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Introducing Blind Spot “Voice Notes”

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They say necessity is the mother of invention. Well, here at the Blind Spot we are beginning to understand exactly what “they” mean when they say that.

As a media start-up with a high trust score with sources but insufficient resources to maximise output, we find ourselves in a unique situation where we have more newsworthy stories under our belt than time to package and deliver them to readers. This is not good!

We want to be able to communicate insights generated from the top-notch access we benefit from as soon as possible. Unfortunately, our current capacity to do so is constrained because there are only so many hours in the day. Scaling and division of labour is a necessity, but that takes investment.

Given that we are trying to grow organically in a way that won’t dilute editorial control, we have to innovate our way out of this capacity bottleneck in some other way.  (Ideally without compromising on quality.)

So we’ve decided to experiment with a new format. We’re going to call it “Blind Spot Voice Notes”.

The premise is as follows.

Oftentimes, Blind Spot reporters and contributors come across valuable snippets of info or insights as part of broader inquiries, interactions, briefings, interviews or conferences. Oftentimes these insights are based on exclusive access. Many of these findings could be turned into stand-alone stories in their own right. Often they aren’t because of insufficient writing time on our part. Other times, they’re not worthy of becoming stand-alone stories but would be valued if they were bundled together under a continuing news theme or series (for example, by adding successive amounts of evidence to a particular argument, trend or news phenomenon).

Back in the day, reporters at wire agencies used to call in stories over the phone to their respective editorial desks to get them out as quickly as possible. These were turned around as snaps and breaking news stories, to be updated and filled out throughout the day with successive rewrites. These days, reporters Tweet directly, while bloggers, podcasters and TikTokers post videos. Much of this stuff is cast in stone as soon as it’s posted. Audiences are unforgiving of iteration.

But we think there needs to be a third way for the digital age.

Poorly edited stream-of-consciousness videos are too hard for busy investors to digest. They’re also a bit indulgent. They can be an imposition on readers’ time. The prospect of being Tweet mined, fact-checked or corrected, meanwhile, can inhibit plain-speaking causing reporters to hold back.

What we want to do with Voice Notes is offer premium Spotlight subscribers access to short-form content that previews our thinking, but still separates signal from noise. To achieve this we plan to use voice-to-transcription services (rather than editorial desks) to communicate not just relevant market news, but insight and opinion too. We hope that by verbalising our findings initially on a “first draft” voice-to-text basis we can get the news/insight out quickly to a premium subscriber base that understands this is the first part of a potentially longer editorial process. On stories that turn out to be worth it, we then plan to apply iterative post-facto editing that eventually transforms messy dispatches into stand-alone stories worthy of the public record.

For any of this to work, expectations need to be managed and an understanding needs to be struck with our readers.

From our side, we promise to:

  1. Only voice genuine insights, news or facts sourced from formal newsgathering processes or interactions. (No commentary about our personal TV preferences or quips about colleagues etc.)
  2. Limit the voice note to no more than five minutes worth of observations at a time (unless reporting from a conference or extended briefing which calls for the stitching of successive voice notes under a singular topic or theme.)
  3. Distribute the insight/news as quickly as possible.
  4. Be eternally conscious of not spamming readers.
  5. Indicate the status of any voice note: “First Draft”, “Edited”, “Finalised”.
  6. Clean up the drafts that are worthy of further iterations as soon as possible if time allows.

To make the product work we ask the following of our subscribers:

  1. Be forgiving of poorly worded or badly transcribed text, especially if it is flagged “first draft”.
  2. Always default to blaming the algorithm if things are not clear.
  3. Give immediate feedback if something seems important but bungled (to help us prioritise our reporting and writing time).
  4. Take as a given that anything not highlighted as our own reaction or opinion, or as stemming from a named source, is based on a formal news-gathering process influenced by off-the-record briefings (OTRB), interviews, etc. from informed parties. Take for granted that while we might include personal reflections about what we have heard , we will not be dumping random unstructured thoughts into his format.

This is an experiment. It might not work. It might even be a disaster. But we’re going to give it a go in the safe space of our premium subscriber zone.

To start things off here are a couple of samples from a busy day meeting various players in the financial infrastructure scene.

Voice Notes: Intraday Funding

I met with Brian Nolan of f i n t e u m. Brian and his team are working on developing a platform to allow price discovery in intraday funding markets on an interbank basis. We discussed the historic liquidity framework that brought them to where they are. It’s a backstory that includes Herstat risk, QE and the evolution of RTGS systems.  The team are hopefully going to be going live with their platform in 2023.

Voice Notes: Intraday Funding 2

After years of writing about intraday funding and arguing that it is key to understanding the global liquidity picture as well as the price of money, it was very exciting to have it confirmed that major banks have indeed been working hard to create mechanisms to generate intraday funding savings. This all stems from work done in the post GFC regulatory climate to get banks to reserve additional liquidity to cover for their intraday imbalances. The stigmatisation of daylight overdrafts is part of the story too. As QE is unwound, this fact will be increasingly important. All of this also feeds into the Bloomberg opinion piece I wrote earlier this month regarding perpetual futures/swaps that Ben Delo at BITMEX created. I’ve been writing up that story for a long time now, but I’m glad I waited until today to finalise it because what Ben Delo created with the perpetual swap feeds into these other developments going in the interbank market. Ben Delo created a mechanism for pricing intraday funding, but his system is more investor and speculator oriented. What Brian and his team at f i n t eum are doing is centred more on servicing the interbank market. Either way intraday funding markets are coming. Finally.

(Further voice notes from today will be distributed to Premium Spotlight subscribers.)

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