Author Archives: Malcolm Coles

About Malcolm Coles

Malcolm Coles is a former editor of Which? magazine. His consultancy work for Digital Sparkle covers web strategy, editorial and SEO.

Malcolm Coles: Gordon Brown letter – Sun misjudges readers’ mood

This is a cross-post from Malcolm Coles’ website www.malcolmcoles.co.uk.

Update: There are suggestions on a Guardian story that the Sun moderators haven’t been putting through comments that are critical of the Sun’s position …

Is the Sun censoring pro-Brown comments?

Is the Sun censoring pro-Brown comments?

Original post
The Sun is running a campaign against Gordon Brown. But I’ve analysed the comments on its website – and readers disagree with its stance by a ratio of more than 3 to 2.

Gordon Brown letter story in the Sun

Gordon Brown letter story in the Sun

The paper has exploited the grief of Jacqui Janes over her son Jamie’s death in Afghanistan to attack the PM – because his handwritten letter of condolence was supposedly disrespectful due to sloppy writing and (disputed) spelling errors.

It’s loathsome journalism that ignores the effect of his disability (the PM is blind in one eye).

And it seems Sun readers are mostly on the Prime Minister’s side.

Of the 100+ comments on the story (don’t worry, I’ve nofollowed those links) when I checked, 111 expressed a view for or against Jacqui Janes or Gordon Brown (the rest commented on other issues or corrected people’s spelling errors). Of these:

  • 42 were anti Gordon or pro the Sun’s stance.
  • 69 were pro Gordon or anti the Sun’s stance.

So that’s more than 60 per cent who don’t agree with the Sun, and less than 40 per cent who do.

Sample comments from those who agree with the Sun’s stance:

Comments agreeing that Gordon Brown was wrong

Comments agreeing that Gordon Brown is “discusting”

Some comments from those opposing it:

Comments defending Gordon Brown

Comments defending Gordon Brown

Conclusion
The Sun is channeling this woman’s grief into a personal attack on the Prime Minister.

It’s refusing to make allowances for his disability (maybe we could next attack the war wounded for being workshy benefit scroungers?).

And it’s facilitating her breaking data protection laws by releasing a recording of a private phone call.

The whole thing is sickening – let’s hope that observing its readers’ reactions will lead to an end to this (not that this happened in the Jan Moir case) – and preferably prosecution of the Sun over the data protection offence.

Malcolm Coles: Growth of newspaper Twitter accounts running out of steam

This is a cross-post from Malcolm Coles’ personal website. You can read other posts by Coles on the Journalism.co.uk Editors’ Blog at this link.

UK national newspaper Twitter accounts are continuing to grow – but at an ever slower rate, according to the latest figures for the 130 accounts I’m tracking:

The detail
These 130 accounts had 1,801,811 followers on November 2, up by 137,568 from 1,664,243 on October 1. Of that increase, 95,007 (or 69 per cent) was for the @guardiantech account (which benefits from being on Twitter’s suggested user list).

(NB – the Telegraph seems to have deleted its badly spelled @TelegraphScienc account, so I’ve restated October’s figures to be for 130 accounts, rather than the 131 I used to track).

The biggest mover was @MirrorFootball, up 11 places to 81st (from 455 to 809 followers), suggesting the Mirror is finally making some use of Twitter (most of its other accounts are near the bottom – and only appear to have moved up a place because of the demise of the Telegraph’s Science account).

As ever, the full spreadsheet is here or you can see the iframe below.

How the Guardian and Telegraph overtook the Mail in latest ABCe traffic report

This post originally appeared on Malcolm Coles’ blog at this link.

June 2009 saw the Mail Online unexpectedly overtake both the Guardian and Telegraph in the ABCes with the most monthly unique users partly on the back of US traffic and Michael Jackson stories, a position it held for both July and August.

Fast forward to September and the story is the same as earlier in the year – Guardian 1st, Telegraph 2nd and Mail 3rd. So what changed from June to September? To find out, I’ve compared the ABCe figures for UK and foreign visitors in June and September. The difference between the Guardian’s performance and that of the Telegraph and Mail is revealing.

Analysis: The Guardian has seen significant growth in the UK AND abroad.

Table: September unique visitors (millions) and percentage change since June

Total Change UK Change Overseas Change
Guardian 33m 14% 11.9m 17% 21.1m 12%

The Guardian’s total visitor numbers grew 14 per cent from June to September (up from 29m to 33m). There was a 17 per cent increase in UK visitors and a 12 per cent increase in visitors from abroad. This makes it the most popular online newspaper in the UK by some way (it’s 2.4m ahead of the Mail in second place).

UK visitors accounted for 36 per cent of the total in September (barely changed from 35 per cent in June).

Analysis: Telegraph sees growth overseas

Table: September unique visitors, percentage change since June

Total Change UK Change Overseas Change
Telegraph 31m 14% 9.1m -1% 21.9m 22%

The Telegraph has also seen a 14 per cent increase in total visitors from June (27.2m) to September (31m).

However, the geographical breakdown is revealing – its UK unique visitor numbers are down one per cent from June to August but its overseas visitors are up 22 per cent (from 18m to 21.9m). It’s now the most visited UK newspaper abroad – but only the 3rd most visited inside the UK.

As a result, the proportion of its visitors that comes from the UK has fallen from 34 per cent to 29 per cent – the lowest of any UK newspaper (the Mail held this honour back in June).

The Telegraph saw the biggest increase in overseas visitors of any newspaper – but because its UK traffic fell, the Guardian beat it into 2nd place.

Analaysis: Mail Online records UK growth only

Table: September unique visitors, percentage change since June

Total Change UK Change Overseas Change
Daily Mail
30m 2% 9.5m 15% 20.6m -2%

The Mail’s traffic stood fairly still between June and September – it had 30m visitors last month, up just two per cent on three months ago. But its story is the reverse of the Telegraph’s.

The Mail saw strong UK growth – up 14 per cent to 9.5m visitors in three months. Overseas visitors, however, fell by 2 per cent to 20.6m. As a result, it now gets 32 per cent of its visitors from the UK (up from 28 per cent in June).

And the rest …

As for the others:

  • The Sun is down to 23m visitors in September, an 8 per cent fall over 3 months. A 15 per cent collapse in overseas visitors couldn’t make up for a 3 per cent increase in UK users.
  • The Times is a story of decline – 13 per cent down overall, with a 10 per cent fall in the UK and a 14 per cent fall from overseas.
  • The same is true of the Mirror Group (down 5 per cent overall) and the Independent (down 6 per cent overall) but to a lesser extent.

This table has all the stats. If you can’t see the iframe, you can see the full spreadsheet here.

The Express doesn’t take part in the ABCes. The FT does not participate every month.

Journalism.co.uk ABCes coverage at this link…

Malcolm Coles: Carter Ruck’s new attempt to gag Parliament

A version of this post first appeared on MalcolmColes.co.uk.

Having failed to stop the Guardian reporting an MP asking a question about its client British oil company Trafigura and the injunction concerning the Minton report, law firm Carter-Ruck is making a second attempt to gag Parliament.

The firm has written a 3-page letter to the speaker of the House of Commons – in the middle of which are these two paragraphs:

“Until that resolution [of the matter referred to in the injunction], it is not appropriate to comment on the Order [the injunction], other than to make it clear that we and our clients are in no doubt that it was entirely appropriate for us to seek the injunctive relief in question …

“Clearly the question of whether this matter is sub judice is entirely a matter for your [the speaker’s] discretion, although we would observe that we believe the proceedings to have been and to remain ‘Active’ within the definition of House Resolution CJ (2001-02) 194-195 of 15 November 2001 in that arrangements have been made for the hearing of an application before the Court.”

The resolution, which is subject to the discretion of the Speaker, being referred to says this:

Matters sub judice

Resolution of 15th November 2001

Resolved, That, subject to the discretion of the Chair, and to the right of the House to legislate on any matter or to discuss any delegated legislation, the House in all its proceedings (including proceedings of committees of the House) shall apply the following rules on matters sub judice:

(1) Cases in which proceedings are active in United Kingdom courts shall not be referred to in any motion, debate or question.

(b) (i) Civil proceedings are active when arrangements for the hearing, such as setting down a case for trial, have been made, until the proceedings are ended by judgment or discontinuance.

So although it is not spelt out in the letter, Carter-Ruck has written to the speaker to suggest that this matter is sub judice – active legal proceedings – and should not therefore be discussed in Parliament, according to the Westminster rules which prohibit MPs’ debates in those circumstances.

Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat MP had secured a debate for next week looking at the effects of English libel law on the reporting of parliamentary proceedings.

The speaker has not yet indicated whether he will provide a ruling.

Malcolm Coles: Rate of growth slows for newspaper Twitter accounts

This is a cross-post from Malcolm Coles’ website www.malcolmcoles.co.uk.

National UK newspapers had 1,665,202 followers for their Twitter accounts at the start of October – an increase of 193,266 on September 1 (when they had 1,471,936).

The rate of growth has slowed, however. This is a monthly increase of 13.1 per cent, compared with 17 per cent from August 1 to September 1, and also from July 1 to August 1.

What’s more, 151,555 of the increase (or 78 per cent of the total) is down to just one account – that of @guardiantech (which owes its popularity to its place on the Twitter Suggested User List). Indeed, of the 131 accounts I’m tracking, 51 have fewer followers than me!

You can see the full table here, or below.

How sticky are UK newspaper sites? 62.8 per cent of users look at just one page, says Alexa

This is a cross-post from Malcolm Coles’ personal website, and first appeared here. You can read other posts by Coles on the Journalism.co.uk Editors’ Blog at this link.

Visitors to UK newspaper sites look at an average of 2.5 pages a day, according to data from Alexa [click through from chart below]. But 62.8 per cent of users look at just one page.

In terms of daily page views per user, the Sun (4 pages), Guardian (3.1) and Telegraph (2.9) are above average. Visitors to the Mail site look at just 2.4 pages a day – so while the Mail may have come top in the July ABCe figures, maybe its large number of overseas visitors aren’t staying to look round the site.

Newspaper Daily page views
per user
Bounce
rate (%)
The Sun 4 48.5
Guardian 3.1 59.2
Telegraph 2.9 65.2
Daily Mail 2.4 60.7
Times Online 2.4 59.7
Independent 2.2 70.4
FT.com 1.9 66.8
Mirror 1.7 67.5
Express 1.7 66.7
Average 2.5 62.8
  • Better than average figures are in bold.
  • The bounce rate is the percentage of visits that consisted of just one page (so a low number is good).
  • These figures are 3-month averages. These change on a daily basis at Alexa – so they may have altered slightly by the time you check. Click the papers’ names to see the current data.
  • The overall average at the bottom is a simple average – it has not been weighted by traffic.

Page views vs bounce rate
The table is ranked by daily page views per user. The bounce rate is another measure of stickiness. It doesn’t exactly correlate with page views, as papers may have differing proportions of loyal, engaged users who visit lots of pages. The more pages that these users visit, the better the page view figure – but they won’t affect the bounce rate.

The Telegraph has a worse bounce rate than the sites near it in the table, perhaps because the great success with its Digg tool doesn’t always lead to multi-page visits?

Using Alexa data
There are issues with using Alexa data like this as it underrepresents UK users, who may have differing usage patterns to other visitors. However, as it seems to underrepresent them more or less equally, the rankings should be ok, even if the absolute figures are all out by the same margin.

Oh, and all the papers are doing better than me! Visitors to my own blog look at 1.5 pages a day and I have a 76 per cent bounce rate (which gets a bit worse when I publish things like Tweets people pray their bosses doesn’t see).

Malcolm Coles: How US traffic is vital for UK newspaper sites

This is a cross-post from Malcolm Coles’ personal website. You can read other posts by Coles on the Journalism.co.uk Editors’ Blog at this link.

The latest figures for UK users from the audited ABCes together with Compete‘s figures for American site usage show how USA traffic is vital for UK newspaper sites.

On average, US traffic is 36.8 per cent of the UK traffic (i.e. there is just over one US visitor for every 3 UK visitors). The figure for the Telegraph is slightly higher (44.5 per cent) and for the Mail it’s a massive 62.5 per cent.

Newspaper
site
USA
visitors
(Compete)
UK
visitors
(ABCe)
US users
as % of UK
Daily Mail 5,199,078 8,316,083 62.5
Telegraph 4,087,769 9,184,082 44.5
Times Online 2,805,815 7,668,637 36.6
Guardian 3,676,498 10,211,385 36.0
Independent 1,317,298 3,781,320 34.8
The Sun 2,419,319 8,704,036 27.8
Mirror 748,098 4,907,540 15.2
FT.com 5,960,589 n/a n/a
Express 63,216 n/a n/a
Average 2,919,742 7,539,012 36.8

These figures are all for June 2009. The FT wasn’t audited in June’s ABCes. The Express isn’t in the ABCes.

They are further proof that the Mail’s success in the June ABCes was driven by American searches for Michael Jackson’s kids.

Malcolm Coles: Michael Jackson’s kids made the Daily Mail the most visited UK newspaper site in June

This is an edited cross-post from Malcolm Coles’ personal website:

The Daily Mail surprisingly overtook the Telegraph and Guardian in the June ABCes – with more unique visitors than any other UK newspaper.

However it was only 4th in terms of UK visitors. Figures from Compete.com, which tracks Americans’ internet use, suggest that, of the 4.7 million unique users the Mail added from May to June, 1.2 million were from the USA. American and other foreign visitors searching for Michael Jackson’s kids – the Mail tops google.com for a search on this – drove this overseas growth.

US traffic to UK newspaper sites
This is what happened to US traffic for the ‘big three’ UK newspaper websites from May to June, according to Compete.com’s figures:

This dramatic increase in traffic, compared to its rivals, from May to June helps explains how the Mail leapfrogged the Guardian and Telegraph.

Traffic leapt from May to July

Google.com was the main referrer to the Mail – responsible for 22.7 per cent of its traffic. More on this below. Next up was drudgereport.com [a large US news aggregation site], followed by Yahoo.com and Facebook.com.

What was behind this rise in US traffic?
So what led to this sudden increase for the Mail? Compete also shows you the main search terms that lead US visitors to sites.

Top five search terms that lead US visitors to the Guardian

  • Guardian/the guardian: 2.6 per cent
  • Michael Jackson: 0.9 per cent
  • Swine flu symptoms: 0.6 per cent
  • Susan Boyle: 0.6 per cent

Top five search terms that lead US visitors to the Telegraph

  • Michael Jackson: 2.5 per cent
  • Susan Boyle: 0.8 per cent
  • Swine flu symptoms: 0.7 per cent
  • Daily Telegraph: 0.6 per cent
  • Michael Jackson children: 0.5 per cent

Top five search terms that lead US visitors to the Daily Mail

  • Daily Mail/Dailymail: 9.9 per cent
  • Michael Jackson (or Jackson’s) children: 2.9 per cent
  • Michael Jackson’s kids: 1.3 per cent

What does this tell us?The main keywords driving US search traffic to the Mail
The Guardian’s top five search terms, as suggested by Compete.com, accounted for just 4.7 per cent of its search traffic. The Telegraph’s top five for 5.1 per cent.

But the Mail’s top 5 accounted for a massive 14.1 per cent – split between searches for its brand name and for Michael Jackson’s kids (and outside the top five there may have been many other MJ-related terms).

Its search traffic in June is heavily skewed to these two search terms in the USA – and elsewhere in the world, I think it’s reasonable to presume.

Can this last?
Searches in the USA for ‘Daily Mail’ have been fairly consistent over the last few months according to Google Insights. I don’t know why so many people do this compared to other newspapers.

But I do know that interest in Michael Jackson’s kids is going to die down. This graph shows how there was a huge and sudden surge in searches for his children and kids after he died. The graph shows just two search terms – there are likely to be many others, and so a significant proportion of the Mail’s overseas traffic increase is down to search terms related to Jackson’s offspring.

Searches for Michael Jackson and kids/children shot up

This increase in searches translates into traffic for the Mail because it is currently TOP for a search on ‘Michael Jackson children’ at google.com and 3rd for kids (it’s also top in Google India for a search on his children, and India is the next most common source of traffic to the Mail after the UK and USA).

So all this data suggests that the Mail’s top spot in June’s ABCes is built on US and other worldwide search traffic around Jackson’s children – the massive peak in late June and again around his funeral in early July.

Once people stop searching for these terms, this traffic will disappear. The Mail may still top July’s ABCes on the back of this traffic – but it’s hard to believe it will still be top in August.

Methodology
You can, of course, pick holes in this argument.

The three MJ’s kids search terms account for 4.2 per cent of Google traffic, which accounts for 22.7 per cent of 5.2 million visitors – so about 50,000 users.

But I think it’s reasonable to assume that there are more search terms outside the top five; there are other search engines; and that the other sources of traffic, such as people sharing links on Facebook and news aggregators, will also partially be about Jackson’s children.

Plus this is the only publicly available data that I’m aware of, and this is the story it seems to be telling.

A guide to newspapers on Twitter

National newspapers have a total of 1,068,898 followers across their 120 official Twitter accounts – with the Guardian, Times and FT the only three papers represented in the top ten.

The Guardian’s the clear winner, as @GuardianTech’s place on Twitter’s Suggested User List means it has 831,935 followers – 78 per cent of the total. @GuardianNews is 2nd with 25,992, @TimesFashion 3rd with 24,762 and @FinancialTimes 4th with 19,923.

Complete list of national newspaper Twitter accounts

Other findings:

  • Glorified RSS Out of 121 accounts, just 19 do something other than running as a glorified RSS feed. The other 114 do no retweeting, no replying to other tweets etc. (The 19 are the ones with a blue background in their URL and a yes in the last column).
  • No following. They don’t do much following. Leaving GuardianTech out of it, there are 236,963 followers of these accounts, but they follow just 59,797. Are newspapers bringing their no-linking-out approach to Twitter? Or is it just because they’re pumping RSS feeds straight to Twitter, and therefore see no reason to engage with the community?
  • Rapid drop-off There are only six Twitter accounts with more than 10,000 followers. I suspect many of these accounts are invisible to most people as the newspapers aren’t engaging much – no RTing of other people’s tweets means those other people don’t have an obvious way to realise the newspaper accounts exist.
  • Sun and Mirror are laggards The Sun and Mirror have a lot of work to do – they have few accounts with any followers. And they don’t promote their Twitter accounts on their sites. The Mail only seems to have one account but it is the 20th largest in terms of followers.

More on newspaper Twitter accounts:

Some papers publish lists of their Twitter accounts:

Other useful places:

  • Newspaper people on Twitter from mediaUK
  • Newspaper titles on Twitter (inc local) from mediaUK
  • Twitian – a list of people at the Guardian who use Twitter (and their latest tweets), created by Paul Carvill.
  • #followjourn – a daily recommendation service from Journalism.co.uk.

This post originally appeared on MacolmColes.co.uk.

Newspapers: Turn off your RSS feeds

This is a cross-post from Malcolm Coles’ personal website:

The latest subscriber figures (see table below) show that, apart from a couple of exceptions, it’s time for newspapers to turn off their RSS feeds – and hand over the server space, technical support and webpage real estate to their Twitter accounts.

The table below shows that only three of the nine national newspapers have an RSS feed with more than 10,000 subscribers in Google Reader. And most newspaper RSS feeds have readerships in the 00s, if that.

Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips has 11 subscribers to her RSS feed (maybe there’s hope for the UK population yet …).

Despite having virtually no users, the Mail churns out 160 RSS feeds and the Mirror 280. All so a couple of thousand people can look at them in total.

The other papers are just as bad. And while the Guardian has a couple of RSS readers with decent numbers (partly because Google recommends it in its news bundle), it has more feeds than there are people in the UK…

Top three RSS feeds at each newspaper
They didn’t all have three that showed up:

Table of UK newspapers' RSS feeds

Switch to Twitter instead
I suggest newspapers switch to Twitter instead. Twitter’s advantages over RSS include:

  • Wheat vs chaff – As a reader, you can see which stories other people are RTing and are therefore popular.
  • Context – There’s space in 140 characters for newspapers to give some background to stories as well as the headline (well, there is for those that don’t just stick the first few words of the standfirst after the headline).
  • Promotion – Followers can RT newspaper stories, promoting the paper – they can’t do this with elements of an RSS feed.
  • Tracking – Stories’ development can be tracked on Twitter – you can’t usually tell what’s changed in an RSS feed.
  • Conversation You can take part in a conversation on Twitter. People only talk to their RSS feed when they swear at it. The journalists behind the story can tweet, too.

Newspapers agree with me
As I say, despite poor subscriptions for many feeds, papers pump out RSS feeds as if there’s no tomorrow – the second column in the table below shows how many feeds (rounded) that each paper has.

But despite this, it’s clear some papers agree with me – and have already given up on RSS feeds and no longer actively promote them.

No visibility
The Mail, despite its 160-odd feeds, only mentions them in its footer.

The same is true of the Sun.

On the page but hardly visible
The FT’s RSS link does at least have a logo – but its buried at the bottom of the right-hand column on each page.

The Telegraph shows relevant RSS feeds on pages – but they’re buried in a different way: above a banner ad that no one will ever look at.

Even the Guardian, which lets you mash up your own RSS feeds (hence the 000,000s in the table), hides details of its feeds under an unusual term ‘webfeed’ in the far right of its header.

The Times still has an RSS link in its main header menu on its news page. On other pages it’s at the bottom. And it mentions Twitter on its pages much more than RSS.

Visible – but not doing them any good
The Independent is alone in listing RSS feeds on its main category pages – although that doesn’t seem to get it many subscribers.

The Mirror has an RSS link next to its search box, although it took me ages to find it. Does this count as visible – it’s not exactly intuitive…

And the Express has a link and a logo prominently in its header. But as the Express doesn’t update its website often (or at all on Sunday), I guess that’s why no one subscribes. And some of its RSS feeds appear to be garbage – check out its theatre one…

Caveats about the data
After you’ve started writing something about newspapers, you’ll eventually discover that Martin Belam has already written about it. Having just noticed his Top 75 British newspaper RSS feeds as I was researching Google Reader’s market share, I figured I’d just repeat his caveats about his own data as they apply to mine too:

  • Subscribers don’t necessarily ever read anything.
  • Numbers quoted by Google vary wildly.
  • Newspapers have problem with the same feed on different URLs. To quote Martin: “If the papers themselves can’t work out how to set one canonical URL for their content, why should I?”
  • Google Reader search is not great. There may be missing feeds.