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A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

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Seth Godin:

The bestselling novel of 1961 was Allen Drury’s Advise and Consent. Millions of people read this 690-page political novel. In 2016, the big sellers were coloring books.

Fifteen years ago, cable channels like TLC (the “L” stood for Learning), Bravo and the History Channel (the “History” stood for History) promised to add texture and information to the blighted TV landscape. Now these networks run shows about marrying people based on how well they kiss.

And of course, newspapers won Pulitzer prizes for telling us things we didn’t want to hear. We’ve responded by not buying newspapers any more.

There’s nothing more “get off my lawn, damn kids” than decrying dumbing down – but this a cogent and persuasive version. Thought-provoking.

David Remnick writing for the New Yorker about Trump’s meeting the the US press:

“But he truly doesn’t seem to understand the First Amendment,” the source continued. “He doesn’t. He thinks we are supposed to say what he says and that’s it.”

Trump’s experience is as a CEO, not a political leader. Sounds like he’s treating the country as a company, and expecting the press to be his comms department. That’s not how it works.

But there’s something more fundamental at work here, too. Trump’s presidency will almost certainly make a pause in political access journalism, because he much prefers speaking direct.

Obama paved the way here – he understood the role of social media in crafting and spreading his image. But Trump takes it a step further, using social media both as a comms tool, and as a distraction:

But what happens if the president intentionally misdirects the media by taking about trivialities?

I suspect, unless the US media unlearns its habit of reaction in a pavlovian manner to each outrageous Tweet from the president-elect, that we’re about to find out.

Stealing the punchline from Peter Yeung’s interview with Malcolm Coles of The Telegraph:

There’s no way I’d have predicted the end of 2015 at the beginning of the year, so I’ve no bloody idea what’s going to happen in 2025. But I’m sure cat GIFs will still be important.

Not the most profound insight from an interview full of them – but certainly the most amusing.

(This year’s Interhacktives have really hit the ground running with the site this year – check it out.)

The next few days could be a very interesting one for our national press. The vast majority have thrown their weight behind either the Tories or a continued LibDem/Tory coalition. The hold outs are the traditional Labour house organs – The Guardian, The Mirror and the New Statesman – and the Express which has gone UKIP.

It seems to me that whichever way the polls go, the national newspaper journalism business loses. Here’s why:

If Labour forms the government coalition

If the election goes the way of the polls, we’ll end up with a hung parliament, with Labour’s Ed Miliband in the best position to try and build a majority coalition.

If that happens, the idea that our newspapers can swing elections will be exposed as mythic, or historic.

(This is essentially the argument Peter Jukes made today)

The Sun won’t have won it. And the need for politicians to so openly court the owners will ease.

That’s going to require a huge mindset shift from many journalists, reflecting the fact that they’re opinion reporters, not opinion formers. And that might actually be a good thing – our press might end up more challenging, and less likely to fall in line as a cheerleader for a particular party or leader. A more robust press can only be good for our democracy.

The Sun, The Mail and The Mirror telling us how to vote

If the Conservatives form the government coalition

Or, on the other hand, the Tories might do far better than the polling is predicting – and the newspapers have been reporting. If that’s the case. they’ll almost certainly make the case that it was them “wot won it”. But will the facts support that?

There seems to be a clear bias against the Tories in polling. This was most clearly seen in the 1992 election, when John Major came back into Number 10, against all evidence from the polls. And this comes from the idea of the Shy Tory – people who are unwilling to reveal their true voting intention:

For various reasons, people don’t like to admit that they are intending to vote Conservative at the next election, particularly to a stranger on the phone. This, I imagine, is related to the vitriol reserved by those on the left for those who have right wing leanings. You won’t tell a stranger that you intend to vote Conservative as you don’t know how they might react. If you don’t know what I mean by this, compare sitting down at a table of a Die-hard Labour supporters and announce you are a Conservative-voter with sitting down at a table of Conservative supporters and announcing you intend to vote Labour. The latter will most probably result in amused indulgence. The former won’t.

If you apply the consistent pattern of polling error to this year’s election, argues Number Cruncher Politics, then the Tories have a major lead:

But, crucially, what does it say about Tomorrow’s outcome? At present it implies a Conservative lead of just over 8 points. That would suggest either a very late swing or a large polling error (and probably both). But unless these relationships have completely fallen to pieces, David Cameron will be back as Prime Minister.

If that proves true and supports the “shy Tory” thesis – well, then we need to start asking some very serious questions of our journalists about their use of polls without an awareness of research into their accuracy over time.

To be fair, there have been some recent articles written about the topic:

But the narrative has been consistently neck-and-neck parties. And that’s a fun narrative for the newspapers to play with in what has been a consistently tedious election. But if it’s provably inaccurate – well, then we need to think a lot more about our placement of polling at the centre of the political narrative.

Facebookery

There’s a fascinating piece from David Carr on the New York Times website today, looking at the relationship between Facebook and news publishers. But it needs to be read with caution. Some parts of it make me uneasy. It’s very much filtered through a “news publishers are important” view of the world, and it makes me question whether Facebook is as committed as Carr suggests. For example:

The social network now has over 1.3 billion users — a fifth of the planet’s population and has become a force in publishing because of its News Feed, which has been increasingly fine-tuned to feature high-quality content, the kind media companies produce.

That misses the point, I think. The News Feed is fine-tuned to show photos and videos from your friends, and a small selection of high quality content items – and that value of “quality” can vary hugely depending on the social neighbourhood of the Facebook user. See what I mean about a news publisher-centric view of the world?

Still, the intersection of Facebook, mobile and news publishers is an interesting one. Facebook is a huge traffic driver – Twitter pales in comparison – and publishers have been terribly slow in adapting to mobile publishing. Will publishers end up handing too much power to the big blue giant is a rush for Zuckerberg’s users?

One possibility it mentioned was for publishers to simply send pages to Facebook that would live inside the social network’s mobile app and be hosted by its servers; that way, they would load quickly with ads that Facebook sells. The revenue would be shared.

Giving people one less reason to leave Facebook will not be good for any of us, I suspect.

Some advice for publishers:

  • Anything Facebook is doing is about preserving Facebook, not the news business
  • Never rely on one traffic source. Facebook makes sense as part of a search/social/e-mail/app mix
  • Always look at how you can bring Facebook readers back to your site at some point
  • Take any advice you can on improving your mobile experience from them.

Some other points of note:

A few other things worth commenting on in Carr’s piece:

For traditional publishers, the home page may soon become akin to the print edition — nice to have, but not the primary attraction.

Any traditional publisher that still thinks that the homepage is the primary attraction is in a world of trouble already. This has not been the case for a long time.

In the last few months, more than half the visitors to The New York Times have come via mobile — the figure increases with each passing month — and that percentage is higher for many other publishers.

Further evidence that we’re right at the mobile tipping point. So many publishers have now crossed the 50% mobile threshold, that if you’re not, there’s probably something very wrong with your site.

The Times Gin

Since this press release arrived, I’ve been struggling to find the words to blog about it:

For immediate release

December 18, The Times newspaper has today launched a new premium London Dry Gin, called The Times London Dry Gin.

Made in very small batches to a unique recipe, this is the newspaper’s first foray into an exclusive own-label drinks offering, backed by News UK. It coincides with a revival in gin as the drink of choice, with a growing awareness of the importance of high-quality ingredients and craft distillation.

And then, my problem was solved. Hogarth did a cartoon about it in 1751:

William Hogarth: Gin Lane

Apparently, the current state of the news business has driven at least one newspaper to drink…