Media sharks…

…and why you really DON’T need a bigger boat!* (or Jason Statham on your side)

(just some common sense and an eye for the con)



Looking for Media advice? Some people will help you swim with the crowd – but beware the ones who just want to take a bite.

Yes the media pool has its share of sharks….


Here’s how to spot them… (and sorry to disappoint but I’m NOT going to be milking the Jaws/Statham puns).


So you’ve got a great idea for a new TV series… kids toy… fancy tin opener.

You’re firing on all cylinders and can’t wait for the get go. You need media… and you need it fast. A website, blog, artwork, photos, social media presence. So you start reaching out to people who can help: web designers, media specialists, professional bloggers and Tweethearts.

But go careful out there trooper – some of those helpers are SHARKS.

Yep really – they don’t just want to work with you, they want a piece of you.

Let’s talk through an example.

We’ll pretend as an ex newspaper hack, my nick name’s Scoop and I’m launching a media company (!?).

I’ve been thinking about it and I’ll probably call it Scoop Media… maybe I’d like for a website.

How about a newspaper masthead style logo. Some nice images that say “journalism”.

So I contact a media consultant who does all that stuff,  and before you know it… well…

I thought we’d stopped the shark nonsense?

OK no more sharks. Promise.

Enough chat. Here goes (As a bonus I’ll include a few other pitfalls too):

1- Who Owns What ?

 I know examples of people who have talked to web designers about their pet project, and then found even before a deal is struck the designer has registered their precious domain name (like my example  Great. And they even say it only cost £10. Hurrah.

BUT… when they decided they couldn’t afford his fees, and wanted to shop around, he said “That’s OK, but of course I’ve registered your domian name, and if you want to buy it from me that will be £200“. Eeeeek.  It’s a bit like the garage saying: “Sure you can buy tyres elsewhere, but you’ll have to pay be £50 to put the wheel back on before you can drive away”.

PLUS registering a doman for one year for £10 is reasonable – but watch out for the renewal cost next  year – oh my, that’s £65. “Price of t’internet is just sky rocketing mate”. Is it hell?!

DR PHIL SAYS: Buy your own domain name. It’s easy as internet shopping. Be wary of ones that say it’s just £1 to register your name, as they often then hit you with a £19.99 a year renewal fee.  Most domains are available for about £35 for five years.  Total. Not per year. And then YOU own it, and can take to to any web designer to use.

2-  Jaws 19 – the Remake and the Extras


jaws 19
Jaws 19 – from IMDB… yes seriously it’s listed on IMDB.


Yep. Inevitably some time down the line you’ll want to relaunch, revamp or just change things. This falls into two categories:

A: Changes during construction: while you’re working with the web designer. Just be aware some basic online web design services throw everything into a template and that’s it.  Other bespoke designers might start charging extra if they think you’re being picky. Their time is your money!

B: Reworking and updating: After a while you might want to add new info, change some photos, add in some client references, or have a wholesale refresh. Now you’re in their clutches, how helpful will they be? Or will they want to charge a whole new design fee?

The worst scenario can send you back to the domain name problem above – they could say they own the site design and some of them material. So you are tied to their hiked up fee to redesign. Done some shopping around and want to move away to another designer? Be wary some will try to tie you in and stop you moving easily!

DR PHIL SAYS:  If you are employing someone to do work for you, then it’s reasonable to have to pay a fee. Maybe ask up front what you’re getting for the money, and how much time and effort the designer can put into customising the site to your needs. That way you should avoid too many surprises.

Some people will even have written Ts&Cs covering all this.  Also it’s back to who owns what. If YOU own the pictures (see below) and the domain, then you could take it elsewhere if you want to shop around. But please be reasonable… if you keep asking the designer to rework a basic idea, then they deserve paying for their time.

3- Is that my photo?

Whose mugshots have you used? You need their consent. Especially if there are children involved. Imagine if you were having lunch sat on a park bench, and someone took your photo and used you as the face of a local sandwich company, or an anti-litter campaign.

There’s a brilliant case which olde world journalists might remember … Tolly Vs Fry’s.  in the 1920s The chocolate company used a cartoon of well known amateur golfer Cyril Tolley, showing him playing, while a bar if Fry’s chocolate was protruding from his pocket.

He sued them. Not so much because he didn’t like chocolate – but because the advert implied he had endorsed the product, and so broken the amateur code. 

DR PHIL SAYS: Be especially careful of images showing children (anyone under 18). Even if their parents are happy, have the young people themselves consented too? Do the people know what  you are using the images for… what product/subject they are promoting or illustrating? Are you representing them fairly?

It’s best to be up front and make it very clear. If possible get them to sign a consent form or give consent by recording it on your phone.  As someone who used to just chance it, I can tell you now, its NOT WORTH THE HASSLE. You could find yourself involved in months of protracted angry exchanges, demands for money, and risk of damaging your reputation if they start contacting customers and spreading the word.

4- No I mean is that MY photo… the photo I took?

Copyright!  It protects all of us from people nicking our work.

This can of course apply to pictures, video, artwork, even chunks of the written word in some cases. Just because it’s on Youtube or Google does not mean you can lift it. The old rule of thumb was that if you didn’t make it yourself, then it is probably someone else’s copyright – and you need to get their permission. In Writing. 

By the time you read this, I probably will have published a blog on copyright…

copyright page grab

DR PHIL SAYS: The easiest way to avoid problems is take your own pictures. Otherwise get things in writing – even using a friends’ photo of you could run into trouble.. as I say get it in writing. 

A simple example from my working life:  I positioned a camera trap in a woodland area overnight hoping to get some video of wild boar for a BBC Countryfile film about the animals.  As ever, they failed to make an appearance. But the helpful interviewee popped out and moved the camera to another location and BINGO a wild boar captured on camera.  BUT the very fact that they had positioned the camera, meant they were effectively the camera operator and so owned the copyright.  Being a careful BBC production we asked them to sign a declaration, so we could use the video without fear that they would come back later claiming a huge fee.

See also the amazing story of a monkey and Go Pro camera and a court case.

BTW: There are some great free resources :

See  my blog on copyright and… uh oh news coming in .. I haven’t finished writing it yet!

So maybe try the BBC’s guide to copyright.


5 – Renewal and “Slamming”

It’s wrong to say Social Media Managers and Web builders are like double glazing sales people… After all once you’ve brought double glazing you probably won’t buy any more for at least ten years. Nope. They are more like gym memberships and mobile phone contracts.   They want to make it very attractive up front, and then have you pay them a regular monthly or yearly fee. Forever.

Some costs do recur – like your domain name registration needs updating. Your web servers cost. BUT is that web designer STILL doing something useful for the money?

Also there’s apparently a thing called “Domain Slamming … it’s where another company contacts you and tries to trick you into moving your domain from your original web provider, to them. For a fee of course. It’s a bit like those insurance claim cold calls. They call or email telling you your domain name needs to be re-registered or somesuch, and inviting you to do so through them. Their paperwork includes a section where you agree to move from your existing web provider, and of course to paying a nice fat fee. 

DR PHIL SAYS: Don’t tick the box for automatic renewal. Like with your house insurance you DO want to be reminded before it’s due – so you can shop around.

6- Whose Idea was it?

So if a friend or neighbour helps shape your idea, be prepared for them (or their lawyers) to turn up on your doorstep when you make your first million. You’ve heard of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg… but have you heard of Divya Narendra, and Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss?

DR PHIL SAYS: Blimey. They got $65m from Facebook after claiming Zucker had nicked their idea.  Sounded a lot in 2009 but they probably should have held our for more. 


7- I said: “Whose idea was this???”

Of course the other dread is someone ripping off the entire idea and using similar company and website names to yours, offering similar services and stealing your hard won clients.

DR PHIL SAYS: You really can’t protect against this. It’s pretty well impossible to copyright an idea. Unless it is a new tin opener, in which case you can apply for a UK Patent. But.


8- How clever does it need to be?


Look.. Don’t know about you, buy every time I consider going somewhere, buying something or meeting someone new, I do a quick web search.  So I find it hard to believe how many small businesses don’t have their own website.

But it doesn’t need top be over the top with music and fireworks and and crazy effects. A simple site which gives basic info is often all you need. Don’t be talked into gimmicks and what camera crew call “wedding video ” effects. Simple, smart and professional.  The old adage “leave them wanting more” is sort of true. In the case of a website don’t overwhelm people, don’t over-sell,  and make sure you give them the basics: who you are, what you do and contact info (minefield alert**!!)

And remember … even in the age of superfast broadband and 4G phones … if your website is too fancy and flashy, it just might take ages to load… and people will quickly click away.

DR PHIL SAYS: Keep it stupid, simple.

**Minefield alert… yes, well do you really want to post your phone number and email address and even home location on a Google map for every pain in the arse to see??

See point 10 about Scary things (below).

9 – SEO : “We can get your website to the top of all searches!”

SEO is Search Engine Optimisation. Bit like witchcraft. But more expensive. And less reliable.

When someone searches on Google for my name Phil Kerswell, they find my website at or near the top of the list.  That’s because I am super-talented at SEO… although the fact that I have a relatively unusual name maybe helps a tiny bit (or in fact a lot).

The real trick is that I have done some things to make sure MY site is prominent in searches. BUT if you search for “journalism blog” or “TV directing advice”  that’s not so simple as Dr Google will pull up a zillion people offering these services. And put the ones who pay for an advert ahead of ones who are actually any good.

Some Web advisors will promise to get you amazing SEO and have your site at the top of all searches. Nonsense. They really can’t guarantee that. Proper people will never promise it. I’ve seen these promises compared to Get Rich schemes and diet pills.

DR PHIL SAYS: Don’t believe all the hype. Its really not as mysterious as people try to make out. But it’s worth knowing something about if you want to get your website up the search rankings. Remember most people don’t look at page two of a Google search. They key thing about having a website is that YOU are having some input into what people who search for you will find. So for example: if you did follow the link earlier and search for Phil Kerswell online.. you will find the whole of the first page of search results are ones I have had some input in. This is done two ways:

1- Google promotes sites which are references elsewhere. SO join up for all the free internet references and directories relating to your type of business and create a profile with a sentence about yourself and most importantly a LINK to your website. For the TV and Media business you might use imdb, TwitterFacebook, TheTalentManager. If youare abricklayer then maybe ProfessionalBuilder or Skyscrapercity.

2- Make sure anything said on those reference websites/directories that already exists is something you want people to see. So in my example, I’ve created a profiles with links to my website. I’m filling the world with the references I want people to see.

10- Scarey scare mongers, mongering* scarey things

Good grief. You must have done those package holidays. Where the rep gathers you for a “familiarisation” meeting in the hotel foyer on day two.  They try to sell you lots of over-priced day trips. And then warn you it’s not safe to use local taxis or public transport, drink the water, buy from street vendors, eat in small cafes, hire a bike, visit the market, leave the hotel after dark or speak to strangers. And this is in Brighton.


OK the world is dangerous. But really?  The internet? Yes scams happen, and yes sometimes credit cards details get cloned and IDs stolen. But you don’t need massive extra security just for your little one-person band website. Just use your loaf.

(* not sure this is really a verb. And don’t Google it as your sensitive eyes might be offended)

DR PHIL SAYS: Social media can bring trouble. Putting your details out there on a website or Twitter does expose you to annoying people who either spam you, stalk you, call you at all hours of the day and night etc. If this starts happening to you – call the cops, report them. And probably (even temporarily) suspend your Social Media accounts. My one piece of advice is that these people want attention – so don’t give it to them. Don’t reply. Don’t react. If they know they re getting to you, then thy will carry on. And on.

I’m not trying to monger any scares… but THIS  happened to someone I know.

It was not nice. And went on for 13 years.

Other sources of advice on using Social Media:

Safer Internet. Org

Saga - yes Saga because people my age use the internet too


And that is it.

Thanks for watching… and remember to stay safe out there.


*Bigger boat? Well of course it’s from the original Jaws film of course. The moment Chief Brody (Rory Schneider) first sees jaws and utters the line: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat!




(ps: Hmm could be a theme here … see also my Seven Deadly Sins of TV Directing)



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