

Jan Duffy King, also known as Eurotrash, is one of my favorite guys to chat to at the SEO conferences. He has done quite a number of different things on & off the web. In a previous life he was an entertainment journalist, and he now consults on site architecture and runs a rather fun & interesting blog.

I wanted to interview him, he said sure, and so...

Did Eurotrash the tv show steal their name from you, or was it the other way round?

I was in America at the time and the president of my client used to call myself and an Irish guy who worked for her "Eurotrash" in an affectionate type way. When it came to me incorporating I decided to use the name eurotrash. I was on the phone with a niece and she told me that there was a TV show in the UK just started called Eurotrash and it was on Channel 4.

I emailed Channel 4, and told them that I was going to register the domain. Nobody got back to me after a couple of weeks so I registered it and went on my happy little way. Then in Jan 2000 Rapido TV who are the producers of the show contacted me and asked me if I would sell them the domain. I said possibly and gave an approximate figure. The didn't like my number so they took me to WIPO. The whole story is on
http://arbiter.wipo.int/domains/decisions/html/2000/d2000-0449.html. What it did do is give me shedloads of publicity, even the BBC covered it.

As an end to the story, I sent them over a case of "eurotrash.com" wine by FedEx. The bastards sent it back unopened on my FedEx account number - so in the end I suppose they screwed me.

What did you do prior to getting into SEO?

I don't really see myself as a SEOer per se. We really consult on information architecture and what to do with the information but of course, today, a lot of that has to take SEO into consideration. Immediately prior to working in this field, I spent 2 years on a Kibbutz in Northern Israel where I was the barman in their hotel bar. Before that I was in Seattle as a helicopter pilot and leading up to that I was a Music & Entertainments Journalist with the UK's Daily Mirror.

Prior to life on the outside, I was a Pongo in Air Force talk. Wherever the Army goes, the pong goes - I was in the Army.

How did you evolve into the modern day SEO?

Back when we started doing this in 1993/4 our only client was the biggest American industrial publisher of print publications who wanted to go electronic. At first we worked on CD-ROMs and then quickly progressed to the internet. When we started working for their international division which had publications around the world in 10 languages including the two-byte character languages that was where we really had to look at making sure that our web content got into search engines.

We worked on the specifying and building of the first multilingual searchable database website on the internet (American Export Register) in 6 languages which fairly quickly went to 10. We didn't speak the languages but we knew about search engines at the time, had a good idea how they worked. To do a huge global campaign to tell the world about this multilingual website serving them would have been prohibitively expensive. So when we were getting the translations done for our CD-ROM and website we started including meta tags which were written in English then culturally translated into the other languages. We also made sure that there was a fair bit of our ancillary information that was kept outside of the database so that engines could pick that stuff up. It was extremely successful for us and our clients. From then onwards, before anything went on to the internet for any of our clients then SEO was a factor and getting those three stars all over the place on Infoseek was great to see. I don't think it was called SEO in those days.

What is worn under the customary Scottish kilt?

The men should all know this because if they have been standing next to a guy in the toilet who is wearing a kilt and he hasn't shaken enough, then the drips on the floor will make it obvious. So I suppose the answer, for the ladies is, you don't wear anything under a kilt. But I do advise ladies to lift and check, just to make sure.

There is a newfangled kilt type thing called the Breacan. This is a lightweight kilt which can be worn in less formal occasions like rugby matches, traveling to New York or attending SEO piss-ups in various haunts around the world. I usually wear boxers underneath this because it is so light that it doesn't take a lot of wind to show your credentials and I don't think my credentials are good enough.

For the American's among us, I would like to point out that the pattern on a kilt is a tartan, it is not a plaid. A plaid is something that is slung over your shoulder and attached with a pin/badge. I have a plaid in the Dress Wallace tartan and have 2 kilts in Hunting Wallace tartan one of which is now too small for me and 2 Breacans. The Breacans are in the Leith tartan and the Black Watch tartan.

The word incredible can have at least two different meanings. One related to wow - let me comment on that, while the other one could mean not credible. When you were a reporter how do you determine if you can trust a source?

Good question. Unfortunately, I was a music and entertainments journalist on a tabloid type newspaper (although it wasn't as tabloidy as it is today - in my day, the dolly birds in the Mirror had to wear a bra). There's not much credibility in that whole sphere of operations. Basically all our information came from record companies, TV companies, film companies, PR companies, production companies and promoters. My writing was as credible as they told me, or indeed as credible as my expenses at the end of the month.

Strangely, since getting into the blogging stuff on EdSucks then credibility has played a huge part. At EdSucks we get about 70-90 emails a day mostly from someone who wants us to look into a Councilor, MP, MSP or some official department. Sometimes they send us accounts, spreadsheets, minutes etc. Most of these come from anonymous sources (although I do take their IP address) so it is difficult to know just how credible a lot of them are.

As a reporter what things made you lean toward some sources and away from others?

As a reporter in the field of music and entertainment a credible source is a member of the entertainment industry who is plugging an act. You always pick who is the favorite flavor of the month. If you have room for other stuff, it all depends on what is in the mail. I remember once when Spandau Ballet released the "True" album, the record company sent out a huge box with a really cool beautiful leather jacket with the "True" symbol embroidered on the left breast and something on the back which I can't remember, 3 signed copies of the album and an invite to the launch party on Adnan Kashoggi's yacht which was moored at the time in London. Pretty much that album was the one that got blanket coverage that week not only in the Mirror but also in every other newspaper and magazine in the country.

If you are doing real journalism you have to research your sources and know your sources very well. Sources are built up sometimes over years. I worked in the same office for a while with the investigative journalist John Pilger. He has been doing real journalism since the Vietnam days and is a hero of mine. His job was way different than mine. His sources were high placed, mostly anonymous to all but him, in governments and probably the military. His two-page articles would take weeks and even months to research and write.

When you are gathering sources you have to take into account why those people want to become sources, are they using you to their own ends and if they are is OK because of the story. On the blogging thing I was caught out by someone sending me a property deed for a Councilor's house that said he bought it for GBP 6,007. I thought it was a marvelous scoop and I immediately blogged it and then got on the phone to the local newspaper. It later turns out that the deed that was sent to me, was only for the land and the Councilor's lawyer faxed over to the newspaper two title deeds, one for the land and one for the house. That is very strange in Scotland. However, the newspaper never ran with the story and I sort of apologized on the blog. Only last week did I find out that I was totally set up and one of the local Labour Party organizations planted the info with someone whom they knew would send it to us and they then found out who their leak was.

When I was paid to be a journalist my sources were very different. It would mostly be a 10-30 minute interview, quick scan of the record company press release, quick scan of what the other publications were saying and have something knocked out in half an hour. Then spend another 10-20 minutes to rewrite it for some teenage magazines to get some freelancer money.

As a blogger what things made you lean toward some sources and away from
others?

As a blogger, I tend to take stories from anyone except politicians. I remember you were with me in Edinburgh and I was on the phone with one and I think you gathered that I was not too enamored with them. The best stories come to me from the people on the lowest rung on the ladder. They don't seem to be worried about falling off as much as the ones on top or indeed the ones a couple of rungs up who think they are at the top.

Sometimes, to cover my ass and to keep my lawyer off my back, I have to ask for further information and possibly documentation on some of the stuff I get sent. If I have the gut feeling that I am right, I will normally go with it. A lot of it is down to gut feeling. I have about 4 stories at the moment that I believe will make national press in Scotland when I publish - it's just that there are too many loose ends and my gut feeling is to try and tie those up before publication.

What are the most common things you see bloggers and webmasters doing to undermine their credibility or prevent other bloggers & media members from wanting to cite them?

I don't know if I see to many bloggers preventing other bloggers or media wanting to cite them. Basically if it is published on a blog or a website then it is there to be cited. Sure, you have to make sure to follow the fair use policy but I would think that most bloggers want to be cited by someone else.

With regards to credibility. It is the same in the blogosphere as it is in the real world. If you are credible people will come to your site, they will cite you and it is them that will give you the credibility. You cannot give yourself credibility that is something that is gifted from others.

I also believe that you can be both credible and 'incredible'. Bill Clinton's credibility was shot when he said "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" but overall as America's first black president (my wife's
words, not mine) he did a fairly good job for America on foreign and domestic policy throughout his reign and I think his credibility as a worthwhile president remains intact. Rev. Dubya of the Church of the Latter-Day Morons is quite a different subject and I believe that he wishes all his brothers and sisters here in Scotland his prayerfulness and condolence now in his time of despair. I am sure he will send his congruity to us in his hour of need.

What tips work well for getting bloggers to link up? What works well for getting journalists to link?

We go back to credible and incredible. If you are credible and others link to you then that is a good thing. Most bloggers will link to their peers if they think their work is credible and relevant. They will also link to work that they think is not credible at all, pointing out the fact. If the person who links saying that the link is not credible, is more credible than the target, then that blog becomes less credible. There is a story about this SEO firm who sued this guy with a blog and it did them no good at all.....

To get journalists to link to your blog is less easy. There are so many blogs about so many things that it is impossible for journalists to keep up with every source that they would like to. It is really up to the blogger to keep up with the journalists. If you are doing a post/article and you think it merits coverage in the mainstream media you have to play it exactly like a PR company would with their clients.

You will pick the right journalist with the right beat on the right publication. You will know his/her writing style and what peaks there interest. You will email them with the story in a way that, if they want to, they can copy and paste into their system. You will try to ensure that if you are quoted you are quoted in the way that is good for you - give them a list of quotes from you. You must always remember that the journalist will have or will find other sources to tell the other side of the story and you will have done your homework so you know pretty much what the other side of the story is and how the other side will react.

If a journalist does a story on you, your blog or your website, whether it be good or bad, you will learn a lot from it.

Who on the web is really good at making sure they get cited when they should? Any particular tips to what you think they do really well to get cited?

My blog is very parochial. It is only about Edinburgh and the politicians who screw the city. I do get mentioned on some other political blogs in the UK but I don't have anywhere near enough time to keep it as cutting edge as I would like to.

In the SEO field Nick at Threadwatch does well in citations in the blogosphere as does Danny at SEW and indeed yourself. There are also many others including Jeremy Zawodny and now Matt Cutts in the search engine arena.

Jason Calacanis, Nick Denton, and Pud Kaplan all do well in the technology arena and in the political arena in the US Al Franken, Arianna Huffington, and Andrew Sullivan seem to make the press a lot but it seems that Matt Drudge has dropped almost out of sight but then again I was there earlier today and clicked on a link "Florida tourists warned that locals could shoot them.... "and the link went back to the Scotsman.

As a web author do you know what posts are going to get mainstream press coverage prior to making them? Are there good ways to ensure stories get covered and spun the way you like?

As a web author you bloody hope that they all make the mainstream press. Like I said above, know the journalist, beat, publication and you will pretty much know what will make it - you should contact them. It seems like I have answered the second part above.

Are there any good books or tips to reading the bias of journalists or finding ones that would be likely to cite a certain type of story?

If you are writing yourself and reading yourself, I think you will soon get to know what the journalists are looking for. We are not always like you and go straight for the Wall Street Journal. Some of us start small and go for local or specialist publications.

Another way to help yourself is to offer to write stuff for local or smaller publications. If your local newspaper does nothing about SEO or technical stuff and you think you have some knowledge then get on the phone to the assistant editor or editor depending on the size of the publication.

If a local or smaller publication has written something that is factually incorrect then write a letter to the letters page pointing out the facts on your blog. Try not to upset them too much but at least you will get the journalists into your blog.

One thing I did a while back when researching a post I was doing an a Scottish Socialist Party candidate in the General Election. I ended up a Scottish Socialist Youth forum and saw that they were even more mouthy than me. So I went in their forum anonymously and dissed by blog saying that it was a load of crap. Within hours, there were posts saying I didn't know what I was talking about and that my blog was really good. That was fun.

The minute you start punting a press release to a journalist/publication you become a salesperson. You are selling that product/service/story. You write the initial press release and make sure you have every contact method included, you make a list of publications/journalists you want to contact.

You then take to the phones. You call the addressee, you tell them about what you are punting and ask them whether you can send them a press release explaining it in more detail. You ask whether they would be interested in using it, if not is there someone else at their publication, if not can they recommend another publication/person. Journalists on the same beat all know and read each other. On that first phone call you should get some idea whether they are going to go for it or not.

Send them the press release written for them. Include some of the stuff you discussed on the phone that is maybe not in the original release that they seemed more interested in. After you have sent the press release, give it a while depending whether it is a daily, weekly, monthly and then call the journo back to ask whether they got the information, is there anything that needs more clarification, is there any other information they need, do they need any other quotes that would help them in their story.

Then go down to the next journalist/publication. After a while you will know exactly what journalists to call first.

Do you have any good tips on finding what stories media members could be looking for?

Journalists cover their beats on a daily basis. If you have something that is relevant to their beat, call them up and tell them about it. Don't tell them too much on the phone because you want to make sure you get your side in writing - "why don't you visit my blog at.... Or "why don't I just email you some stuff".

What is the best way to get an in with journalist? How does one introduce themselves? Do you have to read and learn the journalist first?

It definitely helps to read and learn the journalist as I have said above. The best way, without doubt to get in with a journalist is to buy them copious amounts of alcohol, maybe take them out to lunch or dinner and give them something for free. I've been in journalists houses, the ashtrays, the towels, the robes, sometimes the lamps and in one case a portable TV and a pile of old books from a lounge have all come from hotels. Journalists want free stuff and lots of it. What they don't use, they give as Christmas presents to their family.

Introductions really depend on the journalist - some you can phone up right at their desk and some have assistants who deflect all calls unless you are a big shot. When speaking to them about a subject make sure you know what you are talking about and make it interesting enough for them to listen. Always intentionally leave obvious questions so that the journalist can ask you and in turn you make yourself appear more knowledgeable.

When talking to journalists what are the biggest mistakes most people make? What do they say that they shouldn't? What do they not say when they should? How do you know if you can trust a journalist?

I am not sure if people make mistakes speaking to journalists. Make what you are trying to get over interesting because the journalist has to make it interesting for his bosses before it gets into the paper. Don't let out too much until you see if it is going for print but give enough interesting stuff to make it to print.

The trust issue is difficult because they are all human beings and all different. Most journos will take your story and take one from your enemy tomorrow and that is OK. There are some journalists that can only be
trusted when they are in their coffin (and make sure that all those screws go all the way in) - most of those end up working for politicians in the press offices - the really bad ones get a job on Fox News Channel.

How many Dutch backpackers are in South America right now?

There will probably be about 73, 2 waiting at airports to go home and one being robbed in Lima. They will be carrying the South American Handbook in English and when they have a problem and go into a Dutch consulate, trade mission or embassy to get information. The person behind the counter will pick up a copy of the Sud Amerikaanse Reisgids and answer their question and they will be pissed off that they bought the wrong book.

What makes you an expert on Edinburgh's political scene?

The really funny thing is I am not an expert and no where near. At the last elections, although I could go to the local paper and do searches on candidates I wouldn't know if the story was a good or bad one about the candidate, whether they were opening a building or speaking on something I support. I wanted to find out all the bad things on the candidates before voting because I had read the stuff previously.

The idea behind EdSucks was that I could basically file all the bad stories on Councilors, MPs and MSPs for future reference. It would also be helpful to voters so that they could go to one site and click on the slimeball's name, sorry politician's name and find out the bad stories. Nobody else had done it so, you download Wordpress and start.

What surprises have come out of running Edinburgh sucks?

In the beginning, it was taking a look at the two local paper on the web, finding the bad ones about politicians and doing a little blurb and quote from the paper. Nice and easy taking between 15-30 mins a day. Now, about 6 months later, it could be a full time job. It takes a lot longer because of the amount of email we get and now because pretty much every Councilor visits the site about 3 times a week they are all very careful what they say to the press in case "it'll bloody end up on that Edinburgh Sucks". I have been reliably informed that Councilors actually say "that'll be on Edinburgh Sucks tomorrow". The first surprise is how big it has got and how much time it could take to keep going. It actually could be a full time job.

The second surprise is that for the last few weeks I have been swamped with my real job actually earning money. Unfortunately EdSucks has suffered because of it. The huge surprise is that although there has been up to a week without a post the visits didn't drop at all.

Who is the worst member of Edinburgh's parliament? Why are they so evil?

Parliament is for Scotland and the Parliament building is in Edinburgh, Edinburgh has the Council. Edinburgh's worst Councilor has got to be the Council Leader, Teflon Don Anderson. He is a baldy four-eyed coot who lies as much as the rest of them but just looks awfully shifty and he keeps saying in the press, on radio and on TV that it is "sad" that I do EdSucks without doing anything to change it. As far as the worst member of Scotland's parliament it must be the Justice Minister and the First Minister because they are both nothing but lying heavy-handed thugs.

How do you warp people's faces in the pictures on your site?

I use a little java applet built on the old Goo program called Qgoo v1.2 and it can be downloaded here: http://javaboutique.internet.com/QGoo/

Do you ever worry that your reviews of the politicians may end up making them more defensive to where some important issues are avoided? Where do you draw the line?

I don't draw a line except to try to keep me out of court. Nothing about what I write about politicians, no matter how bad bothers me. They put themselves up to be shot down when they stood for election. I put myself up when I started EdSucks. It's them or me.

Do you think many community members in various areas will be able to create sites similar to Edinburgh Sucks?

One thing that is on the cards is doing an install of everything that is on EdSucks. I have tried various plug-ins, some work for me and some don't. I was hoping by the end of the year to try and make that available.

If you had to redue one thing with Edinburgh Sucks what would it be?

I would have either did my own style or got someone to do one specifically for EdSucks. If there's anyone out there willing to help, you know where you can get me.

Lets talk bacon. Will the Americans ever get it right?

Bloody can of worms that question is. Get what right? They got it right when they made my wife but we all know they totally f*cked up when it came to electing a President (twice). Earlier in the year I did my bit to make a yank, well a half-yank, so it can't be too hard.

The things I dislike most about America is that comedy channel, Fox News. I don't really like any of the media because the media just don't seem to be doing their job in America. I hate how the difference between rich and poor is getting bigger and bigger each day and I hate that there is huge swathes of the United States where I can't go because my wife is black and I am white (I am still wondering what shade the baby will come out). I am not saying this to be anti-American, god knows I complain enough about Edinburgh and Scotland as well.

Opps, was not trying to get so political ;) What is your favorite search spam technique which most people do not view as search spam?

I don't use it, but the press release thing is beginning to get out of control. Being a former journalist it is strange to see the things that SEO companies will put out as press releases and of course they are advising

I am surprised the porn industry don't start using them to announce each and every copulation as it is happening live on their sites.

-----

Fun interview Jan. If you like this interview consider visiting Eurotrash.com or Edinburgh Sucks.com

- interview by Aaron Wall

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