Tag Archives: Daily Mail

Comment: The rise of ‘smart’ or ‘not so smart’ internet mobs and their pressure on the media

Jan Moir is the latest ‘victim’ of the virtual mob. Last Friday after her ill-judged article in the Daily Mail cast doubt on the natural death of Boyzone’s singer Stephen Gately in Majorca, using a tone widely-perceived as homophobic, the blogosphere went mad seeking revenge.

Two thousand joined a Facebook group within hours, hundreds wrote to the Press Complaints Commission, inspired and pointed there on Twitter by Stephen Fry and Derren Brown.

The PCC was bounced into contacting Boyzone’s PR company to see if it wanted to complain. The Mail pulled ads on its website. BBC mentioned the Mail article in its news bulletins on Gately’s funeral.

Moir was forced to eat crow the very same day as publication and issued a statement of correction/clarification (you take your pick), claiming complaints against her Daily Mail article were mischievously ‘orchestrated’.

In response, HelpMeInvestigate.com, the crowd-sourced journalism site in beta, has launched an investigation into the nature of the campaign: just how ‘organised’ was the #janmoir / Jan Moir campaign, it asks.

So how democratic are these manifestations of the virtual mob?

The political and social pressure on broadcasters and other media  brought about by the internet and ad hoc Facebook groups in particular is double edged.

It can lead to interactivity and enrichment but it can also lead to bullying by keystroke. The zenith of that was the Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand row in the autumn of 2008 but nowadays broadcasters, especially the BBC, are facing ‘crowd pressure’ from internet groups set up for or against a cause or a programme; they are an internet ‘flash mob. With the emphasis, maybe, on the ‘mob’.

When Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand rang up the veteran actor Andrew Sachs on October 18 2008 and were disgustingly obscene to him about his grand-daughter, that led to a huge public row on ‘taste,’ mainly stoked by the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday.

Fuel was added to the fire through comments by the Prime Minister. The ‘prosecuting’ virtual group was the editorial staff of the Mail newspapers and its millions of readers in Middle England. In support of the ‘Naughty Two’, more than 85,000 people joined Facebook support groups.  Many, perhaps most, had never heard the ‘offensive’ programme. Just two had complained after the first broadcast.

The BBC was forced after a public caning to back down, the director-general yanked back from a family holiday to publicly apologise, Brand and his controller resigned and Ross was suspended from radio and television for three months. The virtual mob smelt blood: it got it.

The battleground for this mass virtual protest had been set out over the transmission of the programme ‘Jerry Springer; the Opera’ in January 2005. Fifty five thousand Christians petitioned the BBC to pull it from the schedules because of  its profanity and alleged blasphemy. They engaged in modern guerilla warfare tactics to try to achieve their aim. Senior BBC executives had to change their home phone numbers to avoid that  pressure. That campaign  did not get a ‘result’. If Facebook had been in full flow then, the 55,000 may well have been 555,000 and the result very different.

This row set out the stall and template for the ‘popular virtual’ activism that culminated in Ross/Brand in 2008 and other cases since. In the good old days, ‘stormovers’ – as the brave founding father of Channel Four Sir Jeremy Isaacs called them –  were conducted slowly and in green ink. He survived many such ‘storms’. Today the storms straddle the world in minutes and are just a keystroke or several score of them away from going nuclear.

This is activism by the click. It needs no commitment apart from signing up on a computer. It gives the illusion of democracy and belonging to a movement whereas in reality is it membership of  a mob, albeit a virtual one? Is this healthy for democracy and media accountability or not?

Discuss. Online.

John Mair is a senior lecturer in broadcasting at Coventry University. He is a former BBC, ITV and Channel Four producer. Additional research by Peter Woodbridge from Coventry University.

Jan Moir denies column is homophobic; criticises ‘mischievous’ and ‘heavily orchestrated internet campaign’

The Daily Mail has released a statement from their columnist, Jan Moir, about her Stephen Gately article, originally titled ‘Why there was nothing ‘natural’ about Stephen Gately’s death’ that is unlikely to appease her critics.

Journalism.co.uk is reproducing some of its contents here, but that is by no means an endorsement of her response. For a full background on the complaints and criticism Moir received see this post by Roy Greenslade on Media Guardian and this article on New Media Age.

The Mail has pulled the advertising around the story, NMA reports.

“Some people, particularly in the gay community, have been upset by my article about the sad death of Boyzone member Stephen Gately. This was never my intention. Stephen, as I pointed out in the article was a charming and sweet man who entertained millions,” Moir said.

“However, the point of my column – which, I wonder how many of the people complaining have fully read – was to suggest that, in my honest opinion,  his death raises many unanswered questions,” she goes on.

Moir then again speculates about facts surrounding his death; Journalism.co.uk will leave it to someone else to publish that part.

“The entire matter of his sudden death seemed to have been handled with undue haste when lessons could have been learned. On this subject, one very  important point,” she squirms.

“When I wrote that ‘he would want to set an example to any  impressionable young men who may want to emulate what they might see as his glamorous routine’ … [More allegations follow].

And squirms:

“Not to the fact of his homosexuality.  In writing that ‘it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships’ I was suggesting that civil partnerships – the introduction of which I am on the record in supporting – have proved just to be as problematic as marriages.”

There’s more:

“In what is clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones.”

#JanMoir: Where have the adverts gone?

Now this is odd: some of the adverts have disappeared from Jan Moir’s infamous-in-one-day Stephen Gately article, originally titled ‘Why there was nothing ‘natural’ about Stephen Gately’s death’. Could it be blogger and SEO consultant Malcolm Coles’ campaign rallying the Twitter troops to bombard the various advertisers on the page, that persuaded the Mail to remove the ads? Journalism.co.uk will seek the answer…

Update: NMA reports that the Mail has indeed pulled the adverts, according to Mail Online MD James Bromley; we still await a response. We should also note, as indicated in the comments below, some other factors contributed to the pressure: urban75, @stephenfry and Newsarse.com, and a Facebook group. Please add any more examples below.

janmoir

Mail Online: Cut in hours for same pay was not all I wished for, says Tom Utley

“By the end of week three, I could bear it no longer.

“Finding myself in the lift with the boss, I told him something I never thought I’d hear myself say: ‘I feel I’m not earning my keep. Could you give me some more work to do, please?'”

Daily Mail columnist Tom Utley’s words to ‘the boss’ (presumably Paul Dacre in this case) after having taken up the offer of working one day a week instead of four for the same money.”But probably best for Utley’s at work relations that he came to this conclusion then:

“Harder still was looking my colleagues in the eye, on the one day a week when I was required to work.

“After all, they were labouring all hours to help pay my wages, while I was getting something for nothing. It just felt wrong.”

Full column at this link…

(Hat tip to Press Gazette’s The Wire)

TimesOnline: Daily Mail halves its advertising decline rate

“Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) said yesterday that it had halved the rate of decline in advertising revenue at its flagship national newspaper in September, a fillip that suggests the industry could start to recover in the new year,” reports the Times.

Full post at this link…

Johnston Press’ ad revenues feel effects of recession

Johnston Press has today reported half-year revenues of £218.6 million – down 25.4 per cent year-on-year.

Print advertising revenue fell by 33.5 per cent; while digital advertising revenues also declined – by 18.8 per cent.

The publisher’s revenue from employment advertising was down by 53.8 per cent, property ads by 54.2 per cent, motors by 29.3 per cent and from other classifieds by 11.5 per cent.

The company’s interim report said ad revenues were down 32.7 per cent in the first six months of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008.

In an attempt to improve their digital recruitment sites and therefore their appeal to recruitment advertisers, Johnston Press has entered into a joint venture with Daily Mail & General Trust, giving them access to the latter’s Jobsite software.

The report also expresses the group’s struggle ‘to compete with the regional activities of the publicly funded BBC digital presence’, claiming that it ‘distorts the markets within which they operate through making the charging for news content extremely difficult’.

“The timing of the economic upturn remains uncertain but advertising revenues are demonstrating greater stability
and we expect the cyclical improvement when it comes to more than compensate any structural change. We will
maintain our focus on costs and look to secure operating efficiencies during the second half of the year,” said CEO John Fry in the report.

Yesterday the publisher celebrated success after it was announced that it had attracted the most unique users, to its network of regional newspaper websites, in the first six months of 2009.

The publisher, which is responsible for more than 323 websites, recorded 6,864,820 monthly unique users on average over the period, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations Electronic’s six-monthly report for regional newspaper groups.

Jon Bernstein: Free is just another cover price

Apocryphal perhaps, but the story has it that Rupert Murdoch always wanted to charge for thelondonpaper.

When News International’s big boss was shown a dummy copy prior to the September 2006 launch, he apparently declared that the paper would easily justify a 10p cover price.

James Seddon, a member of thelondonpaper launch team, who recounts the tale on this blog, concludes:

“If he didn’t get ‘free’ then, it’s no surprise he dropped the paper when times were tough.”

Given Murdoch’s current fixation with finding a way to generate revenue online, it would be tempting not only to conflate thelondonpaper decision with a general trend towards paid-for content, but also to assume the paper’s demise sounds the death knell for freesheets.

So let’s be clear about a few things:

  • thelondonpaper didn’t fail because it was free
  • it didn’t lose £12.9 million in a year because it was free
  • a 10p cover charge would not have saved it
  • its free-to-view website isn’t closing because it’s a threat to Rupert Murdoch’s paid-for plans.

Oh, and:

  • the freesheet isn’t dead

All newspapers, and the bulk of broadcast media around the world, adopt an ad-funded business model.

In some cases advertising subsidises the cost of production and the consumer pays a competitive price.

In other cases advertising covers those costs completely and the consumer gets to read, watch or listen gratis.

In both cases the advertiser is paying for the eyeballs and the reader, viewer or listener gets content for a fraction (or none) of the real running costs of the media business.

Rather than two distinct models, there’s a continuous line that runs from commercial radio, trade publications and freesheets to subscription satellite channels, consumer magazines and national newspapers.

Whether the content is free or has a nominal price attached is something of a moot point.

As web strategist Jeff Sonderman argued earlier this summer “newspaper folk haven’t actually charged for content since the 1830s.”

It was during that decade that subscribers stopped bearing the full cost of putting the paper together. Typically, says Sonderman, newspaper prices fell from six cents to one cent.

At a stroke, access to newspapers was no longer limited to those who could afford the luxury. He notes:

“For about 180 years, the retail price of a newspaper has never reflected the total cost of assembling and producing it. Any paper that tried to charge such a price (6x more) would lose circulation and be undercut by correctly priced competing papers.”

Murdoch’s 10p cover charge wouldn’t have saved thelondonpaper. It certainly wouldn’t have paid for production costs and circulation would not have justified a 500,000 print run.

So, thelondonpaper isn’t closing because the model was flawed, but because News International either couldn’t make it work in the current economic climate or was unwilling to give a paper, still in its infancy, the time it needed to become commercially viable.

Or, as David Prosser neatly put it in last Friday’s Independent:

“The surprise with thelondonpaper is that it has survived this long, especially as the title was launched for no real commercial reason other than to get up the noses of Daily Mail & General Trust, owner of Metro and London Lite.”

This is not the end of the freesheet even if it feels that way right now.

Certainly, London Lite could fold. After all, it too was launched for tactical reasons – a spoiler in a spiralling tit-for-tat between DMGT and News International.

Having effectively achieved those ends, its owners may conclude there’s little point in London Lite overstaying its welcome and queering the pitch for its stablemates.

But if London Lite does go, commuters beware – you’ll still be playing dodge the Metro/City AM/Shortcuts/Sport vendor for some time yet.

After all, free is just another cover price.

Jon Bernstein is former multimedia editor of Channel 4 News. This is part of a series of regular columns for Journalism.co.uk. You can read his personal blog at this link.

Lone Star defies downward trend in revised ABC results

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) has today brought out its revised figures for national newspaper circulation in the UK, reducing the headline circulations of titles including the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Financial Times in the light of an investigation into ‘bulk copies’ distributed by Dawson Media Direct, for the London Evening Standard, Mail on Sunday and Sunday Telegraph.

The UK newspaper circulation body revised the figures because audit trails for ‘bulks’ did not comply with ABC rules.

Earlier this year, the Financial Times reduced its use of bulks, and this week Guardian News and Media announced that it was currently ditching its bulk distribution completely.

A brief summary of today’s ABC results:

  • The Sunday Times was the only ‘quality’ Sunday title to post a year-on-year rise in sales (2.74 per cent). On average the ‘quality’ Sunday titles posted a 2.77 per cent year-on-year fall.  The Independent on Sunday posted the biggest year-on-year drop – 19.98 per cent.
  • All the daily titles audited posted a year-on-year drop in sales, apart from The Star which increased its circulation by 20.12 per cent compared with July 2008.
  • The Sun recorded a tiny drop of 0.4 per cent year-on-year and although the Daily Mirror was down 7.16 per cent compared with last year’s figures, month-on-month the title’s sales rose by 0.73 per cent.

A more in-depth analysis of these results is available on Guardian.co.uk.

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