Opinion: Martin Laing heralds the new Oban Times website

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The most interesting of times
Don’t we live in amazingly interesting times? Well, we at The Oban Times certainly do.

As a self-confessed old-fashioned Luddite of a journalist who started in this business back in the mists of the 1970s – I know, I look older – I’ve seen some astonishing changes.

My early days were in newspapers that were made using ‘hot metal’, when the production facilities were huge, noisy, labour-intensive factories and when newsrooms were smoke-filled, male-dominated areas blighted by the cacophony of countless typewriters being hammered.

Then came the convulsions that heralded the arrival of computers. Industrial disputes wracked newspapers across the whole of Britain as jobs were shed and modern processes were introduced.

And the technology has just gone on developing, bounding ahead in terms of how we gather and present the news today across a number of platforms.

It is only in very recent times that we have seen the advent of the amazing tool that is social media, and how it has come to command people’s lives.
And now – literally today, February 23 – we have our latest development: the new Oban Times website.

Some of you may be a little disappointed that the majority of our content is behind a ‘paywall’ but we believe it represents fantastic value for money as subscriptions are available for as little as 56p per week.

The simple truth is that we value our journalists and our content, and what we do costs money so we cannot give it away for free.

That bargain price, by the way, includes seven-day access to the latest news via the website, and users also have access to a full digital version of the newspaper every Thursday. The site is also fully mobile responsive.

Take a moment to consider this properly. What else can you buy for 56p a week? A packet of crisps? A small packet of sweets?

Come on, even our critics must admit that 56p is cracking value for money. To make the most of our great new website, just go to www.obantimes.co.uk.

Time to join the modern world
There has been a lot of engagement following our story last week that a number of Argyll and Bute councillors have asked members of the public not to post comments on social media – ie, Facebook – but to put pen to paper and write to them instead by ‘snail mail’.

One councillor related an instance where more than 60 comments were posted about problems in Soroba but only one person had written to her with an old-fashioned letter. The councillor added that as soon as she received the letter, she acted by setting up a meeting.

But if she was aware of the problem previously because of social media, why did she not act sooner?

I can certainly sympathise from the narrow perspective of how unpleasant it can be when people are posting sniping critiques online and it true to say that some individuals can be unacceptably vitriolic and use inappropriate language.

But the bottom line is that social media is a modern phenomenon and is not going away any time soon.
It is a huge hit with countless millions of people who communicate in massive numbers as never before. Rather than asking for the bus to stop, maybe these councillors should try to see where it is heading.

Brilliant figures for CalMac
As we report today, CalMac is showing some remarkable figures for its passenger numbers. The ferry operator has recorded more than five million passengers for the first time in 20 years, with the number of cars carried rocketing.

This surge in the number of people travelling on the Clyde and Hebrides ferry routes is due in large measure to the introduction of the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) which slashed the cost of using CalMac’s boats.

The idea is to make the ferry journeys cost the same as it would to drive the equivalent distance by road.

If there is a downside to this good news, though, it is that some islanders feel a bit swamped during the tourist season. I have some sympathy with that position – and there might need to be infrastructure improvements – but the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Get in touch with your thoughts
Let me know what you think by writing to me at The Oban Times, Crannog Lane, Oban, PA34 4 HB, or by email to mlaing@obantimes.co.uk.